Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Frontiers in Moral Bankruptcy

The list of things that separates the United States from countries we traditionally consider to be human-rights challenged has dwindled in recent years.

We don’t start wars unilaterally: gone.

We don’t invade countries and force them to change governments: gone.

We don’t torture people: gone.

We don’t hold people in secret prisons: gone.

We allow people accused of crimes access to lawyers and due process: gone

We don’t spy on our own citizens: gone.

Yes, to be honest, some of these hard and fast rules were bent or even broken in the B.W. era (Before Dubya), but usually there was at least an attempt to do so secretly or portray these violations as not true attacks on principles of decency we all recognize.

In short, there was a sense of shame.

No longer. Not only are these parts of our national code of honor routinely broken, but they are done out in the open with utter disdain for the principles themselves. Far from feeling the need to defend or cover up their actions, the Bush administration does not hesitate in attacking those who dare support these long-accepted ideas about the proper conduct of our nation.

I was reminded of this by
Hyman’s recent editorial about prisoner’s donating organs.

Hyman poses the question: should prisoners be allowed to donate organs if they want to?

He cites Dr. Mark Fox, ethics chairman for the United Network for Organ Sharing, as saying that being incarcerated means any decision to donate an organ cannot be said to be truly “free,” an ethical requirement for donation.

Hyman doesn’t argue the point. Instead, he throws it open to the audience, asking for viewer response to the question. It’s not clear why; Hyman himself notes that he conducted a similar viewer poll last year and got an overwhelming response in favor of penal transplants (oh, get your mind out of the gutter!).

I don’t have a particularly strong point of view on the topic, although I’m inclined to believe Dr. Fox, who is motivated both by a desire to foster organ donation and to abide by medical ethics, is someone whose opinion should be honored.

What bothers me, however, is the way Hyman closes his editorial:

Once again, I would like to hear from you. Is it wrong for an
inmate to donate an organ? What about death row inmates? Are they capable of
making an informed decision? If they aren't, does it matter?

Does it matter? The fact that Hyman could ask such a question is chilling enough. My sense is that if Hyman had his way, we’d cross yet another ethical boundary as a nation and openly harvest human organs from condemned prisoners.

Of course, given the fact that we systematically poison or cook the entire body of an executed criminal (as opposed to the far simpler bullet to the brainpan used by the Chinese, who then can harvest organs from the still-warm corpse), donation would have to occur *before* execution.

But before we get too horrified at the ghoulishness of extracting kidneys, bone marrow, corneas, etc. from prisoners who might or might not be willing and able to consent, we should ask ourselves this question:

Haven’t the systematic violations of our national honor that have already taken place under the current administration made the idea of harvesting organs seem like a petty, inconsequential issue by comparison?

I’m just wondering.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 1.42


At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ted, I'm just curious, do you post a copy of each 'CounterPoint' to the News Central site as a response to Hyman's 'PointLess'?
If not, maybe all of us who read the 'CounterPoint' should forward Hyman a copy.
I think Hyman's attitude toward his viewers could be summed up in a part of his closing - "Are they capable of making an informed decision? If they aren't, does it matter?
Thanks Ted, and keep bustin' Hyman.
Mike B. in SC
P.S. The last few Counterpoints were great!

At 11:03 PM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Hi Mike! Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I often send copies of the CP to Hyman, although I haven't been doing it religiously. Certainly feel free to copy and paste, exerpt, modify, etc. anything you find here and send it his way. I figure the more he's aware that he's being watched, the better.


At 11:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You mean "being watched" by people who are actually listening to his drivel, right?

At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

why shouldn't deathrow inmates be forced to donate their organs since they probably took the life of someone, they should pay, they took someones right to live, so they souldn't have any rights.


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