Tag: right to life

Bioethics Blogs

The ‘Weird’ First Fortnight of the Foetus: Implications for the Abortion Debate

Guest Post: William Simkulet
Paper: The Cursed Lamp: The Problem of Spontaneous Abortion

For many people, the moral status of abortion stands or falls whether or not a human fetus is morally comparable to you or I; whether its death is a significant loss.  Many people believe human fetuses have a right to life from conception, and thus conclude that there is good reason to think induced abortion is seriously morally wrong.  Judith Jarvis Thomson challenges this belief, constructing a scenario where she believes it is morally acceptable to end the life of a person because although he has a right to life, his right to life does not give him a right to use your body.  Her example should be familiar:

Violinist:  You wake up in the hospital, surgically attached to a violinist.  Your doctor explains that last night the Society of Music Lovers kidnapped the two of you and performed the surgery.  The violinist has a serious condition that will result in his death soon unless he remains attached to your kidneys for the next 9 months (you alone are biologically compatible).

The violinist has a right to life, and surely you are free to let him remain attached to your body to save his life.  It would be a great kindness for you to do so, but Thomson says that the violinist’s right to life does not give him the right to use your body.  Anti-abortion theories that focus on the moral status of the fetus neglect to show why the fetus’s moral status – its argued for right to life – would give it a right to use the woman’s body.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

End-of-Life Healthcare Sessions at ASBH 2017

The 2017 ASBH
conference
 in October 2017 includes over 400 workshops, panels, and
papers in bioethics and the health humanities.  Here are ones that pertain
to end-of-life issues.


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19


THU 1:30 pm:  End-of-Life Care and Decision-Making in the ICU – Limited
English Proficiency as a Predictor of Disparities (Amelia Barwise)


Importance: Navigating choices in predominantly English-speaking care settings
can present practical and ethical challenges for patients with limited English
proficiency (LEP). Decision-making in the ICU is especially difficult and may
be associated with disparities in health care utilization and outcomes in critical
care. 


Objective: To determine if code status, advance directives, decisions to limit
life support, and end-of-life decision-making were different for ICU patients
with LEP compared to English-proficient patients. 


Methods: Retrospective cohort study of adult ICU patients from
5/31/2011-6/1/2014. 779 (2.8%) of our cohort of 27,523 had LEP. 


Results: When adjusted for severity of illness, age, sex, education, and
insurance status, patients with LEP were less likely to change their code
status from full code to do not resuscitate (DNR) during ICU admission (OR,
0.62; 95% CI, 0.46-0.82; p


Conclusion: Patients with LEP had significant differences and disparities in
end-of-life decision-making. Interventions to facilitate informed
decision-making for those with LEP is a crucial component of care for this
group.


THU 1:30 pm:  “But She’ll Die if You Don’t!”: Understanding and
Communicating Risks at the End of Life (Janet Malek)


Clinicians sometimes decline to offer interventions even if their refusal will
result in an earlier death for their patients. For example, a nephrologist may
decide against initiating hemodialysis despite a patient’s rising creatinine
levels if death is expected within weeks even with dialysis.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

CHARLIE GARD: 37 European deputies stand against the European Court of Human Rights decision

In an open letter, 37 Eurodeputies support Charlie Gard and his parents and demand the respect of the right to live (see original letter signed at Strasbourg and titled, Charlie Gard must be given right to life, human dignity)

After the decision of the British Courts and of the European Court of Human Rights, the support provided by parenteral respiratory, nutrition and hydration assistance to Charlie Gard, the 10-months-old baby suffering from mitochondrial encephalopathy, can be suspended. This will lead to the certain death of the child. 37 European deputies[1]  have signed an open letter to express their “concern about the scandalous outcome of Charlie’s case, which violates the most fundamental European values, in particular, the right to live, the right to human dignity and to personal integrity”. In this case, they denounce “the approval of the successive courts to interrupt his supportive care, including nutrition and hydration”, ending with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), last recourse for Charlie Gard’s parents.

The European signatory deputies condemn a shameful behaviour which violates “the values of our civilised society” when a country “does not act in the best interest of its people”. They have committed themselves to oppose such practices with a firm “no”. (Genethiques informs you)

Eurodeputies stand against European Court of Human Rights names,

[1] The signatory deputies: Miroslav Mikolášik MEP, Luigi Morgano MEP, Laurentiu Rebega MEP, Laima Andrikiene MEP, Elisabetta Gardini MEP, Ivan Štefanec MEP, Lara Comi MEP, Marijana Petir MEP, Lorenzo Fontana MEP, Nicola Caputo MEP, Tunne Kelam MEP, Marek Jurek MEP, Beatrix von Storch MEP, Franc Bogovič MEP, Patricija Šulin MEP, Pavel Svoboda MEP, György Hölvenyi MEP, Michal Boni MEP, Jan Olbrycht MEP, Zbigniew Kuzmiuk MEP, Jadwiga Wiśniewska MEP, Thomas Mann MEP, Annie Schreijer-Pierik MEP, Daniela Aiuto MEP, Alojz Peterle MEP, Branislav Škripek MEP, Enrico Gasbarra MEP, Anna Záborská MEP, Arne Gericke MEP, Steven Woolfe MEP, Mylene Troszczynski MEP, Lars Adaktusson MEP, Remo Sernagiotto MEP, József Nagy MEP, Pál Csáky MEP Marek Plura MEP, Robert Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz MEP.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

