Michael Cook

Life is valuable…even for the severely disabled

Michael Cook
By Michael Cook
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August 21, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - There can be no more difficult case for dispassionate discussion than the fate of Tony Nicklinson, a totally paralysed British man who wants to end his life. Last week the UK High Court denied his request for euthanasia.

After a catastrophic stroke in 2005, Mr Nicklinson is paralysed below the neck and unable to speak. He can move only his head and eyes. He communicates by blinking. Swallowing is laborious. He often coughs and needs to have saliva wiped from his face. Once a sports-event manager and rugby player based in Dubai, nowadays he writes his memoirs and watches a lot of television.

He describes his life in the bleakest terms imaginable: “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable. …it is misery created by the accumulation of lots of things which are minor in themselves but, taken together, ruin what’s left of my life.” Since 2007 his mind has been set on euthanasia.

Each of the three justices on the High Court took pains to express their sympathy for his plight (and the similar case of a man named Martin). But they reluctantly agreed that that the existing law on murder had to be affirmed. In England, euthanasia is still a crime. Even passionate supporters of legalised assisted suicide supported the Court’s decision. The head of Dying with Dignity in the UK, Sarah Wootton, commented: “his case goes way beyond what Dignity in Dying is calling for. We campaign for dying people to have the choice of an assisted death if they’re mentally competent and there are legal, upfront safeguards, and of course Tony is disabled, he’s not dying.”

But is death really the only solution to the dependence and limited possibilities of Mr Nicklinson’s existence? Perhaps it takes an extraordinary person, but even with locked-in syndrome, most people want to live. If the media didn’t suffer from congenital short-term memory loss, journalists would remember a French colleague who was even more locked-in than Tony Nicklinson. Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor of the French edition of Elle when he suffered a massive stroke. He retained his capacity to think and blink (only with his left eye, though).

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Crippled as he was, he wrote an international best-seller, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It was a poetic reflection on his dependency which was drenched with mordant humour and utterly devoid of self-pity. Here is he is describing his meals:

“By means of a tube threaded into my stomach, two or three bags of a brownish fluid provide my daily caloric needs. For pleasure I have to turn to the vivid memory of tastes and smells, an inexhaustible reservoir of sensations. Once I was a master of recycling leftovers. Now I cultivate the art of simmering memories. You can sit down to a meal at any hour, with no fuss or ceremony. If it’s a restaurant, no need to call ahead. If I do the cooking, it’s always a success.”

He never mentions euthanasia and barely mentions death.

Bauby’s is far from being an extraordinary case. The largest-ever survey of chronic locked-in syndrome patients found last year that only 28 percent were unhappy. Very few of them were interested in euthanasia – only 7 percent—or had suicidal thoughts.

The author of the study, Steven Laureys of the Coma Science Group at the University Hospital of Liege in Belgium, admitted that his sample size was small – only 65 patients in France. But it confirmed other research into how people adapt to calamities. It also suggested ways to care for these patients. For instance, nearly all of them felt that they were not engaged in worthwhile activities. Many of them wanted more social interaction.

Dr Laureys believes that the situation of locked-in syndrome patients will improve substantially as more sophisticated technology becomes available. “I predict that in coming years, our view of this disease is really going to change,” he said. “It makes a huge difference to be able to read a book or go onto the internet at will.”

In the light of stories like these, perhaps we should recalibrate our notions of “worthwhile” and “dignified”. In fact, commented a Canadian neuroscientist unconnected to the Belgian study, “We cannot and should not presume to know what it must be like to be in one of these conditions. Many patients can find happiness in ways that we simply cannot imagine.”

Not that patients delight in their disability. A year may pass before they reach a steady level of subjective well-being, said Dr Laureys. Hence requests for euthanasia soon after a stroke or accident are not well-informed: “Recently affected [locked-in syndrome] patients who wish to die should be assured that there is a high chance they will regain a happy meaningful life.”

A couple of years ago, a woman who has lived with locked-in syndrome for more than 30 years, Maryannick Pavageau, was awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest civil honour, precisely for leading the charge against euthanasia. (See last year’s article in MercatorNet here.) Mme Pavageau flatly denied that her life was miserable:

“All life is worth living. It can be beautiful, regardless of the state we are in. And change is always possible. That is the message of hope that I wish to convey. I am firmly against euthanasia because it is not physical suffering that guides the desire to die but a moment of discouragement, feeling like a burden… All those who ask to die are mostly looking for love.”

Might that be the case with Tony Nicklinson? Perhaps the money used to promote his case and to pay for his legal fees should have been spent on a trip to Brittany to seek counselling from Mme Pavageau.

