Category Archives: Bioethics

Groundhog Day Ethics Warm-Up: 2/2/2019

Happy Groundhog Day!

1. Gov. Northam ethics Updates  a)There are reports that Virginia’s beleaguered governor will resign tomorrow. b) Then again, maybe not. The Times has this amazing story:

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, facing intense pressure to resign from fellow Democrats after admitting that he posed for a photo in a racist costume as a medical student more than 30 years ago, was calling state Democrats on Saturday to say he did not think it was him in the picture and that he would not resign… in phone calls on Saturday morning he said he had no recollection of the yearbook image of two men, one in blackface and the other in Ku Klux Klan robes….

In addition to calling state Democratic officials, Mr. Northam has been calling former classmates at Eastern Virginia Medical School in an effort to determine more information about the picture — and to survive a crisis that is threatening his year-old governorship, according to a Democrat familiar with Mr. Northam’s calls.

This Democrat said the governor was determined to prove it was not him in the photograph and was even considering using facial recognition software. The governor, the Democrat said, had wanted to take responsibility on Friday night, which was why he apologized for appearing in the picture without acknowledging which person he was in the image.

Now he has to resign because he has proven that he’s an idiot. He began by admitting that he was definitely one of the two men in the photo and apologizing. If he wasn’t, does that mean that there’s another photo of Northam in a Klan get-up or in blackface? Why would he admit to dressing up in blackface or as a Klansman if he never did so? Was this so routine for him that he wouldn’t remember if he did it or not that particular time? Was he lying when he admitted that he was in the photo–and why would he do that?—-or lying now in a desperate attempt to save his career? Ugh. Show some dignity, man.

c) Conservative bloggers and pundits are enjoying this revolting spectacle way too much. Allahpundit: “Killing babies on the table is one thing, but an old blackface photo is where America draws the line.” Charlie Kirk:

David Bernstein: “The standards on past indiscretions confuse me. If we had had a picture of Ted Kennedy driving a car off a bridge and leaving his passenger to die while he planned a cover up, would he have had to resign?”  And when Planned Parenthood demanded that Northam resign, we got this…

d) Ann Althouse, as I assumed she would, is dubious about the fairness of condemning Northam for an unexplained use of blackface 35 years ago. “Here‘s the Wikipedia list of celebrities who’ve done blackface, ” she writes. ” Would those who want to exile Gov. Northam agree that all of these people should be shunned retrospectively (even the dead ones)? Fred Armisen, Fred Astaire, Dan Aykroyd, Jack Benny, Fanny Brice, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Joan Crawford, Billy Crystal, Robert Downey Jr., Judy Garland, Alec Guinness, Rex Harrison, Jimmy Kimmel, Dean Martin, The Marx Brothers, The Lone Ranger, Carroll O’Connor, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Grace Slick, The Three Stooges, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, John Wayne, Gene Wilder.

Of course, as Ann must recognize, all of those individuals, unlike Northam, were or are performers whose use of dark make-up was related to a particular role, skit or musical number. Continue reading

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Open Forum, Sick Host Edition

The chair is empty.

I’m going to hand the blog over to you right now, since I am temporarily incapable of going two minutes without sneezing, coughing, gagging or sleeping. Maybe I’ll be able to catch up on posting some Comments of the Day as well, since that takes about a tenth as much time as a full post. Or maybe I’ll just crawl off into the snow and let nature take its course.

Yes, I’m feeling sorry for myself. Make me proud, ethics lovers…

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“The Future Of Personhood” Fallacy: Ethics Done Backwards Isn’t Ethical

Ethics backwards is “scihte.”

Scihte, or whatever you want to call it, is on full and vulnerable display in the recent New York Times special section “A Woman’s Rights,” which we already considered at here. There are many ethics issues raised in the series of eight essays, which are thought-provoking and informative. However, as has always been the case in the pro-abortion camp, the effort crashes on the reef of basic ethical reasoning repeatedly, none more messily than in Part 8,  “The Future of Personhood”:

…What if, as many opponents of abortion hope, the court rules that the fetus has “personhood” rights under the Constitution? In that event, all abortions would be illegal — even in states that overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to choose. Wealthy women might travel to other countries for reproductive health care, but poorer women would be left behind.

