He will die, not with his boots on, but with his kidneys in…
One of the best threads Ethics Alarms has ever hosted occurred in response to the November 2013 post, “The Kidneys of Orlac,” which discussed the strange case of the Ohio death row resident who wanted to donate his organs to ill relatives. The issue generated an Ethics Quiz, a follow-up poll (“The Amityville Kidney”) involving the related issue of whether the recipient of a murderer’s organs had a right to know their creepy origin, and a terrific Comment of the Day, which was just one of the COTD-worthy submissions.
I had forgotten about the story until Mark Draughn raised it again at Windy Pundit in the context of criticizing bioethicists, one of whom had what Mark considered a particularly misbegotten argument against the transplants (I agree with Mark about that argument, but I also oppose giving condemned prisoners the privilege of donating organs to loved ones, or anyone at all.) This led me to review original post, which led me to re-read the comments.
I also discovered the resolution of the dilemma, which occurred at the end of last month. Ronald Phillips will not be allowed to donate his organs, because he wouldn’t have enough time to recover from the operation before his execution. Ah, yes, the old “You have to be in tip-top shape before we can kill you, or it isn’t really punishment” Catch 22! Ethics, you see, had nothing to do with the bureaucratic resolution here, just the letter of the law, rules, and bureacrats refusing to look for the best solution in an anomalous situation, rather than the one they could reach on auto-pilot. As a result, nobody made a reasoned determination about what is right, or what capital punishment really signifies, or apparently even tried. That is how so many government decisions are made, and that, my friends, is far scarier than having the kidneys of a killer.
Autonomy. This is the ethical value, a sub-set of the “respect” section of the Josephson Institute’s Six Pillars of Character, that is suddenly absent from the value set of the New American Left. This is cause for concern to say the least, because autonomy is the very value that was the impetus for the nation’s founding, and that is at the core of the Bill of Rights as well as the “inalienable rights” that introduce Mr. Jefferson’s mission statement for our strange experiment in self-governance. Beginning back in Bill Clinton’s administration, advocates of a nationalized health care system, including President Clinton himself, began floating the historical and logical nonsense that Jefferson and the Founders would have enthusiastically supported national health care. This is, of course, a cynical lie if one is educated (as it was in Clinton’s case) or proof positive of complete unfamiliarity with, oh, everything about the Founders, their political philosophy, and political philosophy generally. Whatever the value of a national health care program, the idea that the government would presume to dictate how one managed something so personal and intimate as one’s own health would have horrified every signer of the Declaration, from its author to Button Gwinett.
That Mr. Jefferson’s supposed followers—he is the Original Democrat, by most lights, would reach the point of maintaining that the public’s beliefs, opinions and attitudes must be bent to their will is a development that threatens the existence of United States society and culture as we know it. The recent flare in this emergency arrived via the mugging of Brandon Eich, ex-CEO of Mozilla, who was deemed by the liberal elite as unworthy of keeping his job (though Mozilla is an internet company and he is an innovator in the field) because he was not convinced of the rightness of same-sex marriage by the elite’s newly determined, and well past, deadline—a deadline that such progressive icons as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton also missed, but never mind. Conformity to Progressive Truth has become the order of the day, and woe be to any good citizen who dares to oppose it. Does this sound like freedom to you? “Choice,” to use a popular rallying cry in the protest against the “War against Women?” It doesn’t sound like freedom to me. Continue reading →
To anyone who is capable of compassion and objectivity, the abortion controversy represents a classic ethics conflict: two ethically defensible positions based upon undeniable ethical principles that are in opposition. Both factions have their absolutist wings which would deny the other side’s interests, holding that either the life of the unborn ( abortion opponents) or a woman’s autonomy (abortion advocates) is such a societal priority that nothing should be permitted to compromise its primacy in any way. Yet the best solution to most ethics conflicts, if possible, is balancing, resulting in acceptance of a reasonable middle position that acknowledges the validity of both interests.
Recent comments from prominent pro-abortion advocates are ethically troubling, because they suggest a complete denial that any valid interests on the other side exist at all. This signals a retreat from reason and fairness into zealotry and fanaticism, and it makes balancing not merely more difficult, but unimaginable.
