Saturday, November 12, 2016

Polls and Ethics

Michael Cook, the Editor of BioEdge, made this observation after the recent Presidential election in the United States.

The shock of this week’s Presidential election in the United States has overshadowed other winners and losers on election night. Big Marijuana was a winner. Four states have legalised recreational marijuana and another four medical marijuana. Assisted suicide was a winner, with voters in Colorado passing a ballot initiative legalising it.
A big loser was the polling industry, which failed to predict Trump’s astonishing victory. This comes after other surprises (ie, failures) in the Brexit debate and the peace accord in Colombia. 
And this has made pollsters’ clients suspicious. “A corporate market research project, you don’t know if your polling is shit because there’s no election day,” Dan Wagner, head of Democratic research firm Civis Analytics, told the Wall Street Journal. In politics, “there’s a day where you’re going to find out whether you were right or whether you’re an idiot.” 
Since polling has become a weapon in bioethics policy debates on issues like euthanasia, abortion, or stem cell research, perhaps we can feel a bit more justified in our scepticism about polls which purport to show what the public thinks. It would be silly to say that polling is broken, but it certainly needs a good grease-and-oil change.   

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hunger in the USA


This paper provides research into the causes and supporting circumstances of hunger in the U.S. It will look at the number of people that fall into the category of food insecurity, the factors that may present a common link; socioeconomic status, environmental, race, regional, etc. The programs and corrective measures currently in place are analyzed for their effectiveness to rectify the situation. It seeks to point out the flaws in the current measures and explores a potential government lead initiative to end hunger in the U.S.

Keywords: strategies, food security, food insecurity, very low food security, low SES

Hunger in the USA

By Todd Claunch

Finding a way to bring about an end to the hunger and malnutrition that many Americans face on a daily basis should be a priority in this country. In a country of plenty we have overlooked the obvious that “world hunger” does include us. For decades, we as Americans, have been involved in providing financial aid and support to feed the starving and malnourished beyond our borders. The scale of suffering from hunger is not as dramatic in the United States as it is in many other countries. To come up with a workable solution to end hunger throughout the world, we must be able to come up with a viable solution here at home. There are many factors that are involved in creating an environment of hunger. Look at the programs or corrective measures that are currently in place to assist or rectify the situation of those that fall into this category.

In researching the statistics and data on this paper it was apparent that the numbers of those classified as experiencing hunger varied greatly from source to source. This identified another problem in tackling hunger in the U.S., being able to agree on the population to target for relief. So how is hunger defined in the U.S.? The USDA defines hunger as food security and food insecurity. Hunger is not measured by the USDA because it is a subjective experience that varies from an individual experience. The USDA established the definitions for food security in 2006 ( For the purpose of this research those who fall into the classification of “very low food security”, will be the population that is examined.

It is virtually impossible to separate poverty from hunger. In the U.S., approximately 43 million people live below the poverty line making up the majority of that number is approximately 25 million between the ages of 18-64. 6.3 million, households are classified as having very low food security, with 30% of this number represented by children living in single parent dwellings. There are 12 states that exhibit higher than average rates of very low food security; Mississippi is #1 at 21%, but represented in this list is states from the northeast, southeast, southwest, midwest, and south ( In looking at the statistics provided we can see that hunger is directly related to poverty, with the largest percentages represented by the households with the greater number of mouths to feed and the fewest bringing in an income. Also demonstrated by the statistics; is that hunger does not discriminate by age nor is it restricted to a particular part of the country.

A low socioeconomic status is a key predictor of recurrent food insecurity. Higher than average proportions of households and individuals earning a low income and having achieved lower educational levels experience very low food security on a more frequent basis than the rest of the population. Approximately 60% of low SES households do not report experiencing food insecurities (, p. 2-2, 2-3). Research has shown that the answer to this may lie in the economic and food assistance that these households receive something that will be discussed later in this paper. Similar to poverty and hunger, there is a common theme between SES and race. African American, Native American, and Hispanic households experience food insecurity at a higher rate than white households. Food insecurity is experienced by 25% of African American households with Hispanic households at approximately 23% (, p. 2-4, 2-5). The research has determined that poverty is the main factor in causing hunger. While low SES and race play a role in those who experience food insecurity at a higher rate than others it must be realized that hungers only preference is that of poverty. The point that must be taken from the research thus far is that hunger is more prevalent in the lower levels of poverty. Based on this it can be stated that poverty is the common link to hunger in the U.S.A.

Since congress sought to put in place a safety net in 1946, to feed the hungry in the U.S. assistance has been the major objective. There are 15 federally funded programs under the direction of the USDA to provide assistance to those who qualify as food insecure. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a subset of this program Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), School Meals, and Child and Adult Care Program are a few of them (, p. 4-3, 4-4, 4-5). There are thousands of programs that serve are public funded that serve the hunger on a local level. On a micro-level there is assistance provided by neighbors who collectively gather food goods to deliver to another neighbor who may be experiencing hard times. These programs assist the food insecure in purchasing or by giving them food. The problem with the programs is that they do not enable the individual or the household to become independent in securing their own food. One of the main problems with assistance can be seen in the political partisan turmoil that SNAP is currently caught in. On Nov. 1 2013 an automatic financial cut to this program was set to take place. President Obama extended funding for this program through 2014 ( This program is still caught up in the legislative wrangling of a partisan congress. When individuals and households have to rely on financial support that they do not control their security is in doubt and those who fall into the very low food security classification are left teetering on the brink of starvation.

The strategies that have been discussed and in some cases implemented as permanent corrective measures for food security haven fallen short. Raising wages for low wage and minimum wage earners has been the go to fix for decades. There are many problems that exist with this plan to end hunger. Foremost, one has to be employed to reap the benefits of raised wages. For minimum wage earners getting a raise probably means exceeding their allowed asset privileges to maintain government assistance. In their case an increase in salary is takes them a step back in income. Many businesses that hire low-wage earners could not afford to stay in business if they had to pay higher salaries. Fostering job growth is another initiative that is often brought up in the discussion on poverty. It is true that more good paying jobs would decrease the amount of people in the U.S. that have food insecurities. Communities can offer reduced prices on land, tax incentives, and infrastructure improvements to attract industries and businesses to their location. These industries are going to place a high value on pre-skilled labor and/or educated workers. In many cases, the jobs brought to the community will go to people already employed who is willing to relocate for a better salary or job. The economic increase brought about in the community from the industry or business will drive up property value, food prices, and other related material costs. This will leave the majority of those who the jobs were intended for in an even more insecure position. If your community is isolated like a former coal mining town where there is a small labor force and transportation costs will be a factor it will be difficult to entice an industry or business to move in. Many urban settings face the same dilemma just under a different set of circumstances. Cities that are segregated due to SES will not be able to attract certain industries or businesses. If they do attract new business they face a loss of housing to make room for the economic venture and rise in the cost of the remaining housing. Many of the newly created jobs will not go to those they were intended for.

