Author, attorney, and ethicist Wesley J. Smith recently penned a column outlining a serious problem in European countries like Belgium: Doctors and nurses are quitting because of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
You become a doctor or nurse to be a healer palliator of people in serious pain and distress. You have a special place in your heart for the dying, and so you enter the specialized field of palliative care and hospice medicine.
But then, your country decides you should also become killers of the patients you want to succor. If you refuse, you face public criticism, the prospect of being sued, and perhaps one day, professional censure.
What do you do? If you are an ethical professional, rather than be complicit in homicide, you leave the field.
Doctors who specialize in end of life care and pain management — such as palliative care doctors in hospices and long term care facilities — are being forced to choose between their convictions and their careers.
One Belgian doctor said, “palliative care units are . . . at risk of becoming ‘houses of euthanasia’, which is the opposite of what they were meant to be.”
This is a disturbing trend. Palliative care offers terminally-ill people relief from pain and the opportunity to spend quality time with family as they near the end of life. These doctors and nurses provide vital services to people who are dying and to their families. Unlike euthanasia and assisted suicide, palliative care offers actual relief from suffering — without poisoning or killing any patients.
As we have said time and time again, being pro-life is about much more than opposing abortion. We do not eliminate suffering by eliminating people who are suffering. We must respect the sanctity of human life at the end of life as well as at the beginning.
Recently we told you about a news story that sounds like something straight out of a checkout-line tabloid: The National Institute of Health is considering using public funds for research that creates human-animal hybrids or “chimeras.”
Researchers inject human stem cells into modified animal embryos in hopes of discovering new cures or “growing” human organs for transplant patients. You can read about some of the ethical concerns we have raised here.
John Stonestreet at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview published an excellent commentary today highlighting these concerns as well and noting how individuals from H.G. Wells and C.S. Lewis to Chuck Colson have warned us about this type of sketchy science.
This ends-justify-the-means kind of commodification of human beings is nothing new. Chuck Colson warned way back in 2007, “the system is being rigged to promote more such experimentation, not less. Compared to promises of ‘miracle cures,’ national prestige, and, of course, big money, human dignity counts for very little.”
Of course, promises of such cures may sound like a service to the cause of human dignity, but the “scientific progress at any cost” sort of vision drives our current forays in medicine. It’s what might be called the scientific illusion, the idea that because we can, we should. That all things, human nature included, are proper subjects of scientific mastery, the ultimate source of all of our knowledge.
Before Chuck, C. S. Lewis warned of such folly in his masterful book “The Abolition of Man.” “If man chooses to treat himself as raw material,” Lewis wrote, “raw material he will be, not raw material to be manipulated, as he fondly imagined, by himself, but by mere appetite, that is, mere Nature, in the person of his de-humanized Conditioners.”
In other words, the conquering of human nature with our technology, in reality, will end up being the conquering of all of us by some of us.
You can read his full commentary here or listen to it below.
The National Institute of Health announced last week it is looking to end its ban on public funding for what some call “chimera” research–that is, research that involves combining human DNA with animal DNA.
In a nutshell, researchers are performing experiments in which human stem cells are inserted into modified animal embryos–such as modified pig embryos. The animal embryos develop with the human cells inside them.
Researchers believe they can refine the process so that eventually human organs can be “grown,” for example, inside animals and eventually “harvested” for people in need of organ transplants. They are asking the NIH to help fund their experiments, and the NIH appears to be planning to provide the funds.
If all of this sounds weird or ethically suspect to you, you aren’t alone. As Kansans for Life writes,
If the purposeful creation of human-animal chimeras is allowed for research purposes, it opens to door to abuse of the technique for reproduction, as well as creation of part-human organisms as bizarre designer humans or animals. It could produce an animal that produces human sperm or eggs. It could produce an animal with a human brain.
Some have criticized researchers for “playing God.” Others worry the experiments will lead to the creation of new, quasi-human species, and will further blur the lines between humans and animals. These are all valid points, but the immediate, ethical question this research raises is simple: Where will researchers get their stem cells?
This research involves injecting human stem cells into modified animal embryos. Human stem cells are often acquired by creating–and then killing–human embryos to harvest the embryos’ stem cells.
Research that uses human embryonic stem cells is highly unethical, because it kills unborn children in the process.
Other stem cells are acquired from aborted unborn babies, as we have written in the past. These stem cells are sometimes billed as “adult stem cells,” but they don’t actually come from adults. They come from aborted children.
It is possible to obtain stem cells ethically–without killing any unborn children–but it’s often difficult to know if researchers are using ethically-obtained stem cells. If the NIH begins funding research involving human stem cells, our first concern is that researchers will use embryonic stem cells or stem cells obtained from dead unborn children. That sort of research simply is not acceptable.
The National Institute of Health is accepting public comments on the proposed rule change until September 6. Please contact the NIH, and ask them not to fund or encourage this type of research. Click here to find out how to submit your comments.