Besides, there is a significant detail in his application for voluntary euthanasia. He doesn’t want to die; he only want to be able to die. The judgement pointed out that:

“At the moment he thinks that he would probably wish to end [his life] in a year or two, but he wants to establish the right to die with dignity at a time of his choosing.”

Even though his life is “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable” he still wants to hang on to it. This suggests that he could respond if he were given more affection and stimulation.

None of us – least of all me – would want to be in Tony Nicklinson’s predicament. I fear that I would react more like him than Mme Pavageau. But it would be a heartless society which prefers to respect his “autonomy” by giving him a lethal injection rather than giving him and his family more support, affection and friendship.

In the end, making our own happiness is the supreme choice we have to make in life. As a New Zealand rugby player with locked-in syndrome wrote in the BMJ a few years ago: “It is definitely a crazy, mixed-up world. I’m just glad to still be alive—most of the time anyway… Shit definitely happens; I just have to make the most of each day in my journey towards recovery.”

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. This article reprinted under a Creative Commons License.

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Lisa Bourne

Planned Parenthood claims database, website hacked by anti-abortion ‘extremists’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Planned Parenthood Federation of America says that its website had been hacked on Sunday by a group of “extremists” opposed to its agenda, who it said had enlisted some of the world’s foremost hackers for the job.

The hackers were able to penetrate into Planned Parenthood website databases, and have released names and email addresses of employees of the abortion provider. The hackers have reportedly said they have plans to decrypt and release internal Planned Parenthood emails soon as well.

“Today Planned Parenthood has notified the Department of Justice and separately the FBI that extremists who oppose Planned Parenthood’s mission and services have launched an attack on our information systems and have called on the world’s most sophisticated hackers to assist them in breaching our systems and threatening the privacy and safety of our staff members,” a Monday statement from Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said.

Laguens called the alleged hack a “new low” in a report from Politico, and said Planned Parenthood was working with “top leaders in this field to manage these attacks.”

“Planned Parenthood is the most trusted women’s health care provider in this country, and anti-abortion extremists are willing to do anything to stop women from accessing the reproductive health care they are seeking,” Laguens said. “Extremists have broken laws, harassed our doctors and patients, produced hack videos, and now are claiming to have committed a gross invasion of privacy — one that, if true, could potentially put our staff members at risk.”

On a public website that included the login credentials of numerous Planned Parenthood employees, the hackers wrote that they are seeking, "to reclaim some sort of lulz for the years and thousands of dollars that Planned Parenthood have wasted and made harvesting your babies."

Planned Parenthood has landed under an intense spotlight since undercover videos surfaced recently showing top officials from the nation’s largest abortion provider discussing the sale of body parts harvest from babies aborted at their facilities. Those behind the undercover videos say that selling the body parts for profit is a violation of federal law.

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In the first round of videos, high-level Planned Parenthood employees bartered for fetal remains and joked about being able to afford a luxury sports car from the proceeds of the transaction.

The latest video released today has a Planned Parenthood vice president selling the body parts of aborted children.

“I think a per-item thing works a little better,” the abortion doctor said of the deceased child in the video, while discussing pricing, “just because we can see how much we can get out of it.”

The controversy has also resulted in increased calls to defund the abortion chain, which receives millions of dollars in federal subsidies each year.

Planned Parenthood has tried to downplay the content of the videos and criticized the group behind them.

News of Planned Parenthood’s cyber breach was first reported by the internet news site The Daily Dot, which quoted the hackers saying the attack was politically motivated.

“We've noticed quite a lot of attention has been diverted to a supposedly malicious organization known as Planned Parenthood,” the hackers reportedly said. “The actions of this 'federation' are not seen as right in the eyes of the public. So here we are, the social justice warriors, seeking to reclaim some sort of lulz for the years and thousands of dollars that Planned Parenthood have wasted and made harvesting your babies.”

Planned Parenthood Chief Information Officer Tom Subak told the Daily Dot just after the attack was discovered that the abortion provider was not aware of the breach beforehand, but that Planned Parenthood had good cyber security.

“We think we have really good security, especially on flagging suspicious behavior,” Subak said. “We have not [received any flags].”

The hackers had reportedly attempted to deface Planned Parenthood’s website or redirect it to their Twitter account, but said they could not because, according to the report, the website “backend is so terribly configured.”

The hackers included an SQL injection command, likely the specific technique used to attack the Planned Parenthood site, at the bottom of the hack’s post, saying, “I didn’t think people were this dumb.” 

Cyber security professionals told LifeSiteNews the attack is likely legitimate, but that it was not as sophisticated as Planned Parenthood claims, given the outdated version of the abortion behemoth’s webserver.