In conclusion, creating jobs and employment in the areas of a high prevalence of food insecurity and not fostering jobs is what is needed. The government needs to take the lead role in this solution. Instead of providing financial assistance it needs to assist in creating financial independence. Federal money can be provided to each state based on the statistics concerning poverty and food insecurity. Road, federal and state building, and other infrastructure projects can be developed by each state. Rather than bidding federal and state projects out, which in many cases go to companies that are not within the state where the work is being done, it will be completed on a local level. The state will employ the labor determined to need the job, in the community that the project is being done. If that labor force is not sufficient then it will employ those in the immediate surrounding communities. This will require changes in laws and additional legislation. Salaries can be determined based on the cost-of-living by state. Those who need jobs will not be the only ones who benefit economically. The precedent has already been set and the effect already measured. It will be reminiscent of the projects put in place to bring America out of the Great Depression by President Roosevelt’s administration. Instead of spending federal tax dollars on assisting people it can be spent in making people self-sufficient and make a great stride towards ending hunger in the U.S.A. There will still be those who require assistance but on much smaller and manageable level.


Feeding America. (2015). Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from:

Jarrett, V., & Munoz, C. (2013). The Whitehouse President Barack Obama. Working to End Hunger in America. Retrieved from:

RTI International Center for Health and Environmental Monitoring. (2014). Current and Prospective Scope of Hunger and Food Security in America: A Review of Current Research. Retrieved from:

Abuse of Assisted Suicide in Oregon

Diane Coleman
President and CEO of Not Dead Yet

One of the most frequently repeated claims by proponents of assisted suicide laws is that there is “no evidence or data” to support any claim that these laws are subject to abuse, and that there has not been “a single documented case of abuse or misuse” in the 18 reported years. These claims are demonstrably false.

Regarding documented cases, please refer to a compilation of individual cases and source materials pulled together by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund entitled Oregon and Washington State Abuses and Complications.

(For an in-depth analysis of several cases by Dr. Herbert Hendin and Dr. Kathleen Foley, please read Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon: A Medical Perspective.)

The focus of the discussion below is the Oregon Health Division data. These reports are based on forms filed with the state by the physicians who prescribe lethal doses and the pharmacies that dispense the drugs. As the early state reports admitted:
“As best we could determine, all participating physicians complied with the provisions of the Act … Under reporting and noncompliance is thus difficult to assess because of possible repercussions for noncompliant physicians reporting to the division.”

Further emphasizing the serious limits on state oversight under the assisted suicide law, Oregon authorities also issued a release in 2005 clarifying that they have no authority to investigate Death with Dignity cases.

Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief and despite these extreme limitations, the Oregon state reports substantiate some of the problems and concerns raised by opponents of assisted suicide bills.

Non-terminal disabled individuals are receiving lethal prescriptions in Oregon

The Oregon Health Division assisted suicide reports show that non-terminal people receive lethal prescriptions every year.

The prescribing physicians’ reports to the state include the time between the request for assisted suicide and death for each person. However, the online state reports do not reveal how many people outlived the 180-day prediction. Instead, the reports give that year’s median and range of the number of days between the request for a lethal prescription and death. This is on page 7 of the 2015 annual report. In 2015, at least one person lived 517 days; across all years, the longest reported duration between the request for assisted suicide and death was 1009 days. In every year except the first year, the reported upper range is significantly longer than 180 days.

The definition of “terminal” in the statute only requires that the doctor predict that the person will die within six months. There is no requirement that the doctor consider the likely impact of medical treatment in terms of survival, since people have the right to refuse treatment. Unfortunately, while terminal predictions of some conditions, such as some cancers, are fairly well established, this is far less true six months out, as the bill provides, rather than one or two months before death, and is even less true for other diseases. Add the fact that many conditions will or may become terminal if certain medications or routine treatments are discontinued – e.g. insulin, blood thinners, pacemaker, CPAP – and “terminal” becomes a very murky concept.

The state report’s footnote about “other” conditions found eligible for assisted suicide has grown over the years, to include:
“… benign and uncertain neoplasms, other respiratory diseases, diseases of the nervous system (including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease), musculoskeletal and connective tissue diseases, cerebrovascular disease, other vascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, gastrointestinal diseases, and liver disease.”

Overall in 2015, 7 percent, or 68 individuals, had conditions classified as “other”. In addition, it should be noted that the attending physician who determines terminal status and prescribes lethal drugs is not required to be an expert in the disease condition involved, nor is there any information about physician specialties in the state reports.

The only certifiers of non-coercion and capability need not know the person

Four people are required to certify that the person is not being coerced to sign the assisted suicide request form, and appears capable: the prescribing doctor, second-opinion doctor, and two witnesses.

In most cases, the prescribing doctor is a doctor referred by assisted suicide proponent organizations. (See, M. Golden, Why Assisted Suicide Must Not Be Legalized, section on “Doctor Shopping” and related citations). The Oregon state reports say that the median duration of the physician patient relationship is 12 weeks. Thus, lack of coercion is not usually determined by a physician with a longstanding relationship with the patient. This is significant in light of well-documented elder abuse-identification and reporting problems among professionals in a society where an estimated one in ten elders is abused, mostly by family and caregivers. (Lachs, et al., New England Journal of Medicine, Elder Abuse.)

The witnesses on the request form need not know the person either. One of them may be an heir (which would not be acceptable for witnessing a property will), but neither of them need actually know the person (the form says that if the person is not known to the witness, then the witness can confirm identity by checking the person’s ID).

So neither doctors nor witnesses need know the person well enough to certify that they are not being coerced.

No evidence of consent or self-administration at time of death

In about half the reported cases, the Oregon Health Division reports also state that no health care provider was present at the time of ingestion of the lethal drugs or at the time of death. Footnote 6 clarifies this point:
“A procedure revision was made mid‐year in 2010 to standardize reporting on the follow‐up questionnaire. The new procedure accepts information about time of death and circumstances surrounding death only when the physician or another health care provider is present at the time of death. This resulted in a larger number of unknowns beginning in 2010.”

While the only specific example mentioned is the “time of death,” other “circumstances surrounding death” include whether the lethal dose was self-administered and consensual at the time of death. Therefore, although “self administration” is touted as one of the key “safeguards”, in about half the cases, there is no evidence of consent or self-administration at the time of ingestion of the lethal drugs. If the drugs were, in some cases, administered by others without consent, no one would know. The request form constitutes a virtual blanket of legal immunity covering all participants in the process.

