Every human life has value.

An informative interview with Prof Stuart Newman, Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy at New York Medical College, on the ethical concerns regarding “three-parent IVF”

Prof. Newman isn’t the only scientist to caution against three-parent IVF.

Prior to this month’s vote in the House of Commons, Dr Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher and associate professor at the University of California, Davis, went so far as to warn that the UK would be making an “historical mistake” if it allowed the unproven and under-tested technology to move forward in humans.

genetic-engineering2.png“Even if hypothetically this technology might help avoid some people from having mitochondrial disorders (and that’s a big if),” Knoepfler writes, “the bottom line is that there is an equal or arguably greater chance that it will tragically produce very ill or deceased babies.”

Dr Trevor Stammers, Programme Director in Bioethics and Medical Law at St Mary’s University, also said: “Even if these babies are born they will have to be monitored all their lives, and their children will have to be as well.

“We do not yet know the interaction between the mitochondria and nuclear DNA. To say that it is the same as changing a battery is facile. It’s an extremely complex thing.”

Sign the petition. This radical experimentation on children must not be allowed to move forward!

February 23rd, 2015 at 8:42 am | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

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I was on The Mike Allen Show early this morning to talk about the troubling cultural embrace of 3-parent IVF and euthanasia

(Can’t see the player? Direct link to the episode here.)

I didn’t get a chance to mention it on the show, but I encourage you all to sign this petition to stop UK proposals for germline genetic modification of human embryos and the creation of 3-parent children.

The age of human cloning is here, the question is, what are we doing about it? This petition may seem like a small step, but it’s a good place to start.

British MPs are being heavily pressured by scientists to give them permission to start radically experimenting on children and future generations to come — meanwhile, according to polls, only about 10% of the public agree with the legislation. Let’s make sure they get that message!

February 18th, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

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American Horror Story actress Jamie Brewer made New York Fashion Week History when she strut her stuff down the runway this Thursday. Brewer is the first model with Down Syndrome to walk the fashion week’s catwalk.

Brewer was part of designer Carrie Hammer’s “Role Models Not Runway Models” show, a project that invites inspiring women to showcase Hammer’s work.

The fashion designer started the show last year and immediately made headlines with “model” Dr. Danielle Sheypuk, a Brooklyn-based clinical psychologist and 2012’s Miss Wheelchair New York, who become the first disabled model on the Fashion Week runway.

Hammer was inspired to include Brewer in this year’s show when Katie Driscoll, cofounder of the nonprofit Changing the Face of Beauty, which lobbies brands and companies to integrate those with disabilities into their advertising, wrote to her asking if she would include a role model for her daughter who was born with Down syndrome.

“People with disabilities are the largest minority in the world,” Driscoll told BuzzFeed Life. “We have a long way to go, but we are definitely on the right track. We’re so thankful for people like Carrie who believe. For her to give Grace a role model, there’s no words.”

Prior to her roles on television, Brewer participated in theater productions in her home-state of Texas where she was also an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities. At 19 she was elected to the State of Texas ARC Board, and she also worked with the Governmental Affairs Committee for the State of Texas, as the only member with a disability.

“Jamie is an incredible actress and also an activist, an artist and a writer who just happens to have Down syndrome … but that doesn’t define her,” Hammer told ABC News.

“Jamie really shows everyone that you can become what you imagine,” Hammer said. “I hope that, watching her, young women know they can become anything, do anything. Your circumstances don’t define you.”

”I’m a huge advocate for individuals with disabilities,” Brewer said. “Changing the minds of individuals [so they] get a better understanding of individuals that do have disabilities.”

In an age where the cult of normalcy not only decides who is beautiful, but also asserts its power over the weak by ultimately deciding who gets to live and who must die based on its own arbitrary utilitarian standards, Hammers’ work and passion for inclusiveness is a deep breath of fresh air.

Another first for Fashion Week this year: 25 year old Jack Eyers, British personal trainer who had leg amputated when he was 16, will become first disabled man on the fashion show’s runway. Eyers will model clothing by designer Antonio Urzi.

