Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Simply abandon the ‘norm against killing’ to solve organ transplant problem: leading US bioethicists

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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February 8, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The conundrum faced by the organ transplant industry, that the removal of vital organs kills the “donor,” can be “easily obviated by abandoning the norm against killing,” two leading U.S. bioethicists have said. In an article titled, “What Makes Killing Wrong?” appearing in last month’s Journal of Medical Ethics, the authors have moved the argument forward by admitting that the practice of vital organ donation ignores “traditional” medical ethics.

“Traditional medical ethics embraces the norm that doctors … must not kill their patients. This norm is often seen as absolute and universal. In contrast, we have argued that killing by itself is not morally wrong, although it is still morally wrong to cause total disability.”

Traditional ethicists have responded, warning that this stream of thought, now common in the medical community, will ultimately undermine the right of anyone to life or the protection of law, and will annihilate public trust in the medical profession.

“If this dreadful doctrine is permitted and practised it is impossible to conjure up the degradation to which it will lead,” said Anthony Ozimic, communications manager of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). A physician “has but to certify his patients as unproductive and he receives the command to kill.”

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong a Duke University bioethicist and Franklin G. Miller, an ethicist with the National Institutes of Health, the federal health authority in the US, admitted that patients who are routinely declared dead for purposes of organ “harvesting” are in fact alive and that removing their organs kills them.

Pro-life objectors to the practice of “non-heart beating organ donation” have long argued that it is tantamount to murdering helpless patients, reducing human persons to mere organ farms. The article proposes, however, that this is simply not a problem. Killing a patient who has lost all functional “abilities” and autonomy, “cannot disrespect her autonomy, because she has no autonomy left. It also cannot be unfair to kill her if it does her no harm.”

“Killing by itself is not morally wrong,” the authors said, “although it is still morally wrong to cause total disability.” The problem with killing is “not that the act causes loss of life or consciousness but rather that the act causes loss of all remaining abilities.”

Ozimic called the paper “obnoxious” and warned that its authors have “forgotten the lessons of the 20th century,” referring to the utilitarianism-based eugenics programmes of the pre-war Nazi government.

Ozimic quoted the famous 1941 sermon of Clemens von Galen, Cardinal Archbishop of – known as the “Lion of Munster” for his opposition to the Nazi euthanasia programme: “Once admit the right to kill unproductive persons…  then none of us can be sure of his life.”

Ozimic said that if it is allowed to continue the concept will spell the end of our current understanding of medicine as doing good for human persons.

“We shall be at the mercy of any committee that can put a man on the list of unproductives. There will be no police protection, no court to avenge the murder and inflict punishment upon the murderer. Who can have confidence in any doctor?”

But the article’s authors admit that the situation is already grave from the point of view of traditional medical ethics. The so-called “dead donor rule,” they say, is already “routinely violated” in transplant practice anyway.

In order to be consistent with “traditional medical ethics” the practice of organ transplants, already a multi-billion dollar international medical industry, would have to be stopped immediately. But stopping organ transplants on the mere grounds that it kills people, they said, would be “extremely harmful and unreasonable from an ethical point of view.”

Ozimic critiqued the paper, saying, “According to some doctor, or because of the decision of some committee, they have no longer a right to live because they are ‘unproductive citizens’.

“The opinion is that since they can no longer make money, they are obsolete machines, comparable with some old cow that can no longer give milk or some horse that has gone lame. What is the lot of unproductive machines and cattle? They are destroyed.” But men and women, Ozimic said, are neither machines nor cattle who can be discarded when they no longer serve someone else’s needs. 

“Here we are dealing with human beings, with our neighbours, brothers and sisters, the poor and invalids . . . unproductive - perhaps! But have they, therefore, lost the right to live? Have you or I the right to exist only because we are ‘productive’?”

Shocking as it may sound to the layman’s ears, however, the article’s position is not unusual in the bioethics community. The notion that the value of human life is founded upon the individual’s abilities has become run-of-the-mill in universities and, more crucially, in hospital ethics committees. It was popularised by Peter Singer, the professor of ethics at Princeton University, who infamously proposed that parents have the power to convey personhood upon their newborn children and should be allowed to kill them at will.

The fixation on autonomy, one of the three “principles” that utilitarian secular bioethics regards as the ultimate indicators of human value, has driven much of the international pressure for legalised euthanasia. Around the world, secular bioethicists supported the killing of Terri Schindler Schiavo on the grounds that her “autonomy” was permanently impaired.

Experts have noted that this form of bioethics, as distinct from classical, Hippocratic medical ethics, has since the 1970s become the leading stream of thought in most medical organisations in developed countries. The movement has succeeded in legalising euthanasia in the Netherlands and Belgium and assisted suicide in three US states.

