Adam J. MacLeod

Judging human worth

Adam J. MacLeod
By Adam MacLeod
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May 24, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - Some of the great civil rights battles of our day are being waged in Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, and Montana this year. If you do not recognize those states as civil rights battlegrounds, you are not alone. While advocates for assisted suicide have targeted those states with legalization campaigns, residents may not fully appreciate what is at stake.

The connection between assisted suicide and the civil rights struggles of previous centuries is foundational. To claim that some human lives are not worth living is to deny the intrinsic and equal worth of every human being. It is, in other words, to deny the principle from which we derived our prohibitions against slavery and racial segregation. Pro-life scholars and activists would do well to make this clear, and may be assisted in their efforts by consulting the arguments of Emily Jackson and John Keown in their new book, Debating Euthanasia. Jackson, a law professor at the London School of Economics, marshals the arguments for legalization of physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, and Keown, the Rose F. Kennedy Chair in Christian Ethics at Georgetown University, defends their continued prohibition by law on both practical and principled grounds.

Central to Keown’s case is concern for the equal and intrinsic worth of all human beings. The “cardinal ethical principle” of the inviolability of human life prohibits the intentional killing of an innocent person, and it is precisely this principle that grounds the “equal and inalienable rights” that we enjoy “in virtue of our common membership in the human family.” The authors of the Declaration of Independence thought this principle self-evident. Keown points out that the principle also finds expression in the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and a 1994 report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics. Neither anachronistic nor novel, this idea explains the law’s insistence on protecting the lives of all, irrespective of age, stage of development, or condition of dependency. No one is better off dead, Keown maintains, “even if some patients lose sight of their worth.”

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It is precisely the failure to grasp the implications of intrinsic human worth that plagues arguments for decriminalization of physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, including Jackson’s. Jackson quite candidly rejects the inviolability of human life. “There is nothing independently valuable about being alive, other than that it enables me to live a life.” But to claim, as Jackson does, that the value of life is merely instrumental is to reject the immutably inherent and equal value of all human persons. On Jackson’s terms, any particular human life is more or less valuable, and thus variably worthy of legal protection, according to some standard of instrumental usefulness. But this raises the questions of how the value will be measured and whom the state will authorize to make the valuation.

Jackson recognizes this problem but seems unable to resolve it coherently. She insists that we should not accept the judgment of the lovesick teenager that her life has no worth, and yet we should accept the same judgment from the elderly or terminally ill person for whom “life has become an intolerable burden.” Jackson discounts outright the lives of persons in persistent vegetative states because of the “important difference between simply being alive, and having a life which is worth living.” But here, again, we are no closer to understanding what a worthy life consists of.

Jackson tries to resist the full implications of her own argument. She protests that “accepting that someone’s life has ceased to benefit them is not the same as saying they have no worth.” Family and friends of a suffering patient, she claims, can assent to the request for death without assenting to the judgment that the patient’s life is worthless. Presumably, the operative principle here is one of deference to the personal autonomy of the patient, but Jackson does not explain why deference is necessary. Given the high correlation between terminal illness and depression, deference would seem especially inappropriate in such cases.

Jackson’s conception of human worth becomes clearer in light of her analogy to animal euthanasia. “When it comes to animals,” Jackson observes, “most people accept that euthanasia is not only justifiable, but also often the right thing to do.” For at least some humans, she argues, the experience of dying is no different than a cat’s. Even allowing for differences between humans and cats, such as the practice of making wills and other provisions for resolution at the end of life, these differences do not “justify forcing someone to suffer intolerably.”

That Jackson considers this argument persuasive indicates that she has not fully confronted the claim that human beings have intrinsic and equal worth. Keown is quite clear that we should not force anyone to suffer, nor should we preserve life at all costs. “That would be ‘vitalism,’” Keown explains, “and morally indefensible.” The right to life is a “right not to be intentionally killed” (Keown’s italics). Animals enjoy no such right precisely because they are merely animals, and not humans. Acting with a purpose to bring about the death of a fellow human being is fundamentally unlike acting with a purpose to bring about the death of an animal.