Pain is not the issue; unaddressed disability concerns are

The top five reasons doctors give for their patients’ assisted suicide requests are not pain or fear of future pain, but psychological issues that are all-too-familiar to the disability community: “loss of autonomy” (92 percent), “less able to engage in activities” (90 percent), “loss of dignity” (79 percent), “losing control of bodily functions” (48 percent), and “burden on others” (41 percent).

These reasons for requesting assisted suicide pertain to disability and indicate that over 90 percent of the reported individuals, possibly as many as 100 percent, are disabled.

Three of these reasons (loss of autonomy, loss of dignity, feelings of being a burden) could be addressed by consumer-directed in-home long-term care services, but no disclosures about or provision of such services is required. Some of the reported reasons are clearly psycho-social and could be addressed by disability-competent professional and peer counselors, but this is not required either. Moreover, only 5.3 percent of patients who request assisted suicide were referred for a psychiatric or psychological evaluation, despite studies showing the prevalence of depression in such patients.

Basically, the law operates as though the reasons don’t matter, and nothing need be done to address them.


The Oregon assisted suicide data demonstrates that people who were not actually terminal received lethal prescriptions in all 18 reported years except the first, and that there is little or no substantive protection against coercion and abuse. Moreover, reasons for requesting assisted suicide that sound like a “cry for help” with disability-related concerns are apparently ignored.

Thus, the data substantiates problems with the implementation of assisted suicide laws and validates the concern that the risks of mistake, coercion and abuse are too great. Well-informed legislators on both sides of the aisle should vote against assisted suicide bills.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Baby Market in Belgium

Stephanie Raeymaekers attended a trade fair for would-be gay dads in Brussels where surrogate mothers were called “carriers” and egg donors “genetic material contributors”. A child's right to know his or her parents was almost completely overlooked. 

BRUSSELS -- For the second time around a surrogacy fair organised by the American company Men Having Babies landed on Belgian soil. This time it took place in a slightly more upscale venue. The ground floor at The Brussels Hilton became a stage where 220 potential customers from 12 European countries were welcomed.

Like last year, I was present. Me: the first in our generation to provide adults with a semi-biological child. It was the start of a lucrative business when fertility doctors discovered that the techniques used on a pig farm could also be useful for infertile heterosexual couples.

From the 1950s Belgian wombs were being filled with the sperm of unknown men. Fertility techniques improved and not much later they tapped into new target groups: single women and lesbian couples.

Branding unwanted childlessness as discrimination and injustice, several branches of the LGBT community are lobbying for gay men and transgender women to have biological children of their own.

Last Sunday almost everything was on offer: interpreters, gadgets, price lists, different formulas, the dos and the don’ts… But most of all, straight-to-your-heart-and-into-our-wallet sales pitches from companies which are able to connect anyone directly with eggs, surrogacy agencies and lawyers to make “a dream come true”. Lawyers handed out the metaphorical road map with instructions on how to by-pass laws to get your purchased child(ren) “legally” in your own country.

Towards an ethical framework

This year Men Having Babies also presented an “ethical framework” to convince opponents of their sincere and honest intentions. They claim to be a non-profit organization aiming to provide tools and means for gay men to pursue their right to have a biological family. The fact that their biggest sponsors happened to be the very fertility centers and law firms that pitched to the 220 attendees wasn’t viewed as a conflict of interest.

Surrogacy was described as “the act of a woman, altruistic by nature, gestating a child for another individual or couple, with the intent to give the child to the intended parents at birth”.

I have a very different perspective. I would describe it as the outsourcing of a personalized pregnancy that aims the trading/adoption of a donor-conceived child to those who ordered it whilst paying a fee for expenses.

New terms were launched to keep the transactions as business-like as possible: the surrogate mother was called “a carrier”, the egg donor “a genetic material contributor”. Some agencies also offered a money-back guarantees(no kidding) and “Multiple Cycle Package” deals.

Several times speakers advised against adoption. They said that nowadays there are not many young children to adopt and the probability that the mother may decide to keep “your” child is too great a risk. Surrogacy, once again, brought salvation.

Speakers strongly advised the participants to use eggs from a woman other than the surrogate, because the birth mother will then be more likely to give up the baby.

An enforceable 50-page contract also offers reassurance that you can take the child home with you after it is born. The contract even allows payments to stop if the surrogate does not comply with the terms of the contract. I must also mention that many contracts have a non-disclosure clause: they prohibit women from speaking publicly about any malpractice they endured.

A lot of time and attention was spent on the topic of conceiving as healthy a child as possible. Gender selection is included in this “service”. My consternation was huge when a fertility doctor asked the audience who would chose to abort a child with a defect. Most hands went in the air. Just for the record: abortion can also be enforced by contract.

Belgian hypocrisy

Apart from “I want my child to be as healthy and perfect as possible”, discussion of the welfare of the child was – as it is in Belgium – limited to the legal uncertainty that is created when there is a legal conflict between genetic lineage and legal parenthood. Only twice (and very briefly) were the right of the child to knowledge of his or her ancestry and identity mentioned. But these were immediately countered by economic and practical arguments.

Once again certain Belgian politicians have sought the media limelight to express their personal disgust regarding this event. Yet their dismay is hypocritical. They refuse to acknowledge that similar practices are taking place all the time in IVF clinics with the same ethical framework to justify them. Apparently a policy is ethical when the price is low, transparency is not needed and fancy brochures are not being handed out.

An ethicist once told me that something is not ethical when someone’s action harms another. Isn’t the intentional creation of a human being who has been deprived of vital information about themselves and a meaningful relationship with their biological family harmful? In my view the only ethical standard that needs be applied when considered whether or not to allow surrogacy and donor conception.

As disgusted as one might be by the American event, it is time to reflect, and to acknowledge that for decades we Belgians have been violating human rights on own soil when we enabled the commercialization of “Plan B parenthood” at the expense of children who are conceived to fulfil the dreams of an adult.

Stephanie Raeymaekers is the chair of Donorkinderen, a Belgian organisation that promotes cross-border registration of donors and the right of donor-conceived persons to know their parentage. The above article is reproduced from the Donorkinderen blog.

Related reading: Abducted Babies For Sell

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ethical Concerns Surrounding Animals

Animal rights demonstration in Malaysia
Alice C. Linsley

Concern about animal welfare and treatment is a old as Mankind. Early human populations depended on animals for food, hides and for implements that they made from antlers and hoofs. Humans developed a special relationship with some species, especially dogs.

An early animal rights advocate, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), wrote, “The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality."

