Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Only One Child May Live

Steven Mosher paints a horrifying picture of the grim reality of the "One Child" policy in China. As a U.S. State Department representative in Guangdong Province in 1980, Mosher witnessed first-hand the forced abortions of women who committed the "crime" of becoming pregnant for the second time.

Since then, Mosher has become president of the Population Research Institute, a pro-life educational organization "dedicated to protecting and defending human life, ending human rights abuses committed in the name of family planning, and dispelling the myth of overpopulation." PRI has documented the thousands of forced late-term abortions and millions of coerced sterilizations in China, with important implications for targeted population control measures in other developing countries.

According to Mosher, "Population control encourages domestic tyranny of a very personal and deadly sort." This is what happens when alarmist views of overpopulation are somehow translated into public policies that view people as pestilence. Rather than focus on the root issues of poverty through education and economic development, coercive population control measures seek to cure the "disease" by killing the patient.

Human Life Review Article

YouTube Video

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Making Moral Decisions in Medicine

Our guest blogger this week is Matt Tabbut, a second-year med student (and Cedarville alumnus) at Chicago's Rosalind Franklin University.

At this stage of my medical education, I have begun to look at some practical ethics case studies. There are a few beacons, or waypoints, that I use to help guide me in making decisions. Consider the following.

1. Faith - As a Christian, my faith plays a vital role in moral living. This worldview based on Biblical principles and mandates serves as an anchor or foundation upon which to make ethical determinations. At the heart of Scripture is the concept of loving God and loving others. Thus, the Bible establishes immutable, transcendent, and absolute principles that serve as the ultimate authority in my moral and ethical dealings.

2. Reason - Reason is at the heart of all philosophical thought. However, reason alone (i.e. not tempered by a foundation based on principles - see point 1) is a slippery slope leading to consequences that we may not perceive or be willing to accept. But in my moral deliberations, I should not only be able to provide supporting arguments from faith, but should also be able to communicate arguments from reason that can be accepted more universally.

3. Precedent – A good argument can often be made from analogy, and history can help to clarify ethical dilemmas. Finding correlations with other related situations may shed light on the current problem.

4. Instinct - At least in the negative sense, this is sometimes called the "yuk factor," - another way of describing our gut reaction. Though decisions cannot be made solely on feeling, our gut reaction can give insight as we look other well-founded arguments.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Pursuit of 'Happyness'

Actor Will Smith received a Best Actor nomination in 2006 for his role as Chris Gardner, a stuggling single father of a five year-old boy. "The Pursuit of Happyness" was inspired by a true story, and is a moving portrayal of courage, tenacity, and street smarts, as the hero tries to make it as an unpaid intern in a San Francisco brokerage firm. At times homeless, at times lying to make a sale, his career finally takes off, and he eventually makes his fortune on Wall Street.

I enjoyed the movie, but it also bothered me a bit. At the very end, I found myself wondering, "Is that it?" Is money the secret of 'happyness?' The film seemed to be saying that material wealth is the goal we should all strive for.

Aristotle taught that moral virtue was the real secret of happiness, and the most important thing to aim for in life. It is also an unlimited good - in other words, you can never have it in excess. Contrast this with Aristotle's view of wealth, as a means to a more noble end, but never an end in itself.

For more, see Mortimer Adler: Aristotle for Everybody

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dr. Death is on the Loose

On June 1st, Jack Kevorkian was released from prison, after serving eight years of a longer sentence for second-dgree murder. A participant in at least 130 assisted suicides during the 1990s, he is still unrepentant.

Constrained by conditions of his parole, he can speak publicly about laws to allow doctors to assist in suicide, but he cannot counsel individuals. “You see, I’m still in prison,” he said. “I’m on a tether. I’m on a virtual tether. If you don’t behave, you go back to prison.”

It is interesting to note that the former pathologist has received some sympathy for his views. As a tribute to the public ambiguity about assisted suicide, the original Michigan jury that convicted him could not agree on a capital murder charge.

