Monday, August 31, 2009

The Bell Curve of Personhood

The pieces are moving into place.

Obama's new "health Czar",
Dr. Emmanuel has stated repeatedly in public forums such as the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that doctors were driving up health-care costs because they value the Hippocratic Oath as "an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of cost or effect on others."

Dr. Emmanuel raises the possibility of a new ethical system, the "Complete Lives System" that would ration care away from the elderly, away from infants, and away from human beings judged unable to rationally participate in society (such as those with dementia), in favor of those aged 15-44, who have the best chance "to live a complete life.

Hmm..."Complete Lives System" huh?

Reading the above, I instanly recognised this as my good old Bell Curve of Personhood.

I think I told y'all about how I once gave a few talks to teenagers in Catholic schools. Kind of Life Issues 101.

In those talks, I developed what I called the Utilitarian Bell Curve of Personhood.

The Bell Curve of Personhood was a kind of diagram illustrating how the abortion/euthanasia/Bioethics logic works. Some years ago, bioethicists were having a grand time at conferences and in peer review journals trying to work out exactly how a human being qualifies for this ephemeral thing they invented called "personhood".

The Bioethics (cf. Utilitarianism) personhood theory assigns a certain amount of personhood according to a set of criteria. Who sets the criteria and what is on the list exactly is open to debate, as is the number of boxes a human must tick to qualify, but the essential gist is that personhood isn't something that comes automatically with the right type and number of genes.

You have to earn it.

You might think that the personhood clock starts at birth, but bioethicists are not so naive. They do, in fact, assign a modicum of personhood to embryos, even to the very first single-cell stage. It's just that it isn't enough personhood to prevent you being killed. You certainly get quite a lot of Personhood Points (PPs) for being born successfully. But lose them again if you have some kind of defect that makes it hard for you to get on in life without help.

You get the gist, I'm sure.

People who have very little of each of the items on the list were afforded a low level of personhood and were at the lowest parts of the curve. People with lots of them got to be right on the top of the curve.

Too far down on the curve and "society" should have the right to kill you for being too inconvenient or expensive, or if your parts are useful in some way.

But watch out! Being on the top of the curve doesn't make you safe. The highest point is one from which we slip all too soon and too easily.

Why, the $150,000 a year, white computer engineer could have a stroke from too much stress. He might find himself unable to communicate after his stroke and therefore unable to work. He slips down that curve and into the eugenicists' disintegration chambers before you can say 'socialised medicine'.

I see that Mr. Obama is moving the free world closer to that happy day when my utopian sci fi novel [that yes, I'm still working on, now and then] will come true in which the world is a much nicer place because illness, disability and even social discontent are dimly remembered myths of a long lost past. Medicine has abandoned its former and untenable dedication to treating ill and disabled people one at a time and trying to cure their illnesses and mollify their disabilities, and has been reformed to instead treat "illness" and "disability" by the much cheaper method of simply getting rid of sick and disabled people.

I like to work on the principle that the scariest fiction is the one closest to current reality.