Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Do Women Have Souls?

It is a well-known fact that up until at least the sixteenth century, Christian theologians were still debating whether or not women have souls.

At least, I have heard this assertion several times from different people, so it must be true.

Or is it?

A young scholar, Valentius Acidalius, was working as a teacher in Silesia, and, like many young scholars, he was short of money. He thought to turn an honest penny by publishing a “diverting” pamphlet. In Latin the word homo, like the word man in English, primarily means “a human being, male or female, young or old,” but has the secondary meaning of “adult male.” Valentius thought it would be fun to use this ambiguity to “show” that in the Bible only adult males have souls. If he thought the pamphlet would amuse, he was grievously wrong. Simon Geddicus, a Lutheran scholar, launched a mighty counter-pamphlet entitled A Defense of the Female Sex, in which he proposed... to “destroy each and every one of the arguments put forward by Valentius,” [who] took a seizure and died.

The pamphlet, however, often bound with the refutation by Simon Geddicus, survived, and it appears that it was published at Lyons in France in 1647... [T]he offending book caught the attention of Pope Innocent X, who put it on the Index of Prohibited Books (Decree of June 18, 1651). So much for the allegation that the Church holds that women do not have souls.

But that did not stop this terrible misunderstanding from spreading to anti-Catholic bigots who were only too willing to believe it. Read the rest here.

If you repeat a lie enough times...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Murder of Pro-lifer Exposes Pro-choice Bias

So, it happened. Just a few months after the US went berserk over the murder of abortionist George Tiller, an anti-abortionist protestor has been shot dead. And yes, it has been confirmed that the murder was due to the fact that the murderer did not like his protests.

Now, it does sound as if this murderer was a complete nut. He certainly doesn't seem to have had any connection with any Pro-choice organization. Pro-choicers are making a great deal out of this - while in their uproar over the Tiller shooting they conveniently downplayed the fact that his murderer was also a nut without any formal connection with Pro-life organizations, choosing instead to blame the Pro-life movement as a whole for the killing.

At that time, some people opined that the Department of Homeland Security had been right to issue warnings about the prospects of violence perpetrated by "right-wing extremists". The National Organization of Women labeled the act a case of "domestic terrorism". President Obama issued a condemnation, while the former president of Planned Parenthood called on him to "immediately outline an action plan to increase federal protection for providers and clinics".

It will be interesting to see how this current episode plays out in the media over the coming days. As of today, CBS has not reported the story. I wonder if the media will be publishing allegations about "left-wing domestic terrorism" and whether the President will make a statement.

But one thing is the news media. When Dr. Tiller was murdered, I looked through a considerable number of internet forums where pro-lifers were derided for not being strong enough in their condemnations and even for being hypocrites when they condemned the murder. Well, now if you click into the combox at the über-liberal Huffington Post, you will discover some nifty comments such as these:

"If some weirdo was waving signs depicting aborted fetuses outside my kid's school, on a regular basis, I'd be a bit peeved, too. In my case, I'd probably just give the twisted f*ck a well-deserved stomping, but many people lack my exceptional self-control."

"Being in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing sometimes brings about an abrupt end."

"To use a school for his vile tirades, I say he got what was coming to him. Now if only the protesters outside funerals and churches could only get a little of the same. No pity here!"

"One less birther pro life crazy."

"Sorry, some people are a waste of time and space and there are only so many strawberries to go 'round."

CMR has more from earlier in the day. Now, most of the comments at the Huff are civil and condemn the killing. So did most of the pro-lifers who commented on the Tiller murder. A great deal were, in view of Dr. Tiller's very publicized and unapologetic work to end the life of little babies in the womb, rather indifferent but stated as a matter of course that violence was never a solution to the problem of abortion. A few expressed real hatred of Tiller and even glee at his murder. This was very sad to see and was rightly picked up upon and condemned. However, the above comments show clearly that pro-choicers need to acknowledge that there are problematic people on their side of the aisle as well. They must acknowledge that hypocrisy and disgusting attitudes towards other people is certainly not the prerogative of Conservatives or religious people. Each side must acknowledge its failings so we move beyond name-calling and start tackling the real issue at hand, which is not whether the persons on this or that side are morally superior, but which value we should assign to the lives (for they are alive) and rights of the babies in the womb - or foetuses or whatever we want to call them. The morality or otherwise of abortion is not determined by the virtues and failings of those who are for and against it, but by its objective nature.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Just Following Orders

I don't even know how to begin reporting this revolting and outrageous story. So without further ado:

"Doctors left a premature baby to die because he was born two days too early, his devastated mother claimed yesterday. Sarah Capewell begged them to save her tiny son, who was born just 21 weeks and five days into her pregnancy - almost four months early. They ignored her pleas and allegedly told her they were following national guidelines that babies born before 22 weeks should not be given medical treatment."

"Just following..." Now where have we heard that one before?

But it gets better. Listen to this nasty bit of nitpicking:

"Medics allegedly told her that they would have tried to save the baby if he had been born two days later, at 22 weeks. In fact, the medical guidelines for Health Service hospitals state that babies should not be given intensive care if they are born at less than 23 weeks."

So - two (2) days later and the doctors would have agreed that he would have had a chance of survival - even though the 'guidelines' say this is not so until a week later? If they are willing to show a latitude of 7 days, why not 9? This is simply a disgusting show of bureaucratism. You can laugh at this kind of thing if it happens at a post office where the clerk complains that your stamp slants at 2 degrees too much, but here we're talking people's lives!