“Prevention is super easy in the realm of computer security,” said Dan Schaupner, a certified security professional and Chief Technology Officer for a Virginia cybersecurity consulting firm.

Based on the claims of the alleged attackers, Schaupner told LifeSiteNews, it appears that they compromised Planned Parenthood’s website, logged into administrator accounts, and obtained user accounts associated with Planned Parenthood, all possible by exploiting weaknesses associated with the outdated webserver.

Planned Parenthood’s management will probably suffer scrutiny from their board members and major funders, he said, and they risk experiencing extensive legal and cleanup costs resulting from the possibility of compromised client information.

Cyber security professional David Flynn checked some of the published employee emails and told LifeSiteNews they appear to be legitimate, but, he said, “interestingly not including the email for Chief Information Officer Tom Subak, who has reported to the news services that he hasn’t observed any intrusion signatures.”

Schaupner said it is likely that a “hacktivist” conducted the attack, quite possibly the ones that made the claim, and that this seems reasonable considering Planned Parenthood’s high profile.

“An alternate possibility is a politically motivated or unhappy insider,” he said, such as a Planned Parenthood employee or contractor.

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Many supporters of same-sex marriage are still wary of surrogacy. It’s one thing to allow for these couples to marry. It’s another thing to create a market for children. Shutterstock
Christopher White

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The dark relationship between gay ‘marriage’ and surrogacy: even gay activists are worried

Christopher White
By Christopher White

July 28, 2015 (ThePublicDiscourse) -- Just days before Irish citizens voted in favor of same-sex marriage in May, a headline in the Independent warned: “surrogacy fears could sink ‘Yes’ campaign.” During the final weeks leading up to the referendum, government leaders and advocates of the “yes” vote to redefine marriage tried to distance themselves from the issue of surrogacy for fear that the two issues might be conflated. Such behavior offers a telling though little discussed insight that’s particularly applicable for our own nation, especially now that the Supreme Court has ruled that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage: A growing number of LGBT activists actively oppose surrogacy, even though gay men are the primary users of the practice.

Surrogacy is not legal in Ireland, though some commentators believe that the acceptance of same-sex marriage will lead to its inevitable acceptance. In an interview leading up to the vote in Ireland, Justice Kevin Cross, the head of the Referendum Commission, sought to calm fears that the referendum would lead to surrogacy, promising that there is no automatic right to have children in Ireland, and therefore no automatic right to surrogacy. But some are skeptical.

A Constitutional Right to Procreate?

The confusion can be traced back to a 1991 case, Murray v. Ireland, in which the high court effectively held that there is a constitutional right to procreate. While many on both sides of the referendum argued that this decision was referring to natural procreation, the decision has already been used to promote donor conception. It’s understandable, then, that many were fearful that a “yes” vote would open the floodgates to a practice that many Irish voters do not support. Mothers and Fathers Matter—the leading civic group opposing the same-sex marriage referendum—launched a campaign that papered the country with ads and posters of a young, concerned toddler with the following slogan: “Surrogacy?: She Needs Her Mother For Life, Not Just For Nine Months. Vote No.”

In response, columnist Carol Coulter took to the pages of The Irish Times to declare that “surrogacy has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.” A supporter of the referendum, Coulter rejected the notion that its passage would allow for surrogacy. She went on to sympathize with those who oppose surrogacy. “There are good reasons for their concern about the use of surrogacy in family formation, particularly in relation to the possible exploitation of the surrogate mothers and inattention to the rights of children to their identity,” she acknowledged.

Earlier this year, gay fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana made international headlines when they spoke out strongly against surrogacy and third-party reproduction. In a now notorious interview, they remarked: “The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offspring and rented uterus. Life has a natural flow; there are things that cannot be changed.” While their comments were met with fierce opposition by some members of the LGBT community, they are nonetheless joined by a growing coalition of gay men and women who oppose surrogacy.

Anti-Surrogacy Voices in the International LGBT Community

Two prominent organizations in France—La Lune, L’Association Strasbourgeoise de Femmes Homosexuelles, a group of lesbian women, and Les Hommen, a group of gay men—have been vocal opponents of surrogacy. In the United Kingdom, transgender political activist Tara Hewitt and noted commentator and lesbian feminist Julie Bindel, hardly allies on other issues, have offered some of the most vociferous critiques of surrogacy.

