Every Home a Hadamar

Nazi propaganda urging the elimination of the unfit:

“60,000 Reichsmarks is what this person suffering from a hereditary defect costs the People’s community during his lifetime. Fellow citizen, that is your money too.”

If you believe it is right and proper for a woman to have prenatal testing to determine if she’s carrying a disabled child, and if the purpose of that testing is to decide whether or not to abort that child, then you are a eugenicist.

It means you believe that there is such a thing as “life unworthy of life” (“Lebensunwertes Leben,” as the Nazis called it) and that such life should be exterminated with extreme prejudice.

After a brief faddishness in the early part of century (including practices and laws in America that encouraged weeding out the “unfit”), eugenics lost mainstream credibility when the Nazi atrocities came to light. Eugenics writ large, the various Nazi projects to eliminate the sick, the disabled, and, ultimately, entire races such as Jews and Poles showed the inevitable endpoint for the ideology of eugenics. Although the idea continued to have some cache in certain intellectual circles, and in the halls of Planned Parenthood, most people lost their taste for Improving Mankind Through Mass Slaughter. Continue reading

Monday Morning Chicken

A friend advised me (quite reasonably) that two back-to-back posts on medical ethics was a bit heavy, so here’s a picture of one of my new chickens to lighten the mood. Internet, this is Ruby the Rhode Island Red. Ruby, meet the internet. She’s only a few days old in this picture. Be nice to her: no flaming or trolls, please.

Reconsidering Organ Donation

Signing that organ donor card always seemed like a simple decision, but with the slide in modern medical ethics, particularly where end-of-life and “brain death” issues are concerned, perhaps that’s no longer the case. I’ve seen enough reports over the years about people who were incorrectly declared brain dead only to come roaring back to life, to start moving to the skeptical side on the issue. Although there are neurological criteria for determining brain death, errors do occur. Sometimes the error is revealed before the patient gives up his organs, which naturally raises a simple question: how often are these errors never detected?

Dick Teresi’s WSJ story “What You Lose When You Sign That Organ Donor Card” makes some interesting points. Excerpt:

What if there is sound evidence that you are alive after being declared brain dead? In a 1999 article in the peer-reviewed journal Anesthesiology, Gail A. Van Norman, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Washington, reported a case in which a 30-year-old patient with severe head trauma began breathing spontaneously after being declared brain dead. The physicians said that, because there was no chance of recovery, he could still be considered dead. The harvest proceeded over the objections of the anesthesiologist, who saw the donor move, and then react to the scalpel with hypertension.

Organ transplantation—from procurement of organs to transplant to the first year of postoperative care—is a $20 billion per year business. Average recipients are charged $750,000 for a transplant, and at an average 3.3 organs, that is more than $2 million per body. Neither donors nor their families can be paid for organs.

It is possible that not being a donor on your license can give you more bargaining power. If you leave instructions with your next of kin, they can perhaps negotiate a better deal. Instead of just the usual icewater-in-the-ears, why not ask for a blood-flow study to make sure your cortex is truly out of commission?

The Catechism only has this to say on the subject:

2296 Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as a expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.

Continue reading