Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Right to Discriminate

In no insdustry in the United Kingdom are you allowed to say, "Find me a boss with a penis, i refuse to be supervised by a woman," except one: the Church of England.

The C of E began ordaining women as priests in 1994. Now the debate is women bishops. If a male priest excels at his job and serves the church well, he is made a bishop. Now that there are women priests, surely there will be women bishops, too. Right? Not so much.

You see, if a woman is a priest, she is only in a position of authority over parishners, and they don't count. But if she is a bishop, she has authority over other clergy. Male clergy. Ooooh, scary.

The church is already operating under an exception to national anti-discrimination laws, otherwise they wouldn't have a choice in the matter of whether to make women bishops or not. This situation brings to light 2 compelling questions on discrimination:

1. Should any organization, even a church, be exempt from national anti-discrimination laws?
2. Should individuals within that organization be allowed to refuse to work for someone on the basis of that person's gender?

Also, the debate on reproduction still rages below. Feel free to continue to comment on older posts.

Monday, February 2, 2009


So far it seems that we all agree that Guppy-Woman is behaving incredibly irresponsibly. That's no surprise. Let me re-phrase my original question:

Do people have a personal right to behave irresponsibly when it comes to reproduction?
If not, what kind of system do we implement to enforce responsible reproduction?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Questions of Reproductive Rights

You may have read lately about the woman in Las Angeles who just gave birth to octuplets. This raises some interesting ethical questions about reproductive rights. A few facts:

1. The woman, aged 33, already had 6 children
2. Yet she sought invitro fertilization in order to conceive again
3. She is unmarried and does not live with the father of any of her children
4. She and her (now 14 in total) children live in a 3 bedroom house, along with her parents. (Yes, that's 17 people in a 3 bedroom house.)
5. Her father is employed as a contractor in Iraq (and as such is not around much to lend a hand with child-rearing)
6. Despite her father's income, the family filed for bankruptcy last year
7. When told she was carrying 7 children (they didn't find the 8th until the cesarian) and informed of the extreme risks, she was encouraged to reduce the number the foetuses to give the remainder the best possible chance of survival. She refused.

A lot of people are discussing the ethics of implanting multiple embryos in a woman trying to conceive because of the high risk of multiple births, which exponentially increases the risk of various medical complications to both the foetuses and the mother. These are legitemate questions and well worth exploring, but I'm more interested at this point in the financial ethics involved.

Here is a woman who is already unable to afford the 6 children she's got, as evidenced by the bankruptcy report and the fact that she's still living with her parents in a 3-bedroom home. And yet she has fertility treatment to have more kids. (I'd LOVE to know who paid for that. Herself? Insurance? Medicaid?)

Then there's the hundreds of thousands of dollars of hospital expenses for the delivery (7 surgeons and 7 nurses in the delivery room) and all the neonatal treatment. The babies were delivered 9 weeks early, all with extremely low birthweights. All are still too small to be handled, 7 are at least breathing on their own now. Each baby has 2 nurses assigned to it night and day. They will all remain in the hospital for several more weeks. Did I say hundreds of thousands of dollars? Make that millions.

This woman is not paying the hospital expenses on her own, clearly. Either she's on medicaid (goverment-provided medical care for extremely low-income people), in which case the taxpayers are paying for all this, or she's got insurance, in which case all the other people who also happen to have their insurance with the same company are picking up the tab in the form of their monthly premiums. Regardless, none of them got a say in how many kids this woman has.

Then there's the food stamps she'll almost certainly need to feed them all. Then there's the cost of education, which is likely to be much higher than the national per-student average. Why? Because babies born with such low birthweight have a very high likliehood of having physical and learning developmental difficulties, possibly severe ones.

Ultimately, it comes to this:

Is reproduction an absolute right, to be undertaken by any individual regardless to the cost of society, or if society must help bear the cost of raising the children, does society therefore get some say into how many children are created, and by whom?

If so, who decides these questions, and with what criteria?

On you marks...

get set...


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What's the point of unity?