In a recent column, Bindel argued:

The accelerating boom in surrogacy for gay couples is no victory for freedom or emancipation. On the contrary, it represents a disturbing slide into the brutal exploitation of women who usually come from the developing world and are often bullied or pimped into selling their wombs to satisfy the selfish whims of wealthy gay or lesbian westerners. This cruelty is accompanied by epic hypocrisy. People from Europe and the USA who would shudder at the idea of involvement in human or sex trafficking have ended up indulging in a grotesque form of ‘reproductive trafficking’.

Here in the United States, people such as Robert Oscar Lopez, a bisexual man and the son of a lesbian, have decried the practice of surrogacy for both heterosexuals and homosexuals. According to Lopez, “regardless of whether the mother consents to losing her child, the child cannot consent.” He has harshly criticized gay men who demean women, using them only for their reproductive capacities.

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Despite this growing disapproval of surrogacy among the international LGBT community, proponents of surrogacy know there is a ripe market in the gay community and much money to be made. Major international surrogacy brokers, such as Circle Surrogacy and ConceiveAbilities, have specific marketing programs targeted at gay men. Similarly, conferences such as “Families Through Surrogacy” aim to capitalize on this demographic.

The Next Frontier: “Family Equality”?

Hours after the Obergefell decision was handed down, University of California Irvine law professor Douglas NeJaime took to the pages of the Los Angeles Times to lament that “marriage equality doesn’t immediately or necessarily erase cultural and legal attachments to biological, dual-gender parenting.” In other words, those of us concerned about assisted reproductive technologies and their very real harms to both women and children need to simply rid ourselves of such quaint “attachments.” As skeptics in Ireland feared and the naïve in the United States are now realizing, “marriage equality” inevitably leads to the push for “family equality”—almost always by artifice.

NeJaime goes on:

even though marriage equality doesn’t immediately erase all attachments related to biological, dual-gender child rearing, it points us in the right direction . . . the majority [of the Supreme Court] affirmed a model of parenthood based on chosen, functional bonds rather than biology alone.

In other words, the movement for “family equality” will forever diminish the significance of our biological ties. The state must now act in a way that both accepts and promotes a non-biological vision of parenthood and family. Thus, the market for eggs, sperm, and wombs must be expanded.

Many states will soon be under pressure to follow the example of California and Maryland, where the state legislatures have passed laws that would that mandate insurers provide “infertility” treatments to same-sex couples. In 2013, when California enacted its legislation, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano boasted: “Reproductive medicine is for everybody’s benefit. To restrict fertility coverage solely to heterosexual married couples violates California’s non-discrimination laws. I wrote this bill to correct that.” In a recent article in JAMA Internal Medicine, Brown University physician Eli Y. Adashi praised the Maryland bill and encouraged other states enact similar legislation. According to Adashi, “Building a family is a universal human principle shared by single individuals and unmarried opposite-sex couples, as well as gay and lesbian couples.”

As for the children who will be created from these arrangements—the children who long to know and be known by their biological parents—their needs must be sacrificed for the desires of same-sex couples who long to be parents. To confer dignity upon these adults, they demand, the law must privilege those aspirations. The sober and honest-minded reasoning of Irish supporters of same-sex marriage who recognized this threat, along with courageous voices like Lopez, Bindel, Dolce, and Gabbana, serve as a much needed and powerful witness of what the world of “family equality” will ultimately yield—but their warnings cries are increasingly being silenced by powerful forces with great wealth in their arsenal.

While many consider the contest over same-sex marriage in the United States to have been settled by the Supreme Court, the debate over surrogacy is just beginning. If the events in Ireland offer one lesson, it’s this: Many supporters of same-sex marriage are still wary of surrogacy. It’s one thing to allow for these couples to marry. It’s another thing to create a market for children. LGBT activists who oppose surrogacy serve to remind us that this community does not speak with one voice on this matter. Lawmakers and citizens alike in the United States would be wise to remember this, as well.

Christopher White is the Director of Research and Education at the Center for Bioethics and Culture and an original signer of Stop Surrogacy Now, an ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse coalition opposed to the exploitation of women and the human trafficking of children through surrogacy.

Reprinted with permission from The Witherspoon Institute.

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BREAKING: Shock Planned Parenthood video catches affiliate vice president selling aborted baby parts

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By Ben Johnson

Urgent: Sign the petition demanding that Congress investigate and defund Planned Parenthood here

LOS ANGELES, July 28 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Allegations that Planned Parenthood harvests and sells aborted babies' organs and tissue for a profit have been bolstered with the release of a third undercover video released this morning, showing another of the organization's top leaders appearing to admit to an illegal profit motive.

The latest exposé also features the heartrending testimony of a former clinician who picked through mounds of aborted fetal tissue to find the parts fit for sale, as well as graphic footage of an investigator sorting through an aborted baby's kidneys and brain tissue, examining to see if they meet his standards for purchase.

