The Humanitas Project


Living in the Biotech Century

News, Resources, and Commentary

March 3, 2005



Stitching up the 500-million-dollar arm…


A Cut Above


Why wait for an injury? The next-gen performance enhancer is elective surgery.



Photo: Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat; Illustration: Christine Armstrong

“Let’s say you’re a big-league pitcher, blessed with a good but not great arm. You’ve played several seasons in the majors, yet you’ve never managed to hold down a steady place in a starting rotation, mainly because you can’t get quite enough velocity on the ball. You work with different pitching coaches and sports psychologists. You try new exercise and diet regimens. Ultimately, you decide that your innate talents aren’t going to take you to the all-star level you’ve always dreamed of. You need a little help.


“So you find a surgeon willing to drill a series of small holes in the humerus and ulna bones at your elbow, slice open your wrist and remove a tendon from it, and then weave the tendon in a figure eight loop through the holes. After a year or so of rehab, you’re throwing a 97-mph fastball for the first time in your life, and your career is transformed.


“This is not a hypothetical situation. This particular elbow surgery has been a standard procedure in sports since the mid-‘70s, when it was performed on Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John. (He opted for the then-experimental operation after suffering a potentially career-ending torn ligament in his left elbow.) One in nine major-league pitchers active in 2001 and 2002 carried the scars of Tommy John surgery, as it is now called, including Chicago Cubs ace Kerry Wood, who reached his top velocity as a pitcher after recovering from the procedure.


“To date, pitchers have opted for the surgery only after suffering ligament damage, but elective-enhancement surgery in baseball is inevitable—and it will show up in lots of other professional sports, too. It’s a matter of three fundamental trends colliding. First, the rewards for playing at an all-star level are steadily approaching the half-billion-dollar mark. Second, steroids are becoming an increasingly untenable option; the drugs have a chemical profile that can be readily detected by simple tests. True, athletes have ways to mask steroid use, but the tests are evolving as fast as the masks are. (In January, baseball finally approved a serious random-testing program.) Finally, new surgical procedures will be so effective and feature such rapid recovery time that Tommy John surgery will look like blood­letting by comparison….”


Wired Magazine (Issue 13.03) - March 2005



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Reflections on the price of “stripping out the procreative mystery of sex”…


Novel Bioethics


Claire Barshied on How a Book Taught Her to Reimagine Sex



“It is a good bet that many Americans view bioethics as the exclusive province of academic specialists with prestigious degrees in philosophy, law, cell biology, embryology, and similar fields. Their esoteric debates over stem-cell harvesting methods and clinical trial review procedures seem removed from the real-world experiences of most people. Until recently, they certainly seemed that way to me. What few bioethical opinions I had—opposing cloning and abortion, for instance—were unconnected to choices I expected to face.


“Then I read Being Human, a 600-page anthology of literature released by the President’s Council on Bioethics. What guidance could stories and poems offer on cloning and stem-cell research? In the book’s introduction, the council’s chairman, Leon Kass, explained that bioethics as currently conceived by professional bioethicists is much too narrow. It emphasizes what is technologically feasible, securing patient consent, ensuring access to care regardless of income, and so on, but ignores ‘the full range of human goods that we should be trying to promote or protect.’


“Guarding that fuller range of goods requires a better grasp of what it means to be human and what good things humans prize. Our best sources on these questions are not scientists, but the writers and thinkers of the aptly named humanities….


Being Human’s editors hope that reading great literature can make bioethical arguments accessible. Stories embody the consequences of our choices, the tension between our aspirations and imperfections, what it means to love unconditionally, how we face sickness, loss, and death. And subjects such as these—‘matters close to the core of our humanity,’ as Kass puts it—can be profoundly changed by new technologies….”


Touchstone:  A Journal of Mere Christianity January/February 2005 (Volume 18, Issue 1)


The case that could determine the future of physician-assisted suicide…


Oregon’s Assisted-suicide Law to get High Court Airing


Supreme Court agrees to review Bush administration’s bid to block the nation’s only doctor-assisted suicide law.



“The United States Supreme Court has agreed to take up physician-assisted suicide, potentially one of the most profound political and social issues today. The case involves Oregon’s law allowing certain individuals to take their own lives with the help of a doctor. The outcome could determine whether such laws are enacted in other parts of the country.


“The issue is a complicated one, as a series of legislative debates, ballot measures, and court cases around the country in recent years have shown. It involves medical ethics, federal drug law, questions of privacy, and the balance of legal and political power between states and the federal government.


“Oregon’s ‘Death with Dignity Act’ became law in 1997 after voters twice had approved it at the polls by wide margins. It applies only to mentally competent adults who declare their intentions in writing, are diagnosed as terminally ill, and take the prescribed drug themselves orally after a waiting period. Oregon’s law specifically prohibits ‘lethal injection, mercy killing, or active euthanasia.’


