Francesca Minerva has been receiving death threats. Did she harm anyone? Did she stab, mutilate, or otherwise physically incite people to violence? No: instead she fulfilled her duty as a medical ethicist, in testing our convictions concerning our treatment of what I’ll call pre-person people (PPP). That is, human beings who are in the process of developing self-consciousness, awareness of time, space, identity and so on (all of which are properties of personhood. Note: It is not species specific). Note: To say PPP's are “in the process of” acquiring these abilities immediately means they do not have these capacities. We don’t call a high school student a qualified doctor, even if she’s on her way to graduating and going to medical school.
I’ve already defended her and her co-author's right to speak and I don’t think anyone can reasonably say we ought not to discuss this matter. I now want to engage with some of the counter-arguments made.
I will be discussing eugenics in a later post. For now, I want to deal with pejorative (and incorrect, I think) use of the term: the idea of creating perfect, human beings or a race which will be better than others, thereby trying to reduce the populations of other “races”. According to someone called Paul Joseph Watson, Giubilini and Minerva’s article is “a shocking example of how the medical establishment is still dominated by a eugenicist mindset.”
Hardly. Firstly, most people, including most in the medical establishment, are against the article. This was made clear even by the very editors of the journal in which the Minerva and Giubilini's article was published, as I said yesterday. Furthermore, Oxford’s Practical Ethics blogs has about three follow up blogposts on the article thoroughly disagreeing with it. How is this indicative of “the medical establishment”? Secondly, as Minerva made clear, “it is not a policy and I'm not suggesting that and I'm not encouraging that.”
I’m not sure what Mr Watson’s claims amount to, then.
Baby as Meat Machine: Remembering Baby Theresa
It’s hard to see what’s wrong with Wesley J. Smith’s, from First Things, attempted sarcastic remark: “if the baby’s life is worth so little, let’s harvest her organs and give them to those babies whose parents want them to live.”
Yes, absolutely. Why would we not want to? This is better than an abortion because more humans, including living children, would benefit from the organs of which we’re in dire need of. Abortions kills the foetus which is largely useless. At least we can use the organs of an infant. This does not happen often, and would only be as a result of the parental consent.
I find it strange that people aren’t outraged more by the horrific restrictions this kind of thinking has. One of the worst examples of this mindset was the case of Baby Theresa. Because she was born with anencephaly, Theresa would not survive for long since hers was an incurable and horrific condition. Her parents, realising there was nothing to be done, took the noble route of not wanting other parents to experience the same ordeal. Thus, they decided to “harvest” Baby Theresa’s organs for other children who desperately needed them. Theresa was kept alive to allow for this happen, until outrage trickled up into the US courts and burst over the entire affair. The parents were thus denied the right to use Theresa’s organs for other children – due to some idiotic and nebulous idea of the sanctity of life and dignity. Since it took so much time to fight the court’s stupid decision, acid accumulation eventually made Theresa’s organs useless. Theresa, of course, died, but so did other children unnecessarily.
Why would we choose one life, which we can’t save, at the cost of others, which we can? Dr Smith and anyone who thinks we shouldn’t use infants' organs surely have their priorities skewed, when we hold up a vague concept of dignity and sacredness of life over the actual life and well-being of many existing, suffering children.
Dr Smith says dramatically that it’s an example of “the increasingly radical bioethics movement” (whatever that is), who advocate things like removing kidneys from coma patients and advocating that doctors kill for organs. Anyone who has read even a few articles from bioethics knows that it mostly comprises of authors thoroughly disagreeing with one another - so it's not clear who in this "increasingly radical bioethics movement" he's referring to, since he provides no names or articles.
I’ve never read an article saying doctors should kill patients just to get at their organs (whether this does happen is different from advocating for it to happen). I would be interested in seeing which bizarre article advocates this; if Dr Smith means that doctors should be able to euthanize patients, of the patient’s own volition, and subsequently remove their organs (which they wouldn’t be using since the patient is dead) to help others, then, again, I don’t see anything wrong with this. Why would you not use organs – as we do all the time – for transplants that have saved many people’s lives?
If you kill infants, we’ll kill you
The threats are of course numerous as was made clear yesterday. For example, in a place called “Natural News”, Mike Adams proudly has an article titled: “When do we get to euthanize the medical ethicists who say murdering newborn babies is good for society?”
It’s about one of the most hysterical pieces I’ve ever come across, but it conveys what several other commenters and writers have been saying. The article is the equivalent for the local insane asylum: you can find all of the crazy in one area.
Mr Adams can be so flippant about what is an obviously horrific idea because he assumes, incorrectly, that medical ethicists want to murder newborn babies. As I’ve highlighted, there is a difference between murder and killing – and we must be certain we are using the right term here. Mr Adams is not using murder correctly, since it’s not clear what’s wrong with killing PPP that the authors didn’t deal with in the original article.
This doesn’t mean that it’s right to mindlessly kill PPP’s, like foetuses and babies, but that we should reason about it carefully. Furthermore, Giubilini and Minerva are only working on the assumption that if you accept abortion, you ought to accept killing infants.
Of course, Mr Adams does already fail in his article by talking about “mainstream medicine” (i.e. medicine that works as opposed to the nonsense on his website). Again, like the previous comment, there is no consensus on how the medical establishment views infanticide or post-birth abortion. Most, as I’ve said, are against it.
Infanticide by Any Other Name
Glenn Beck doesn’t like the language used in the original article (which is fresh, coming from someone who can’t spell oligarchy). Apparently it’s a “progressive” tactic to change the language so we are deceived into accepting what is obviously a leftish-Nazi-progressive agenda.
“Why don’t we call it chocolate pudding?” he “quips”. Because, Mr Beck, it has nothing to do with chocolate or pudding; whereas post-birth tells us it’s after the child is born; and abortion tells us we should allow it for the same reason we allow abortions (which is sometimes for non-medical reasons).
No arguments, reiteration of defence
In all of these no arguments are actually offered: it’s merely implied that these ethicists are mad and it’s typical of the left, progressive, medical establishment, or whatever. Some might claim I’m going after soft-targets, but soft or not they represent many people’s views. To deal with them directly is important to show that there are in fact good reasons to take the ethicists seriously.
Image Credit: argus/Shutterstock