CHARLIE GARD: 37 European deputies stand against the European Court of Human Rights decision

In an open letter, 37 Eurodeputies support Charlie Gard and his parents and demand the respect of the right to live (see original letter signed at Strasbourg and titled, Charlie Gard must be given right to life, human dignity)

After the decision of the British Courts and of the European Court of Human Rights, the support provided by parenteral respiratory, nutrition and hydration assistance to Charlie Gard, the 10-months-old baby suffering from mitochondrial encephalopathy, can be suspended. This will lead to the certain death of the child. 37 European deputies[1]  have signed an open letter to express their “concern about the scandalous outcome of Charlie’s case, which violates the most fundamental European values, in particular, the right to live, the right to human dignity and to personal integrity”. In this case, they denounce “the approval of the successive courts to interrupt his supportive care, including nutrition and hydration”, ending with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), last recourse for Charlie Gard’s parents.

The European signatory deputies condemn a shameful behaviour which violates “the values of our civilised society” when a country “does not act in the best interest of its people”. They have committed themselves to oppose such practices with a firm “no”. (Genethiques informs you)

Eurodeputies stand against European Court of Human Rights names,

[1] The signatory deputies: Miroslav Mikolášik MEP, Luigi Morgano MEP, Laurentiu Rebega MEP, Laima Andrikiene MEP, Elisabetta Gardini MEP, Ivan Štefanec MEP, Lara Comi MEP, Marijana Petir MEP, Lorenzo Fontana MEP, Nicola Caputo MEP, Tunne Kelam MEP, Marek Jurek MEP, Beatrix von Storch MEP, Franc Bogovič MEP, Patricija Šulin MEP, Pavel Svoboda MEP, György Hölvenyi MEP, Michal Boni MEP, Jan Olbrycht MEP, Zbigniew Kuzmiuk MEP, Jadwiga Wiśniewska MEP, Thomas Mann MEP, Annie Schreijer-Pierik MEP, Daniela Aiuto MEP, Alojz Peterle MEP, Branislav Škripek MEP, Enrico Gasbarra MEP, Anna Záborská MEP, Arne Gericke MEP, Steven Woolfe MEP, Mylene Troszczynski MEP, Lars Adaktusson MEP, Remo Sernagiotto MEP, József Nagy MEP, Pál Csáky MEP Marek Plura MEP, Robert Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz MEP.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Charlie Gard, the sick baby hospital doctors want to disconnect. Our medical and ethical assessement

He and his parents await the Judge’s decision regarding the possibility of withdrawing or not the life support who keep him alive and the possibility of receiving an experimental treatment in the United States

Medical aspects

Charlie was born on 4 August 2016. In October the same year, he was admitted to Great Osmond Street Hospital (GOSH-NHS) in London, and diagnosed with a disease that affects mitochondrial function, called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS). This means that he cannot obtain sufficient energy for his muscles, kidneys, brain and other organs, which causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.

Although there seemed to be no specific treatment for the mitochondrial abnormality at that time, in January 2017, his mother became aware of an experimental treatment using nucleosides that was being evaluated in the United States in patients with a disease similar to Charlie’s. Consequently, his parents assessed the possibility of taking him to the US for treatment because, according to them, it might improve their son’s health by at least 10%.

At the same time, British newspaper “The Guardian” announced that the US Hospital that had the medication offered to ship it so that Charlie could be treated immediately, but GOSH (NHS hospital) disagreed, proposing instead to withdraw the child’s respiratory support.

In effect, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Irving Medical Center, also in New York, published a statement saying that they were willing to admit and clinically evaluate Charlie, as they had FDA approval for the use of an experimental treatment using nucleosides.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Burke and Wills: Why We Might All Fear the Judgment in Charlie Gard

The Case of Donald Wills

Donald Wills is a self-made man. He is billionaire British banker who has taken an interest in technology. He believes the Singularity is near and wishes to live as long as possible. He completes an advance directive to use his money to keep him alive at all costs, should he become ill and unable to express his wishes. He tells his wife about these desires.

Donald develops a rare condition where the mitochondria in all his cells stop working. The mitochondria are power packs for every cell. Donald’s muscles stop working and he is admitted to a famous London hospital and has to be put on a breathing machine. His brain is affected- he suffers fits which need to be controlled by medication. There is no known cure and he is going downhill.