And the changes to American life would go deeper than that. A society that embraces a legal concept of fetal personhood would necessarily compromise existing ideals of individual freedom. Americans — even many who oppose abortion — have not considered the startling implications of this idea, even as it has steadily gained strength in the law and in social norms. If a fetus is granted equal rights, women who become pregnant may find their most personal decisions coming under state control….

Would a woman who chooses to smoke cigarettes or drink wine during pregnancy be charged with a crime? What if a judge rules, or a police officer believes, she is risking the life of a fetus by, say, climbing a mountain, or riding a roller coaster, or undertaking a humanitarian mission in a war zone? Who will decide whether a pregnant woman diagnosed with cancer may undergo chemotherapy?…

With this, the Times and the pro-abortion movement reveals the intellectual dishonesty and ethical void in its whole approach to the topic. Forget, for now, about what the Court “might decide,” which is typical fearmongering via “future news.” The real question is this: what if, under sound bioethical criteria and based on valid scientific research, it is objectively determined that a fetus IS a person under legal definitions? Then what is the right and ethical policy? I guarantee that it would not mean that women would be forced to carry children to term in all cases, as the dystopian fiction suggested by the Times would require. Such a definitive determination would require a balancing of the rights of the mother, the fetus, and the needs of society, and determining that balance would be extremely difficult and contentious. However, society and the law engages in that balancing process in many areas, and frequently. It’s called government, and it isn’t easy. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Childhood and children, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine

The Bioethical Dilemma Of The Mother’s DNR Revisited, And More Fetal Rights Ethics Confusion [UPDATED]

In Part 2 of the New York Times editorial board’s examination of the ethical and legal complexities of conflicting laws protecting the right to kill a fetus, the rights a fetus does have, and the mother’s rights, the question is posed:

Katherin Shuffield was five months pregnant when she was shot in 2008. She survived, but she lost the twins she was carrying. The gunman, Brian Kendrick, was charged with murdering them. Bei Bei Shuai was eight months pregnant and depressed when she tried to kill herself in 2010. She was rushed to the hospital and survived, but her baby died a few days later. Ms. Shuai was charged with murder.

Both cases are tragedies. But are Ms. Shuai and the man who shot Ms. Shuffield really both murderers?

It is an ethical question, a legal one and a logical one. Unfortunately, and typical of the entire series, the Times cannot play straight, or begin with basic principles. No, the questions is asked with an assumption in hand: the right to abortion must trump everything, even logic and justice The editors go on:

“Ms. Shuai is one of several hundred pregnant women who have faced criminal charges since 1973 for acts seen as endangering their pregnancies, according to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which has completed the only peer-reviewed study of arrests and forced interventions on pregnant women in the United States. In many cases, the laws under which these women were charged were ostensibly written to protect them. Ms. Shuai, for instance, was charged under a law that was stiffened after the attack on Ms. Shuffield.

These criminal statutes are results of a tried-and-true playbook, part of a strategic campaign to establish fetal rights, reverse Roe v. Wade and recriminalize abortion. The sequence begins with anti-abortion groups seizing upon a tragic case in which a woman loses her pregnancy because of someone else’s actions. Public outcry then helps to strengthen a state feticide law that recognizes such lost pregnancies as murder or manslaughter. It’s a backdoor way of legally defining when life begins.”

In other words, the Times relies on ideology to duck an ethics conflict that points in a direction that radical abortion advocates don’t like, and thus refuse to acknowledge, because they don’t have a good answer for it. Here’s my answer: Yes, they are both murderers. If a mother who is gestating a child that she and her husband intend to have, and the child is killed by the act of a third party, a human being has been murdered, and charges are just. In the Sheffield case, her twins were within the protection of abortion limitations, though I would hold that this doesn’t matter, if they were both going to be delivered. If you don’t call this a murder, then a manic could perform an involuntary abortion on a 9 month’s  pregnant women, ripping her fetus out of her with murderous intent, and still face no murder charges as long as the mother recovered. Were it not that all obstacles to abortion must fall, even logical ones, no woman, no human being would call such an act anything but murder. Once any rights are assigned to the unborn at all, however, such logic is impolitic. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Wheaton College

What prompted this anti-educational, anti-discourse “message to the Wheaton community”?

Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation gave a presentation entitled “Black Lives Matter In and Out of the Womb” at the evangelical Wheaton College (in Wheaton, Ill.) on November 14. He was the guest of the Wheaton College Republicans. Bomberger’s talk criticized  BLM leadership for announcing its solidarity with Planned Parenthood, the “leading killer of black lives.” Bomberger  is a biracial African American conceived in rape, adopted, and then raised in a mixed-race family. He responded  to the allegations in the letter by saying that Rowley, Waaler, and Shields had demonized him, and said he had been told that only Shields among the three signatories had attended his talk.

“I would think it would be against the college’s mission to intentionally mislead students,” Bomberger wrote in response to the student leaders’ backlash against him.

“I am a person of color, a clarifying fact which you conveniently left out of your letter of denouncement. I was primarily presenting a perspective of those who are never heard, always underrepresented, and are actually unsafe — the unborn,” he said. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 11/27/18: Unethical Perry Mason, Icky Science, Race Card-Playing Democrats, Intrusive Bosses And Slanted History

Good morning…

1. They are showing “Perry Mason” reruns again on cable TV. That was the show that made my generation want to be lawyers, under the delusion that a defense attorney could regularly prove a criminal defendant innocent. (Pssst! They are almost all guilty.) The show holds up, but boy, Perry was sleazy. In an episode I watched while I was sick, he had his investigator tell the hapless prosecutor, Hamilton Burger (Ham Burger to his friends) that he had found an incriminating piece of evidence that proved someone other than Perry’s client had committed murder. Ham relied on the information and got the killer to confess once he was faced with the production of the “smoking gun.” But Perry’s investigator hadn’t really found anything.

Having one’s agent lie to the state prosecutor is a serious ethics breach. Perry also caused the DA to tell a falsehood to get the confession, though Burger wasn’t lying, since he believed Perry’s contrivance. Prosecutors are no more allowed to lie than other lawyers, but when they do lie “in the public interest,” they seldom get more than a slap on the wrist from courts and bar ethics committees, if that. Burger didn’t seem very upset that Perry conned him, because the real killer was caught. The ends justifies the means, or did in “Perry Mason.”

2. Ick or ethics? A Chinese scientist claims that he had successfully employed embryonic gene editing to help protect twin baby girls from infection with HIV. We are told that bioethicists in China and elsewhere are reacting with “horror.” Writes the Times,

“Ever since scientists created the powerful gene editing technique Crispr, they have braced apprehensively for the day when it would be used to create a genetically altered human being. Many nations banned such work, fearing it could be misused to alter everything from eye color to I.Q….If human embryos can be routinely edited, many scientists, ethicists and policymakers fear a slippery slope to a future in which babies are genetically engineered for traits — like athletic or intellectual prowess — that have nothing to do with preventing devastating medical conditions.”

As with cloning, my view on this controversy is that a new technology does not become unethical because of how it might be used. That unethical use will be unethical, and that is what needs to be addressed when and if the problem arises. (Airplanes could be used to drop atom bombs!) The fear of “designer babies” also seems to be an example of “ick”—it’s strange and creepy!—being mistaken for unethical. Making stronger, smarter, more talented and healthier human beings is not in itself unethical, even if it is the stuff of science fiction horror novels and Josef Mengele’s dreams. Continue reading

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Satchel Paige Would Approve: From The Ethics Alarms Slippery Slope Files

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” said Leroy “Satchel” Paige, the greatest Negro Leagues pitcher of them all, and —who knows?—maybe the  greatest pitcher of all time, in any league. Imagine: Paige wasn’t allowed to play against white players in the Major Leagues until 1948 when he was over 40, and he still was hard to hit. Satch is a great symbol for the ageless and those of us in denial: he pitched in his last Major League game in his 60’s, throwing three scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox. Paige’s whimsical  idea that age is just a state of mind has now been carried to its illogical conclusion by Dutch citizen Emile Ratelband, a “positivity trainer” who  calls himself a “young god,” and who has asked a local court to legally change his birthday from March 11, 1949 to March 11,1969, the BBC reports.

Heck, why not? If someone with a Y chromosome and all of their original external organs can say they “identify” as a female and use the ladies room, join the Girl Scouts, and have the protection and support of the law and the woke, why not declare age simply a matter of attitude and mind over matter? It’s just the next frontier in the politically correct realm of reality denial, and I would say, and I know Satchel Paige would say, if  how someone feels is sufficient to legitimize that defiance of concrete reality, treating age as similarly flexible is more than reasonable. Just a stroke of a pen by a judge, and poof! You’re as young as you feel. Continue reading

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