Superb Bioethics Quote Of The Month

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From the really thoughtful article "A Wrongful Birth" in the New York Times Magazine this past Sunday:

"There's enough evil and caprice to always assure there will be disabilities," says Laurie Zoloth, director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society at Northwestern University. "But could there be fewer? When people worry about curing too many things, I'm always glad that bioethics wasn't around when people were thinking about infectious diseases or polio or yellow fever."

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  1. And it’s usually people who are completely healthy who have the attitude that diseases and disabilities build character when you suffer through them. Those same people might feel differently if they were the ones affected. I’m not religious, but how corrupt do you have to be to not use the “Golden Rule” as a general guideline?

  2. the Brancas came to love A.J. deeply and also to file a multimillion-dollar lawsuit claiming that Donna Branca’s obstetrician’s poor care deprived her of the right to abort him

    That’s fucked up.

  3. This isn’t a fully formed thought, but here goes.

    A lot of bioethicists seem to look back to the days before prenatal testing as though it was a golden era: we lacked knowledge, so the choice was do I want a child or not, rather than do I want this particular child or not. That seems naive, since in that the era before prenatal testing was also one in which many of these children would have died at birth or shortly afterward as a result of lack of medical care (either because the parents chose not to provide it, or because it didn’t exist). So arguing from history to modern medicine is flawed: abortion merely allows us to move forward in time what happened postnatally before.

    And it completely fails to address issues of allocation of scarce medical resources. A child that 100 years ago would have been born and died within hours or days, with no noticable economic impact on the family can now survive for months or years as a result of treatments that will bankrupt their family. Do the parents have a moral obligation to provide this support? What if it negatively impacts their ability to provide for themselves, or for other children? Should society pick up the slack? What should the mandated level of care be? And how do we pay? How is this different from someone who is disabled in an accident post-natally? Is abortion of a severely disabled foetus that much different from an order to withdraw life support from an adult who won’t survive without it? Don’t we give people with medical power of attorney the right to make that decision for their loved ones? Why should the preborn be different?

  4. Who is really bearing the cost of care in such cases? I don’t think you can make any sensible medical decision without taking cost into consideration.

    For some reason, hearing that people are getting millions of dollars to help them maintain their pre-handicapped-birth lifestyles rubs me the wrong way today. It’s probably because it’s tax time and that always makes me cranky. Life is a crapshoot, and having a baby is risky.

    I suppose ideally, I’d like to hear that now that we have AJ, he is receiving loving and competent care from his family, with help (or interference) from outside only as needed.

  5. Actually, such people were around back then. When we first started to develop serious painkillers, many said that they were a violation of god’s will that we suffer.
    Call them religious nuts or bioethicists. They are basically motiveed by the same desire to control others.

  6. I await the day when a disabled adult sues hers/his parents for not taking measures, possibly including abortion, that would have prevented the pain and suffering caused by the handicap. Say, for instance, we come up with a cure for a particular genetic disorder, but that it must be applied before 6 months old and the parents did not believe in such techniques and/or did not believe in screening for disease. It will happen in my lifetime if it hasn’t happened already.

  7. “I await the day when a disabled adult sues hers/his parents for not taking measures, possibly including abortion, that would have prevented the pain and suffering caused by the handicap.”

    Well, the article mentioned that wrongful life suits by the disabled themselves have uniformly failed, but litigation for failure to provide medical care in the form of gene therapy, etc., would seem to be much more promising because there are already statutes in several states and court decisions in others that require a parent to provide reasonable medical care to their child.

  8. I await the day when a disabled adult sues hers/his parents for not taking measures, possibly including abortion, that would have prevented the pain and suffering caused by the handicap.

    On that day, we will know that the culture of death has finally taken over. “Wrongful life” suits?

    BTW, I have no problem at all with developing treatments to alleviate pain and suffering, so long as such development doesn’t violate the rights of others (a la ESC research). After all, those who want to use their suffering to build character, etc, can still choose to forego such treatments.

  9. There’s a world of difference between preventing someone from suffering by treating their pain and preventing someone from suffering by killing them.

    That should go without saying, but we live in a world where Planned Parenthood is acclaimed for progressing towards its goal of “every child being a wanted child”, by killing the unwanted ones. Death has always been the quickest and easiest solution to the problems of humanity; that the world still worships it should not be surprising, I guess.

  10. Sorry, I meant to quote the original post for my last comment:

    When people worry about curing too many things, I’m always glad that bioethics wasn’t around when people were thinking about infectious diseases or polio or yellow fever.

  11. crimethink,

    Hey, its your Church which opposes condoms, and thus opposes a measure which can reduce the transmission of HIV. That’s a true culture of death.

  12. The idea that we control which children live and which die is not unprecedented. It just used to be done once they were born. Same as how women have been aborting themselves for millennia, without doctors’ supervision.

    Anyone who claims these are new phenomena, either out of hope or outrage, is being historically blind.

  13. crimethink,

    I have to ask, why is it that, from abolitionism to womens’ rights to free trade to freedom to pursue scientific endeavours to free speech to a free press to freedom to die when and how one wishes to, etc. that the RCC lags so far behind the first, second, third, etc. promoters of such things? In other words, why is it that the human rights record of the RCC is so terrible?

    More to the point, I have to say that as a libertarian the RCC hardly gives much reason to want to join it and ample reason to shun it given its hierarchal, anti-individual, paternalistic, etc. positions on things. Indeed, the last thing that the RCC seems to support is the sort of individual sovereignty and choice that we as libertarians celebrate.

  14. crimethink,

    There’s a world of difference between preventing someone from suffering by treating their pain and preventing someone from suffering by killing them.

    I don’t see how you have any say in my end of life choices. Your Church disagrees though and would instead mandate by law what choices I legally have.

    jb,

    Well, mate selection, and thus a rudimentary type of child selection, amongst humans is as old as the hills. Our science just allows us to be more precise, that’s all.

  15. Ron Bailey-

    Totally off topic, but I’m curious if you’ve been attending the American Physical Society March Meeting in Baltimore this week, seeing as how you’re the science correspondent and I seem to recall reading that you live in northern Virginia. I assume that the APS meeting is like a giant magnet for science correspondents. You might enjoy the talks on biophysics, alternative energy, nuclear terrorism, and other topics that Reason has given coverage to.

    There’s even a handful of crackpot talks, which are kind of amusing even though I rarely get to them. The philosophy is that it’s better to give the crackpots a room to talk in and then ignore them, than to try to root them out and banish them. Somebody was talking yesterday about the medicinal benefits of colloidal silver (the same stuff that an LP candidate used to dye his skin blue), but I missed it because it was in the morning and I got a flat tire on the way to Baltimore.

    Anyway, hope to see you there, if you’re around.

  16. How exactly does one become a “bioethicist” and avoid having to get a real job. That, my friends, is the $64,000 question.

  17. Hak doesn’t the Church have a fairly good track record regarding free trade? At least compared to everybody else. And immigration too.

    Scientology would be worse.

  18. johnl,

    Thomas Woods seems to think that the RCC created free trade, but the record for the RCC in reality is rather poor given the typical mercantilist stance of the Church throughout most of its history.

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