In addition to outright euthanasia and legalised assisted suicide, other means of killing patients are sneaking in under the legal radar in response to the demands of autonomy-obsessed Bioethics. “Terminal sedation” and death by dehydration or withdrawal of life-saving drugs and treatments have become common causes of death among elderly and disabled patients in the UK, Canada and across Europe.

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A protester rallies against Hobby Lobby, protesting against the Supreme Court decision Dan Holm/Shutterstock
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

DNC chairwoman exhorts constituents to boycott local Hobby Lobby store

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision was nearly two months ago, but the issue as hot as ever, as was demonstrated yesterday when Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz, D-FL, urged constituents to boycott a Hobby Lobby store in her district.

In a press conference one lot away from the Hobby Lobby location in Davie, which opened in April, Wasserman-Schultz said that she wanted "people to know that this Hobby Lobby is here and they should vote with their purses and their pocketbooks, and women should not shop here."

"If you didn’t know this Hobby Lobby was here before, know it now and don’t shop here. They don’t deserve women’s business because they are the ones that all across the country have made it harder for women to get access to birth control,” she said.

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Wasserman-Schultz said that Hobby Lobby's corporate ownership "doesn’t support its employees" and "wants to be able to get in the personal business of their employees and make health care decisions and replace their own values, replace their employees’ health care decisions, with their values…."

She also criticized the Supreme Court's late June decision in favor of Hobby Lobby, which had sued the federal government over the Obama administration's HHS Mandate.

The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, say it violates their conscience to pay for coverage for the four abortifacients and potential abortifacients that the mandate required them to cover.

"The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case was not only disappointing, it was dangerous," said the Democrat. "No boss should have the right to dictate and employee’s health decisions because [they] don’t belong in the bedrooms, doctor’s offices or pharmacies of their employees.

"A woman and her doctor know what’s best for their body. Not an insurance company. Not a politician. And certainly not a manager at a Hobby Lobby."

The Supreme Court's decision allowed closely held corporations to not fund coverage of contraception or abortion drugs and devices.

Wasserman-Schultz's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Through a spokesperson, the Green family declined to comment about the Congresswoman's statements. 

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Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

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America is rejecting abortion because pro-lifers are having more children: study

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By Kirsten Anderson

According to a new Northwestern University study, American attitudes about abortion are trending more conservatively than other contentious social issues, a phenomenon the authors credit to the simple fact that pro-lifers have more kids.

“We find evidence that the abortion attitudes have lagged behind a liberalizing trend of other correlated attitudes,” the authors wrote. Using GSS data collected between 1977 and 2010, “We test[ed] the hypothesis that the comparatively high fertility of pro-life individuals has led to a more pro-life population.”

The authors wrote: “Support for abortion rights has turned flat after a period of increase following Roe v. Wade, and in recent years there are even indications of a reversal toward more restrictive attitudes. This U-turn is evinced particularly among younger cohorts, and is happening despite liberalizing trends in several ostensibly related issue domains.”

The authors speculated that the reason for the increase in pro-life attitudes among young people is that their parents had more children than their pro-abortion counterparts. When they examined the data, they found that pro-life individuals had, on average, 27 percent more children than those who considered themselves “pro-choice.”

Not only that, but pro-life parents appear to be much more likely to pass their views on to their children. The researchers found that the younger generation’s pro-life shift was too strong to be blamed solely on differences in fertility – meaning children of pro-abortion parents are rejecting their parents’ views.

“[E]ither pro-life beliefs are always more faithfully transmitted than pro-choice ones; or, there has been a cultural shift towards more pro-life beliefs that is being reflected in the parent-child correlations,” the authors wrote.

The study concluded that if it wasn’t for the higher fertility rate among pro-life people, the nation as a whole would favor abortion by about five percentage points more than it does currently – and researchers predict the pro-life trend will continue.

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“Taken together, these findings suggest that fertility has had at least some part in leading the population in a more pro-life direction over time,” the authors wrote. “Further investigation into this pattern indicates that not only are abortion attitudes associated with fertility, but in proportional terms—which is what matters for cultural change—the gap is widening.”

“Fertility has declined for both pro-choice and pro-life groups over the past 30 years, but fertility has declined far less markedly for pro-life individuals,” they added. “Whereas pro-[life] individuals born before 1940 were only having about 1.2 children per one child born to a pro-choice parent, this ratio has grown to over 1.5 for those born in the mid to late 1970s. This pattern suggests that future cohorts may place an even stronger demographic drag on the liberalization of abortion attitudes.”

