Every human life has value.

Meet nephew #2, aka Sweet Baby Case!

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“In Irish the meaning of the name Case is: Observant; alert; vigorous.” Sounds about right:
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day and welcome to the world you precious, perfect, wide-eyed little thing!

Sleepy little leprechaun.

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Our little lucky charm is so magically delicious — if I do say so, myself.

March 17th, 2015 at 1:18 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

biobytes.pngA survey recently conducted by the Canada’s Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) reveals that “Most palliative physicians want no role in assisted death.” BioEdge has more. Good! Now that assisted suicide has been forced upon them by the CA Supreme Court, we need doctors like this to stand up and take back medicine!

Designer Babies: Human cloning is a long way off, but bioengineered kids are already here. <-- a good article for background on the role of the FDA in the first creation of "three-parent" kids. • Lawmakers in Virginia have agreed to pay compensation to people who were forcibly sterilized between 1927 and the early 1970s. We have a very sordid eugenics past here in America and it’s important to know where we’ve been in in this regard.

The Great Terri Schiavo Divide — as the 10th anniversary of her starvation death approaches, Wesley Smith reflects on the powerful societal divisions that our reactions to Terri Schiavo reveal.

March 11th, 2015 at 4:59 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

My friend and BioTalk partner, Rebecca Taylor, recently wrote on the horrifying reality we currently find ourselves with regard to genetic engineering and human cloning and expressed her frustration at the…mild (to put it kindly) reaction from pro-lifers.

I feel her frustration.

To their credit, some of the mainstream pro-life news sites do report on these issues. But are pro-lifers paying attention? Do they realize the gravity of the situation we’re in? Do they care?

Taylor cites an example from her own writing published on LifeNews:

In August, I wrote a piece posted to LifeNews warning pro-lifers to be careful where they send their donations for the Ice Bucket Challenge. It pointed out how money given to the ALS Association may, I emphasize may, end up funding one study that used stem cells from an aborted fetus. Close to 50,000 shares.

I recently wrote a post for LifeNews on four things people can do to stop the certain creation of genetically-modified kids with the three-parent technique: 257 shares.

Another example I came across recently on another major pro-life news source was an article published two weeks ago “debunking” the same old “pro-abortion myths” that we’ve been talking about for 40 years that has been shared on Facebook almost 2 thousand times, meanwhile a month-old article on the UK’s historic vote to allow the creation of three parent children barely broke 500.

I see this disparity often. I follow so many dedicated pro-life people across a broad spectrum of social media sites and the pro-life information they share is almost exclusively about abortion. Rarely do I see anything about cloning come across my feeds, and when I do it’s often accompanied by outdated arguments about embryonic vs. adult stem cells, etc…

cloning2.jpgPerhaps it isn’t fair to judge public interest based solely on social media shares, and there are probably plenty of other reasons for the disparity — genetic engineering issues are newer, more scientific, harder to understand, etc… — but right now it does not seem like human cloning, three parent IVF and the like are major concerns even for dedicated pro-lifers. They’re just not being fought with the same intensity as abortion is.

Thankfully, Rebecca and I aren’t the only ones who have noticed this recently. Chalking it up to just a lack of knowledge when it comes to more complicated and obscure bioethics issues, Zachery Gappa, Managing Editor at the John Jay Institute Center for a Just Society, also noticed the fact that pro-lifers aren’t as proactive on those issues as they are on abortion and warned, accurately:

Pro-lifers will lose the next stage of this argument unless they become more informed. The graphic abortions we have known over the past few decades will soon be largely a thing of the past, but we may be killing more unborn children than ever before.

Pro-lifers would do well to heed that warning. It’s not easy keeping up with all the attacks on human life and dignity these days. And I understand that some of these biotech issues can seem intimidating to learn and talk about — it’s easy to just stick with what you know. But we cannot afford to let these things fall through the cracks.