In our exploration of the topic we find a range of viewpoints on the value of animals, animals rights, animal protection, and the use of animals in biomedical experimentation. Here are some points upon which there is general agreement.
  • Animals have value.
  • Animals should be provided with basic necessities for survival: food, water, access to fresh air and protection from dangerous weather conditions.
  • Animals used in biomedical research should be treated as feeling beings and their suffering should be minimized.
Peter Singer takes a position that is sometimes described as anti-speciesism. In this article, Theron Bowers MD, takes issue with Singer's position:
Animal right activists often exhibit a stunning insensitivity to human tragedy. Animal liberation is routinely compared to slavery or the women’s rights even though no one would suggest a radical difference between blacks and whites or men and women. Over the last few years, the increasingly shrill People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have compared the victims of the Holocaust to animals kept in warehouses or killed. Whatever sympathy Holocaust on a Plate ad may bring for chickens, can such campaigns do anything but trivialized human suffering?

Such rhetoric may be mere attention-grabbing, hyperbole. However, the race card and Nazi bogeyman also reflect a popular rational basis for animal rights articulated by Princeton University bioethics professor, Peter Singer. Singer argues in Animal Liberation (1973), the Magna Carta of four-legged freedom, that the belief in the inherent dignity of human beings is speciesism and no more rational than racism. Of course the implication is that since racism is evil then the belief in human dignity is also evil.

Singer is not alone in the halls of our academies. Earlier this year, London School of Economics sociology professor Alasdair Cochrane published a paper contending that the concept of human dignity should be removed from bioethics. Cochrane at least avoids dragging in the KKK but attacks the claim that only and all humans have inherent moral worth as “unhelpful and arbitrary.”

If human dignity is only a crazy, cruel fiction, what happens when we dump the myth?

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) viewed humans as brutish beasts. To avoid mutual destruction, Hobbes proposed establishing security through cooperation. His solution was a social contract whereby individuals agree to a strong government (monarch) which keeps us from tearing each other apart. Hobbes’ account of humanity emphasizes our animal nature, yet his social contract assumes that humans can reason with one another, something animals cannot do.

Aristotle viewed the human as a political creature whose highest good is to seek his own holistic fulfillment. This too sets the Human apart from other animals.

Hobbes believed that the parent has authority over the child, not because the parent begat the child, but because the child consents to be cared for by the parent. By consenting to parental authority the child receives protection, material provision, training, guidance, nurture and perhaps sufficient bounty to make a marriage. We find in Hobbes’ view the beginnings of children’s rights. Later Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) adapted this principle in his promotion of animal rights. Instead of regarding animals as inferior to humans because of their inability to reason, Bentham held that the capacity of animals to suffer that gives them the right to equal ethical consideration. Because animals suffer, their welfare is relevant to humans.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Failed Promise of GMOs

Pollan speaking at Yale in 2011

Alice C. Linsley

Last night I sat through a 2-hour presentation by California journalist, Michael Pollan. Most of the talk was a rehash of what he has written in his various books. However, one thing he said struck home. He spoke about the failed promise of GMOs to reduce hunger in America and globally.

The Food and Drug Administration has given approval to a limited number of genetically modified crops, including corn, soybeans, canola, alfalfa, and sugar beets. All of these are crops favored by the American industrial agricultural system which essentially is controlled by 6 big businesses. One suspects that a great deal of money has passed through various hands.

Pollan spoke about how GMOs serve that system by making it possible to increase the number of plants per acre. The increase does not come in the plant's yield.

Most Americans are wary of GMOs, but probably not for the right reasons. Our concerns should be directed toward the industrialization of American agriculture which has had the effect of reducing the variety of crops available to Americans. The smaller family-operated farms of the past were much more diversified. They had crops and animals and although they used a great deal of petroleum-based energy, they also used what was available on their land: natural fertilizers, decomposed organic material, etc.

In the conversation about GMOs we must face the reality that the promise to reduce hunger in American has failed. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

First Child Euthanized in Belgium

A terminally ill minor has become the first child to be euthanized in Belgium since age restrictions were lifted in the country two years ago, according to several sources.

A Belgian lawmaker told CNN affiliate VTM that the physician-assisted suicide happened within the past week.

The child, who was suffering from an incurable disease, had asked for euthanasia, Sen. Jean-Jacques De Gucht told VTM. The identity of the child and age are unknown.

"I think it's very important that we, as a society, have given the opportunity to those people to decide for themselves in what manner they cope with that situation," said Gucht, a supporter of euthanasia legislation.
Read it all here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Two Perspectives on Female Circumcision

The World Health Organization reports that more than 200 million girls and women currently have been subjected to female genital mutilation/cutting worldwide, and three million girls continue to be at risk each year. Vicenzo Puppo, an Italian sexologist, argues in the journal Clinical Anatomy that this “is a violation of human rights and must be abandoned”. In his article, he outlines various strategies to change what he describes as a cultural rather than religious ritual, especially the creation of alternative rites of passage for young women.

Coincidentally, Australian bioethicists argue in the leading journal Bioethics that Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery for adolescents should be permitted if they insist upon it. Merle Spriggs and Lynn Gillam discuss labioplasties for girls with body dysmorphic disorder. Patients with this condition can be so distressed by the appearance of their genitals that 21% to 44% are said to commit suicide.

So while the minor operation may not be physically necessary, “‘medical necessity’ should be interpreted broadly, and should include reduction of psychological distress just as much as restoring physical function”. From an ethical point of view, they say, this is not a controversial principle. A number of other common procedures do not restore health, but apparently reduce anxiety: C-sections, contraception, sterilization, laser surgery for short-sightedness, puberty- suppression treatment for an adolescent with Gender dysphoria. A similar argument is made for justifying abortion.

One strong objection to permitting adolescents with BDD to have genital cosmetic surgery is that they will subsequently move the focus of their distress to some other aspect of their appearance. But given that the surgery is minor, “The possibility that a condition may reappear after surgery, is not in itself a good reason not to do the surgery in the first place.”

Spriggs and Gillam note that this is a “counterintuitive” conclusion and one which made them feel uneasy initially. However, “this outcome shows the power of ethical reasoning. If pursued thoroughly, using the available evidence and working from first principles, it is similar to the scientific method, in that it leads to a logical conclusion, regardless of what one might have expected at the outset.”

Read more here.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Killing of Disabled Girl: Hitler would be proud

The euthanasia of Nancy Fitzmaurice, a severely disabled child who was not dying, has made international waves with disability advocates especially outraged. Nancy’s mother had requested that her daughter be killed and was granted approval by the British legal system. While the 12-year-old Nancy had significant disabilities, she was able to breathe on her own and did not require life support.

Following the starving of Nancy through the withholding of fluids, the Autism Self Advocacy Network [ASAN] has released a statement slamming this decision, calling it “troubling” and “concerning”.

They said that:

The decision constitutes an extremely troubling legal precedent, representing the first time the British legal system has allowed a child breathing on her own, not on life support and not diagnosed with any terminal illness, to be killed by the medical system.

Euthanasia of people with disabilities is an extremely dangerous and wholly inappropriate solution to inadequate pain management. In cases where painkillers are insufficient, a number of alternatives for pain management exist. A policy of euthanasia targets vulnerable people, particularly when it is applied to children. People with disabilities who experience chronic pain should have same access as others to life-sustaining medical treatment.

