The Humanitas Project


Living in the Biotech Century

News, Resources, and Commentary

July 18, 2006



The looming battle over rights of conscience...


For Some, There Is No Choice

by Rob Stein


Religious medical workers rebel against practices they find immoral



Image: Ambulance driver who lost job

Stephanie Adamson, an ambulance driver for Superior Ambulance of Chicago, lost her job after refusing to transport a public aid patient to an abortion clinic.

“When the dispatcher called, Stephanie Adamson knew this might be the run she had feared. But it wasn’t until her ambulance arrived at the hospital and she saw the words ‘elective abortion’ on the patient’s chart that she knew she had to make a choice.


“‘I just got a sick feeling in my stomach,’ said Adamson, an emergency medical technician from Channahon, Ill.


“Adamson called her boss to say she could not transport the patient to the other hospital where the procedure was scheduled.


“‘I just knew I couldn’t do it. I’ve never been for abortionI’ve always been against it,’ Adamson said. ‘I was brought up in a Christian home and always believed life was precious.’


“Adamson’s supervisor fired her on the spot and dispatched another ambulance to transfer the distraught young patient....”


The Washington Post/MSNBC – July 16, 2006



Editor’s Note:  In this story, Rob Stein presents the religious person’s perspective on refusing to participate in medical procedures that are considered unethical.  In a companion article, “Seeking Medical Care, and Refused,” he gives the secular perspective, which insists that there is no place for religious convictions in the practice of medicine or medically related procedures.  For more information on rights of conscience, as well as model legislation, please visit the website of Americans United for Life.




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When defending life is treated as a crime against the state...


Religious Row Over Stem Cell Work


Scientists have condemned a leading Catholic cardinal’s calls for those who carry out embryonic stem cell research to be excommunicated.



“Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, made his comments in Famiglia Cristiana, a Catholic magazine.


“He said research carried out on embryos was ‘the same as abortion’.


“But scientists called his comments outrageous, and said they amounted to ‘religious persecution’.


“Cardinal Trujillo will open the church’s World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain, on Saturday.


“He told Famiglia Cristiana: ‘Destroying an embryo is the equivalent of abortion.


“‘Excommunication applies to all women, doctors and researchers who eliminate embryos.’


“He added: ‘Even talking about the defense of life and family rights is being treated as a sort of crime against the state in some countriesa form of social disobedience or discrimination against women....’”


BBC News – July 7, 2006


A most remarkable discovery, but no way to predict who will recover...


Man’s Brain Rewired Itself After Crash Severed Nerve Connections


Doctors cautious about others’ drawing hope from extremely rare case




Terry Wallis regained speech after nearly 20 years in a minimally conscious state.

“Doctors have their first proof that a man who was barely conscious for nearly 20 years regained speech and movement because his brain spontaneously rewired itself by growing tiny new nerve connections to replace the ones sheared apart in a car crash.


“Terry Wallis, 42, is thought to be the only person in the United States to recover so dramatically so long after a severe brain injury. He still needs help eating and cannot walk, but his speech continues to improve and he can count to 25 without interruption.


“Wallis’ sudden recovery happened three years ago at a rehabilitation center in Mountain View, Arkansas, but doctors said the same cannot be hoped for people in a persistent vegetative state, such as Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who died last year after a fierce right-to-die court battle. Nor do they know how to make others with less serious damage, like Wallis, recover.


“‘Right now these cases are like winning the lottery,’ said Dr. Ross Zafonte, rehabilitation chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who was not involved in the research. ‘I wouldn’t want to overenthuse family members or folks who think now we have a cure for this.’


“Wallis has complete amnesia about the two decades he spent barely conscious, but remembers his life before the injury....”


The Associated Press/ – July 3, 2006


“Those suffering from diabetes have an estimated 70 per cent increased risk of developing memory and attention problems”...


Diabetes May be Linked to Alzheimer’s: Studies



“New studies suggest some links between Alzheimer’s and Type 2 diabetes, raising questions whether the two are actually different forms of the same disease.