‘I have no idea what to expect, so it’s pretty overwhelming,’ Eyers told the UK Daily Mail. ‘I just want to show that having a disability doesn’t need to hold you back.’

February 13th, 2015 at 11:55 am | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Last week Canada’s highest court struck down the Canadian law protecting against assisting suicide.

Unlike doctor-prescribed suicide laws here in the states (specifically, Oregon, Washington and Vermont) that are theoretically limited to those with terminal illness, the Canadian ruling allows anyone who “has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”

As it stands right now, the ruling only applies to “a competent adult person who . . . clearly consents to the termination of life,” but the court hinted that it may later hold that surrogates have the right to kill people with disabilities who cannot speak for themselves, even if they have never asked to die.

docs.pngI like my friend Mark Pickup’s (himself a Canadian) idea. Citing the heroic example of Dutch doctors in Nazi occupied Holland, he says:

Canadian doctors of various faiths must stand together, use the courageous example of Dutch doctors during the Second World War, and refuse to participate in doctor assisted death killing. Steadfastly refuse to go along with the Canadian Supreme Court’s odious decision to open wide the gates of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Refuse to support the CMA’s softening position. Refuse to engage in assisted suicide or even be complicit by referring patients. Advocate and militate within medical circles against the obvious implications of the Supreme Court’s horrible decision. Exercise conscience rights now and more when they are taken away.

Stand resolute against euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. Refuse to cooperate or comply! God will be with you.

This may be your greatest witness for the value of human life! Post modernism of the 21st Century and its consuming god of nihilism and personal autonomy at the expense of interdependent community. Its god breeds pestilences of hopelessness, despair and death in every society it infects.

“Death with dignity” is hailed as an exercise in personal autonomy, but the people claiming this “right” do not act alone. They require assistance — a coarsening of some other person’s conscience.

I don’t have the right to ask or demand something that may hurt others.

There is a reason why most doctors oppose “physician assisted suicide” (more accurately described as “doctor prescribed suicide”). Their job is to heal, not kill.

Death is never medicine, no matter how permanent the diagnosis or how much pain the patient is in.

We need good doctors to stand up and take back medicine from the grip of death — not just in Canada, but everywhere these laws are being forced upon them by courts, legislatures, etc…!

To all you med students out there, you who are the future of health care, I implore you: learn and practice the good medicine! Do not give in to the moral relativism of our day. Killing is not care, no matter who you’re killing or what reason you have for killing them.

Related: Wanted: Ethical Doctors

February 11th, 2015 at 5:39 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

genetic-engineering.pngThis week MPs in the House of Commons voted 382-128 to make Britain the first country in the world to offer controversial ‘three-parent’ fertility treatments.

A further vote is required in the House of Lords, but according to the BBC, if everything goes ahead then the first such baby could be born next year.

This is truly an historic decision that could have lasting consequences. It’s especially important for us here in America where the FDA has been considering whether or not to allow the practice.

I’ve explained much of this here before a number of times, but to recap:

There are currently two different techniques for manufacturing three-parent embryos, the purpose of which is to help families avoid passing on mitochondrial diseases to their children. The first, being developed at Britain’s Newcastle University, is known as pronuclear transfer (PNT) and swaps DNA between two fertilized human eggs (aka embryos), intentionally destroying multiple embryos in the process.

The second, which has been done by scientists in Oregon and New York, is called maternal spindle transfer. This technique swaps material between the mother’s egg and a donor egg before fertilization.

Do not be fooled by reports labeling this technology as mere midochondria “donation” or “replacement.” As Dr. Stuart A. Newman, professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy at New York Medical College, explains, both of these techniques are actually more like cloning than anything else.

Three-parent embryos are genetically modified to carry a combination of DNA that could not happen naturally and this kind of germ-line modification will be inherited. So what these lawmakers have approved is the genetic engineering of future generations without their consent.On top of the fact that, like traditional IVF, the creation of new human life in this way (out of the marital embrace and in the science lab) is immoral in and of itself, there is also no telling what kind of effect this will have on the children it produces.