When parents and physicians have the ability to authorize the killing of disabled children, we see serious abuses. Recently, ASAN and twelve other disability rights groups filed an amicus brief in a case challenging the University of Wisconsin Hospital’s practice of counseling parents to withhold care from children with disabilities for treatable but life-threatening medical conditions. In one such instance, a child with developmental disabilities died after a hospital doctor advised his parents that they could withdraw his feeding tube – which provided fluids and nutrition – based on his supposedly low “quality of life.” The medical condition supposedly justifying this measure was treatable pneumonia. The child died the next day, after administration of morphine. Such actions demonstrate the results of a policy that allows families and clinicians to discriminate on the basis of disability in the application of life-sustaining treatment.

ASAN furthermore was “concerned that the voices of people with disabilities with similar support needs were not heard in this discussion.”

ASAN hits the nail on the head, and especially so by calling out the media coverage of this story, which has been overwhelmingly positive.

Read it all here.

Bioethicists and Death Control

"Thousands of medical ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable until it is finally established as the unexceptionable."—Richard John Neuhaus

Wesley J. Smith

If you want to see what is likely to go awry in medical ethics and public healthcare policy, pay attention to the advocacy of bioethicists—at least of those who don’t identify themselves as “conservative” or “Catholic.” In their many journal articles and presentations at academic symposia, they unabashedly advocate for discarding the sanctity- and equality-of-life ethic as our moral cornerstone. Instead, most favor invidious and systemic medical discrimination predicated on a patient’s “quality of life,” which would endow the young, healthy, and able-bodied with the highest moral value—and, hence, with the greatest claim to medical resources.

Thanks to the work of bioethics, life-taking policies that a few decades ago were “unthinkable” now are unremarkable. Withholding tube-supplied food and water from the cognitively disabled until they die—Terri Schiavo’s fate—is now legal and popularly accepted, much like abortion. The legalization of assisted suicide is a constant threat. Even where lethal prescriptions or injections cannot be legally provided, some of our most notable bioethicists urge that doctors be permitted to help the elderly and others commit suicide by self-starvation—a process known in euthanasia advocacy circles as VSED (Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking).

Promoters of the culture of death never rest on their laurels. Listed below are a few of the more dangerous “advances” being promoted in bioethics.

Read it all here.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and a consultant to the Patients Rights Council. His new book, Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, was just published by Encounter Books.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Freedom of Speech on Campus: When professors get involved

C. Bradley Thompson is a political science professor and the executive director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. In regard to disruptive speech on campus, he said that indoctrination is a major reason why there seems to be so much hostility to principles of free speech on campus.

Particularly troublesome, he said, is the reemergence of 1960s-style “struggle sessions” in which people are made to publicly confess their “sins.” Thompson cited a recent case from North Carolina’s Guilford College in which students demanded that each week, one white professor be required to publicly denounce his or her “white privilege.”

Read more here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Philosophy 301 Approved Topics

The final paper is to be 5 pages and is due on Monday, October 10, 2016. There is no flexibility with this deadline as I need time to grade all the papers before the course ends.

Use this outline:
Statement of intention/thesis statement - What you wish to show, demonstrate, prove, expose as false, etc. in this paper
At least 3 supporting observations, explanations, facts, quotations, etc. to support your intention/thesis, each with elaboration.
Conclusion in which you summarize your intention and the supporting points you made. In the conclusion you may include your personal view. Do not include personal viewpoints earlier than the conclusion.

Select a topic from this list:


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Australia Seeks Legislation on Surrogacy

A government report has backed calls for an international treaty on surrogacy and for uniform legislation within Australia banning commercial surrogacy.

A Senate committee tabled its conclusions this week. In a nutshell, it backs altruistic surrogacy, but not commercial surrogacy. In a society where marriage and the family are changing rapidly, with many children lacking genetic connections with parents, surrogacy can be a solution for infertile couples, it contends.

However, the report left a number of issues in the too-hard basket. They include changing birth certificates to include all people who could qualify as parents – genetic, gestational and intended and making use of commercial surrogates overseas illegal.

Research shows that about 250 children from commercial surrogacy arrangements are brought back to Australia every year. Australia is powerless to stop this, argues the committee. The best the government can do is to give advice about the dangers of offshore arrangements and the possibility of abusing the human rights of the women involved.

Everyone agrees that fundamental principle of surrogacy must be the “best interests of the child”. However, there is a stark division on what those are. Some people told the committee that surrogacy in any form could never be in the best interests of the child because it creates confusion about his or her identity and is inconsistent with the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. Others declared that it could be consistent. The committee sat on the fence.

Another issue is reimbursement for “reasonable expenses” for altruistic surrogates. The committee backed “appropriate reimbursement”.

From here.

Commercial surrogacy is a complicated and controversial topic. Ethical concerns arise on many grounds: the cost of adoption, the welfare of the infant; and the potential for exploitation of poor women.

In India the commercial surrogacy grosses over $1 billion each year. In October 2015, the Indian government announced pending legislation that would ban foreigners from exploiting poor Indian women or traveling to India on what the government called "reproductive tourism."  Read more here: How Commercial Surrogacy Became a Massive International Business

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Scourge of Human Traffiking

Written by an Ethics student at Midway University
Midway, Kentucky

Human trafficking in the United States can be reduced and possibly eliminated through education, awareness, and government intervention. Through these means, this illegal form of modern day slavery might finally be stopped.

The illegal trade and exploitation of human beings for forced labor, prostitution, and reproductive favors is termed human trafficking. Human trafficking is a transnational phenomenon and is second only to the international drug trade in relation to organized crime. By some estimates, it is a multi-billion dollar business affecting several million people in virtually every country across the globe. It is equated with a modern day version of slavery (US Department of State, 2011).

Human trafficking has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. The issue of human trafficking has many layers and is complex. Human traffickers can be individuals working for large trafficking networks such as the Chinese, Columbian, Mexican, Russian, Ukrainian, and the United States’ own cartels, or they can be small, one man, mom and pop operators or inner city pimps. A major challenge in human trafficking is data collection. If you cannot measure a problem, you cannot solve the problem. Most law enforcement officials and congressional leaders do not have accurate statistics reflecting the increase in demand trafficked victims. As a result, it is easier for them to sweep the problem under the rug, not lobby Congress for state and federal funding, and be free of the responsibility and accountability to the court of public opinion. Some government officials even claim the problem is vastly exaggerated or does not exist at all (Sarnoff, 2016).