Think of it -- this was not a case of suicide, for it was Kevorkian who actually injected the lethal medicine that took the life of this particular patient, with the video cameras rolling. And what could be more premeditated than such an act, planned many days in advance, with calls to the press and TV stations?

Yet the jury could not agree on capital murder (murder in the first degree), which could have resulted in a life sentence. Instead, in defiance of logic, they convicted him of second-degree murder, as though this was a spontaneous act of passion.

So Dr. Death is free on parole, with his time shortened for "good" behavior.

New York Times Article

Monday, May 14, 2007

Down Syndrome Babies: An Endangered Species?

Recent developments in genetic testing are revolutionizing the ability to test for a variety of genetic disorders in unborn babies. Before now, this required a difficult, painful, and potentially hazardous procedure called amniocentesis, ususally reserved for expectant mothers over the age of 35. Amniocentesis itself carries a 0.5% miscarriage rate, but it has been used to diagnose such conditions as Down Syndrome, Tay-Sachs Disease, Sickle Cell Anemia, or Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Now there is a simple blood test, recommended for all pregnancies, that reduces the risk for moms, but may dramatically increase the number of genetic disorders diagnosed prenatally. If past history is any guide, this means that 90% of women whio are told their baby has Down Syndrome will choose to have an abortion (reference).

What will be the results of such selection? Well, for one thing, fewer babies with diabilities - and this has many parents who advocate for them rather worried:
A dwindling Down Syndrome population, which now stands at about 350,000, could mean less institutional support and reduced funds for medical research. It could also mean a lonelier world for those who remain (NY Times).
Parent advocates are worried that doctors don't know how to handle the genetic information they now so easily obtain with two blood tests and a sonogram. Many physicians agree -- the best way to share a genetic diagnosis is not: "Your baby is going to be mentally retarded, you should have a pregnancy termination."

This does not mean that the future will be easy for parents who decide to carry their diabled child. But parents of the disabled see the new form of testing as one more step towards a society that doesn't welcome any imperfections. Commentator George F. Will called it a "search and destroy mission" for the handicapped (Will has a grown son, Jon, with Down Syndrome). In complaining about the new recommendations, he adds:
What did Jon Will and the more than 350,000 American citizens like him do to tick off the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists? It seems to want to help eliminate from America almost all of a category of citizens, a category that includes Jon (Newsweek).
Imagine a society where every one of us is genetically perfect, where none of us must strive for the small, daily steps of success that mark our physical, emotiojnal, and mental growth. I, for one, would not want to live there.

New York Times Article

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

More on the Supreme Court's Ruling

On April 19th, the U.S. Supreme Court reached a landmark decision. In a 5-4 decision, the Court upheld the 2003 Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act as constitutional. There is much to rejoice about, yet much remains to be done.

The Court has struck a balance between a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy and the "legitimate and substantial" federal interest to preserve fetal life. This balance was at the heart of the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision of 1992.

Last week's decision is narrowly crafted to line up with Casey, and in no way signals an overturning of Roe v. Wade (1973). On the other hand, it signals a willingness on the part of the Court to consider federal restrictions on abortion for purely moral reasons. The fact that one option for terminating a pregnancy is no longer available does not significantly interfere with women's rights.

Both sides of the issue agree that this recent ruling will encourage states to craft more restrictions on abortion.

For more analysis, read the commentary by Wesley J. Smith.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Breaking News: Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Upheld

By a narrow 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld a federal law banning the late-term abortion procedure called 'intact dilation and extraction,' better-known by the label 'partial-birth abortion.' This is a major victory for the pro-life cause.

Partial-birth abortion (as we have discussed in an earlier post), has been called by one author "constitutionally sanctioned homicide." Praise the Lord it is no longer sanctioned by law, nor by our courts!

This exciting news is an answer to prayer.

Boston Globe Article