Doctors call in his wife and explain his dismal prognosis. “It is,” they say, “in his best interests to stop this burdensome treatment in intensive care. He will never regain normal brain function but he is conscious at times and feels pain. He should be allowed to die with dignity.” After all, Donald is 75.

Donald’s wife, Melanie, is shattered. But she goes on the internet to see if anything can be done. She knows this is what Donald would want. She finds a world expert at a world class centre in Boston who has trialled a new treatment, X, on ten patients and has obtained significant results in one of them. She calls the expert and he tells her there is some chance of some improvement in her husband but it is low.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Press Statement: Gard Legal Decision Questionable on Secular Ethical Grounds

Julian Savulescu

Charlie Gard should have been allowed to go to US for experimental treatment back in April (or better January when it was first considered) because there was some possibility of him having a life worth living after treatment. That possibility may have been slim, but it does not appear (to me) to have been zero. The rational strategy was to give a trial of treatment, say 3 months, and agree with family to withdraw ventilation if there was no improvement. If this had been done, we would now have some information on whether there is any prospect of improvement..

The critical quote in the judgment of Justice Francis in the High Court back in April is from the independent US expert in nucleoside replacement therapy, Dr I:

“He said that he thought that the treatment, if administered, was unlikely to be of any benefit to Charlie’s brain. He described the probability as low, but not zero.”

Dr I said that if Charlie were his patient, he would push for a trial of treatment.

Is 3 months of suffering associated with intensive care worth taking for, say, a 1/10 000 of improvement? This is a value judgement about which there is reasonable disagreement. Sadly, Charlie has experienced the pains and discomforts of intensive care for more than six months, now without any treatment with any prospect of improving his condition.

The state should not have to pay for expensive experimental treatment with low prospect of success but Charlie’s parents have raised the funds. Charlie should have been allowed to go straight away (and saved hundreds of thousands of pounds of scarce British taxpayer funds which have been used to provide months of intensive care) provided a reasonable physician would treat him in the US.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

National Right to Life Tackles End of Life Medicine

Several sessions at next week’s National Right to Life Conference address end-of-life medicine, including the general session: How to Prevent an Assisted Suicide Roe v. Wade.


Assisted Suicide Battles Rage in Nearly Every State: Is Your State Next?
Mary Hahn Beerworth, Scott Fischbach
The threat of doctor-prescribed suicide is advancing in the states. Moreover, the next Supreme Court nomination could lead to legalization of euthanasia nationwide. Assisting suicide is now legal in California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and, via the courts in Montana. With battles raging in states
across the country, the ongoing battle in Vermont will be discussed as will other battles nationwide. This workshop will give background and break open the myths surrounding doctor-prescribed suicide. The speakers will cover the current legal and legislative landscape, describe some different kinds of successful winning (and losing strategies), and talk about what you can do in your own state. In the wake of massive state legislative push and upcoming Supreme Court nominations, it is more important than ever that doctor-prescribed suicide be stopped in its tracks.


The Battle Against Simon’s Law: How Dirty Tricks Lost To Smart Negotiations
Kathy Ostrowski
When hospitals choose to fight against parental decision-making rights – the battle for life can take two paths, and only one leads to life. This workshop will provide a firsthand account of those who fought for Simon’s Law in Kansas. Simon’s Law is a very significant pro-life measure that combats selectively “rationed” care and medical discrimination against children with life-limiting diagnoses.  Kathy Ostrowski will share how the triumph of artful dialogue beat back bullying tactics and whisper campaigns.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Texas Special Legislative Session to Narrow DNR Orders

Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced a legislative special session that will begin on July 18th, 2017.


Among the items included on the special session call is “strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders.” This is presumably a reference to H.B. 2063 supported by Texas Right to Life.  

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

All we like SHEEFs, Part 2

Carrying on with last week’s musings…

In thinking further, I think my attempt was confused by conflating the moral status of a SHEEF—a synthetic human entity with embryo-like features, something more than a clump of cells of human origin, but less than a human being—with reasons why I might want to hold that nobody should ever make certain sorts of SHEEFs.

Again, SHEEFs are human, not non-human.  But they may not command a “right to life” in every instance.

I would return to a statement I made last week, that any totipotent human entity, that is, any human entity capable of developing into a full human being under the right circumstances, should be accorded a full human right to life from the moment he or she comes into existence.  We other humans ought to give him or her a chance to live, care for him or her as one of us, grant him or her any research protections extended to human research subjects in general, and so on.  So-called human “embryos in a dish” would be in this group.

The same cannot be said for individual human cells, including human gametes formed from cells like induced pluripotent stem cells.  There may be arguments why those ought not to be produced, but that is for another time.

I would not say that a laboratory-created or sustained human heart, for example, ought to be protected from instrumental uses, including destruction for the research enterprise.  I think I would want to argue that we humans ought not make such a thing as part of a human-non-human animal hybrid, but again, that’s a different argument.  

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.