“Grow Your Own Marrow Donor” Ethics and Consequentialism: The Ayala Family Saga

Anissa Ayala and her custom-made bone marrow donor

Once again, the fans of that ethically corrosive twin of  “the ends justifies the means,” consequentialism, were holding court in the mass media, as the “Today Show” revisited a two-decade old ethical outrage to declare that it was all perfectly fine after all…because it worked.

Thus does television, itself dominated by ethically-dim writers, producers and stars, corrupt the public. So here we go again:

Does the fact (if it indeed is a fact) that Osama bin Laden capture and execution was facilitated by torture make torture less ethically wrong?

No.

Do the fortuitous results of any action that was unethical from its inception change the nature of that conduct from unethical to ethical.

Again, no.

Is conceiving a child solely to provide donor bone marrow to her cancer-stricken older sister ethically acceptable as long as the sister’s cancer is cured?

Absolutely not!  But to listen to the “Today Show,” and revoltingly, the “Today Show’s” resident medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman, it is not only ethically acceptable but laudable. Because it worked.

Twenty years ago, Abe and Mary Ayala were desperate because Anissa, their 16-year-old daughter, had been diagnosed with leukemia. Chemotheraphy proved ineffective, and neither the Ayalas nor their son was a compatible bone marrow donor. The Ayalas had long before decided that two children were enough; Abe had a vasectomy. But then Mary came up with the idea of having another child in the hopes that it would be a bone marrow donor who could save Anissa’s life. Continue reading

“The Mentalist” Ethics: Patrick Jane Osamas “Red John”

Red John's bloody calling-card will be found at serial killing scenes no more.

Tonight marked the season finale of “The Mentalist” on CBS, and by happy coincidence, Bruno Heller’s odd-ball murder mystery drama ended with its hero, Patrick Jane (played with brio by the excellent Simon Baker) executing his nemesis, the serial killer “Red John,” in a crowded food court…a Osama bin Laden style killing that, like the death of the Al Qaida mastermind, was both technically illegal and completely ethical.

Bravo.

Red John, for those of you who do not follow “The Mentalist,” is the self-chosen monicker of a brilliant maniac with financial resources, who slaughtered California Bureau of Investigation consultant Jane’s family as well as untold others. Jane has spent the three years of the series in an Ahab-like quest for revenge, wittily solving other murders along the way. In the final episode, Red John plotted the death of Jane’s boss and maybe love interest, Theresa Lisbon, played by Robin Tunney. Red John’s henchman managed to kill two officers and wound Lisbon before he was foiled, leading to a dramatic confrontation between the serial killer himself and the hero. Continue reading

Bin Laden Aftermath Ethics: Deadly Expediency and Incompetence at the Top

Psst! Joe! SHUT UP! You're killing people!

Secretary of Defense William Gates told a group of Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina that the Navy SEALs who took out Osama bin Laden were concerned about their safety and that of their families. And why wouldn’t they be? After all, the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death  exposed President Obama’s inner circle, not for the first time, as inept and reckless in the responsibilities and priorities of leadership.

Mere days after the successful raid on bin Laden’s compound, Vice President Biden spontaneously announced the name of one of the men in charge of the SEALs team at a fundraiser in Washington, saying, Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Sen. John McCain

Arizona Senator John McCain has seriously tarnished his reputation for integrity  since losing the Presidential election in 2008, particularly during his last campaign for re-election to the Senate. The best of McCain was on display this week, however, as he delivered a strong and eloquent denouncement of torture (a.k.a “enhanced interrogation techniques”) on the Senate floor, in response to the ethically offensive arguments being put forth by many conservatives that the successful elimination of Osama bin Laden somehow magically transformed the evil practice of torture into a respectable tactic of national security. It is an important, courageous and persuasive statement from a U.S. Senator with special qualifications to make it, as one who had been tortured himself, and as fine a legacy as McCain, or any Senator, could aspire to.

Sen. McCain said, in part (you can read the entire text of his speech here)…

“Mr. President, the successful end of the ten-year manhunt to bring Osama bin Laden to justice has appropriately heightened the nation’s appreciation for the diligence, patriotism and courage of our armed forces and our intelligence community.  They are a great credit and inspiration to the country that has asked so much of them, and like all Americans, I am in their debt.

“But their success has also reignited debate over whether the so-called, ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ of enemy prisoners, including waterboarding, were instrumental in locating bin Laden, and whether they are necessary and justifiable means for securing valuable information that might help prevent future terrorist attacks against us and our allies and lead to the capture or killing of those who would perpetrate them.  Or are they, and should they be, prohibited by our conscience and laws as torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Jaundiced Eye of Noam Chomsky”

You can find the original post here, and under it, my response to this comment by reader Trafford Gazsik. I’d say that Christopher Hitchens’ rebuttal to Chomsky, linked in the post, and my post about the ethics of bin Laden’s execution address the issues raised, make up your own mind.

