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When the woman from the UK, diagnosed to be in a persistent vegetative state, was found to actually be interactive via a form of MRI, I predicted that proponents of the death culture would claim that rather than eschewing dehydration for such patients, their awareness would be found to be an even more urgent reason to “make the hard choice” and end their lives. Comes now Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman—predictably for those familiar with her body of work—to argue that consciousness should not be a bar to ending life.

Goodman is an archetype of a species of relativists who are ever wringing their hands about hard choices that lead to death and burbling on about how guidelines will protect vulnerable people from abuse, but somehow never manage to say no. I recall seeing an article of hers written in the late 80s, claiming that IVF doctors would never create excess embryos, we would never treat nascent human life as if they were no more valuable than salmon eggs, and urging that the technology go forward with society putting the IVF practitioners on notice that there are lines we will not permit to be crossed. (I wrote in more detail about this column in Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World.)

Of course, no lines were ever drawn, IVF doctors did create hundreds of thousands of excess embryos, and now Goodman leads the pack supporting their use as a mere natural resource to be exploited and used as so many crops in research.

I e-mailed her about her old column, noting that she had once said she would say no, but hadn’t managed to do so yet. She responded politely that her “lines have changed.” Of course they did because they were never real. Her old soothing words were never about creating real ethical boundaries, just offering a wary public false assurances.

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