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When social critic Jeremy Rifkin predicted the coming of the “biotech century” in 1998, few understood just how right he was. Consider how far biotechnology has traveled since the birth of Dolly the cloned sheep and how these discoveries have impacted the ethics of society: Human cloning is being pursued aggressively, animals are being genetically engineered, and a new eugenics has arisen in which embryos are destroyed if they exhibit “undesirable” attributes—ranging from their sex to the potential of adult onset cancer.
Meanwhile, on the other end of life, “death with dignity” activists continue to push their agendas, including legalizing assisted suicide/euthanasia, futile care theory (which permits doctors to refuse wanted life-sustaining treatment based on quality of life assessments), and the dehydration of people with severe cognitive incapacities.
Behind these discreet issues is a far larger—one might even say epochal—struggle to preserve the sanctity/equality of human life ethic. Look for these issues to be the major flash points of this never-ending contest in 2007, with my predictions about the likely outcomes:
Embryonic Stem Cell Research: I predict that President Bush’s Federal Funding limitations will fall. With the new more liberal Congress and the erosion of resistance among some conservatives, legislation to overturn the President’s policy will repeatedly pass both houses of Congress. Bush will veto. But eventually the bill will be made part of omnibus legislation, as a consequence of which the veto will be overridden.
I also predict more states will fund ESCR and human research cloning. Big Biotech’s propaganda campaign has created an Oklahoma Land Race mentality among the states that are now competing with each other to throw money at biotech companies. This trend will continue in the coming year.
Human Cloning: I predict continued impasse over outlawing or legalizing human cloning. Efforts to outlaw all human cloning at the federal level will not succeed. Neither will efforts to legalize research cloning, while outlawing “reproductive” cloning. The latter has a better chance of passing than the former, but if this happens, the President’s veto will not be overturned.
Outlawing Human Egg Markets: I predict more states and countries will outlaw the buying and selling of human eggs. Even though many in society have little concern about the destruction of embryos, many do care about the exploitation of women. As groups like the CBC spread the word that egg procurement is dangerous to women’s health, efforts to outlaw the buying and selling of eggs will enjoy increasing success.
Assisted Suicide: I predict no states or countries will legalize in 2007. Euthanasia activists will try to legalize assisted suicide in California, Washington, Vermont, and Hawaii. Also, look for continued agitation in the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and India. None of these proposals will pass in 2007. However, watch out for sleeper legalization effort that could succeed in Spain.
Futile Care Theory: I predict the Texas law permitting futile care impositions to be amended. Legislation to outlaw futile care impositions by hospital ethics committees will not pass in Texas due to resistance by the medical establishment. But the current 10 days allowed patients and families to find a new hospital will be extended, probably to around 30 days.
Partial Birth Abortion: I predict that the Supreme Court of the United States will overturn the partial birth abortion federal ban: Justice Anthony Kennedy will cast the deciding vote reversing his earlier stand against partial birth abortion by voting to overturn the federal ban. For the pro life movement, it will be back to the drawing board, perhaps focusing on parental notification statutes at the state and federal levels.
I might be right or wrong about each or all of the above forecasts. But here is one final prediction about which I am supremely confident: The CBC will continue to fight for universal human rights by remaining committed to the profound understanding that human life has intrinsic value simply and merely because it is human.
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Wesley J. Smith J.D. Special Consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.
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