Euthanasia Resources

I just came across this nifty BBC site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/ethics/euthanasia/. Check out the arguments section right in the middle of the page.


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From Italy: Teenage Girl Forced to Undergo Abortion

Apparently teen autonomy in Italy doesn’t extend to abortion decisions. I don’t know much about Italian law, but this article seems to imply that parents have all legal rights over medical matters in the case of their minor children:

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A Very Young Preemie

Most babies are born at 37 to 40 weeks. Most preemies don’t survive if they’re born under 26 weeks. October 24, however, saw the birth of a preemie at about 22 weeks (Link: http://www.breitbart.com/news/2007/02/19/D8ND737G0.html). This appears to be a record for a surviving preemie. While her chances of long-term survival were very poor, she is in fact still alive and apparently doing well.

The issue of premature babies poses a thorny abortion dilemma. Generally, abortion is legal until the point of viability. This means that once a fetus is past the point at which it can survive outside of the womb, states can begin to impose restrictions on abortion. This means that a very odd dynamic exists in the abortion debate: as technology improves to keep preemies alive at a younger and younger age, the right to 2nd-trimester abortions begins to dissipate (3rd trimester abortions are already largely restricted to those that help preserve the life or health of the mother).

If it’s possible for a 22 week old fetus to survive outside the womb, this means that abortion rights can already be restrained to about 5 months. Should incubation technologies improve much beyond that point, it’s at least theoretically possible that the abortion period will continue to shrink.

Here’s a recent news article on viability and preemies. It gives some background on this issue and asks the question of how far one should go to preserve such young lives: http://www.newsobserver.com/164/story/544300.html.

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Canadian Man Guilty of "HIV Assault"

He claims they’re just jilted lovers. They claim he failed to tell them about his HIV status: http://www.breitbart.com/news/2007/02/08/070208211552.a0ag0uh1.html

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Enhancing Humanity

Here’s a recent CNN story: http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/01/25/ft.newdrugs/index.html

The story is about enhancement drugs and therapies. The point of such drugs and therapies is to improve on the existing human body and mind. For example, a drug named modafinil allows those who take it to stay awake and alert for 48 hours (without any apparent side effects). It effectively removes the urge to sleep.

For those who don’t want to take the drug-based approach, perhaps implantable technologies are a better option. Imagine being able to implant a chip in your brain that allows for instantaneous speechless communication with other humans (AKA “cyberthink” — it would work through a wireless interface between the two or more individuals). For a more realistic possibility, how about a chip that allows humans to control a computer merely by thinking of the commands? In other words, to move the mouse you would simply think “move mouse” and the mouse would move to the desired location on the computer monitor.

Here’s a paper on implantable technologies: http://www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Bioe/BioeMcGe.htm.

The philosophical issues involved in these cases are fairly obvious, perhaps:

  1. Do any of the technologies violate what it fundamentally means to be human?
  2. Should governments make efforts to restrict these technologies?
  3. How should society deal with enhanced individuals? As an example, consider the possibility of enhanced athletes or enhanced students. Does fairness require a university to restrict the types of technologies that students use? Is the same thing true of athletes as well, or are the issues different in such cases?

Any of these issues would make for a fine argument paper. There are probably many others that I have not even mentioned. Use your imagination to come up with some other issues.

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