Saturday, July 26, 2008

An Open Letter to Senator McCain

While John McCain certainly has a more humane approach to unborn children than Obama, his support for embryonic stem cell research shows a different disturbing flaw: McCain is comfortable doing something he knows is wrong if the benefits appear great enough. This may provide a key to his support for torturing prisoners or killing foreign civilians in times of great need.

Dear Senator McCain,

I have been deeply impressed by your honorable character and consistent opposition to abortion. However, as your fellow pro-lifer and a physician I must respectfully but strongly express concern about your support for embryonic stem cell research. The idea that terminating any other human being for any potential benefit to ourselves is a direct contradiction to the Pro-Life stance you claim to hold. How do you ask a woman not to kill her 7 week-old fetus which may be greatly convenient to her to do, if you are killing 7 day-olds for the potential benefits they could give to her if she develops an illness like Parkinson's or Diabetes?

The argument that age, size, or mental-functioning below a certain level open up humans to destruction if their termination is expedient is the very argument used to support killing babies near birth, the sick, the mentally-challenged, or the elderly. You enter serious moral peril by classifying any human individual as a “thing” rather than a “person.” I am certain you are a very intelligent man, but I don't believe you have the right or ability to draw a line excluding any human (even an embryo) from basic human protection. It is this same logic that allowed my ancestors to commit crimes against Blacks, Native Americans, and others they deemed “inferior” in order to make things better for themselves. History has judged them harshly, and I fear it may judge us the same.

As a physician I care deeply about my ill patients, but killing in order to help them is something I cannot do. I urge you not to kill another human in my name or the name of my patients.

Thank you,
Jonathan Davis MD

With both major parties giving consistent-life voters poor choices, The Gridbook Blog will be endorsing a 3rd Party Candidate. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Gee, I hardly know where to start or which argument to make.

First of all, to ask McCain not to kill anyone in your name is totally unnecessary; he is certainly not killing anyone and his voting to support stem cell research is not synonymous with killing.

In fact, I support Bush's veto of the stem-cell research bill, but I think his argument was that there are plenty of stem cells available for research without any current harvesting from aborted fetuses and that we should not benefit from the killing of these babies. In fact, the argument is not really that babies would be killed for the sake of their stem cells, but only that a mother, struggling with an abortion decision, might be swayed by consideration of this "benefit to society." Even then, as you know, she is making a selfish decision for selfish reasons, and if she uses stem-cell research as a "cover" for an immoral decision, it probably did not really sway her even the slightest bit.

On the other hand, I have to take issue with the "pure" pro-life position that you and others voice. A recent article in a pro-life publication that I receive suggested that they would never agree to "negotiating" any legislation that would protect some babies from abortion while not protecting all (those conceived by rape or incest). What sense does that make? Let's have millions of babies continue to die for the sake of those few who would not be covered in the legislation that would protect most?

I don't consider that a pro-life position at all. Yet it is similar to the argument you make about the "greater good." I suspect that Senator McCain's ethic is molded by the military situation where the very definition of courage and “goodness” is where one soldier lays down his life for his buddies (e.g., throwing himself on the hand grenade that would otherwise kill many more). It is also the model we see in Christ who gave His life so that we can live. In other words I totally disagree with your rejecting all arguments made on the basis of the "greater good." You really need to argue that there is “greater harm” (and I think you can in the case of harvesting stem cells from aborted babies).

Finally, I think you know the outcome if you and other pro-lifers vote for a third-party candidate: We will have a president who will support every pro-abortion initiative that a pro-abortion Congress can devise and who will appoint pro-abortion justices to the Supreme Court so that Wade v Roe will not be overturned in your lifetime. Are you really willing to congratulate yourself about how pure you are in your pro-life voting as you sacrifice another generation of unborn children?

With love! ~~ Anna Marie

JD said...

You say that politicians are "certainly not killing anyone." Well as far as I know no major politician of any party has physically killed anyone. Politicians make laws. If we really don't believe the laws have life and death consequences then why should we vote at all? Actively supporting a bill that would pay researchers to take living embryos and destroy them in research is as clear a case of politicians authorizing killing as I can think of in this country.

While I certainly believe that legalized murder of any single human being is wrong, I believe you are incorrect in accusing me of being a pro-life "purist" that cannot accept compromise to save some. With the end goal of eventually saving all, I would certainly accept some partial restrictions on killing that could begin by saving a few. McCain's position on embryo research is not such a compromise. His stance is not a compromise that might save a few from destruction. It funds new killing that is currently not being funded. His position would add to the number of unborn children killed; not decrease it.