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A declaration that PP is an 'enemy of the Church' would mean that Catholics who work with, advocate for, or support Planned Parenthood, incur automatic excommunication. American Life League
Lisa Bourne

New campaign asks Pope Francis to declare Planned Parenthood an ‘enemy of the Church’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

The Catholic pro-life organization American Life League (ALL) is launching a campaign calling for the Catholic Church to declare Planned Parenthood an “enemy of the Church.”

Using prayer and education, ALL’s Defend the Family campaign seeks to expose the nation’s largest abortion provider for contribution to the destruction of human lives, as well as the family. 

The campaign, said Jim Sedlack, vice-president of ALL, is quite simply “a way of calling attention to the fact that this is a very bad organization.”

“Planned Parenthood is attacking the family, either by killing preborn children or by robbing the souls of the older children,” he said. 

A declaration that PP is an “enemy of the Church” would mean that Catholics who work with, advocate for, or support Planned Parenthood, incur automatic excommunication.

Such a declaration would not be unprecedented. Popes in the past have identified and condemned organizations that posed a grave threat to the Church, most recently Pope Pius XII in 1949 with Communism and Pope Clement XII in 1738 with Freemasonry.

While specifics would depend on the wording of the Papal pronouncement, Sedlak told LifeSiteNews if the Holy Father makes the declaration there would be no mistaking its intent.

“When the pope makes the declaration it becomes crystal clear,” Sedlak said. “There’ll be no shades of gray, it’ll be black and white, it’ll be clear to the world.”

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'Now is the time'

There are still people who are not fully aware of the extent of the societal damage inflicted by Planned Parenthood, said Sedlak, including members of the Church hierarchy. He said it’s important to emphasize the truth of what the abortion giant does.

“That’s why we’re focusing on the enemy,” said Sedlak. “When people really stop and focus on Planned Parenthood, they realize it’s the enemy.”

ALL cites Planned Parenthood’s targeting of children to sexualize them as a major cause of the destruction of the family and a fundamental reason for the Defend the Family campaign.

“They really push for getting young people into lives of sexual sin,” Sedlak said. “Young people who aren’t pulled into sexual activity do not provide a cent of income to Planned Parenthood, but young people who are pulled in provide millions of dollars to the Planned Parenthood empire.”

ALL compiled a comprehensive report on Planned Parenthood titled, “The Vatican can help save souls from Planned Parenthood,” as part of the Defend the Family campaign.

“The document builds the case,” said Sedlak. “Why Planned Parenthood, why now is the time.”

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that for its part Planned Parenthood has always recognized that its greatest enemy is the Catholic Church, even working to have the Church lose its status at the UN.

“They fight anybody who wants to take sex away from the kids in any way possible,” Sedlak said. “That’s one reason why Planned Parenthood is the sex mafia.”

And when Sedlak uses the term “mafia,” he means it literally, pointing out that the Holy Father condemned the mafia in his June 21, 2014, homily in Calabria, Italy, denouncing its, “Adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.”

“Planned Parenthood kills far more people than the mafia,” Sedlak said.

Also underscoring the need for the Vatican to act on declaring Planned Parenthood an enemy of the Church, is the convening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family this October in Rome, which will lead into the general synod in 2015.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that these, along with the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, are events that ALL will rally around to raise awareness of the Defend the Family campaign.

Preliminary response to the campaign has been very positive, he said.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that the “Vatican can help save souls from Planned Parenthood” report was so well received upon initial presentation to Vatican officials, that ALL was asked to translate it into three more languages.

“The support we’ve gotten from talking to bishops has been overwhelming,” Sedlak said.

Prayer is priority #1

The Defend the Family campaign consists first and foremost of prayer, Sedlak told LifeSiteNews.

“Our approach is that we need prayer support,” he said. “The only way that we’re going to succeed is through prayer to the Blessed Mother; the only way it will succeed is if God wants it to succeed.”

Participants are asked to say regular prayers after Mass, to offer prayers for the pope and to initiate communication with local bishops about the dangers that Planned Parenthood poses to the faithful.

Sedlak also added that The Defend the Family campaign is for everyone, not just Catholics.

He said pro-life supporters of all faith traditions are invited to contact ALL for assistance in encouraging their religious denomination or church leader to declare Planned Parenthood an enemy.

In addition to prayers for the campaign, ALL is asking people to sign and submit ALL’s Declaration of Encouragement to the Holy Father, enroll in the Spiritual Bouquet for the Holy Father and to share ALL resources on Planned Parenthood.

Information, links and resources are available on the campaign website, defendthefamily.org.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that ALL is giving the success of the Defend the Family campaign up to God.

“This is all happening in God’s time, and so far he’s been blessing us mightily,” Sedlak said. “And we’re going to go wherever God takes us.”

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