In an interview on the cable station Fusion, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards had this revealing exchange (video above): Continue reading →
You know, back when I was in college (stop me if I’ve told this story here before), a call-in show on one of the local TV talk shows (called “Cracker Barrel”) staged a debate on the existence of God. On the “God exists” side was a religious fanatic named Mrs. Warren who had achieved Boston notoriety by picketing local banks for some reason; my father, in fact, had a confrontation with her in his capacity as a savings bank executive. On the atheist side was none other than Madeline Murray O’Hair, she of the Supreme Court case knocking down school prayer.
The “debate” was idiotic, unfair from the start since Mrs. Warren was a prattling dolt who also spoke in what sounded like a fake Italian accent, like Chico Marx, making it even harder to take her seriously. Mostly it was idiotic, though, because such debates can’t be anything but idiotic—the adversaries are not using the same assumptions, definitions, or modes of analysis. O’Hair would mention a scientific study, and Mrs. Warren would quote the Bible, which had to be true because God dictated it. As will always happen when one is debating a fool, O’Hair was dragged into the depths of stupid argument—and whatever she was, she was not stupid—by recounting that she realized that there was no God when her son was lost on a jungle expedition, and though she prayed for his return, he never came back. After being barely restrained by my roommates from calling into the show and shouting “MOM! I’m back! It’s a miracle!” (for some reason they thought it would be in bad taste), I got a toilet paper roll, put it up to the receiver and called into the show’s call-screener as “Jehovah,”from “Beyond.”
To my amazement, they put me through, and I heard the host cheerily utter the words, “Our next caller is Jehovah. Welcome to Cracker Barrel, Jehovah!” Echoing into my cardboard megaphone in my best Burning Bush voice, I told Madeline that I was the Lord God, and that I appreciated her testing the faith of the righteous with her blasphemy, and that despite the consensus among my archangel advisors in Heaven, I would not turn her into a pillar of salt.” Then the host said, “Thank you for your call, God!” and I was done. O’Hare was laughing.
The much-hyped debate over evolution between Bill Nye, a kids show performer with a legitimate science background, and Ken Ham, an extreme creationist whose views are ridiculous even by creationist standards, was just as foolish as the Cracker Barrel fiasco but far more harmful. Continue reading →
No danger of an innocent being unjustly executed here, Richard…Now what?
Most Ethics Dunces named on Ethics Alarms are being chided for one, possibly anomalous, instance of ethics cluelessness, but not Richard Cohen. He is a lifetime, career-long ethics dunce. It is noteworthy when he writes something that doesn’t reek of ethics confusion.
Today he is blogging about the death penalty. There are coherent, powerful arguments that have been and can be made against the death penalty, but Cohen doesn’t bother with any of them, which, as a reflex old-school liberal, he should at least know by heart. No, he attacks the decision of Eric Holder to approve his Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s request to seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bomber as “political cowardice using one invalid argument after another, and by the way, curse you, Richard Cohen, for forcing me to defend Attorney General Holder.
Here are Cohen’s “arguments”:
The death penalty is a horrible crime on par with Tsarnaev and his brother intentionally killing and maiming innocent spectators of the Boston Marathon. Such an absurd statement carries a high burden of proof, which Cohen doesn’t even attempt to meet.
“[The death penalty] is the sine qua non of lack of thought, a medieval tick of the political right, a murder in the name of murder that does absolutely no good, unless it is to validate the killers’ belief in killing.” Ironically, Cohen’s post is the sine qua non of lack of thought. Since the death penalty has been around continuously since well before Medieval times, calling it a medieval tick is about as fair and accurate as calling religion, warfare, and property laws medieval tics. Of course it does good: the fact that a vicious anti-social murderer is permanently removed from society and no longer uses up resources, space and oxygen that can be better employed in the furtherance of humanity is an absolute good, and that those contemplating similarly heinous acts are on notice that the same fate awaits them is also good. Continue reading →
In happier times; Mr. and Mrs. Munoz with their first child. Did she really want her second child to die with her? Is that a respectable request, if she did?
Dead people are causing a lot of anguish in the ethics world lately. First, a family wants to force a hospital to keep their brain-dead, which is to say, dead, daughter on life support just in case a miracle occurs, while the rest of society pays for it. Now, in Texas, we have a true brain death dilemma that once again highlights the problem with U.S. abortion law and ethics.