I read a quote recently from a Dutch ethecist who said of euthanasia, “Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely to ever go back in again.” The same can definitely be said for human cloning/genetic engineering.

The good news is that this technology is still new enough that we can influence public opinion — if we act now. If not, then it could take generations more to reverse what has been done.

What can we do?

1. For starters: educate yourselves. And then continue educating yourselves. The science is ever changing and scientists (much like abortion advocates) are constantly changing the language to confuse things and make otherwise atrocities sound more appealing and less harmful.

Gappa has some good advice:

You don’t need to take a college course, just pay attention and seek out articles.

You could start with the following: news and analysis by NRO’s Wesley J. Smith, BioEdge for helpful news, The New Atlantis for broader technology and ethics discussions, and the Oxford Christian Bioethics journal. On top of that, if you really want to dig in, you could set up a site like Google News with keywords like “bioethics” and “stem cell research”, to pull in relevant news stories from a vast array of sources. But more than anything else, the key is not so much in finding the perfect source to read – the key is the willingness and drive to delve into bioethics.

When you hear something on the news, pull out your smartphone and spend 15 minutes trying to begin to get a handle on what is actually going on.

Other good resources: the National Catholic Bioethics Center, The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, and, of course, Mary Meets Dolly. Rebecca and I will also be working on new episodes of BioTalk starting next week. In the meantime, you can play catch-up here.

2. Spread. The. Word. To those you know, friends and family. Most people don’t have a clue about what’s going on in this area of human life science and the media is often too biased or too uninformed to be of any real help. So share news stories about it and then tell them what you think. Let them know that there is more to consider than just what is on the surface.

3. Make your voice heard elsewhere in the public square. Share stories on social media. Vote in online public opinion polls and sign petitions.

British MPs approved three-parent IVF after heavy pressure from scientists. Personally, I think it’s time we start putting pressure on our lawmakers to do something about this over here. And we shouldn’t be afraid to. Several countries have laws banning this kind of human experimentation.

Here in the U.S., however, there are currently no laws banning or restricting any kind of human cloning. And when it comes to three-parent IVF and germ-line genetic engineering, all we have here are regulations by the FDA — which has been reconsidering some of those restrictions in recent years.

4. Finally: pray. Rebecca has told a story about a friend of hers who, after reading her work, told her that before she only used to pray for an end to abortion and euthanasia. Now knows she has to pray for an end to embryonic stem cell research, cloning, IVF among others.

Right now we’re in the middle of 40 Days for Life. While you’re praying for an end to abortion and the conversion of abortion clinic workers, why not add an end to human cloning (it is happening) and the creation, manipulation and destruction of human life in the name of science and fertility, and the conversion of IVF doctors and cloning scientists to your intentions?

I don’t know if they still sell them, but personally I’ve also picked back up and started regularly using my copy of the Rosary Crusade Safeguarding Embryonic Human Life that the St. Louis diocese pro-life office issued to fight Amendment 2.

The Brave New World may soon be upon us, whether we like it or not, but let’s not watch it advance without putting up a fight!

See also: Your 2015 Bioethics Challenge

March 7th, 2015 at 11:32 am | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

biobytes.png• On February 3 the UK House of Commons voted to make Britain the first country in the world to offer controversial ‘three-parent’ fertility treatments. This week the House of Lords sealed the deal. On February 24, by a vote of 280 to 48 the House of Lords gave final approval for scientists in the UK to start creating three-parent children and genetically modifying future generations — not to mention opening the door wide open to full scale human cloning.

• Also in the UK this week, British scientists have been able to create human egg and sperm cells from skin cells from two adults of the same sex. Two women and one man, two men, two women — Clearly, as the CBC put it, scientists and advocates alike in Britain see no limits to the pursuit of parenthood.

Anyone else remember the Rosary Crusade Safeguarding Embryonic Human Life that the STL diocese started to fight Amendment 2 in 2006? I hope I’m not the only one that still has one of these…and uses it.
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February 27th, 2015 at 7:12 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

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