FOXES AND CHICKEN COOPS: Bioethicists Push Limits on Organ Donation

“Killing a human being is like pulling weeds in a garden.”

So claims an article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics, published on-line on January 19, 2012.  The article titled “What Makes Killing Wrong?” is co-authored by Duke University professor of practical ethics Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and NIH senior bioethicist Franklin G. Miller.   They contend that “…what makes the act of killing morally wrong is not that the act causes loss of life or consciousness but rather that the act causes loss of all remaining abilities.”

According to their reasoning, the “dead donor rule”—that pesky regulation which stipulates that a person must be declared dead before doctors can remove his organs for transplantation—should apply to patients whose hearts have stopped and who are being removed from a respirator.

The problem, though, is that it is not uncommon for a person’s heart to restart after a cardiac arrest.  Both researchers admit that the patient could, even after full cardiac arrest, make a complete recovery.

Sinnott-Armstrong and Miller imply that it is not morally wrong to kill patients who are “universally and irreversibly” disabled, because they have no abilities to lose.  Apparently, one should take advantage of a medical emergency to quickly kill a mentally impaired individual, in order to harvest his organs.

Silly me: I had thought that it was the role of bioethicists to serve the common good—applying
the brakes when researchers overstep the bounds of moral decency in the interest of scientific advancement.

Oh, I remember Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the kooky suicide advocate who invented the “suicide machine” and who died in 2011.

And I know about controversial ethicist Peter Singer, who believes that parents should have the right to “terminate” their own child before he or she reaches the age of two.  Singer also asserts that “personhood” is dependent upon cognizance—so an infant or a person with dementia is not a “person,” while a dog or a porpoise may, indeed, qualify as a “person” with the capacity to think and to make mental judgments.

When it comes to killing, I do believe that beings have different interests in continuing to live,” Singer said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. “I think killing a being that wants to continue to live and has designs for the future is very different from killing those that do not.”

I believed, wrongly, that Singer was a lone wolf—one crazed bioethicist, standing alone against a field of caring professionals.  But No:  Sinnott-Armstrong and Miller join the list of dangerous men who purport to speak ethically to the world; and now, I’m afraid there must be others.

God help us.

  • Maureen

    What I find astonishing is that, in a world full of slightly crazed college students, crazy people who wander onto campus, and mean guys with a grudge, you don’t find any of their disciples practicing on their masters what their masters preach. I mean, do these guys never give bad grades or have disgruntled employees? Nobody who will benefit from their deaths? Nobody tempted to pose their deaths as suicides, since they loudly proclaim themselves to be okay with that?

    One can only conclude that the devil protects these nasty people, because they constantly advocate murder, but are so innocent about the danger of being murdered that they’ve put themselves in.

  • Robin E

    What’s really scary is that I know plenty of ordinary people out here in middle America who unabashedly express exactly the same views. And these are people who have no idea who Peter Singer is.

    Catholics (and all Christians) need to wake up. These ideas aren’t new or fringe. Constant societal vigilance is needed to keep the culture of death from creeping in and taking hold. For us right now in the US, it is spreading like wildfire.

  • LisaB

    This is not new. Waaaayyyy back when I was in high school my history teacher actually taught about the Progressive’s eugenics movement of the early 1900′s. When trying to find information on AGW I came across a great essay by Michael Crichton on that very subject.

    Since the 1920s, American eugenicists had been jealous because the Germans had taken leadership of the movement away from them. The Germans were admirably progressive. They set up ordinary-looking houses where “mental defectives” were brought and interviewed one at a time, before being led into a back room, which was, in fact, a gas chamber. There, they were gassed with carbon monoxide, and their bodies disposed of in a crematorium located on the property.


    After World War II, nobody was a eugenicist, and nobody had ever been a eugenicist. Biographers of the celebrated and the powerful did not dwell on the attractions of this philosophy to their subjects, and sometimes did not mention it at all. Eugenics ceased to be a subject for college classrooms, although some argue that its ideas continue to have currency in disguised form.

    The essay can be found here:

  • doc

    Thomas Sowell recently wrote a series of essays where he mentioned the early 20th century period when intellectuals fully accepted genetic flaws as an explanation for racial and ethnic differences in IQ and cultural and monetary success and embraced eugenics as the solution for this problem. Intellectuals at that time didn’t accept many challenges to their conventional “wisdom”, same as now.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    doc, LisaB, I think genetics is making a comeback—calling itself, “Bioethics” now.

    God help us all.

  • http://@dau1776 dau1776

    I posit it’s worse than foxes (who have some self-interest in not killing ALL the chickens), it’s bean-counters — who only increase their own power and wealth by eliminating “parasites” (i.e. the disabled…otherwise known as “useless eaters”). The population has been relentlessly and carefully conditioned by the decades of slippery slope since Roe v Wade. The same demographic that will decide (and is) who to keep maintaining on limited public funds is the demographic that has been taught to eliminate any inconvenient babies, ill, elderly who take you away from the fun and ease you deserve.

  • SKay

    It will be done through Obamacare.

  • tioedong

    I hate to tell you but this proposal has been around since the 1970′s, when certain ethicists decided personhood didn’t belong to the severely retarded, demented, or those under the age of two…

    . And the use of live anencephalic babies for organ donation was actually approved by the AMA’s bioethics committee. PDF HERE, another article: link and list on the NIH library

    the public outcry stopped it from going further, but they will keep trying.
    as one mother of an autistic daughter was quoted as saying in a magazine for those who care for the disabled: Too often doctors look at my beloved daughter and only see a potential organ donor.