By DEXTER DUGGAN
PHOENIX — Shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the right of conscience for religiously sincere business owners as June and the court’s session concluded, a national legal expert in bioethics told some leading graduate students in Arizona that when he was in law school, he couldn’t have foreseen the sorts of issues being grappled with today.
Speaking to the students here earlier in June, Nikolas Nikas, president, CEO and general counsel of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Bioethics Defense Fund (BDF), said a key question is whether the law is tied to morality or to the assertion of will.
Listeners could discern that a moral standard for the law provides some reference point outside one’s own desires and preferences, while an assertion of the will needn’t have any such safeguard.
“Ethics is the science of making good or bad choices,” Nikas said.
He received his law degree magna cum laude in 1986 from the Arizona State University College of Law.
“The idea I would be dealing with issues like we’re talking about” on the ethical front these days would have been unthinkable then, Nikas told the students.
When the Supreme Court issued its opinion favoring the religious business owners on June 30, addressing what often is called the “HHS Mandate,” BDF issued a news release that included this point:
“Our unique amicus brief, filed with co-counsel Patrick T. Gillen of Ave Maria Law School, informed the Supreme Court that the HHS Mandate failed to further the government’s purported interest in promoting ‘women’s preventive health care’ because the mandated contraceptive drugs and devices are associated with significantly increased risks of cancer and other life-threatening diseases such as stroke and heart attack.”
BDF’s motto is, “Law in the Service of Life.”
Although Barack Obama freely handed out waivers and exemptions from his forcibly imposed national medical plan to those who suited his lawless political fancy, Obama insisted that religious believers must fund abortifacients and risky contraceptives that endanger women’s lives.
In his Phoenix talk, Nikas said that what separates man from animals “is making moral judgments.” He added that when Nazi doctors and lawyers on trial at Nuremberg after World War II were asked why they acted as they did, they said they were only following the law.
But it was a law that was put in place to accommodate the National Socialist dictatorship.
In this light, Nikas recalled a lesson from an ancient Greek war: “The weak submit to what they must. The strong do what they will.”
Later in the talk Nikas said one current attitude is, “whatever I want, I get.”
Among his other accomplishments, the BDF website says: “Nikas is a dynamic speaker, having lectured on the full range of bioethics topics at leading medical schools and law schools, including Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, and dozens of others. He has lectured internationally at legal and medical conferences, including the Rome conference of Matercare, and a legal symposium at the University of Warsaw.”
Also, “Nikas received his BA (1979) and MA (1981) in government and international relations from the University of Notre Dame, with his master’s focusing on political theory.”
Nikas told the graduate students in Phoenix that “we’re not Luddites,” simply opposing scientific development. “We’re probably all alive because of antibiotics,” but there are limits to the acceptable, as revealed by the natural law.
There also are plain facts denied by those with an agenda. “Anyone who tells you in 2014, ‘We don’t know when human life begins’,” Nikas said, is being an obscurantist, rejecting established knowledge.
On the topic of harvesting human ova, Nikas said, “It’s not going to be the rich and powerful women” who give up their ova for cloning; it’s the poor. “Do human beings have inherent worth, or we don’t?”
The United Kingdom authorized using a human somatic cell and an animal nucleus cell in experimentation, he said, speculating about additional research and asking, “At what point in this process would a human embryo become animal-like?” An 80 percent human, 20 percent animal mix?
Nikas said he’s not saying this development necessarily will happen, but wondered “how you prepare yourself intellectually” to deal with such questions.
Noting what in fact has developed in surrogate parenting, Nikas said it’s possible to have four “parents” involved — an anonymous donor, a surrogate mother to carry the unborn infant, and the mother and father who want to raise the child as theirs.
Nikas showed the students some graphics from a surrogacy website in which women who already have borne at least one child — proving they can successfully bring to term — offer to bear babies for others.
“When you put women on a website like this,” he asked, “is it any different than selling shoes on a website?. . .
“We critique the method,” Nikas added, “not the human beings that are born.”
The Seduction Of A Society
He recalled the 1927 U.S. Supreme Court opinion Buck v. Bell, written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., approving the involuntary sterilization of those considered unfit, for the health of the state.
“We’re horrified about this. . . . Justice Holmes got it wrong,” Nikas said.
The Nazis adopted the rationale of Buck v. Bell in their work forcibly sterilizing those considered defective, Nikas said.
Warning of how societies are seduced, he said, “Germany, which had the greatest culture, the culture of Bach and Beethoven and science,” took little children and the elderly off trains and sent them straight to Nazi gas chambers.
On the topic of what influences people toward euthanasia now, Nikas cited four reasons: 1) Their fear of dying with pain, 2) fear of dying alone, 3) fear of dying broke, and 4) fear of losing control, losing “autonomy.”
“Hospice care is a mixed bag,” he said, because sometimes “they push you a little fast” toward death. And, “Shame on us,” he added, if any Christians allow people to die alone.