ASBH day 2: Human rights and Public Health Ethics

Ever been the only conservative in the room? I can go one better: a woman from Rhode Island responded to my confession that I’m a conservative by saying that we should talk, since she’d never had a conversation with a conservative before and she wanted to understand how we think.

BTW, before I go on, I need help: I was told by one of the speakers that some proponents of human dignity defend the “dignity” of “stem cells” in the same way that they defend the dignity of “the impaired.” Supposedly, in the discussion about the ethics of research on human tissue banking, some focus on the dignity of the tissue as separate from the infringement on the dignity of the original donor of the tissue. She could not give me a reference, but seems a bright young woman, so I wonder if anyone can explain where this idea could come from.

I guess I ought to explain how the conference is set up. Most of the day, there are 1 to 1 1/2 hour sessions with 5 or 6 different groups, consisting of 2 or 3 (up to 5) panelists who present a paper (or summarize a paper, if time seems short) on a given theme. The presentations are followed by a question and answer period. There’s never enough time for the Q and A, so I end up asking my questions after the conference.

Today, I attended sessions on “Bioethics and Public Health Ethics” and “Human Rights and Human Dignity: Curb your enthusiasm.” Each of the sessions touched on the basic idea of human rights. And each seemed to get the most bang out of political points: the Bush administration is abusive and against the bioethics Powers That Be.

In the first, we were asked to consider the proposition that Public Health Ethics should be more concerned with the good of the community, rather than attentive to individual rights. After all, public health and most health care systems are public, community enterprises, and an activity of the State that relies on pooled resources and interdependence.

However, aren’t Law and the Court system activities of the State, based on pooled resources and interdependence? And aren’t these systems still governed by the fact that the rights of the individual are primary?

We also heard how inept the Bush administration was proved to be in the Katrina/Rita hurricane “debacle,” although the panelist later stated that the basic problem was the failure to repair the levies and protect the people in the way of the flood. Somehow, the panelists believe that all political failures in public health policy began in 2001. There was no mention about the debacle that came from the redefinition of oral sex as not being “sex,” for instance.

The second session was based on the deconstruction of a single term, “human dignity,” and a rather confused discussion about human rights. In both cases, the presenters seem to believe that the Bush administration is responsible for attempting to foist an idea of the inalienable rights of human individuals.

Like Caulfield and Brown in this article, the presenters object to protection of human embryos and the children of the future as bearers of human dignity because the concept is not held by all and will not stand in a pluralistic society.

An interesting twist was the first presenter’s statement that the proponents of human dignity include “stem cells.” (see above)

Beliefs about which members of the human species are bearers of rights are not consistent throughout the world. Islamic nations do not hold that women bear full human rights: women are not protected from killing, enslavement, and are not allowed freedom of movement or ownership of property.

However, regardless of a lack of consensus, or more particularly in the case of disagreement, hasn’t history shown that it is it better to support the wider classification of human rights in the case of all races, both sexes, all religious and political backgrounds?

The fact that some of the “dignitarians” and human rightists have expressed concern about the humanity of our descendents who are no longer members of our species was mentioned. I believe that this concern will complicate our efforts to protect the (negative) right to life.

Believers who hold that humans are created in the image of God base our argument for human dignity on our duty to Him for giving us life. If we are created, it’s obvious that we and our children are not here because of our plan and efforts, but because of His. Those of us who are concerned about whether or not our children who are not of the human species are ‘human” would do well to spend some time contemplating whether or not it is possible to divide the image of God.

Edited for typos at 11:30 PM CDT

About bnuckols

Conservative Christian Family Doctor, promoting conservative news and views. (Hot Air under the right wing!)


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