“Critics had predicted that vulnerable patients could be pressured by doctors or family members to end their lives, and also that out-of-staters might rush to Oregon to take advantage of its unique law. Apparently, neither has happened. On average, fewer than 25 people a year chose to end their lives under the law….”


The Christian Science Monitor – February 23, 2005


For a thorough and critical analysis of assisted suicide under the Oregon law, please consult “The Oregon Experience” by Rita L. Marker, an attorney and executive director of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.


Updating the battle over how to treat a helpless human being…


Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Schiavo Appeal


Other appeals pending in case of brain-damaged woman



“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the husband of a brain-damaged woman on Monday by refusing to intervene in a Florida appeal to keep her alive with a feeding tube.


“The refusal to intervene, without comment, gives brain-damaged Theresa ‘Terri’ Schiavo’s husband, Michael, the right to remove the tube, although other legal appeals are pending.


“Terri Schiavo’s parents want a feeding tube to remain hooked to their daughter. In a persistent vegetative state, Terri Schiavo, 41, is able to breathe on her own, but is unable to swallow and depends on a feeding tube to remain alive.


“After 10 years, her husband says she is not improving and would not have wanted to be kept alive in such a condition.


“The appeal asked the court to rule on the constitutionality of the so-called ‘Terri’s Law,’ passed by Florida lawmakers in October 2003. That law gave Gov. Jeb Bush the power to restore a feeding tube that has kept Terri Schiavo alive since 1990.


“When Bush ordered the tube reinserted, Florida’s highest court ruled the law unconstitutional, saying it wrongly vested such power in the executive branch. The court said such decisions should be decided in the judiciary.


“The case has sparked nationwide debate over who has control over the care and, ultimately, life and death decisions involving patients who cannot make such decisions for themselves….” – January 24, 2005


For additional information and an update on Terri Schaivo, please visit the website of the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation.


Developing the market for robotic companions…


Replacing Humans


As Japan Goes Grey, Toymakers Design Dolls for the Elderly



“As Japan produces fewer children and more retirees, toymakers are designing new dolls designed not for the young but for the lonely elderly—companions which can sleep next to them and offer caring words they may never hear otherwise.


“Talking toys have become such a hit that some elderly people have embraced them as substitutes for the children who have grown old and deserted entire neighborhoods in the rapidly greying country.


“The Yumel doll, which looks like a baby boy and has a vocabulary of 1,200 phrases, is billed as a ‘healing partner’ for the elderly and goes on the market Thursday at a price of 8,500 yen (80 dollars).


“About 8,000 Yumel dolls, designed by toymaker Tomy with pillows and bedding maker Lofty, have already been sold in less than three months in limited marketing in sleeping sections of department stores.


“‘Toymakers are targeting senior citizens as the number of children is falling. We are also striving to attract them,’ said Osamu Kiriseko, who headed the Yumel project….


“‘The market for this doll overlaps with a market of dogs, cats and other pets,’ he said. ‘But some older people worry about the possibility of dying and leaving their loved pets behind.’


“Some 500 customers have sent in comments since October, many of them hailing the changes to their lives since Yumel entered the picture, with a 95-year-old woman the oldest respondent.


“‘Thank you for giving me a heart-warming baby. I’m no longer alone,’ an 82-year-old woman wrote while another senior woman said she was raising the doll ‘as my own child….’”


Yahoo! News/Agence France Presse– February 23, 2005


Assessing the price for passing up nature’s provision…


Doctors Urge Breast-feeding for Six Months


Pediatricians push human milk exclusively



“Despite proven health benefits, breast-feeding has not taken hold at desired levels in the United States, especially as the sole source of nutrition during the first six months of life, doctors said Monday.


“The American Academy of Pediatrics issued an updated statement on the practice—which it has long backed—in an effort to get more women to breast-feed longer for the benefit of infant and mother.


“One estimate says that just one in seven women breast-feeds exclusively at six months, though the overall rate is about one third of new mothers when those who supplement it with other foods are added in.


“‘The most important thing about it is that it continues to recommend exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of life, and then continuing it for the next six months while weaning foods are being added,’ said Ruth Lawrence, a physician at the University of Rochester Medical School who helped draft the statement.


“She said all of the health benefit references have been updated to make an even stronger case for breast-feeding….


“The policy statement, published in the February issue of the academy’s journal, Pediatrics, said updated studies show breast-feeding can lower the risk and severity of ear infections, diarrhea and bacterial meningitis in babies. It also may help protect against crib death, diabetes, obesity and asthma.


“For the mother it can help reduce the risk of ovarian and breast cancer and possibly lead to a decreased chance of hip fractures and osteoporosis after menopause, it said….” – February 7, 2005


Rethinking the new definition of “health”…


Vatican Decries ‘Religion of Health’



“Vatican officials on Thursday held out Pope John Paul II’s stoic suffering with Parkinson’s disease as an antidote to the mentality that modern medicine must cure all, calling this a ‘religion of health’ that is taking hold in affluent countries.