“I like Chomsky and as a non-American, I can assure you that rather than filling my head with anti-American sentiments, his writings have reassured me that America remains a country populated with mostly decent people and that the world at large should not give up on the place just yet.

“I’m interested to know which part of Chomsky’s analysis you do not agree with:

– Do you disagree with the assertion that the Bin Laden ‘takedown’ was an assassination?

– Do you reject the assertion that the assassination took place within the territory of another sovereign state without the knowledge or permission of the government of that state, in clear contravention of international law and customs?

– Do you deny that Bin Laden had not been tried in any court, and was for legal purposes, an innocent civilian of Non-US nationality residing in Non-US territory? Continue reading

What Do you Call A Newspaper That Defends Outrageous Journalistic Practices? How About “Di Tzeitung”?

If Di Tzeitung had covered the Civil War

If I could pronounce it, the Brooklyn-based Hasidic newspaper Di Tzeitung would be useful shorthand  for “shamelessly using rationalizations to defend indefensible conduct.”

Last week, the newspaper ran the now-familiar photo of President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and others in the White House Situation Room, except that in Di Tzeitung’s version, Clinton  and the only other woman present, Director for Counter-terrorism Audrey Tomason, had magically vanished. Di Tzeitung had airbrushed them out, Politburo-style.

Of course, publishing the photo of a historic news event and altering it to convey misleading or false information (in this case, “Hillary wasn’t there”) is a substantial and wide-ranging violation of core journalism ethics, a breach of the reader’s trust, unfair, dishonest, misleading, incompetent and disrespectful. The altered photo was alternately condemned and mocked all over the media and blogosphere. Yet Di Tzeitung is largely unapologetic, and made it clear that it would do the same thing again if the opportunity arose. In a prepared statement, the editors explained why they did nothing “wrong”…well, almost nothing…challenging the Olympic record for rationalization by a news organization along the way: Continue reading

The Jaundiced Eye of Noam Chomsky

I’ve been enduring, teeth gritted, the America-hating propaganda of Noam Chomsky since my college days. He is a brilliant linguistics professor who has credibility as a social critic only because his world view—briefly put, that the United States is evil, and anything that indicates otherwise is the result of a conspiracy–has been so supportive of and nurturing to the extreme Left. It is hard to quantify how much harm he has done to this nation or how many potentially productive minds, foreign and domestic, that he has warped with his bile, but I am sure it is substantial on both counts.

We are fortunate, I guess, to have his assessment of Osama Bin Laden’s death, recently published and available for reading here. The piece is res ipsa loquitur that the man is so consumed with unreasoning hatred for his country that he cannot process the truth or think straight, but I know that plenty of Chomsky followers will be cheering. Thus I am grateful that Christopher Hitchens has authored an admirable take-down of the professor, here.

Comment of the Day: “Osama’s Assassination: The Ethics Elephant in the Room”

First time commenter Margo Schulter delivers a powerful, passionate and eloquent absolutist rebuttal to my post asserting an ethical defense of Osama bin Laden’s targeted killing/assassination/execution by U.S. military personnel. My immediate response to her can be found in the comments to the original post here; I don’t want to re-post it with this post because Margo’s thoughtful comment should be read and thought about prior to considering my rebuttal. Ethics Alarms is blessed with many sharp and persuasive comments, and this is one of the finest. In the grand tradition of absolutism, her answer to my question about firing the bullet that would kill an unarmed and submissive Osama  is “I wouldn’t fire that bullet to save the whole universe.” And she explains why:

“Please let me try to put my best foot forward, and keep a spirit of civility and friendly inquiry, as I say that my whole being — my guts, heart, intuition, and intellect –cry out, “No exceptions! Executions, extrajudicial or legal, are _wrong_!” I wonder what an MRI might show, and what neuroethics might say, about how people in the U.S.A. and elsewhere have such different reactions to what I would call a consummately evil and dehumanizing act.

“Please let me also apologize for the length of this comment, nevertheless just the starting point for a dialogue with lots of ramifications. How do pacifists like me see the scale of moral evils in different kinds of violence, and when might we consider using certain forms of nonlethal force? Also, there’s a way that President Obama might have modified his strategy a bit to fit Frances Kamm’s Doctrine of Triple Effect (DTE), illustrating what I see as the dangers of this intellectually intriguing concept. I’d love to join a dialogue going in any or all of these directions.

“It’s curious. You write, “I assume you shoot him dead.” And my whole being cries out, “You assume wrong!” While I’m not a physicalist, I do recognize that while we’re in this world experience and behavior are mediated through the brain, so I wonder what an MRI or the like would show for
people who have these radically different intuitions. Continue reading

Osama’s Assassination: The Ethics Elephant in the Room

You are one of the Navy Seals raiding Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound. Bin Laden rushes out, with a white flag, shouting “Mercy!”, “I surrender!” and “I’m so, so sorry!” He throws his flag down, puts his hands up, and falls to his knees, pleading for his life. What do you do?

I assume that you shoot him dead. I would. Is this ethically defensible? Continue reading