There is no doctor with respect for his job and profession who makes decisions on whether to intervene or not based on arbitrary limits composed by bureaucrats. Doctors may, and very often do, decide that treating a particular patient is not feasible - but they do it by drawing on their theoretical knowledge and clinical experience and applying it to that particular individual patient in front of them! Doctors are not machines, where you insert patient data into one end and out the other pops a prescription. And any doctor who acts like he is such a machine is not fit for his profession, which is not so much a job as it is an art, as the ancients acknowledged.

And now for a bit of background knowledge on this curious 'guideline':

"Guidance limiting care of the most premature babies provoked outrage when it was published three years ago. Experts on medical ethics advised doctors not to resuscitate babies born before 23 weeks in the womb, stating that it was not in the child's 'best interests'."

We'll return to that phrase presently. Now spot the non-sequitur here:

"More than 80,000 babies are born prematurely in Britain every year, and of those some 40,000 need to be treated in intensive care. The NHS spends an estimated £1 billion a year on their care."

So bloody what? I bet the NHS spends about the same amount on wages for top-level managers and 'commissions' like the one that crafted these rules.

"Medical experts say babies born before 23 weeks are simply too under-developed to survive, and that to use aggressive treatment methods would only prolong their suffering, or inflict pain."

Except that, like so much of what 'experts' say, that's not true:

"But weeks before they were published in 2006, a child was born in the U.S. which proved a baby could survive at earlier than 22 weeks if it was given medical treatment. Amillia Taylor was born in Florida on October 24, 2006, after just 21 weeks and six days in the womb. She celebrated her second birthday last year."

And now the clincher:

"Doctors believed she was a week older and so gave her intensive care, but later admitted she would not have received treatment if they had known her true age."

Time to revise the guidelines, you might think? Oh no. Remember, there's money involved.

"However, experts say cases like Amillia Taylor's are rare, and can raise false expectations about survival rates. Studies show that only 1 per cent of babies born before 23 weeks survive, and many suffer serious disabilities."

I actually happen to think that 1 percent is not too bad. Anyway, the job of doctors is first and foremost to save lives, and this we should always try to do if at all possible. Only when it is not possible, or when intervention is arguably riskier than non-intervention, do we settle for next best, i.e. alleviate suffering. In fact, the most unsettling thing about this story is perhaps that the doctors didn't even want to do that - they allegedly wouldn't even see the baby once it was born. Because they were afraid that they would be overcome by the impulse to treat it, perhaps? Anyways, to refuse to treat anyone out of hand on the basis of purely arbitrary criteria is beneath a doctor and an insult to the people he is supposed to serve - as human beings, not as so many appliances on an assembly line.

I was made aware of this story by Matt Archbold over at CMR, who, though a little off the top sometimes, is always good for some incisive comments. Like this, referring to the 'best interests' comment in the guidelines:

"Pardon me but I get a little tired of hearing the government decide what's in the 'best interests' of people."

And further:

"Pro-choice punks are all about allowing the mother to decide if the baby's allowed to live or die until the mother actually decides she wants the baby to live. Then and only then does the government jump in and say sorry, now we actually care about what's in the best interest of the baby. Then the mother doesn't get to choose. And guess what? The government decides it's in the best interests of the baby to die."

He even goes so far as saying this proves that Western civilization has turned into a "death cult". I won't go that far, but it certainly shows that when you're a poor little foetus, there is just no way you can win in this world.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Divine Beauty: Cope of Pius XI

... or possibly a mantum. They just don't seem to make them like that any more...

(Can't remember where I found this. Probably the NLM.)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The BMJ Doesn't "Get" Disabled People

I have more than a little trouble with the Deputy Editor of one of the world's three most respected medical journals suddenly coming out to express an intense contempt of disabled persons.

Mr. Tony Delamothe of the British Medical Journal recently voiced his opinion in the journal's 'Observations' section that

"The debate on assisted dying has been hijacked by disabled people who want to live. It needs to be reclaimed for terminally ill people who want to die."
I can't begin to enumerate the things that are wrong with this statement. But it gets better. After referencing the view of Baroness Campbell, herself a severely disabled member of the House of Lords who needs a ventilator to be able to breathe, that

"sanctioning assisted suicide would make doctors and those who help disabled people think that death is what is wanted by disabled people, 'the very people who need every encouragement to live and not to succumb to society’s prevalent view that our situation is so tragic, so burdensome, so insufferable that surely we must want to die,'"
he says, "I don't get it."

However, it is not that he does not understand the argument, but it is certainly true that he doesn't "get" it:

"I understand that changing the law might mean that some people could feel under some obligation to bring about their premature end to avoid being a burden to others—and that severely disabled people might feel this more than most. But should such a risk override the freedom of competent terminally ill people to bring about their own end at a time of their choosing?"
So, in other words (though not really), guaranteeing the freedom of the 'competent' - i.e. the strong - to choose for themselves whether they want to live or die is more important than securing the rights of those who might feel tempted - or pressured - to get themselves killed due to weakness, pressure from unloving relatives, lack of encouragement from caregivers etc.? Never mind if a few weaklings get thrown overboard, we have to make way for the übermensch, eh?

Plus, it costs an awful lot of money to have them pesky disabled people hanging around.

Think that's an unfair assessment of Mr. Delamothe's point of view? Then tell me why, to back up his stance, he invokes the infamous Baroness Warnock, according to public opinion Britain's "leading moral philosopher," who has publicly stated that people who suffer from dementia are "wasting [their] families' lives and... wasting the resources of the NHS," and that it is perfectly understandable that they should feel a 'duty to die'.

I understand Mr. Delamothe's and Baroness Warnock's argument for euthanasia - but I don't "get" it. And as a future doctor who joined this profession to care for the weakest, I sure as hell don't want to.

British Medical Journal? More like Brutish Mengele Journal to me.

H/T Fr. Tim