“‘While millions of people in the world struggle to survive hunger and disease, lacking even minimal health care, in rich countries the concept of health as well-being figures in creating unrealistic expectations about the possibility of medicine to respond to all needs and desires,’ said the Rev. Maurizio Faggioni, a theologian and morality expert on the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life.


“‘The medicine of desires, egged on by the health care market, increases the request for pharmaceutical and medical-surgical services, soaks up public resources beyond all reasonableness,’ Faggioni said….


“‘Precisely in the handicap, in the disease, in the pain, in old age, in dying and death one can, instead, perceive the truth of life in a clearer way,’ Lutz said.


“‘The pope’s message is “suffering is part of life and has meaning,”’ the doctor said.


“Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, the Vatican’s chief bioethicist, said people need to ponder the question: ‘Does a right to health at all costs exist? Or is it rather a right to treatment?’


“‘Medicine has become impossible to manage because it can’t fulfill the desires’ of consumers for perfect health, said Sgreccia, who heads the academy, a Vatican advisory body.


“Vatican officials stressed that all people should have access to basic health care….”


Yahoo! News/Associated Press – February 17, 2005


Could we get a ban on cloning animals before a ban on cloning humans?


Pet Clones Spur Call For Limits


Company Defends Procedure as Ethical

by Rick Weiss



“Clone a cat, go to jail—or at least pay a fine.


“That is the goal of animal welfare activists who announced yesterday that they are seeking state and federal restrictions on the small but growing pet-cloning industry.


“Spearheaded by the American Anti-Vivisection Society in suburban Philadelphia, the effort takes aim at companies such as Genetic Savings and Clone Inc., the California enterprise that last year began to fill orders for cloned cats. The clones—which have sold for $50,000 each—are genetic duplicates of customers’ deceased pets and represent the leading edge of an emerging commercial sector that advocates predict could eventually reap billions of dollars for corporate cloners.


“Several companies are racing to compete with Genetic Savings and Clone, the industry leader, which has produced about a half-dozen cloned cats and aims to achieve the more difficult goal of cloning a dog this year. Some companies are already selling fish genetically engineered to glow in the dark, while one has said it will soon produce cats engineered to not cause reactions in people allergic to felines….”


Washington Post – February 17, 2005


Making preparations for the “fetal farming” of cloned humans…


Stealth Cloning

by Wesley J. Smith


Washington state tries legalizing cloning on the sly



“Let’s call it ‘stealth human-cloning legalization.’ It’s easy to do: First, write a proposed law that you claim outlaws human cloning. But then, engage in a little slight of hand here, some redefining of a few crucial terms there, and viola! — your supposed cloning ban actually authorizes human cloning, implantation, and gestation through the ninth month.


“That is what New Jersey legislators did when they passed and then Governor James McGreevey signed S-1909 last year, a law that was sold to the public as outlawing human cloning but which actually permits the creation of cloned human life, and its implantation and gestation up to and including the very moment prior to the emergence of the cloned baby from the birth canal.


“Other state legislators have tried the same shell game without success, specifically in Texas, Delaware, Maryland, and Illinois. And now Washington joins the infamous list with Senate Bill 5594, a thoroughly disingenuous piece of legislation that purports to outlaw the cloning of human beings, but by manipulating language and redefining terms, actually permits human cloning and gestation of the resulting cloned embryos through the ninth month….”


Posted at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (Originally published by National Review Online – February 15, 2005)


Worth considering…


From “Hippocrates and Medicine in the Third Millennium”

by John Patrick, M.D.



Dr. John Patrick

My objection to the bio-psycho-social model [of medicine] is that it is profoundly and profanely wrong because it denies that we are all spiritual beings. It has no place in its understanding for the most profoundly moving and significant events which we, as physicians, are ever privileged to witness. I recently heard a beautiful account of an agnostic Jew’s description of one such event. She is a physician who carries a pager at all times, in order to give palliative care to her patients in their time of need. Early one morning she was called to a patient, who wished to die at home but […] had begun to suffer pain and was convulsing. When she had done all she could, the patient was no better. The unwanted death in hospital seemed inevitable[,] but before the family agreed[,] they called the church music group of which the patient had been a member to come and sing at the bedside. They came and as they began to sing in the small hours of the morning the patient relaxed and ceased convulsing. When they stopped, he deteriorated, when they sang he improved and was comfortable. So for 24 hours they sang until he died peacefully. The agnostic physician simply said to her colleagues[:] “I tell you this story to remind you that there are things out there we do not understand.” It is our job, as those who believe that […] there is a Person out there who loves us, to witness to these things; to hold our colleagues to their commitment to the facts[,] to reality; to recognize that it is another form of intolerance that demands that no space be provided for such witness in hospitals.



Dr. John Patrick retired from the University of Ottawa in June 2002. He had been Associate Professor in Clinical Nutrition in the Department of Biochemistry and Pediatrics for twenty years.  He is a member of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.  The complete essay is available at Dr. Patrick’s website.




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