“Research indicates the damage Type 2 diabetes causes to the pancreas follows a similar pattern to how Alzheimer’s affects the brain.


“The studies were shown Saturday during the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders in Madrid, Spain.


“Scientists have found that Alzheimer’s patients show a build up of amyloid plaque in their brains. In Type 2 diabetics, amyloid is found in the pancreas, and possibly kills insulin-producing cells.


“‘This is another similarity between these two conditions,’ Dr. Patrick McGeer, of the University of British Columbia, told CTV News....”


CTV News – July 17, 2006


Assessing the devastating psychological effects of abortion...


Why Think Abortion Good for Anyone?

by Joseph A. D’Agostino



“Abortion destroys the psychological health of teenage girls. A large new study has statistics so dramatic on this point, even pro-lifers may have trouble believing them. The pro-abortion lead author of the study, Prof. David Fergusson of Christchurch School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Christchurch, New Zealand, told Australia’s ABC news that abortion causes mental health problems, not the other way round, and women’s backgrounds had nothing to do with it. ‘We were indeed surprised by the results,’ he said. ‘Our expectation was that we would find that young women who had abortions had higher rates, but that was due to selection factors, that is the background of young women predisposed them both to abortion and to mental health problems, and we found that that was not in fact the case.  Abortion turns out to be the most common medical surgical procedure that young women actually encounter during adolescence and young adulthood....’”


Joseph A. D’Agostino is Vice President for Communications at the Population Research Institute.


Population Research Institute – January 20, 2006


Book review—Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics...


It’s About Love

by Carolyn Moynihan


A new book gives a voice to mothers who have defied medical advice to give birth to babies suspected of being disabled.




“One of the great social changes in the West during the past few decades has been the appearance of people with disabilities in the mainstream of life. Where once a child with an intellectual handicap or a misshapen body would be secluded in an institution, or at least, as time went on, educated in separate facilities, today he or she is likely to live at home with community support and, as far as possible, go to an ordinary school. Most, if not all, states have policies for developing an inclusive society and the United Nations is currently negotiating a convention on the rights of disabled people.


“Alongside this positive movement, however, there is another trend that completely undercuts it: a systematic effort to prevent the birth of people with disabilities by means of pre-natal diagnosis and abortion. This is the fate, currently, of 80-90 per cent of babies with Down syndrome—a condition that varies greatly from mild to severe. Abortions are routinely carried out for spina bifida, which also varies in severity, and are available where the baby is affected by dwarfism or even correctable conditions such as club foot and cleft palate....”


Carolyn Moynihan is Deputy Editor of the Australian internet magazine MercatorNet.


MercatorNet – June 9, 2006


Having a disability could get you killed...


Legalising Euthanasia ‘Hurts Disabled’



“Legalising euthanasia would present a threat to people with a disability because society believes they lack a ‘good quality of life’, a national conference has been told.


“Leading disability advocate Kevin Cocks said the increase in public support for legal voluntary euthanasia, or medically assisted death, triggered warning bells for people with disabilities.


“The act is illegal in Australia but a vocal group of pro-choice campaigners continues to lobby federal government for a law change....”


The Sydney Morning Herald – July, 2006


Updating the development of the computer-brain interface...


‘Bionic Man’ Can Control Robotic Arm with His Mind



“A man paralysed from the neck down has shown he can open email, control a TV and move objects with a robotic arm by thought alone.


“The 25-year-old American patient, Matthew Nagle, had a computer-linked implant placed in his brain that enabled him to operate devices just by thinking about it.


“Brain-computer interfaces have been demonstrated before, in humans and animals. But this is the biggest step taken so far towards developing ‘bionic’ systems that can restore motor function in people who have lost control of their limbs.


“In the 1970s TV series ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, scientists rebuilt the body of crash victim Steve Austin with bionic prosthetics controlled by his mind.