I don't quite see how the nobility of self-sacrifice you mention applies to this situation. While it may be noble to sacrifice yourself for the benefit of another, killing another innocent person for the benefit of others is usually immoral. Most political killings (and abortions) are not done with malice, but with the aim of bettering others.

The power to kill another human being is a horrible ability, and therefore it must be restrained. The only justification I can think of for killing another person is self-defense (I believe this is the only one an individual can legally use as well). If I reasonably believe another person is in the process of trying to kill me I can respond with lethal force if I have no other reasonable means for stopping the aggressor. This right to defend oneself can also extend to a third party: I can shoot a madman rampaging with a knife in a schoolyard even if the danger is to the children and not to me. Ethically I am assisting the children with their right to defend themselves that they were unable to exercise. There are very rare occasions that this right to defense can extend to killing innocent people. A doctor can remove (and thus kill) a ectopically implanted fetus (who would certainly kill its mother if it continued to grow) without committing murder. Similarly it would be justifiable to shoot down a plane of innocent hostages before in crashes into a building killing hundreds more.

Such events are tragic but they do sometimes happen in the real world. Situations like these are not "greater good" extrapolations, but responses to direct and immediate threats to the lives of others by the ones against which the lethal means are used. In my mind claims that "I can kill you because I have some greater good in mind" is murder whether it be done by an individual or a state. When it is not defense against an immediate and lethal threat, a killing becomes an attempt to balance some potential good against an obvious evil. If human life really is sacred then killing a person is not some negative that can be be balance out with lots of pluses; it is absolutely wrong, and no amount of benefits to others can justify the injustice of it.

*But perhaps all of your arguments are based on a misunderstanding: You seem to imply that embryonic stem cells are harvested from dead babies after abortion. This is not the case. To harvest embryonic stem cells you take a living embryo very early in its development and take it's cells resulting in it's death. There was a much touted non-lethal compromise method to take cells which in theory shouldn't kill the embryo, but as far as I know all the embryos they tried that on also died. I am aware of no embryonic stem cell harvesting that does not directly kill a living embryo. McCain certainly knows this and still supports the federal government paying for these actions. said...

Good job!

You point out that the only ethical way to use the word "sacrifice" in medicine and science is to make sure that it's always preceded by "self-."

Anonymous said...

Jonathan: I agree with you (and with lifeethics) that there is an absolute difference between self-sacrifice and the sacrifice of another. My point was only that you cannot fault an argument based on "the greater good," as if it is automatically flawed; in fact it is a great argument. If McCain's argument is flawed in this case, it is not on that point.

Regarding the method of harvesting stem cells, you are correct; I did think that they were taken from aborted babies, not from living babies. I more recently heard that the question was whether they could be taken from those fetuses that are created "in vitro" (is that the term I want?) and are about to be destroyed. A more moral and creative solution might be to put them up for "adoption" (or implantation). But in the meantime, you are not saving their lives by opposing the use of their stem cells any more than McCain in murdering them by supporting it.

(Have I also misunderstood that "stem cells" are taken from a baby's umbilical cord? If not stem cells, what are they taking from the cord these days?)

I am not saying this is not an important issue, and I understand the argument that we should not benefit from the immoral acts of others (as in the decision to reject the studies done on Holocaust victims). But I can also see that is not really a pro-life argument in the sense that opposition to the research is not actually going to save lives. Certainly, I can understand McCain's position that this does not contradict his pro-life position when opposing the use of stem cells is not going to save any lives.

Finally, I would still make the argument that if you care at all about seeing the advance of a pro-life agenda in this country, you will not vote or encourage others to vote in a way that increases the probability of electing someone who voted against a bill that would have required doctors to provide care for the baby born as a result of a botched abortion. [The fact that Obama accused pro-lifers of lying about his record when in fact he was lying about that vote is the subject of another discussion.]

Did you know that Democrats took the word “rare” out of the party platform statement on abortion? Now they just want abortions to be “safe.”

Keeping Barack Obama out of the Presidency should the highest priority of anyone who remotely claims to be pro-life. Not to support John McCain for the Presidency because his voting record on the subject is 98% instead of 100% is a an empty pro-life gesture. You will find that the 100% pro-abortion Obama with a Democrat Congress will be a pro-life nightmare. I cannot imagine that you and other pro-lifers will waste your votes on anyone other than McCain.
~~ Anna Marie