Educating the public about human trafficking is essential to ending this modern day slavery. Everyone is needed to identify it where it hides and bring it to the attention of law enforcement. Misconceptions about human trafficking thwart efforts to stop the practice. One major misconception is the idea that only women can be its victims. Men can also become victims, especially of labor trafficking. Men often have a harder time identifying themselves as trafficking victims and they have access to fewer emergency resources, like safe houses, than women have. Another common misconception is that human trafficking is only sex trafficking. Labor trafficking and domestic servitude are major forms of trafficking. Generally, victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Identifying victims can be a challenge, especially for the public. However, some indicators that human trafficking is occurring include restricted or controlled communication; signs of fear, anxiety, depression, submission, tension and/or nervousness; not being in control of one's own identification documents; and performing odd tasks at odd hours. Working and living environments also tend to have very poor health and safety conditions, and often have peculiar security precautions such as bars on the windows or being surrounded by barbed wire. Many community members want to help end trafficking, but do not have the tools or resources to do so (Ortiz, 2011).

Awareness is the first step to preventing human trafficking and prosecuting the traffickers is therefore to recognize the complexity of the crime, which cannot be tackled in a vacuum. Anti-trafficking strategies have to be embedded in every policy area, from improving female education in source countries so that girls are less vulnerable to trafficking, to increasing police pay in destination countries so that officers are less susceptible to bribery (Dearnley, 2012).

Government intervention varies—while some countries are creating policies that work for their cultures, others are lagging behind with no counter-trafficking laws at all. There are also some international standards: In 2003, the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons established a universal trafficking definition and set a goal for countries to prevent and combat trafficking and assist victims. The United States Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report offers suggestions for nations to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. These efforts are challenging, however, as there is no one way to address the variations in trafficking across the world. Differing cultures, economics, and religions all make laws complicated to implement, and corruption, cultural interpretations, and different systems of justice make them even more difficult to enforce. Another thing that should be noted is that many of the laws worldwide focus on sex trafficking as opposed to labor trafficking (which is more widespread), partially because sex trafficking is talked about in the media more (Gulledge, 2015).

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was authorized in 2000 and was the first federal law to address sex trafficking and labor trafficking in the United States. The TVPA focused on the prevention and protection for trafficking survivors, as well as prosecution for traffickers. The TVPA was reauthorized in 2003, 2005, and 2008 as the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), and each reauthorization offered positive changes. For example, the TVPRA of 2008 required the Department of Labor to publish a list of products produced by child labor or forced labor. However, the TVPRA expired in 2011, and is in need of an update to keep up with the rapidly evolving landscape of human trafficking. This year (2016), a bill to reauthorize the TVPRA has been reintroduced to Congress. It holds government contractors accountable for using foreign labor recruiters that use exploited labor, helps law enforcement prevent and prosecute sex tourism, and creates a grant-making program to prevent trafficking in humanitarian crises (such as in the case of Haiti or Syria). On the state level, while there has been vast improvement in some legislation, a few states have a long way to go. Massachusetts, rated one of the most improved states created a Human Trafficking Task Force, which strengthens protections for victims of trafficking and makes using the internet as a trafficking tool a punishable offense. On the other hand, there are states like Wyoming, where until January 29; no state law existed to punish traffickers. The just-passed House Bill 133 adds human trafficking legislation to the law books, and the bill will now go onto the Senate, which is a step in the right direction for the state (Jesionka, 2013).

In conclusion, Human Trafficking may seem too big to tackle, but for the thousands of people caught in this dangerous world, there is hope and ways people can help. Anyone can join the fight against human trafficking. Education, awareness, and government intervention are of utmost importance. Human trafficking awareness training is available for individuals, businesses, first responders, law enforcement, educators, and federal employees. Be a conscientious and informed consumer. Trafficking victims, including undocumented individuals are eligible for services and immigration assistance. Volunteer and support anti-trafficking efforts in your community. 

Be well informed. Provide jobs, internships, skills training, and other opportunities to trafficking survivors. Several organizations are helping victims start new lives. The Living Water Center, which is a safe house and rehabilitation center for human trafficking victims. It also helps survivors graduate from high school and apply for college and/or job placement. Wellspring Living provides a safe house, education, and therapy for underage victims. It also offers independent living programs, which includes continued education and job skills training. 4 Sarah is an intervention program that reaches out to women working in strip clubs and informs them about the risks of the human trafficking industry. Learn the indicators of human trafficking so you can help identify a potential trafficking victim. People are talking, communities are rising, global networks are being forged, and governments are responding to the united message that human trafficking must end. Only with a concerted effort by governments, private companies, non-governmental organizations, and above all communities, can we hope to end the horror of human trafficking.


Dearnley, R. (2012, February 1). UN Chronicle. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from The Magazine of the United Nations,

Gulledge, J. (2015, July 23). Ways to help sex trafficking victims in the U.S. CNN. Retrieved from

Jesionka, N. (2013, February 1). What’s being done to stop human trafficking? Retrieved July 24, 2016, from

Ortiz, D. (2011, March 30). Ending Human Trafficking. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from Opening Doors,

Sarnoff, C. (2016, June 21). Is there an end to child sex trafficking? Retrieved July 24, 2016, from

US Department of State. (2011, February 15). Diplomacy in Action. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Priceless Manuscripts Saved

Timbuktu has become a byword for the farthest corner of the earth. But it was once an important cultural and artistic center

In 2012, jihadists—armed to the teeth with weapons seized in Libya after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi—overran northern Mali and established a brutal, sharia regime in Timbuktu. Once a center of learning and culture, the city housed a priceless collection of manuscripts: volumes of poetry, encyclopedias, and even sexual manuals that invoked the name of Allah. Threatened with destruction, the manuscripts were spirited out of the city to safety in a thrilling, cloak-and-dagger operation.

Speaking from his home in Berlin, Joshua Hammer, a former Newsweek bureau chief in Africa, recounts the tale of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts—and explains how the Timbuktu manuscripts disprove the myth that Africa had no literary or historical culture, why Henry Louis Gates had an epiphany when he saw them, and why the jihadists found them so threatening.

In the chaos of the uprising against Qaddafi, the jihadists raided the armories of Libya, took the weapons into Mali, and quickly swept across the northern part of the country, occupying all of the major towns in the north, including Timbuktu. They imposed sharia law and began to destroy every symbol of moderate Sufi Islam that almost all residents of modern Timbuktu subscribe to. Shrines to Sufi saints were destroyed; whippings and amputations were carried out in the public squares of the city; and, of course, the manuscripts were threatened.

Read it all here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Areas of Ethical Conversation

Philosophy 301 students will find this glossary of Ethics helpful.

Bioethics: concerns the ethical controversies brought about by advances in biology and medicine. Public attention was drawn to these questions by abuses of human subjects in biomedical experiments, especially during the Second World War, but with recent advances in bio-technology, bioethics has become a fast-growing academic and professional area of inquiry. Issues include consideration of cloning, stem cell research, transplant trade, genetically modified food, human genetic engineering, genomics, infertility treatment, etc.