Jackson fails to appreciate her interlocutor’s arguments in other respects, as well. An important corollary of the inviolability of human life is the principle of double effect, according to which it is sometimes permissible knowingly to bring about harms (as foreseen side-effects) that may never be intended directly. Jackson attacks this principle with a hypothetical:

If I visit my doctor complaining of mild stomach cramps, it would not be acceptable for him to give me a life-threatening injection of diamorphine, and he could not escape responsibility for my death by pointing to the doctrine of double effect. My doctor could not claim that his intention was merely to relieve my pain, and that my death was a foreseen but unintended side-effect.

It apparently does not occur to Jackson that the doctor’s disproportionate response to the pain would in fact supply a significant, perhaps conclusive, reason to infer that his intentions were not pure. She ignores what Keown expressly states, namely, that one of the conditions of the operation of double effect requires a “proportionate reason for allowing the bad effect to occur.” Far from excusing the disproportionate conduct that Jackson rightly condemns, the principle of double effect would rule out the doctor’s actions.

By contrast, Keown takes Jackson’s arguments seriously. (In one instance, he makes the effort to strengthen one of her arguments before refuting it.) Indeed, the book’s most glaring weakness is its asymmetry. The rules of engagement required each author to submit his and her contribution blindly, unable to predict precisely what arguments the other would deploy. Nevertheless, Keown and others have developed many of the pro-life arguments over a period of many years. If Jackson wanted to understand the arguments she was trying to refute, then she could have found robust statements of those arguments with little effort.

Despite this asymmetry, Jackson’s contribution to the book is well worth reading. She is often refreshingly candid, as when she acknowledges the limits of personal autonomy. She remarks that the choice of suicidal patients to end their lives requires the cooperation of others: “they are crucially dependent upon other people, namely healthcare professionals, to comply with their wishes.”

Jackson’s contribution also contains important reminders for opponents of decriminalization. Legalization proponents, like many citizens who are open to legalization, are motivated not by bias against the disabled but rather by compassion and respect. “It seems cruel to force someone to endure suffering they find intolerable,” Jackson’s argument goes, “and condescending to disbelieve them when they claim to be suffering so much.” Such advocates, therefore, tend to be unpersuaded by the common pro-life argument drawing analogies between contemporary legalization and Nazi euthanasia practices. As Jackson notes, the Nazis operated on social Darwinist theories of racial hygiene; their “motivation was never a compassionate response to individual suffering.”

Similarly, Jackson offers some insight into the relative inefficacy of “slippery slope” arguments. Accepting assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia does not, in her view, obviously set one on a course toward “the involuntary extermination of disabled people,” and therefore, a blanket prohibition seems to her “a peculiarly blunt approach to regulation.” Why not give carefully regulated legalization a try?

There are, of course, many good reasons not to try. Keown discusses the failures of regulatory efforts in Oregon and the Netherlands. Despite the prevalence of depression among those who request assisted suicide and euthanasia, fewer than 10 percent are referred for psychiatric evaluation. Oregon’s meager reporting requirements prevent any comprehensive study of abuse, but anecdotal evidence suggests that coercion by family members is sometimes a factor in the decision to commit suicide. And the speed with which the Dutch have moved from voluntary euthanasia of adults to non-voluntary euthanasia of infants should trouble even those who are unmoved by slippery-slope arguments. But for legalization proponents, these failures are insufficient reasons not to proceed with legalization, albeit with more rigorous regulations. Jackson herself criticizes the Swiss regulatory scheme for its lack of safeguards. For example, she favors rules that would require “thorough investigation of the person’s circumstances.” One has the impression that, no matter how many of these safeguards might fail in practice, Jackson will always be prepared to propose more, until reasonable concerns about abuse are satisfied.

Most importantly, Jackson has no answer to the moral argument against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. And herein lies a lesson for pro-life advocates as they fight legalization efforts around the country this year: they should resist the temptation to avoid making moral arguments. They are our strongest resources. To skirt the fundamental moral question would be both unnecessary and, it seems, a strategic blunder. Pro-life activists should not give offense or recall images of swastikas. It is enough to point out that a nation committed to racial equality should, for the same reason, be committed to the intrinsic worth of the sick and the disabled.