The science is still very new. Three parent fertility as a concept was only thought of a little over a decade ago. And both of the techniques described above were only first successfully used to create human embryos less than five years ago.

Animals created through these methods have had significant health issues, and in Oregon, genetic abnormalities were detected in half of the human embryos created with manipulated eggs. So, there is a good possibility that we may simply be trading mitochondrial disease for other abnormalities, if babies are ever born using either of these techniques.

And that’s a big if.

In Newcastle’s initial report, most of the embryos were so mangled in the reprogramming process itself that they couldn’t even start dividing. In order to get better results with this technology in humans, more research must be done, which means more and more tiny human lives lost and destroyed.

The concerns don’t end there. The massive amounts of “donated” human eggs that will be needed to manufacture children in this way is a problem. As are legal issues such as: who would be the legal parents of a child generated from genetic material obtained from multiple donors and would such a child have the right to know the identity of all his gene donors?

The Catholic Church teaches that this type of genetic engineering is morally wrong not only because it creates human life in a dish, but also because of the risks involved. Regarding germ-line modifications, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 2008 instruction Dignitas Personae states that, “It is not morally permissible to act in a way that may cause possible harm to the resulting progeny.”

The Church is not radical or alone in her opposition to this kind of genetic modification. More than 40 other countries have passed laws or signed treaties banning human genetic modifications that can be inherited. And, while the Department of Health claimed widespread public support for the measure, the latest ComRes poll found that only 10 per cent of the public agree with the legislation.

Several experts from academic institutions across the world have also discouraged the measure citing the many ethical and safety concerns about the future health of the children.

Prior to the British vote, Dr Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher and associate professor at the University of California, Davis, went so far as to warn that the UK would be making an “historical mistake” if it allowed the unproven and under-tested technology to move forward in humans.

“Even if hypothetically this technology might help avoid some people from having mitochondrial disorders (and that’s a big if),” Knoepfler writes, “the bottom line is that there is an equal or arguably greater chance that it will tragically produce very ill or deceased babies.”

Dr Trevor Stammers Programme Director in Bioethics and Medical Law at St Mary’s University, said: “Even if these babies are born they will have to be monitored all their lives, and their children will have to be as well.

“We do not yet know the interaction between the mitochondria and nuclear DNA. To say that it is the same as changing a battery is facile. It’s an extremely complex thing.”

This radical experimentation on children must not be allowed to move forward.

Preventing mitochondrial disease is a good and noble goal, but this is not the way to go about doing it. Allowing germ-line modification for mitochondrial replacement to proceed despite such obvious ethical and safety concerns sets a dangerous precedent and may only be the beginning — opening the door to even more radical genetic manipulation, and possibly even full scale human cloning.

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told LifeSiteNews, “Until now (researchers) had to destroy cloned embryos. But this regulation allows them to move a step closer towards engaging in full scale human cloning. That seems to be the objective they really want to pursue. People with mitochondrial disease are a convenient front to put forward that other goal.”

We are on a threshold. If the UK does begin genetically-engineering children, this move, it is fair to say, could forever change the course of humanity.

For a society that cares so much about genetically-modified organisms in their food supply, you would think we’d be a little more cautious about the genetic modification of people.

February 6th, 2015 at 6:18 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Pope Francis is well known for stopping his motorcade and getting down to reach out and embrace people with disabilities who come to his audiences. Today, the Holy Father used the wonders of technology to reach out virtually and chat with a handful of children with special needs and disabilities in various countries, including the United States.

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Participants in the Google Hangout shared with the pontiff the various ways technology has enriched their lives.

