Saturday, March 12, 2005

Thou Shalt Not Kill

That one's in the Commandments. The title of Charles Krauthammer's article for Townhall, "Thou Shalt Not Create," isn't, a loss of focus that proves fatal for those he would protect. He's against creating embryos for the purpose of destroying them:

...some truths remain self-evident. And one of those truths is that human embryos are to be created for the purpose of producing human babies, not for commerce and not to be dismembered for study or spare parts.


Three years ago, he offered a working principle to the President's Council on Bioethics:

I had proposed creation as the bright line to separate what is permissible from what is impermissible in embryonic research...That means "no" to all cloning. And that means "yes" to using existing, already created embryos such as the thousands of frozen and/or discarded embryos left over from IVF clinics -- embryos created for the purpose of becoming children but which, for one reason or other, were not used. I support that research...


What?

Well, he thinks that creating embryos "entirely for the purpose of using them for their parts" crosses some "critical moral red line," and that this line is really quite easy to see: "you do not create a human embryo to be a means to some other end".

Oh. I've got it. If you create them to kill them, that's bad, because killing is the immoral means to your more beneficent end. But if you create them to become children, and it turns out they're not needed, then it's okay to kill them because this act of killing is not an immoral means to a good end...?

This isn't working, is it? It appears that in either case an embryo is being destroyed to harvest those precious stem cells. In both cases, an extra-uterine conception was effected by means of laboratory wizardry - in the first for the purpose of harvesting 'parts,' the second for the purpose of making a baby. Or was it? Actually, it seems to have been conceived in case it was needed. Otherwise, it wouldn't be sitting frozen on a shelf. Its value is contingent upon a necessity. It was desired not for its own sake, but as an adjunct to its parents' needs, in the event it might prove useful sometime in the future. It was conceived with the understanding that it might have to be abandoned. And since it has been abandoned, it is not useful...unless it can be thawed out, killed, and its 'parts' harvested.

Though Mr. Krauthammer thinks this second instance of killing to be acceptable because the act is once removed from the original intention, we seem to end up in the same place, don't we? The very place he so dreads: "the manufacture of human embryos for the purpose of their dissection and use for parts." And if this second kind of killing is embraced, won't it tend to inure us to the horror of the first, greasing the skids, shall we say, on ye olde slippery slope?

What to do with "leftover" human embryos is one of those dilemmas we've gotten ourselves into because some other wickedness preceded it. But if Mr. Krauthammer sees any evil in the in vitro technique, another form of "manufacture," he doesn't mention it.

I don't know what to do about them. Maybe there will be a catastrophic power outage one of these days, causing the freezers to fail, and we can just give them all a decent burial.

I had considered writing a long essay about all this, but I don't have time, and if a man of Krauthammer's intelligence can think like this, what hope is there? All right, I know... there is always hope.

But whenever you run across this worn-out, Planned Parenthoodish cliché in a pundit's essay - We may honorably disagree about the moral dignity due a tiny human embryo - you can be assured that something awful is about to be proposed.
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Comments:

It is unfortunate to read Mr. Krauthhammer's essay in light of the fact that I have heard him speak out against embryonic stem cell research. He has called it a lie, as a matter of fact, that has not provided one whit of valuable therapy to anyone, anywhere. That said, because in vitro fertilization is not considered immoral by anyone, but Catholics how do we bring about an awareness that the creation and subsequent abandonment and wanton destuction/mutilation of those embryoes is indeed immoral.

I recently read about an instance of embryo adoption. And Dr. Laura advocates having only three implanted at a time to avoid the sickening practice of 'selective abortion'. That anyone can discuss this publically without a single thought as to how horrifying and Frankensteinish this is -- it's beyond me.

In my imagination, I picture the unmarried woman who the New York Times did the story on regarding her implantation and subsequent seletive abortion procedure (over the objections of her live-in boyfriend)because she imagined she would have to shop at Cosco and buy big tubs of mayonaise. In my mind, she is talking to the NYT reporter in some trendy cafe somewhere and she interrupts herself to say to the waiter, "Is this bagel made from unbleached flour? And I asked for bottled water, not tap. Do you know what your organic offerings are today?"
Posted by Lauren
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Right on, Lauren. How to make people see the evil of in vitro is not something I have the answer for. The good end, a baby, seems to overwhelm any aversion people might have to the means by which it was achieved. The leftover and 'selectively reduced' babies don't horrify because we've already learned to live with abortion.
Posted by WL
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Krauthammer may be a man of intelligence, but he is not, in my view, a man of reliable wisdom.
Posted by Paul Cella





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