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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Fourth of July and Bioethics

On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed. Let's take a look at the key paragraph of this singular document, one which states the principles by which the American colonies felt justified in separating themselves from Great Britain -- principles they realized that reasonable men across the world would recognize and agree with.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Self-evident truths. One of the reasons I have this blog is to argue for self-evident truths, and to use them as the basis for ethical reasoning. And the reason for that is that bioethics in America today has no basis in any truths that are either recognized as self-evident or even reliably true. The reigning moral system, if it can be called either moral or a system, is relativism: "It is wrong to force your idea of what is right or wrong on others." This is the closest thing to a self-evident truth at work in bioethics today. Yet, it is neither true nor self-evident (since it contradicts itself).

All men are created equal. Say what  you want about inconsistencies in American life regarding this statement, the signers nonetheless made it. A beggar is as much a human being and a subject of rights as is a king. All human beings are equally human. Today, we argue about the word "person" and try to define the word in a way that lets us get around this principle, this self-evident truth. See what I mean? The plain fact of "this is a living human being" is questioned as to whether or not that individual is a subject of rights and has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How in the United States of American can there EVER be a discussion about the permissibility of infanticide or euthanasia or even abortion? I'll tell you how: When we've abandoned our founding principles, and reject the notion of self-evident truths.

Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Being created by GOD, and in being created as a human being, having unalienable rights that are from GOD, is a self-evident truth. This was not subject to debate; only a fool would be stupid enough to try to deny it. Being created by God with rights is the very basis of human equality: We are the same because we are made that way. Also, our rights do not come from the government or the Constitution -- we cannot invent rights that do not exist (say, the right to kill a newborn or a sick person or even oneself). Rights are not a matter of what the law says; rather, the law should articulate itself with respect to rights in order to be a just law. Nor can we remove rights that inhere in the person -- we can abuse, ignore, deny, and violate rights through the law, but we cannot actually change the self-evident and true reality that human beings have rights given them by God. Governments and laws must respect these rights, because they are prior to and superior to any government. A distinction: Some rights are unalienable, some can be conferred. The right to vote or run for office, for instance, is conferred and in being conferred is regulated, and is dependent upon the nature of the government where voting and politicking are part of the process.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The right to LIFE. It is the first right. Abortion denies human equality and the right to life, and makes both subordinate to the right of the abortionist to kill. I do not speak of the woman's choice here, because I have compassion on women facing an unwanted pregnancy; but I do not have compassion on the physician who seeks to exploit her desperation to make money. It is the physician's right to perform the procedure that is really at stake in our current abortion laws. Follow the money. Where does the money go in the abortion industry? Right. The repeal of prohibition -- was it about the people's right to drink alcohol? No, it was about the right of the manufacturers to make and sell it. Follow the money. Liberty is not license, nor is it freedom to do as one pleases, nor does the pursuit of happiness extend to harming others or acting in a way detrimental to society at large. With these rights comes responsibility.

Just powers from the consent of the governed. The government should have limited power, and its power is ordered to justice. That is to say, implicit in this phrase is acknowledgement that some governments can attain powers that exceed justice. And they may attain unjust powers through the consent of the governed -- for example: Obamacare. So the people have a responsibility to know what justice is, to understand and recognize self-evident truths as they relate to government, and to act with integrity and honesty in their civic duties of discerning candidates and voting. Or else, they deserve a hegemonic government that buys their votes with "free" stuff and eventually controls their whole lives.  If they could see us now, the Signers of the Declaration would think we've institutionalized the very thing they revolted against.

OK, I think that's enough. Personally, I think this next election is day is our chance to re-establish American government on our founding principles.

Hopefully, bioethics will follow suit.

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