Adam MacLeod is an associate professor at Faulkner University’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. This article reprinted with permission from thePublicDiscourse.com.

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Dynel Lane stands accused of numerous crimes, but murdering a baby is not one of them.
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Colorado Democrats vote to allow more deaths like baby cut from her mother’s womb

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By Ben Johnson

DENVER, CO, May 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Constituents and readers around the world were horrified when police reported that Dynel Lane cut a baby out of a pregnant woman's womb, nearly killing the mother and causing the baby to die. But Colorado Democrats voted down a bill that would have classified the crime as a homicide for fear the law could someday be used to challenge abortion-on-demand.

The state House's State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee voted down the Offenses Against Unborn Children Act (SB 268) by a party line vote of 6-5 on Monday.

The proposal would have allowed prosecutors to charge anyone who kills an unborn child with murder but, like bills in 38 other states, it specifically exempts abortion.

“It is a travesty that not a single Democrat voted in favor of this legislation, which would bring justice for babies like Aurora who die in violent homicides,” Colorado Citizens for Life said in a public statement. “At the very least, Colorado Citizens for Life would hope that lawmakers could put aside their partisan differences to pass this common sense piece of legislation.”

State legislators felt a need to plug legal loopholes after Lane allegedly lured Michelle Wilkins to her Longmont home with a phony Craigslist ad for baby clothes on March 18. Police say that Lane spoke with Wilkins for an hour before attacking her in the basement, smothering her with a pillow until she passed out, then using a knife to surgically remove the unborn child.

Lane, who had previous medical training, left Wilkins to bleed on a basement bed, officials say.

Wilkins revived and called 911, and emergency personnel rushed her to a local hospital.

Her unborn child, who was 34 weeks along and who had already been given the name Aurora, did not survive. Lane's husband said he saw the child “gasp” before dying.

Yet cautious prosecutors did not charge Lane with murder, because they feared they could not prove the girl had been “born alive.”

S.B. 268, introduced by Polly Lawrence of Littleton, would have made such a crime a homicide.

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Democrats rejected the bill, saying it could be used to prosecute abortionists.

Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado said that “the bill did not explicitly protect access to abortion, putting Colorado physicians in danger of prosecution if they provide care to pregnant women facing complications in their pregnancy or for providing safe abortion services.” The abortion lobbying group also claimed the bill may have “opened the door to prosecutions of women whose pregnancies face complications and tragically end in miscarriage.”

The bill states, “For purposes of a prosecution of a homicide or assault offense, the bill does not apply to an act committed by the mother of her unborn child,” or to “a medical procedure performed by...[any] licensed medical professional at the request of a mother.” It also refuses to prosecute anyone who prescribes or administers any “medication,” such as RU-486 or the morning after pill.

“This has nothing to do with abortion,” Lawrence said, according to local media. “This is about justice for two victims of violent crimes.”

For now, Colorado remains an outlier in the national abortion debate. But Aurora Wilkins' story – and Dynel Lane's alleged ghastly crime – have inspired people across the country to speak out.

"Imagine the love and the bond that Michelle Wilkins had for young Aurora after seven months together, the handful of sonograms that showed the young life, the heartbeats that reinforced those images and the kicking that showed someone raring to come out,” wrote Bob Confer, vice president of a New York plastics business, in the Niagara Falls Gazette. “Aurora was just as real in the womb and her family’s hearts as she would be if she were resting in a bassinet.”

“So many people are afraid to admit what those with respect for life know to be true: It doesn’t matter if someone is seven months or seven weeks pregnant, there is a life in there," he said.

"Life is important no matter the stage. It’s time we treated it like that and punished those who take it,” Confer added.

“Why should we be robbed of the Aurora Wilkinses of the world while those who take them from us can roam free?"

