“Logic? My God, the man’s talking about logic!”

January 31, 2009

I suppose it makes sense, when you stop to think about it (even when your AP Biology quiz on the hormone cycles of human reproduction sealed your future career as not-an-OB/GYN), that having octuplets would carry with it certain dangers— mostly because, I suppose, the odds on naturally-occurring octuplets are longer than the odds when you’re implanting multiple embryos.  And while it appears the solution with the most support is reasonable (restricting the number of embryos implanted at a given time), that this is even being tossed out as a serious option is disturbing:

“Rosenthal, on the other hand, questions the woman’s capacity to make a good decision under the circumstances. Some neonatologists believe that when pregnant women are told about dangers of prematurity or have great expectations about giving birth, their judgment can be impaired, she said.

The situation raises the issue of whether a doctor ought to override a patient’s wishes for the sake of saving lives, she said. Although the health care system in America gives patients autonomy in making decisions about their own bodies, when emotionally distraught, some people decide poorly, she said.” [emphasis added – JLW]

The case the article was discussing involved a woman refusing “selective termination” (which, I have learned, “is not the same as traditional abortion because the goal is the healthiest possible birth rather than the termination of a pregnancy”).  That is to say, there are doctors out there, taken seriously by at least CNN, who think they ought to have the right to force an abortion.  Which seems to be against the spirit of the wood planks tied to a tree in the middle of campus proclaiming, “Choice Today!  Choice Forever!”  (The decorative condoms have deflated.)

What’s worth complaining about more than the abortion aspect (because I’ll either be shouting into the wind or preaching to the choir, depending on who’s reading), or the Orwellian euphemism (self-evident), is this attitude of cold-blooded “rationalism” and tyranny of “expertise.”  The mother is behaving unreasonably because she’s not willing to make a value-judgment about human life — that the conclusion drawn is that she is “emotionally distraught” flattens out the entire moral and — yes — emotional matrix behind the decision.  It is a matter of numerical, utilitarian preservation, not adherence to what anyone might believe is a more important truth behind the matter.

Remember Obama’s response to an abortion question at Rick Warren’s interview-thing: above his pay-grade.  This doctor certainly agrees, with respect to the patient, that it is above their pay-grade: but precisely at her own.  She, not the patient, is the expert; she, not the patient, should make all decisions.  Because of her expertise, her moral system supersedes that of the mother.  The individual self and that self’s moral matrix is consumed by that of the doctor: the individual is there to go on living on a physical level, because that’s apparently what Nature and Science call for, but since living on spiritual, moral, and intellectual planes interfere with that, we must outsource.  The reason a patient’s right to control their own body is so important is that it is also the right to control one’s own self: this would seem doubly (yet differently) so in the case of a mother and the right to protect her children (born or unborn, and call them what you will in the latter case) — is there no parental prerogative?  And what would the absorption of that prerogative into the realm of “expertise” mean except that the role of parent — with the requisite individuality — is being absorbed into an outsourced expertise?

Or, to conjure that space-travelling Percyian to make his (as is frequent) all-too-human point:

MCCOY: “Dear Lord, do you suppose we’re intelligent enough to…. Suppose…what if this thing were used where life already existed?”

SPOCK: “It would destroy such life in favor of its new matrix.”

MCCOY: “It’s new matrix. Do you have any idea what you’re saying?”

SPOCK: “I was not attempting to evaluate its moral implications, Doctor. As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than create.”

MCCOY: “Not anymore, now we can do both at the same time. According to myth, the Earth was created in six days. Now watch out, here comes Genesis. We’ll do it for you in six minutes!”

SPOCK: “I do not dispute that in the wrong hands…”

MCCOY: “In the wrong hands? Would you mind telling me whose are the right hands, my logical friend? Or are you, by chance in favor of these experiments?”

KIRK: “Gentlemen, gentlemen…”

SPOCK: “Really, Dr. McCoy. You must learn to govern your passions. They will be your undoing. Logic suggests…”

MCCOY: “Logic? My God, the man’s talking about logic. We’re talking about universal Armageddon!”

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