Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, and consults for the Patients Rights Council.
A few years ago, I spoke about end-of-life care at a town-hall event; it quickly devolved into an intense debate on assisted suicide. When the time came for audience questions, a self-described “mentally ill” woman took the microphone and declared that she had a right to doctor-prescribed death. More than half the audience burst into applause. Continue Reading »
Even materialists crave religion. The need to believe—to locate ultimate meaning in the universe—is deeply embedded in our natures. Atheists seek to deflect attention from this deeply human yearning. Thus, Richard Dawkins famously wrote that Darwin made it possible “to be an intellectually . . . . Continue Reading »
During World War II, German doctors euthanized disabled babies and adults. As Robert Jay Lifton reported in The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, no one forced these doctors to kill. Many of them believed euthanasia to be a “healing treatment” that ended “unlivable” lives, liberated families from the burden of caregiving, and kept the country from “wasting” scarce resources on the lebensunwertes leben(“life unworthy of life”). Such was the fruit of years of utilitarian indoctrination and the resulting societal acceptance of eugenics ideology.At the time, Netherlander doctors were well aware that German medical ethics had devolved. Thus, when the German commander of the occupation, Arthur Seyss-Inquart (now known as “the Butcher of Holland”), commanded that Dutch medical practices adjust to the German way, Netherlander doctors courageously defied the order. Continue Reading »
I never expected to get a tattoo. Until two months ago, I fully expected to go to my grave ink-free.Then, as my wife and I were planning our just-completed vacation to Israel, I came upon a [R1] about a Christian Palestinian family in Jerusalem that for hundreds of years has been tattooing Orthodox Christians as a permanent commemoration of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I showed the story to my wife, and she voiced the thought that had popped into my head: “You should do it!” Continue Reading »
Transhumanists insist that we are quickly approaching [R1] the moment at which technology will become an unstoppable and self-directing power that will usher in the “post-human” era. To get us from here to there requires the invention of “artificial intelligence” (AI), computers and/or robots that become “conscious” and self-programming, independent of human control. Actually, these advocates would say “who” become conscious: Transhumanists believe that AI contraptions would become self-aware and thus deserve human rights. Continue Reading »
In 1991, my friend Frances invited me to a “going away party.” She wasn’t moving or going on vacation. Frances wanted her closest friends to come to her home, to tell her how much she meant to us, and to hold her hand as she committed suicide. Continue Reading »
At the end of this month, Terri Schiavo will be ten years dead. But she is far from forgotten. Everyone reading these words knows the story, and everyone has an opinion. What began in 1990 as a private tragedy—a vivacious young woman stricken in the prime of life with a severe cognitive . . . . Continue Reading »
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
?by atul gawande?
metropolitan, 304 pages, $26 Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is an eminently useful book. Gawande, a surgeon and a staff writer for the New Yorker, is anything but clinical. With a distinctly human touch, he takes us through true-life experiences of his late father, friends, and patients, documenting the conundrums they faced coping with serious illnesses or age-caused decrepitude. His hope is that by seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly of others’ experiences, we will make better choices ourselves. Dangers lurk in these woods. A crass utilitarianism has infected bioethics and the practice of medicine. Under the so-called “quality of life” ethic, dependent, disabled, elderly, and dying patients may be denied optimal care in order to redistribute health resources to the young, fit, healthy, and productive. With cost containment becoming the new buzzword in medicineparticularly given the much-ridiculed but far from unreasonable apprehension that the Affordable Care Act could lead to “death panels”a reader may worry that Gawande recommends forcing the weakest and most vulnerable out of the lifeboat if they refuse to jump themselves. Continue Reading »
Doctors don’t take the Hippocratic Oath anymore, and haven’t for several decades. The oath’s ethical proscriptions against participating in abortion and assisted suicide cut against the contemporary moral grain, leading medical schools to dumb it down or dispose of it altogether in order to comport with modern sensibilities.
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Hospice is about living, not dying. More precisely, hospice supports life with dignity for its patients and offers invaluable social and emotional support for patients’ families. Continue Reading »