The vote roll call was:

No:
Rep. Su Ryden (D) 303-866-2942 [email protected]
Rep. Joe Salazar (D) 303-866-2918, [email protected]
Rep. Mike Foote (D) 303-866-2920, [email protected]
Rep. Susan Lontine (D) 303-866-2966, [email protected]
Rep. Dianne Primavera (D) 303-866-4667, [email protected]
Rep. Max Tyler (D) 303-866-2951, [email protected]

Yes:
Rep. Steve Humphrey (R) 303-866-2943, [email protected]
Rep. Patrick Neville (R) 303-866-2948, [email protected]
Rep. Jack Tate (R) 303-866-5510, [email protected]
Rep. Dan Thurlow (R) 303-866-3068, [email protected]
Rep. Yeulin Willett (R) 303-866-2583, [email protected]

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UK Green Party is ‘open’ to legalizing polygamy

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

May 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- The leader of the UK Green Party, Natalie Bennett, said she is “open” to considering legalizing "marriages" between three or more people.

She made the comment in response to a question posed by a reader of the homosexualist news service Pink News, who asked, "As someone living with his two boyfriends in a stable long-term relationship, I would like to know what your stance is on polyamory rights. Is there room for Green support on group civil partnerships or marriages?"

The radically pro-homosexualist Green leader replied that while her party had no specific policy on the subject, she was "open to further conversation and consultation" about polygamy.

"At present, we do not have a policy on civil partnerships involving more than two people," she said.

"We are, uniquely in this country, a party whose policies are developed and voted for by our members. We have led the way on many issues related to the liberalization of legal status in adult consenting relationships, and we are open to further conversation and consultation."

Speaking later at the launch of the Green Party's "LGBTIQ manifesto" in London's Soho district, Bennett said, “What I said was, we’d listen to the evidence on any issue, we believe in evidence-based policy-making. I have no personal view on this at all. This is the first time the question has been put to me so what I’m prepared to do is always listen to evidence.”

Bennett added, “LGBTIQ rights have come a long way since the millennium but there’s still an awful long way to go, as our manifesto sets out. Homophobia, transphobia and biphobia are still too common and too many people fear their impact in the workplace, in their schools and on the streets.”

Critics of “marriage equality” for homosexuals have long warned that the redefinition of marriage to include couples of the same sex will eventually extend that redefinition to polygamous relationships.

Michael Cook, editor of MercatorNet, said that while "activists for same-sex marriage have always insisted, that it will not lead to polygamy or polyamory, 'never, ever, ever,'" their denials are a crucial aspect of the homosexualist agenda because "if they were to concede that same-sex marriage would ultimately lead to polygamy and more imaginative forms of marriage, they would prove that there is a slippery slope. So they are forced into vehement denials."

“It’s like this,” explained Stanley Kurtz in a 2006 National Review article. “The way to abolish marriage, without seeming to abolish it, is to redefine the institution out of existence. If everything can be marriage, pretty soon nothing will be marriage. Legalize gay marriage, followed by multi-partner marriage, and pretty soon the whole idea of marriage will be meaningless.”

In Canada, defense lawyers in the 2010 trial of Winston Blackmore and James Oler of Bountiful, British Columbia, in fact used the country’s same-sex “marriage” law as justification for polygamy.

Blackmore was charged with marrying 20 women, though he openly claimed to have had 26 wives and more than 108 children. Oler was charged with marrying two women.

Blackmore's lawyer Blair Suffredine said his client had "a very strong case" in light of Canada’s legalization of homosexual "marriage."

"If [homosexuals] can marry, what is the reason that public policy says one person can’t marry more than one person?" Suffredine said at the time.

The charges in that trial were stayed when the BC Supreme Court was asked to examine the constitutionality of polygamy.

In 2011 the Court ruled that the law against polygamy was constitutional, which allowed a newly appointed BC Special Prosecutor, Peter Wilson, to continue to investigate potential criminal activity of Bountiful residents.