Business Ethics: examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that can arise in a business environment. This includes Corporate Social Responsibility, a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities and operations on customers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment, over and above the statutory obligation to comply with legislation.

Environmental Ethics: considers the ethical relationship between human beings and the natural environment. It addresses questions like "Should we continue to clear cut forests for the sake of human consumption?", :Should we continue to make gasoline powered vehicles, depleting fossil fuel resources while the technology exists to create zero-emission vehicles?", :What environmental obligations do we need to keep for future generations?", "Is it right for humans to knowingly cause the extinction of a species for the (perceived or real) convenience of humanity?"

Legal Ethics: an ethical code governing the conduct of people engaged in the practice of law. Model rules usually address the client-lawyer relationship, duties of a lawyer as advocate in adversary proceedings, dealings with persons other than clients, law firms and associations, public service, advertising and maintaining the integrity of the profession. Respect of client confidences, truthfulness in statements to others, and professional independence are some of the defining features of legal ethics.

Media Ethics: deals with the specific ethical principles and standards of media in general, including the ethical issues relating to journalism, advertising and marketing, and entertainment media.

Medical Ethics: the study of moral values and judgments as they apply to medicine. Historically, Western medical ethics may be traced to guidelines on the duty of physicians in antiquity, such as the Hippocratic Oath (at its simplest, "to practice and prescribe to the best of my ability for the good of my patients, and to try to avoid harming them"), and early rabbinic, Muslim and Christian teachings. Six of the values that commonly apply to medical ethics discussions are: Beneficence (a practitioner should act in the best interest of the patient, Non-maleficence ("first, do no harm"), Autonomy (the patient has the right to refuse or choose their treatment), Justice (concerning the distribution of scarce health resources, and the decision of who gets what treatment), Dignity (both the patient and the practitioner have the right to dignity), Honesty (truthfulness and respect for the concept of informed consent).
Information Ethics: investigates the ethical issues arising from the development and application of computers and information technologies. It is concerned with issues like the privacy of information, whether artificial agents may be moral, cyber ethics, how to behave in the infosphere, and ownership and copyright problems arising from the creation, collection, recording, distribution, processing, etc, of information.

Virtue Ethics (or Virtue Theory) is an approach to Ethics that emphasizes an individual's character as the key element of ethical thinking, rather than rules about the acts themselves (Deontology) or their consequences (Consequentialism).

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Canada Grants Right to Active Euthanasia

Canada’s Senate passed Bill C-14, the euthanasia and assisted suicide bill.

The Senate first passed Bill C-14 a few days ago with seven amendments from the original bill that was passed in the House of Commons on May 31.
Yesterday, the House of Commons removed a controversial amendment and a protective amendment in the Senate version of the bill and then sent it back to the Senate for approval.

This morning the Senate considered an amendment that would have referred the terminal illness provision in the bill (natural death is reasonably foreseeable) to the Supreme Court of Canada, but that amendment was defeated.

The controversial issue was the requirement that a medical or nurse practitioner could approve a lethal injection if the person’s “natural death is reasonably foreseeable.” Parliament insisted that this requirement remain in the bill while the Senate argued that the Supreme Court did not state that a person must be “terminally ill.”

The final bill maintains that “natural death must be reasonably foreseeable.”

I was disappointed that House of Commons withdrew the amendment that prohibited a beneficiary from participating in a persons assisted death or signing the person’s request for assisted death. This was an amendment that protected people from a greedy beneficiary or an unscrupulous family member.

The final bill allows a beneficiary to participate in the act, even to lethally inject.
The Senate then passed Bill C-14 by a vote of 44 to 28. The response from parliament was to declare a summer recess.

The bill that determines how Canadians will kill Canadians was passed on the last day of the parliamentary schedule in time for the summer recess.

Bill C-14 now goes to the Governor General to be signed.

No attempts were made to amend the most grievous parts of Bill C-14.

1. Bill C-14 provides medical practitioners or nurse practitioners legal immunity for decisions or acts that contravene the law.
•Section 241.3 states: Before a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner provides a person with medical assistance in dying, the medical or nurse practitioner must: (a) be of the opinion that the person meets all of the criteria set out in subsection (1);
• Section 227(3) states: For greater certainty, the exemption set out in subsection (1) or (2) applies even if the person invoking it has a reasonable but mistaken belief about any fact that is an element of the exemption.
These sections of the law ensure that a medical or nurse practitioner will never be prosecuted for decisions or acts that contravene Bill C-14.

2. Bill C-14 allows anyone to cause death by euthanasia or assisted suicide.

• Bill C-14 – Section 227(2) states: No person is a party to culpable homicide if they do anything for the purpose of aiding a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to provide a person with medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.‍2.

• Bill C-14 – Section 241(3) states: No person is a party to an offence under paragraph (1)(b) if they do anything for the purpose of aiding a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to provide a person with medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.‍2.

• Bill C-14 – Section 241(5) states: No person commits an offence under paragraph (1)‍(b) if they do anything, at another person’s explicit request, for the purpose of aiding that other person to self-administer a substance that has been prescribed for that other person as part of the provision of medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.‍2.

No jurisdiction in the world offers legal immunity to anyone who does anything for the purposes of assisting death. Bill C-14 is the most wide-open bill in the world. It is even worse than the Belgian law. Recent studies from Belgium indicate that more than 1000 assisted deaths occur without request each year.

Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, writes, "I cannot understand why people remain so blind about the implications of the language of Bill C-14. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition will resist the cultural acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide." You can read his blog here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Child Trafficking Verdict in Sarasota, Florida

The first human trafficking guilty verdict in Sarasota Florida was handed down last week, to Ronald McBride III, 22, for six felony counts, one of which was human trafficking. After the jury’s conviction, McBride could face up to life in prison. It is a milestone case for the Sarasota Police Department.

According to news reports the trafficker began “grooming the victim in November 2015, on how to trade her body for drugs and money.” The young woman was in her twenties receiving counseling for drug addiction at the time she met McBride. Instead, McBride got the victim hooked on heroine and crack cocaine.

The girl told the Sarasota police, “If she didn’t make a certain amount of money for a sexual act, McBride would beat her or have another girl beat her. I have to give all the money I make to McBride because he says he owns me.” On the day she escaped, December 29, 2015, McBride beat her with a gun and told her he would come back to kill her.

Read more here.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ethics of Addiction

The ethical debate centers on questions of individual freedom, autonomy, self-determination, and control. What passes for individual freedom to chose a way of life may be simply delusion - a non-freedom. In a conflict between the individual and the state, where should the individual's autonomy end and the state's right to intervene begin? Must we regard freedom of self-medication as a fundamental right?

