Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Dermal Abrasion on a Global Scale

Joe Katzman at, by way of USMC_Vet, directs our scrutiny to a news item that, if you still have a stomach that can turn, will turn your stomach. Seems that the enterpreneurial spirit of the People’s Republic of China has plumbed a new depth. The report indicates that they are harvesting the skin of freshly-executed prisoners, to extract collagen for sale to Western cosmetics manufacturers.

(Click on the title of my post to link to Winds of Change; Click HERE to link to USMC_Vet)

As early as the 1960’s sci-fi writer Larry Niven was speculating on the consequences to our culture depending on our decisions to pursue the medical expertise for organ transplant versus that of prosthetic organs & artificial tissues. (The stories featured an investigator “Gil the ARM” with certain unusual abilities, up against the “organ-leggers” as he worked for the law enforcement agency of a world-government. The guy was always running afoul of bureaucratic turf-warriors from the Belt and Luna.)

His stories started with the historical note that centuries earlier, when the Monarch of France ran short of oarsmen to propel his personal trireme along the Mediterranean waves, the solution was to draft a few new laws criminalizing some peasant behavior back in Paris, in order that more of them could be sentenced to serve a year at the oars.

Then he noted that once medical investigation had shown the significance of blood types, attention immediately turned to the notion of using the blood of condemned criminals to save the lives of others, and so perhaps mitigate the results of that criminal’s offenses...

In several stories he posited that our culture would eventually become so addicted to the extension of life by organ transplant that we would condemn folks to death for overdue library books, and unpaid parking tickets. (Of course, this would have the effect of making people mighty particular about returning their books and feeding the meters on time...)

I recall reading an article in 1961 or so in Life Magazine, which described how communities around the United States were then forming committees of citizens, including homemakers, firefighters, doctors, teachers, clergy, etc. to decide which candidates would receive the lifesaving new dialysis treatments to keep them alive after their kidneys had failed. For the first decade of that technology, it was so expensive that many communities could only afford one or two units, which could only serve a very small number of patients. The rest would inevitably die.

Such a community-based committee would not be allowed to exist today, I fear. Americans are paralyzed by moral ambiguity.

How far we have come in our attitudes may be shown by a listing of certain landmark lawsuits, notable regardless of the outcome:

• In the 1990’s A woman petitioned a California court to receive a judgment allowing her to be artificially inseminated with her father’s sperm so the fetus could be aborted to provide tissue that some tests had indicated might alleviate some symptoms of her father’s early stage alzheimer’s syndrome.

• The frozen microscopic embryos (fertilized in-vitro) of a wealthy American couple killed in an Australian plane crash, were the subject of lawsuits by the living children of that couple, who sought to have the embryos destroyed lest they be implanted, brought to term, and raised up to claim a share of the inheritance.

• In the 90’s information filtered out of the People’s Republic of China — which acknowledges that it executes some ten thousand prisoners per year — that it harvests organs from an unspecified number of those criminals, and makes them available for sale on the international market.

• Studies of abortion trends in urban populations of India in the mid-1980’s showed that more than 90 percent of all abortions performed following fetal sonograms, were to abort female fetuses. (In India, as in many cultures, females are regarded as a burden to a family, because of the dowry that must be paid to the prospective husband.)

I’ve been pondering some of those items for quite a few years. The item about abortion of female fetuses in India I encountered in a Spanish language newspaper circa 1989, and couldn’t find a peep about it any American publication. Last year I was able to find some references on the web, but it’s a factoid that gets NO attention whatsoever from U.S. liberals or feminists, whose views on the subject I would give worlds to know.

The silence of the left on this issue speaks eloquently of their habit of sidestepping pesky contradictions to their programs. On one hand, the selective abortion of exclusively female fetuses seems to be an outrage against the gender. But if a female fetus has a right to protection from killing, then so does a male fetus. And whether you oppose the practice or no, it is bound to have profound consequences on Indian society in the next generation or two, as females become progressively scarcer.

It is no surprise that we humans continue to treat each other so brutally. It is only surprising that so many people refuse to acknowledge the truth.

So, I salute you for your prescience Mr. Niven. You were only a few decades off in your calculation of precisely when our society would embrace the casual killing of people for the trade.


Blogger Joe Katzman said...

Actually, I have heard feminists raising the issue of gender-based killings in both China and India (in China, the driver is a 1-child policy; girls won't carry on the family name).

I have also seen outreach efforts aimed at working with local feminists on these issues... but the local feminists don't see themselves making headway there, and tend to prefer other issues (forced marriages, for one). So it never goes anywhere.

What I haven't seen, is anything even resembling meaningful protest in the West at any of this.

11:20 PM  

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