Gwen Landolt of Real Women of Canada, commenting on the federal government's 2014 Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Practices bill, which would strengthen the Criminal Code provisions against polygamy, told LifeSiteNews that “polygamy is harmful to women because it allows them to be abused, treating them as chattels at the discretion of a few men. They are not treated as equals and their children do not get proper parenting.”

While Green’s Natalie Bennett is "open" to considering polygamy, with its inherent possibility of a huge number of children begotten by just a few people, a longstanding member of the Green Party and one of the British government’s past advisors on environmental policies is on record for saying that if Britain is to be made "sustainable," its 60 million-plus population must be cut in half, by instituting China's model of population control.

Jonathon Porritt, a patron of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), said that in order to reduce "pressure" on the world’s ecosystems, Britain must halve its population to 30 million inhabitants.

"Each person in Britain has far more impact on the environment than those in developing countries so cutting our population is one way to reduce that impact," Porritt told the 2009 OPT annual conference.

However, a number of media wags responded to the suggestion of mass population reduction, blithely saying that if Porritt was so enthusiastic, he was welcome to be the first volunteer.

Don Surber, a columnist for the Charleston Daily Mail, wrote, "He can go first." "This Jonathan Porritt is stuck in 19th century thinking. He said the Britons are worse on the world than people in developing countries. It is a combination of Malthusian logic and white man’s burden that I find amusing," Surber said.

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Nigerian bishop: Hillary must think she’s a ‘god’ if she wants us to abandon our pro-life values

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

May 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- An African Catholic bishop has said he thinks Hillary Clinton believes she is a god, someone who doesn’t value others’ morals, and he hopes Americans will wake up to what sort of people are running to be their president.

“I believe there are three groups of people in this world,” said Bishop Emmanuel Badejo. “Those who believe in God, those who do not believe in God, and those who think they are gods.”

“Hillary Clinton I think is one of those who thinks she is a god,” he said. “And I’m not obliged to believe that.”

In an April 29 interview with the Catholic website Aleteia, the Nigerian bishop was asked about Clinton’s recent statements at the Women in the World Summit, where she said, “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” to give women access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth.”

In addition to Clinton’s disregard for other people’s principles, Bishop Badejo remarked that she was pandering.

“My personal opinion of Hillary Clinton is: She is seeking election in America so you can expect that, like most politicians, she will say just about anything to pander to the thoughts of whatever audience she is speaking to,” he said. “So I really think that Hillary Clinton is just speaking for votes, rather than speaking for reason.”

Clinton can’t be bothered with God, he said.

“From the way she spoke, people like herself very clearly don’t want to hear anything about God,” the bishop said. “Even if they say they believe in God, they really don’t.”

Her language makes her approach evident, said Bishop Badejo, and he thinks she’s become too wrapped up in technology, losing sight of the fact that people have their own values, including African people. 

“We talk about the dignity of life, the sanctity of life, etc. Is she saying they ought to be changed?” he asked. “Well, I don’t know what she is talking about. What are human beings going to change to?”

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Bishop Badejo has in the past criticized the cultural imperialism exhibited by some groups by way of foisting population control efforts and the homosexual agenda on African nations, and said that life is sacred for the African people.

In his most recent Aleteia interview he said God created the people of Africa this way in his infinite wisdom, “which I think might be a little bit more than Hillary Clinton’s.”

God did this to add to the beauty of his creation, he said, and those who push for such things to be imposed across the board don’t know the meaning of beauty, “which is found in variety, in color,” he said.

Those who don’t get this shouldn’t get to make the rules for others, the bishop said.

“If these values are not precious to Hillary Clinton,” said Bishop Badejo, “I think she has no right at all to call for a change in religious values and religious beliefs.”

He remarked how Clinton’s agenda of not respecting people’s values was evident despite her choice of language. 

“She also called them ‘structural biases.’ Again, that is a misuse of language,” he said. “‘Biases,’ to many people, are the things that make them who they are.” 

“So that’s as much importance as I attach to Hillary Clinton’s statement about cultural beliefs,” Bishop Badejo concluded. “It is my desire that the American people open their ears and their eyes and know exactly what kind of people are running to be the next President of the United States.”

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