I've just read a hugely distressing piece in the BBC News website:

Anglicans to halt gay ordinations

Basically the Church of England told the Episcopal Church to toe the line, and rather than stick to their principles -- the principes that gay people are as God made them are and just as entitled to love, marry, and serve the Lord as anyone else -- they bent and did what Canterbury told them to do, mostly because the African bishops were getting all medieval on Canterbury.

"The meeting was attended in part by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who urged the Episcopal Church to make concessions for the sake of unity."

Here's what I want to know: What's so hot about "unity"?

If two bodies of people have diametrically different positions about something, why force one body of people to compromise their principles for the sake of staying in the same club. What's wrong with leaving? What's so bad about saying "you know what? We're never going to agree on this issue, and if agreement is a condition of membership, we'll just be over here in our own, new clubhouse on the other side of the lake, k?"


I also liked this bit:

The Episcopal bishops did reaffirm their commitment to the civil rights of gay people and said they opposed any violence towards them or violation of their dignity."

Do they really not see that keeping gay people second-class citizens and denying them the basic right to marry IS a violation of their dignity??? What's with this attitude that physical abuse is the only form of oppression?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The "New Death"

Read an article in the BBC this morning about a doctor who wants to revise the definition of death used in the UK.

Right now the medical definition of death is based on brain death -- the cessation of brain function. Apparently this is confusing to some people because a body can be kept alive on life support after the brain is no longer capable of cognitive processes, and so a body doesn't "look" dead.

The definition of death as brain death came about in the 1970s because it made organ harvesting (there's an agricultural term if ever i heard one) much more feasible.

Now a doctor is aguing that the definition of death needs to be revised to fit more in line with people's preconceived ideas about death (ie, when the heart stops) rather than "medical pragmatism."

I have 3 reactions to this:

1. What's wrong with medical pragmatism? He says it like that's a bad thing.

2. Our definition of death needs to be based around our definition of life. We need to ask ourselves not what is it that makes a person dead, but what is it that makes them alive? Where does the essence of a person reside: in the heart, as Dr. Kellehear seems to be advocating, or in the brain? Well, since we can perform a heart transplant on people and they are still the same person after that they were before, the heart doesn't seem to be what makes a person a person, or what makes them alive. The essence of a person resides in the brain. When the brain is gone or dead, there is no coming back. The body may still show symptoms of life, but the person is gone. That then, truly, is death.

3. Dr. Kellehear is approaching this from the wrong side. There is a descrepancy between what is medically death and what people percieve as death, but rather than altering a sound (and pragmatic) medical definition to suit the general public's uninformed sensibilities, we need to focus on educating the general public and slowing altering the general social perception of death.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Why do racists always feel the need to point out they're not racist, usually immediately preceding a racist statement?

Surely if you're racist and you're not ashamed of those views you should have no problem admiting it? (I myself hold many unpopular views, though racism is not among them.)

But if you're racist and afraid to admit it, wouldn't that be a clue that you need to reevaluate your perspective?

Just a thought.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Children's Squabble

Matters of religious interest are central to the mission of this page, which is to question and evaluate our basic assumptions about life, the universe, and everything. This is a squirmy process, as I have recently been reminded.

I enjoyed this article in the Guardian on a new ITV documentary airing soon about the Muslim beliefs surrounding Christ. I think it's a great idea. Even as children we're taught that there are two sides to every story. We learn this the first time we get into a squabble with a sibling and our parents (if they're at all sensible) ask each child what happend before handing down a ruling.

Some stories seem to be exempt from this treatment. 'There is one side, once correct view, and it is mine,' seems to be the attitude. Shame, really. I think a lot of people would benefit from the discomfort of hearing the other side of their sacred story.

(And Random Thinker, I know exactly what you're going to say here. No, I am not contradicting my earlier statement about truth being objective regardless of perspective. There is a difference between a story and a fact: a story has multiple sides, a fact does not. In the case of the story of Jesus there are multiple sides (even within the Christian New Testament, where the gospels contradict each other all over the place), and then there is the truth of what actually happened, which nobody knows.)