There are many excellent articles on the ethics of addiction in scholarly journals, many of which are not accessible to the public. Much good information on this topic is available at blogs. Here is a list of blogs that I recommend to students who are writing papers on the ethics of addiction.

The Hurt Healer

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Islamic Extremism and Iconoclasm

2000-year-old temple in Palmyra, Syria
destroyed by IS in August 2015

In early June 2016, Islamic State (IS) insurgents posted a video on the internet showing a 3,000-year-old temple being blown up at the Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq. This is the latest example of radical Islamic iconoclasm. The Nabu Temple is one of the world's archaeological and cultural treasures.

The United Nations confirmed in a statement that satellite imagery showed "extensive damage to the main entrance" of the temple of Nabu, the Babylonian deity of wisdom.

Nimrud was a 13th century BC Assyrian city located about 20 miles south of the modern city of Mosul. Islamic State militants took control of Mosul in June 2014.

The IS video also shows scenes of bulldozers razing the ancient Gate of Nergal, part of the historic Nineveh city wall in Mosul. The fanatical Islamic group considers all pre-Islamic culture idolatrous, along with any religion outside its own radical interpretation of Sunni Islam.

IS has systematically destroyed many sites of archaeological and historical importance. Islamic State militants destroyed the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria in August 2015.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Killing Babies

Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.

The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.

The journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said the article's authors had received death threats since publishing the article. He said those who made abusive and threatening posts about the study were “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society”.

The article, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?”, was written by two of Prof Savulescu’s former associates, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.

They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

Read the article here.

Julian Savulescu has been consistently ghoulish. Savulescu, an Australian, also believes that parents are morally obliged to genetically engineer their children so that they will have higher IQs. "There are other ethical principles which should govern reproduction, such as the public interest," he said. This policy would reduce welfare dependency, crowding in jails, school dropout rates and poverty. "Cheaper, efficient whole genome analysis makes it a real possibility in the near future."

Eugenics did not die with the Nazi regime. Eugenics has clawed its way out of the grave and is being rehabilitated by so-called ethicists like Savulescu.

He remains ignorant of the sophisticated ethics of archaic communities, against the background of which his ethics appear barbarian.

Related reading: Savulescu and Harris on Enhancing Morality;  Reduce Divorce With Love Drugs; Killing Babies in Ancient Greece and Rome

Saturday, May 21, 2016

What Students Should Know About Totalitarianism

Alice C. Linsley

A totalitarian government is a single-party dictatorship that controls all aspects of public and private life. Citizens do not enjoy rights such as freedom of expression or the right to assemble. Totalitarian governments silence critics who speak against the government's policies in public or on the internet. Residents are subject to censorship and arrest, and the media is state controlled.

Totalitarian governments occur where an individual or small group of individuals take power and implement policies designed to enhance their power. Such leaders are usually called "dictators" though some have been called Pharaohs, Emperors or Kings.

Dictators enforce their will by decree or by passing legislation that makes it possible for the leader to be the absolute ruler of a sovereign state; to govern outside the accepted rule of law, and to maintain or increase power through developing a cult of personality.

Totalitarian leaders in history include Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Maximiliano Hernández MartĂ­nez, and Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Stalin gained control of the Soviet Union in 1924, and forced millions of peasants to relinquish their land and work on large, government-run farms. He is responsible for the death of millions of Russians who refused his effort to collectivize. 

Benito Mussolini 

On 28 October 1922, King Vittorio Emanuele's appointed Benito Mussolini as prime minister of Italy. Mussolini needed to convince the people that fascism would work to their benefit. The word was spread that Mussolini had turned the dilapidated Italian rail system into a dependable mode of transportation. It was said that in Mussolini's Italy, all the trains ran on, but the many Italians who depended on the trains knew otherwise.

Hitler gained control of the nationalistic, anti-communist Nazi Party in the 1920s and established perhaps the most notorious regime in modern history. The Nazi ideology viewed Jews as a political and economy disease to be eradicated. The ideology also opposed Christianity. Efforts were made to limit the influence of Christianity on the German people, since, in the words of Martin Bormann to Alfred Rosenberg in an official letter, "the Christian religion and National Socialist doctrines are not compatible."

Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was characterized by corruption, rape, censorship, torture and terror tactics. Human rights organizations reported hundreds of thousands of civilian executions during Hussein’s reign.

Kim Il-sung ruled North Korea from 1948 until 1994. The leadership then passed to his son, Kim Jong-il, and then in 2011 to his grandson, Kim Jong-un. Human rights organizations report systematic abuses including torture, religious persecution, slave labor, infanticide, and public executions.

Hitler Youth 1933
Indoctrination of the Youth

A prime directive of totalitarian governments is the indoctrination of the youth. As Lenin said, "The best revolutionary is a youth devoid of morals." He insisted, "Give us the child for 8 years and it will be a Bolshevik forever."

On July 4, 1926 at a Nazi rally the German Youth Movement was renamed as the Hitlerjugend, Hilter Youth. The Hitler Youth were regarded as the Aryan hope for a glorious future and were indoctrinated as fighters Nazi Germany.

Totalitarian Versus Authoritarian: A matter of degree

Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976) was the founder of the People's Republic of China. He tolerated no resistance to his Communist system. His government was extremely thorough in its Communist propaganda and indoctrination of young people. He portrayed himself as the benevolent leader who would make China great. However, his "Great Leap Forward" proved disastrous for the Chinese people. 

On June 4, 1989, Chinese troops and security police fired on students who had gathered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square to call for greater democracy. Hundreds of students were killed and at least 10,000 people were arrested. This tragedy gained much world attention and other nations pressured China's leaders to grant greater liberty to their citizens.

Since China became more open to the West and to other Asian nations, it has eased some of the restrictions that were initiated by the Communist Revolution. Today China is more accurately described as an "authoritarian" state, as it does allow its citizens some personal freedoms and absolute power no longer rests with a single individual.

However, government policies are still strictly enforced and political dissidents continue to face imprisonment and censorship. There has been resistance to the government's limit on the number of children a couple can have, and the restriction of religion. To protest the lack of religious freedom, at least 122 Tibetan monks, nuns and civilians have committed self-immolation between 2009 and 2013. During the same period, at least 53 Chinese killed themselves by the same means to protest the government’s demolition of their homes.

For American foreign policy the distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian is significant. If faced with only these options, the United States should support an authoritarian government over a totalitarian government. This is what Jeane Kirkpatrick argued during the Carter Administration. The US often is faced with the choice to either back an authoritarian regime, or destabilize it, giving opportunity for the rise of totalitarianism. Kirkpatrick's distinction between authoritarianism and totalitarianism was a good one. However, she did not foresee the global thrust of Islamic extremism which is ready to fill every political vacuum. Destabilization has proved to benefit movements like ISIS in Iraq and Syria.