13 year old Isabel from Spain uses a computer with a screen reader and and a braille reader that makes everything that appears on the screen appears as braille:
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Pope Francis asked what message she would like to give to him, to which she responded (I’m going by YouTube’s closed captioning and Zenit for most of the translations here): “That people with disabilities don’t give up. With effortt you can do whatever you (want to?) do and reach whatever goal you want to reach”

Pedro Garcia, 12, from Sau Paulo shared his love for online video gaming. “I use the mouse with the left hand and the keyboard with my right stump.” He and the pope also bonded over their mutual love for the game of soccer.
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Alicia, 16, from Spain, showed off the camera she uses with her film group.
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Alicia also asked the pope if he liked to take pictures and upload them to the computer. “Do you want me to tell you the truth?” he asked. “I am old fashioned when it comes to computers. I am a dinosaur. I don’t know how to work a computer. What a pity, huh? What a shame.”

Elvira, 12 — enjoys making videos just like Alicia…and singing.
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Taylor and Isaiah, high schoolers from Nebraska. Isaiah spoke of overcoming many obstacles in his middle school and high school career due to a lack of fine motor skills.
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Isaiah asked the pope what he does when he’s faced with difficulties. “Remain calm,” Pope Francis responded. “Afterwards find a way to overcome it. Of getting over it. And if it can’t be overcome, then I have to resist it until the possibility comes up that I can overcome it. There is no need to be afraid with difficulties. Don’t be afraid ever. We are capable of overcoming everything. All we need is time to understand them, intelligence to find a way and courage to continue forward, but never be afraid.”

13 year old Manoj in India, a hearing impared student, never knew what a computer was till three years ago. Now, “When I don’t understand anything with my subject, I go to the internet and search pictures. Then I know. It is like having another teacher.”
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Asked how he thinks scholars can help us, the pope replied, by “building bridges, communicating with you, with you all, because when you all communicate the best of what you have inside, and you receive the best from others and that is very important. When we don’t communicate, we stay alone with our limitations and that is bad for us…the most important thing is communication, to give and receive, and that does us well and we’re never alone. Scholas can help you with this in communication.”

Finally, Bauti, 14, from Spain talked about using his tablet to study math, science, make picture collages to show to his friends and play games.
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“Do you have a tablet?” he asked. The Holy Father laughed and replied, “No, I don’t have one.”

The pope concluded the hangout by telling the kids that they each have a treasure inside, and not to hide it. “What you do from the place where you are helps all of us. Helps us to understand that life is a beautiful treasure, but it only has meaning if we give it.”
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You can watch the entire exchange below:

February 5th, 2015 at 12:15 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

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Tomorrow (2/5/15), Pope Francis will be participating in a Google Hangout with a handful of children with special needs and disabilities in various countries (Spain, Brazil, India and the US).

This hangout is in partnership with Scholas Ocurrentes, an educational organization he established.

This will be the pontiff’s second Hangout — he held a first, also in partnership with Scholas, back in September, when he also spoke with students.

If you’re interested (I know I am!), you can catch the whole event live here tomorrow at 10:00 AM ET.

February 4th, 2015 at 6:52 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Kate Kelly describes what it was like to watch her mother die of hunger and thirst after her older sister and brother had her food and water withheld after she suffered a mild stroke:
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Even as the morphine, quickly injected by a disconcerted nurse, caused the old woman’s eyes to close and her face to relax, I doubted its efficacy. I thought back to the night before, when I, in tears at the old woman’s slow dying, had been confronted by a delegation of four of the nursing staff, each of them in turn trying to convince me that the old woman was not suffering in any way at all. The morphine, they said, takes away all pain.

But, I answered them, she can feel: she’s squeezing my hand, and if I try to take my hand out of hers, she squeezes tighter, and when I hold a little piece of gauze to her lips, she tries to suck the water out of it. She’s thirsty! This is a horror; this is cruelty!

Read more. And weep. And then pass it on to inform others of the cruel reality of death by starvation.

This should be a no-brainer. We arrest people who treat animals this way. But the sickening reality is that the starvation of people who’s lives are considered no longer worth living happens way more often than we hear about — with the permission and assistance of the law.

What’s worse, euthanasia advocates honestly suggest that this method of killing is not as brutal as it looks and sounds.

There is a difference between a dying person who can no longer contain nutrition or hydration and a severely brain damaged/disabled person who cannot feed himself. There is a difference between allowing nature to take its course and actively starving a person to death.