“At the time the concept was pure fantasy, but in future thought-controlled replacement limbs could be made real.


“The results described today in the journal Nature represent the culmination of decades of work.


“However the scientists involved in the research stress that the technology is still in its infancy....”


Daily Mail – July 12, 2006


A significant vote against physician assisted suicide...


Doctors Change Euthanasia Stance


Doctors from the British Medical Association have changed their position on the idea of helping patients to die.



“In a narrow vote last year, the BMA adopted a neutral stance on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.


“The decision has now been overturned after 65% of the 500 doctors at the BMA’s meeting in Belfast voted against assisted dying.


“A bill to relax current law was blocked by the House of Lords in May, but is likely to be reintroduced.


“The bill, sponsored by cross-bench peer Lord Joffe, would give doctors the right to prescribe drugs that a terminally ill patient in severe pain could use to end their own life....”


BBC News – June 29, 2006


What will it be like for a teenager to have a 76 year-old mum?


Woman, 63, is Mother to Baby Boy



John Farrant and Patricia Rashbrook

Dr Rashbrook already has three grown-up children

“A 63-year-old has become Britain’s oldest mother after she gave birth to a baby boy.


“Dr Patricia Rashbrook and her husband described the boy, who weighed 6lb 10oz, as ‘beautiful’.


“The child psychiatrist from Lewes, East Sussex, reportedly underwent a Caesarean section which went smoothly.


“Dr Rashbrook travelled to Italy with her husband John Farrant, 60, to get fertility treatment from controversial doctor Severino Antinori.


“Dr Rashbrook already has three grown-up children aged 26, 22 and 18 from her first marriage....”


BBC News – July 7, 2006


Worth considering...


From The Modern View of Liberty

by Peter Augustine Lawler



“The modern individual, from one view, is an Augustinian who does not believe in the personal and providential God of the Bible. Augustine used his considerable rhetorical eloquence to describe the human misery that undermines every natural good. He makes us aware, very aware, of our misery and contingency to show us that we can only be happy in our hope for the eternal life graciously offered to us by God. We have the best reasons to be grateful for grace. But we seem to have little reason to be grateful for nature without grace. The philosophers who argued otherwise, according to Augustine, were blinded by pride. The same pride that kept the philosophers from acknowledging their longing for God and the eternal life that only God can give caused them to construct fraudulent visions for human happiness on earth, such as the ways of life of the statesman and the philosopher.


“The modern individual—or the philosophers who constructed him—might also be understood to be animated by the most insane form of pride the world has ever seen. The modern individual aims to create in this world—not through grace but through human work—what God promised in the next. But viewed in another way, the modern individual seems less proud than desperate. The individual agrees with the Christian view of human misery and contingency: he is totally persuaded by Augustine’s ‘negative’ rhetoric about human alienation. But he does not believe in the Christian God: Augustine’s ‘positive’ rhetoric about grace, providence, and salvation does not move him at all. And so he has no choice but to try to do for himself what the Christians believed God would do. The individual finds himself with a heavy—really, a horrible—burden. The modern individual is an alien, an absolutely contingent being who belongs nowhere in particular and who must build for himself his own place in the world.


“Now the modern individual does see some good news in the Christian teaching about human freedom and alienation. The bad news is that there is no God, but that is the good news too. We are free from both God and nature to make of ourselves what we will. We are not merely parts of nature or parts of a city. We are not merely useful for the perpetuation of our species or our country. Like God himself, we exist for ourselves, and what He promised we have no reason to believe we cannot do for ourselves. Salvation remains personal; we are now personally or individually responsible for saving ourselves. We are, in a sense, mysteriously made or can make ourselves in the image of God. The effectual truth of grace—the real evidence for it—must be what we achieve through applied reason or technology....”



This excerpt is from chapter 2 of Stuck with Virtue:  The American Individual and Our Biotechnological Future (ISI Books, 2005).  Peter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor and Chair of the Department of Government and International Studies at Berry College.  He is executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science and is a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.




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