In the third installment, the Center for Medical Progress covertly videotaped a conversation with Vice President and Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) Dr. Savita Ginde. PPRM, which is based in Denver, oversees abortion facilities in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

As an undercover filmmaker, who posed as a buyer from a human biologics firm, discusses pricing, the doctor seems to say she is interested in maximizing the abortion facility's revenue by being paid for each individual body part.

“I think a per-item thing works a little better, just because we can see how much we can get out of it,” Dr. Ginde says of the aborted baby.

After the investigator sifts through and identifies several fetal parts, which he says would net Planned Parenthood $200 to $300 compensation, a medical assistant jokes, “Five stars.”

That posture was familiar to Holly O'Donnell, a phlebotomist and former procurement specialist at StemExpress LLC, the company whose promotional materials promise Planned Parenthood “a financial benefit to your clinic” for selling fetal tissue.

In a jarring interview, O'Donnell remembers learning that was part of her work routine.

“I thought I was going to be just drawing blood, not procuring tissue from aborted fetuses,” O'Donnell said.

But on her first day on the job in 2012, she remembers someone emptying a bottle of blood into a strainer, then placing its contents onto a plate.

Her trainer began pulling aborted babies' body parts out of the mass of tissue. "She said, 'OK, this is a head. This is an arm. This is a leg,'" O'Donnell remembers.

Then the trainer asked her if she could identify the body parts.

"I took the tweezers. I put them in the dish. I remember grabbing the leg...and the moment I picked it up I just feel like deaths and pain...shoot up through my body,” O'Donnell says. “I blacked out, basically."

She says she had to be revived with smelling salts.

Another worker tried to reassure her, saying, "Don't worry. It still happens to a bunch of us. Some of us don't ever get over it"

"I remember leaving that day [thinking] like, what have I gotten myself into?" O'Donnell admits.

In time, she found that the business owners “weren't looking for any compassionate individual at all. They were just looking for someone who could get as much money, as many samples" as possible. "They wanted someone who could get the numbers up."

She said the main nurse from Planned Parenthood was always concerned that StemExpress procure the specimens they sought – not because of concern of medical research, but because the facilities were compensated for it.

“For whatever we could procure, they would get a certain percentage,” she says. “The main nurse was always trying to make sure we got our specimens. No one else really cared, but the main nurse did because she knew that Planned Parenthood was getting compensated.”

"If you can somehow procure a brain or a heart, you're going to get more money," she adds.

"It's a pretty sick company."

The 11-minute-long video – entitled “Human Capital, Episode1” – and the fact that the video ends by showing Dr. Deborach Nucatola (from the first video) saying, “I think this is definitely to be continued,” imply that additional undercover footage along the same lines is forthcoming.

David Daleiden told LifeSiteNews that the release of new investigative material, gathered over the course of 30 months, could stretch out over weeks or months. 

The first video showed Dr. Deborach Nucatola, who oversees medical practices for all national Planned Parenthood offices, discussing organ harvesting while eating a salad and drinking red wine during a business luncheon. She appears to discuss performing partial birth abortions, which have been illegal since 2003.

The second, released last Tuesday, shows the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s for-profit Medical Directors’ Council, Dr. Mary Gatter, seeming to haggle over the price of fetal tissue and joking that, in exchange for selling fetal body parts, "I want a Lamborghini." 

“Planned Parenthood’s sale of aborted baby parts is an offensive and horrifying reality that is widespread enough for many people to be available to give first-person testimony about it,” said David Daleiden, the lead investigator. “CMP’s investigative journalism work will continue to surface more compelling eyewitness accounts and primary source evidence of Planned Parenthood’s trafficking and selling baby parts for profit. There should be  an immediate moratorium on Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding while Congress and the states determine the full extent of the organization’s lawbreaking.”

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards has apologized for the "tone" of the first video but denies any laws have been broken.

It is a federal felony to sell human organs or tissue for "valuable consideration," or to make a profit from such a sale. Richards says the facilities merely break even, and Planned Parenthood has said its work in human organ sales is a "humanitarian undertaking."

“There is no doubt, based on evidence in this video, that Planned Parenthood financially profits from the illegal sale of aborted baby body parts,” said Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, who also serves on the board of the Center for Medical Progress and advised Daleiden during the investigation. "When Planned Parenthood’s head, Cecile Richards, denies this, she is brazenly attempting to deceive the American people. We need to immediately defund Planned Parenthood and hold them criminally accountable for their horrific conduct that clearly runs afoul of the law and violates every sense of human decency.”

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