Tag Archives: A. C. Grayling

Animal welfare

Humanism is about behaving like the best of civilised, thoughtful, responsible, considerate moral agents. We talk about being humane towards animals; that is, acting with the consideration and kindness that arise from conscious interest in their welfare.

A. C. Grayling in The God Argument p. 196.

As a humanist organization, Republic of Lagrangia puts great importance to animal welfare. Space colonization should not only be used to found a better society for humans, but the creation of a new society should also an opportunity to raise animal welfare to a higher level.

Here on Earth proposals aimed at the improvement of animal welfare, are too often resisted by established interests. In space, however, such interests do not exist, at least not yet. This enables us to introduce the best animal welfare legislation, we have to forge the iron when it’s still hot.

The first measure we should take, is the prohibition of intensive animal farming. Not only is intensive animal farming bad for animal welfare, it also constitutes a serious threat to animal health. Diseases in livestock can, when they jump to humans, cause pandemics. Instead space settlements should promote vegetarianism and encourage developments like in vitro meat.

A second measure is to ban the commercial exploitation of animals in the entertainment industry. No wild animals in circuses, no bull fighting and related blood sports, and no animal racing. Rather than betting on horses or dogs, people should bet on the 400m hurdling.

The third issue we have to consider is animal testing. Unlike the previous two topics, simple prohibition is here problematic. On one hand we do not want to inflict suffering on animals, but on the other hand we want to know whether the stuff we use is safe. This does not mean, however, we can’t and shouldn’t take steps to address this issue as well.

We should limit animal testing to those cases, in which the necessity of these experiments can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Next we should encourage research to reliable alternatives for animal testing. New scientific developments suggest that most, if not all, experiments on animals could be eliminated in the near future.

If we will succeed in eliminating animal testing without compromising scientific and medical progress, we have made an important step in the development of civilization.

Transdermal patches for a rational voluntary death?

James Park is one of our favourite contemporary philosophers, and like us he is a proponent of the right of people to decide on their own death. However, Park is seriously concerned about what he calls irrational suicide, that is people making an end to their life for futile reasons such losing a job or being rejected by their love, but if they had not chosen to die they would be able to recover from these setbacks and be able to live a happy life.

The problem, according to Park, is that most methods for voluntary death only require one decision: yes or no. And once the decision to commit suicide, a point of no return has been passed. It would be better in his opinion if people who want to die should use a method which would require multiple decisions. This would force people to consider whether their original desire for a voluntary death is actually what they want.

Park therefore proposes voluntary death by dehydration as a method for a rational voluntary death, i.e. the refusal of drinking water by a person with the intent of ending one’s life. Because death in this fashion is not instantaneous and require a period of at least several days, during which the person has to consistently to refuse water, this method precludes its use in an impulse suicide.

He then puts forward several arguments in favour of this method. First this method does not depend on doctors, and that it could be used by everyone. Also he states that no change of law is required, but this depends on the jurisdiction where one lives and in many countries doctors will put you on intensive care if you has lost your consciousness (but not yet your life) in this way.

But most important is his claim that this method is relatively painless. But this claim is highly questionable, and evidence suggests that voluntary dehydration does cause great suffering. But given that most people will agree with Park’s concern about irrational suicide, could we design a humane but slow method of voluntary death?

I think the answer might be found in transdermal patches. Unlike pills or potions, transdermal patches are designed to administer low doses of a drug to the body over a longer period of time. A well-known example of such devices are nicotine patches, but another example are contraceptive patches and there are several other applications.

What properties should the drug used in this type of transdermal patch have? First, the drug should be able to permeate through the skin into the blood stream. Second, the drug should have a long biological half-life, i.e. the rate in which the body removes this drug should be lower than the rate in which it is administered and hence enables a build-up of the drug in the body. Third, the drug should have a high lethal dose. This means that a large amount of drug should be present in the body before death will occur, this will prolong the time between the attachment of the patch and ultimate death.

A fourth but very important property would be that until the lethal threshold level is reached, the drug should have no or only minimal side effects. And as fifth and final property, is that if the patch is removed before the point of no return, total recovery is possible.

These properties together will ensure that the use of transdermal patches as a method for voluntary death, will not lead to irrational suicides.

In order to guarantee a responsible distribution of these patches, we propose that these devices will only be available through a thanatologist (a medical profession proposed by A. C. Grayling, specialized in euthanasia in order to free other medical personal from this practice). People should be certain that patches provided by licensed thanatologists are save and reliable. An additional benefit is that when a person requests a patch, the thanatologist can have a conversation with this person on why one wants put an end to his or her life, and whether this is the only solution.