Texan mother Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child when she collapsed and later died from a blood clot in her lungs. Her parents and husband told the intensive care unit at Fort Worth’s John Peter Smith Hospital to honor her stated wish not to be left on life support, but the hospital has so far refused to comply with their instructions. Texas is one of 31 states that prohibit medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient. Now, more than a month after her brain stopped functioning, the late Marlise Munoz is still connected to life-support machines, and her unborn child is now in its 20th week of development. Continue reading →
Even while the Affordable Care Act debacle is mired in other problems, the “death panel” controversy lingers on, as conservatives exploit the public’s visceral reaction against an inevitable result of modern health care cost-sharing, and progressives dishonestly deny and ridicule the reality of that result, because it makes health care reform less attractive.
The case of Jahi McMath is instructive, if anyone bothers to consider its practical and ethical implications. Jahi, 13, underwent a tonsillectomy Dec. 9, and emerged from her post-op recovery legally dead, due to massive swelling in her brain. She was placed on a ventilator, and according to its policy, Children’s Hospital Oakland was preparing to take her off life support when the family strenuously objected. It petitioned a court to keep her technically alive so she could spend Christmas with them. An Alameda County judge Monday ordered hospital officials to keep Jahi on a ventilator until Dec. 30 while an independent neurologist reviews her case. Meanwhile, her mother told CNN and other local media that although she appreciates the second opinion and court order, she will fight to keep her daughter on life-support as long as possible, saying,
“I’m her mother. I’m going to support her. It’s my job to do it. Any mother would do it. I just want her to have more time. There are so many stories of people waking up in her situation.” Continue reading →
The recent, shocking discovery that the Soviet Union forcibly lobotomized thousands of World War II veterans when the battle-weary soldiers could not cope with the post traumatic stress created by the horrors of war reaffirms our convictions about the dehumanizing effects of totalitarian government.
Wait…did I say the Soviet Union? My mistake. It was our government that did this, and sent letters to their families like this one:
The presumptive winner of the annual Ethics Alarms award for “Commenter of the Year” in 2013, texagg04, has delivered a Comment of the Day expanding the topic of the post regarding a condemned prisoner in Ohio who wrangled a postponement of his execution so he could donate his organs to relatives. Here is texagg04′s take on “Ethics Quiz: The Kidneys of Orlac.” I’ll have some comments at the end.
“First, a murderer or other capital criminal being held responsible for his or her conduct seems to be in conflict with the same individual being allowed to display charity when you say they forfeited their freedom, all of it, with their commission of a capital crime. I’m not so sure it should be viewed from that angle.
Punishment serves a variety of purposes. Some petty crimes receive punishment designed to compensate, as best as can be, the victim – the victim being dead, capital punishment does not serve this purpose. Some crimes are of an anti-social nature, and the apt punishment seeks to rehabilitate or reconcile the perpetrator to the community. Capital crimes are so heinous that we have determined that the perpetrator must be completely cut off from society, through their death. In this case, the punishment does nothing for the victim OR for the criminal; the punishment is designed solely for the benefit of society.
If the criminal wishes to donate his/her organs to (what we must assume is to salve their own conscience – even though we can, probably, cynically assume is just a delaying tactic), we should not care one bit. They are gaining no material benefit from the community, nor are they engaging in any direct interaction with the community – so the act of cutting them off from the community as part of the punishment is still complete. Continue reading →
In the comments to the post The Kidneys of Orlac, Texagg04 raises a fascinating angle that I had not considered. I have previously written, regarding state regulations that do not require realtors or sellers to disclose that a grisly murder or six occurred on a property, that a purchaser has the right to know about such conditions that may bother him personally, and that regardless of the laws involved, there is an ethical duty inform a potential purchaser know that he is buying the site of the Amityville Horror (for example). Texagg04 suggests..
“Much like real estate agents ought to reveal that a house had a grisly murder in it, I’d submit that recipients of organ donations of this kind should get to be informed of the donor’s convictions.”
Hmmm. I’m not so sure. One of the reasons for my views about the death houses is that they may be difficult for the uninformed buyer to sell later if the home’s history is known or becomes well known. Also, there are always alternatives to buying a particular house—given a choice between the site of a murder and a similar house with no such history, I might opt for the latter—I’ve seen too many of the “Paranormal Experiences” and “The Grudge” movies, I guess. But with donated organs, the options are more limited. Maybe not telling the recipient that he has the heart of the Green River Killer is the fair and kind thing to do.