Not only does denying patients of these basic human needs ultimately amount to euthanasia, but it can really only add to their suffering and discomfort – not to mention be an even harder sight for loved ones to bear.

Also, consider this: Martin Pistorious “woke up” from a PVS diagnosis after 12 years. In a new book, Pistorious has revealed that his mind was aware for most of those years. This should give us all pause — especially considering he’s not the first or only person something like this has happened to.

Despite our advanced technology, there’s still so little we know about the human brain. What we do know, however, is that people never become vegetables. They retain their humanity regardless of their state and deserve respect and love and the basic necessities in life, including food and water.

January 31st, 2015 at 12:41 am | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

futute-bioethics.pngAs he does every year, the CBC’s resident psychic, Wesley Smith, takes a look into his crystal ball (or whatever) and tells us what he sees happening in the world of bioethics in the coming year:

I believed last year—and still do—that the Canadian Supreme Court will declare a constitutional right to assisted suicide. The case was argued last year but no decision has yet been issued.

…I told you last year to expect a New Mexico trial judge’s ruling legalizing “aid in dying”—aka, assisted suicide—to be reversed. I still believe the court will exercise such wisdom.

A British Columbia Court of Appeal will rule that people can require in an advance medical directive that nursing home caregivers to withhold spoon-feeding if they become seriously demented or otherwise cognitively compromised. This would permit people to force others help them commit suicide by self-starvation—known in euthanasia parlance as “Voluntary Stopping Eating & Drinking” (VSED)— when they are not competent to make medical decisions. I consider this the most dangerous lawsuit in bioethics as the real impact would be to legally force nurses and doctors to starve incompetent patients to death—even if they eat and drink willingly.

The first human experiments in the creation of three-parent embryos will begin. These embryos would be created by genetically combining two women’s eggs and fertilizing them with sperm. The supposed point is to prevent a mother from passing on mitochondrial disease. But as often happens in these matters, if successful, I believe the technique would be employed to create novel family arrangements.

Laws and regulations will increasingly require health insurance to cover sex change surgery and other interventions. San Francisco already covers such interventions for transsexuals. Look for regulators and courts to continue expanding the mandate, eventually (not next year) culminating in required coverage under the Affordable Care Act, under Medicare, in prisons, in the military, and by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Well, that last prediction partially assumes that the ACA—also known as Obamacare—will remain the law of the land. The U.S. Supreme Court will rule in a landmark case, that the wording of law does not permit subsidies for insurance purchased on federal exchanges. That will make Obamacare fiscally untenable, leading to a massive national debate and brouhaha in Congress over repeal and reform of the federal law. Substantial compromise on the issue will prove impossible in 2015, leaving the law badly damaged but still in effect. Indeed, the debate about how to “fix” Obamacare over this and other matters will remain become a central issue in 2016’s state and federal election politics.

There will be a massive drive to legalize assisted suicide throughout the country—aided and abetted by in-the-tank media harnessing the raw emotionalism generated by the Brittany Maynard case—to bludgeon legislatures into passing “death with dignity” laws. That effort will reach the verge of success, but in the end, will be stymied. No new laws allowing assisted suicide will go into effect in the USA, although it might require a governor’s veto to prevent a fourth state from formally legalizing suicide as a “medical treatment.” Efforts in the UK and Scotland to legalize assisted suicide will also fall short. These defeats will not resolve the controversy, but the results will have been so close that the euthanasia movement will move forward even more energetically in 2016. That will be the year when the truly consequential battles in this area will mostly take place (particularly in California). But that’s a prediction for next year.

He’s usually pretty accurate. Click here to see how well he did with last year’s predictions.

January 28th, 2015 at 5:56 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

What does 57 million abortions look like?

After 42 Years and 57 MILLION deaths, may the United States of America finally reject the atrocity of abortion and stand up for life and its founding principles.

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“Never tire of firmly speaking out in defense of life from its conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination. Christ is with you: be not afraid!” — St. John Paul, II

January 22nd, 2015 at 12:13 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink