Screwtape Embraces The Internet

My Dear Wormwood,

Your suggestion that I "sign up" for something called "Twitter" is noted, and rejected. I gather from your rapturous description of the thing that "tweeting" is one of the ephemera through which the humans chatter with one another using their internet. Having been promoted from the front lines to a policy-making position some centuries ago, I no longer have interest in corresponding with the vermin through physical means. On the occasions when I do desire the society of humans there is no shortage of them here in Hell, where one can communicate with them in terms rather more frank than is possible on Earth.

In your enthusiasm for the nuts and bolts of the humans' technology, you seem to miss the opportunities it offers.  For example, you boast that your patient, in discussing the most recent controversy occupying the humans' fleeting attention, rebuked another of the beasts in terms profane and sacrilegious, as though this was some great sin. While it is always pleasing to Our Father Below when the man utters a sacrilege, we long ago degraded their speech, particularly in America, to a level barely more articulate than the hoots and grunts of the apes from which they claim to descend.

The great sin, which your patient failed as thoroughly as you to appreciate, was that he entered the discussion in the first place. Think of it, Wormwood, at the moment your patient "clicked the upvote button" in the expectation that his demand would grant the girl a long life, he arrogated to himself that power which belongs solely to the Enemy. In his pride, the fool presumes that he is as qualified to decide the best use of the lung as a transplant surgeon, when in fact he has no medical training and his sense of ethics is limited to parroting platitudes he was taught by older parrots in his half-forgotten school days.

This misplaced pride is particularly common among the American humans. Make no mistake: The idea on which their republic was founded, that all men are born equal in the Enemy's sight, is a noxious and pestilential notion which, if the humans properly understood and followed it, would be the ruin of many of our plans. We want every man to think of himself as better or worse than his brother. If a man thinks himself his brother's superior (whether he actually is or not is of little concern to us), we can foster the pleasing sins of pride, wrath, tyranny, and at the best of times the mass murders and genocides which brought so many to Our Father's House in the last century. If he knows himself to be his brother's inferior, we may reap a crop of envy, resentment, false humility, deceit, despair, and suicide.

But as to equality, under the guidance of the Low Command we have largely nullified the meaning of the word, as the Enemy understands it. Rather than the (self-evident) truth that before the Enemy all men are fallen, and so low in His sight as to deserve none of the gifts He has given them through grace alone, in modern parlance equality is understood to mean that each man is actually the equal of his fellow. Thus the fool thinks it virtuous to blather in the company of the wise man, and the ignorant feel it an injustice when rebuked by their betters for empty-headed prattle. This trend has only accelerated since humans created the internet.

And so we come to the events of yesterday, when a herd of cattle, your patient among them, lowed so loudly at being shown a picture of a young girl denied an organ transplant that it now appears the girl will receive the cast-off lung, whether or not she was of suitable age to receive the organ, and in disregard of longstanding rules on which others of the vermin based their expectations. You can be sure that not a one of the brutes considered that in "giving" life to the object of his fancy, he was just as surely taking it from another. In the Roman colosseum, the plebs knew full well that their roars condemned Christians to death. In the modern arena, the plebs dupe themselves that their roaring is righteous.

Thanks to seeds planted long ago by the Lowerarchy, we can expect more such harvests in the future. As the number of the humans increases, their competition for finite resources will grow keener. We have taught mankind to believe that such resources should be allocated arbitrarily, to she who is most popular or to he who cries most loudly of his need, rather than according to rules, laws, or anything approaching such rationality as their little minds can muster. The so-called leaders of their societies, whom we have well in hand, will be only too happy to appease the mob.

Finally, I concur with your facile observation that it benefits our cause for the girl get her lung (the death of a child, while pleasing to the senses, does us no good since we probably cannot get her soul), but the disposition of a piece of dead tissue is of no importance in the long run. What matters is we are fast approaching the day when, by showing the humans a picture of a wounded puppy or a homeless kitten, we can provoke in them such squalls of outrage that they will abandon their laws, their morals, and their reason.

Your affectionate uncle,


Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White


  1. Shawn says

    I don't care if kitten pictures on the internet are part of the devil's plan, I'll never give them up.

  2. says


    I'm confident Lewis would approve, because my opinion on the matter is just as valid as any so-called expert like that egghead Alister McGrath.

  3. says

    I am looking for a hat to place upon my head so that I may remove it in a gesture toward your skill in this matter. The phrasing is precise and faithful to the original and the point you make is poignant and hits its mark.

  4. different Jess says

    I always did love me some Screwtape. Patrick channels him better than any other modern writer. I think I know why Uncle Screw doesn't advise "sinful" commerce as the solution to our apparent organ shortage. On the one hand, it would solve the problem society faces, about which solution he might not care but which in any event would not please Screwtape. But on the other, it would force the plague of pseudo-atheists who pontificate on ethical matters to either embrace their inner greedy capitalist or banish him. That would be truly disastrous for the Lower Cause, as the demons thrive on muddy-headedness.

  5. Dave Peters says

    Lovely work; both the argument and Screwtape pastiche are very well done.

  6. AlphaCentauri says

    I love it … though if Screwtape didn't have his head stuck in the 13th century, he might have though to have Wormwood get his own twitter account and float the idea of pursuing medical tourism. Why limit sex-selection of progeny in India and China to the prenatal period, when daughters can fetch so much more on the black market when they are older?

  7. Jasmine says

    Wow, that devil is a clever guy. Getting the vermin to build the internet was pure genius. Where can I sign up to sell my soul to him?

  8. Joe Pullen says

    Masterfully done. I count the minutes in which some poor soul wanders by not "getting it" and well . . . . in Twitter terms LULZ

  9. Anthelme says

    One of the most interesting and well written rebuttals I've had the joy of perusing recently(read: last decade)

    Quite honestly made my day.

    The Lowerarchy plus ones you!

  10. says

    Wow, all these kids and other nice people slowly dying because there are no organs. And all these bad, terrible murderers sitting on death row, chock full of perfectly fine organs.

    Larry Niven, call your office.

  11. Will J. Richardson says

    Delightfully written, theologically sound, and logically coherent.

  12. machintelligence says

    A classic example where empathy trumps rationality. BTW if we want more organs for transplantation, it would help a lot to make organ donation an "opt out" choice, rather than an "opt in" one. There is a very informative TED talk on this subject.

  13. babaganusz says

    If a man thinks himself his brother's superior (whether he actually is or not is of little concern to us), we can foster the pleasing sins of pride, wrath, tyranny, and at the best of times the mass murders and genocides which brought so many to Our Father's House in the last century. If he knows himself to be his brother's inferior, we may reap a crop of envy, resentment, false humility, deceit, despair, and suicide.


  14. barry says

    This is why it is important for some religions to convince people they might need their bodies after they're dead.
    And it's easier to donate someone else's organs anyway.

  15. says

    Does the total rejection of emotion in favor of reason really represent a step upward in the evolutionary progression of our species? People of a libertarian bent such as myself and, from what I can tell, the authors of this blog sure do like our rules. We don't like making judgement calls and tend to place our faith in apparently logical rules to govern social interactions. In deciding what's fair, we look for quantifiable factors that can be used to build a weight-based justification for choosing a side.

    There are evolutionary reasons for our vulnerability to images of cute babies. This doesn't mean we shouldn't question our instincts but maybe we should also consider that we don't fully understand their purpose and benefits. As much as I may want to agree with the message of this post, I'm hesitant to assume I really know better than all those emotional sheep who responded in a less-than-calculating manner to the image of the dying girl.

  16. says

    @David Aubke

    You don't have to reject emotion in favour of reason, just notice when emotion is being manipulated, and then apply reason accordingly.

  17. jackn says

    This doesn't mean we shouldn't question our instincts but maybe we should also consider that we don't fully understand their purpose and benefits

    consider that we DO fully understand their purpose and benefits

    Does the total rejection of emotion in favor of reason really represent a step upward in the evolutionary progression of our species?

    Yes. Maybe not total rejection, but dialectical reasoning.

  18. En Passant says

    machintelligence wrote Jun 6, 2013 @10:06 pm:

    A classic example where empathy trumps rationality. BTW if we want more organs for transplantation, it would help a lot to make organ donation an "opt out" choice, rather than an "opt in" one. There is a very informative TED talk on this subject.

    While that is a laudable step toward the result, at best it's a terribly sub-optimal and low yield solution.

    To approach maximal results, the "opt out" choice must be invokable only by filing the appropriate form with the governing authority. The forms must require expertise of a panel of administrative law attorneys to fill out properly for consideration of validity by the governing authority. Filings must be limited to one per lifetime.

    Results can be further enhanced by making the forms available only between the hours of 4:59 PM and 5 PM on Whit Friday; only in person to the party wishing to "opt out". The form distribution point should be located in the second sub-basement of an administration building presently scheduled for demolition, in a disused lavatory, which door is clearly marked with a sign stating "beware of the leopard".

    In government, good results require good administrative procedure.

  19. Joe Pullen says

    @Barry – I've never understood that. Funerals and such are for the living not the dead. As far as I'm concerned after I'm gone if they can use the parts for someone else, then go for it. After that, shake and bake the rest and put it in a cardboard box. Seriously if someone pays more than $100 for my funeral I'm coming back to haunt them.

  20. says

    @jackn. It seems a pretty bold statement to suggest we completely understand evolutionary forces.

    I'm inclined to agree with you and, I guess, Patrick. But I also know that folks like us are different. We see a sort of perfection in rationalism and figure it must be the best course for humanity. I feel arrogant in assuming I'm right though. Maybe I just need to apply some o' that dialectical reasoning to my interpretation of that feeling.

  21. jackn says

    @David Aubke

    I didn't mean to suggest we understand everything, but I feel I know what is behind my own emotions and instincts and by knowing, i can factor them in or out as appropriate.

    I can feel arrogant, but then I think, no Im not arrogant – I AM correct. just kidding, every once-in-awhile, I am wrong on something and humbled (for a bit).

    Also, I think this dialectical reasoning has an angle about reconciling opposing points. so, its not that you are right or wrong, everyone is right.

  22. says

    I am not as good at anything as Patrick is at this sort of thing. This is why I am proud he's a friend and co-blogger.

  23. AlphaCentauri says

    As anyone might have expected, the parents of another child at the same hospital with the same disease have now gotten a court order to have their child put simultaneously on the adolescent and pediatric waiting lists, too. I'm sure the rest of the kids waiting for lungs will follow quickly, and any advantage the first child's parents thought they had won will evaporate.

    Re: Becoming and organ donor: The opt-out strategy only makes sense if people trust institutions. The people who are driving recklessly without seatbelts or who are getting in gunfights over drug deals tend to be more "disenfrachised." Plus, there are a just lot of people who read Coma and are very paranoid about being killed for their organs. That's why the bone marrow registry won't keep record of a potential donor's complete HLA profile — if you get called up, they do a second blood test to see if you match the rest of the loci, and if you don't, they discard the results and test you again if you are called again. The solid organ transplant people are also very careful to make sure they don't do anything to make people suspicious. So even if you check on your driver's license or on your advance directive that you want to be an organ donor, if your next of kin refuses, your organs won't be used, regardless of your expressed wishes.

  24. Trent says


    Not just the sick kids, the adults are going to have to sue as well. This judge has just ensured EVERYONE on the transplant lists now has to hire an attorney to try to preserve their place in line. He put in place a precedent where those with means can now move themselves up the list. It's an atrocious decision and is going to likely cost people lives as suits are launched right up until the organ is transplanted. I can even see injunctions issued and organs wasted because of this and without a doubt in my mind that more people will die than would have.

    The system is designed to provide not the sickest or most sympathetic victims receive organs but those that are both the sickest and have the highest probability of success. This girl has a serious lifetime condition with projected lifespan that isn't much more than 5 years. She may get an organ that would have went to an adult and provided a 98% possibility of a full and healthy life, all to extend her's by a year. These decisions need to be made by experts in Triage that can objectively way the chance of success without regard to emotion.

    This ruling simply made me furious, I am an organ donor and I want any donation I might make to be used in the medically best possible manner.

  25. Graham says

    Looks like I may well be in the minority. (Something on the order of 40 to 1, if I am counting correctly.) Let’s see what I can do to shift those numbers a tad.

    The gist of your argument seems embodied in Screwtape’s observation that, “In his pride, the fool presumes that he is as qualified to decide the best use of the lung as a transplant surgeon, when in fact he has no medical training and his sense of ethics is limited to parroting platitudes he was taught by older parrots in his half-forgotten school days.”

    Unfortunately, I believe we may be looking at proverbial pot calling the kettle black situation, here. First, same facts.

    “The lung allocation system uses medical information specific to each lung transplant candidate. This information includes lab values, test results, and disease diagnosis and is used to calculate an Lung Allocation Score (LAS) from 0 to 100. The score represents an estimate of the severity of every candidate’s illness and the chance of success following a lung transplant. All candidates are placed in order for compatible lung offers according to their score: a candidate with a higher lung allocation score receives higher priority for a lung offer when a compatible lung becomes available.” (

    Next, at 78, Sarah’s Lung Allocation Score (LAS) is very high and would otherwise qualify her for a lung if not for the new rule denying her one based solely on her age. Also, “Sarah’s doctors have decided that transplanting a set of adult lungs is appropriate in her case. She has been on the waiting list for child-donated lungs since December 2011.” (

    However, the rule put in place in 2000 requires that any lung for which she would qualify must be passed up by ALL adults on the waiting list even if their LAS is much lower than Sarah’s.

    This is the gist of every report I have read. I just want to make sure we are clear on this: If not for the age-based rule, this girl would be getting lungs. I am being careful because Screwtape failed to mention any of this. Perhaps the heat is getting to him in his old age?

    So the relevant question seems to be, “Is the age-based rule legally permissible?” The argument, here, is that it is not because the government acted arbitrarily and capriciously, ignoring the bulk of scientific evidence, when it enacted the rule. This would violate the constitution and possibly the APA. This is the core of the complaint – that there is no medically-relevant reason to institute a flat out ban based solely on a patient’s youth. Without scientific justification, all we have is a government official drawing an essentially random line to decide winners and loser – the very definition of acting arbitrarily and capriciously.

    Interestingly, the very article linked to by Screwtape asserts, “Murnaghan’s family IS CORRECT that the 12-year-old cutoff DOESN’T REFLECT MEDICAL CONSIDERATIONS and, as a result, puts children like Sarah at an arguably unfair disadvantage.” (Emphasis mine.) I have seen variations of this fact asserted across the press reports. While I am aware that all such citations may have come from one source due to the AP News effect, it is the only fact in evidence relating to the issue at hand (i.e., whether Sebelius acted arbitrarily and capriciously when creating the 12-year-old cutoff rule.)

    If I missed Screwtapes presentation of contradictory evidence, I apologize as it is late here, and I am tired. However, I don’t recall Screwtape mentioning these issues at all. Not once did he discuss Sarah’s LAS of 78 and its implications. Not once did he mention the existence of a rule excluding people from receiving benefits based solely on their age. And he certainly did not mention even once that the very rule being objected to reportedly “doesn’t reflect medical considerations.”

    As such, it appears that Screwtaoe, himself, “presumes that he is as qualified to decide the best use of the lung as a transplant surgeon…” and is doing nothing but “parroting platitudes” since it appears that he is complaining that this is a case of squeaky wheels getting the grease instead of it possibly, just possibly, being a case of a judge finding, legitimately, that there is a good chance that the government enacting a rule based on shoddy science in the name of expediency and reacting by putting a TRO in place until he can make a full determination.

    I am not asserting that the rule is definitely unconstitutional. I AM asserting, however, that with the facts in evidence, it is arrogant, presumptuous, and hypocritical to, on one hand, mock the judge for presuming to know better than a “transplant surgeon…while not having any medical training” and “parroting platitudes” while ignoring the actual scientific evidence we have from our trusted reporters that seems to indicate that putting a TRO on the enforcement of the rule may very well be a reasonable move because there is some significant likelihood that the plaintiffs can show that the rule is arbitrary and capricious and will result in a less-deserving candidate receiving a valuable resource. In fact, the judge wrote that by refusing to set aside the existing rule for children, Sebelius had failed “to protect the very few children nationally who are subject to it.” He added that the evidence showed that the rule “discriminates against children and serves no purpose, is arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.” (

    Again, forgive me if I am unjustly attacking Screwtape, here, but this appears to me to be a genuine controversy and all I have heard from the medical professionals being interviewed today is that the 12-year-old rule has little to nothing to do with the objective of the government’s actions. As such, a TRO seems appropriate to me. I understand that Screwtape may disagree, but to go to such lengths to mock and belittle those who are raising their hands and asking the questions seems beneath even Screwtape. (Unless he is just assuming that the government would never act arbitrarily or capriciously?)

  26. Narad says

    This judge has just ensured EVERYONE on the transplant lists now has to hire an attorney to try to preserve their place in line.

    Oh, and there's a reason Steve Jobs procured a liver from Tennessee.

  27. AlphaCentauri says

    Adults with more money than morals can already travel to China and get an organ after one of their mass executions celebrating public holidays, though thankfully, China has set a date to end that practice. Kids, not so much.

    I know that kidneys from living donors are for sale to medical tourists in India, but I don't know how efficient the process for harvesting cadaver organs is.

  28. Laura K says

    I'm sure there's some region of hell reserved for an English Lit major who believes this, but I like your Screwtape letters better than the original.

  29. says

    Laura K, you flatter me, but I'm simply aping my affectionate uncle Clive. This is but a pastiche and a poor tribute to a great writer.

    Though I am not a Christian, I enjoy Lewis's explicitly Christian writing more than I enjoy his wonderful fantastic allegories. He combined wit and wisdom in equal measure.

  30. ChrisTS says

    I thought the OP was brilliantly done. But, I'm glad Graham has raised the points he has about the actual merits of the court's decision. It is not at all clear that this was simply a matter of emotion trumping reason or complainers derailing a fully rational and legitimate procedure.

  31. ChrisTS says

    @different Jess:

    I'm puzzled by your reference to 'pseudo-atheists' who 'pontificate' on morality. Who are they, and in what ways are they pontificating? (I am a genuine atheist and an ethicist, so I am wondering …. well, I'm not even sure what I am wondering.)

  32. Graham says

    @ChrisTS: Thank you for the upvote. I, too, greatly enjoyed the OP, as I usually do when Screwtape shows up here. Like Patrick, I am am not a Christian. However, I still enjoy Patrick's Screwtape posts as a worthy homage to the originals which were wonderful if not misguided.

  33. different Jess says


    I won't put words in your mouth, but what's your position on payment for organ donation? I know that many "ethicists" are against it, categorically. As in, they aren't interested in thinking about whether allowing payments would alleviate the shortage problems (many people think payments would do that, but for this discussion it doesn't matter), because they found the whole concept distasteful. To my mind ethics should be based on reason rather than emotion, and this is woolly-headed theological-style begging the question rather than a reasoned argument from defensible agnostic ethical principles. So, I wish such ethicists would decide whether they're actually atheists or not, and I doubt Screwtape would share that wish of mine. Even though I am agnostic, I consider that Uncle Screw and I are on different sides.

  34. AlphaCentauri says

    The concern about paying for organs isn't just about naive idealism. There is a real concern about abuse, as these decisions are often made by the same people making decisions for people with life-threatening illnesses, and by their doctors, who often are treating people with no health insurance, so that if the estate gets paid, the doctor gets paid. And again, it's important for everyone to trust the system in order to get volunteers to get past the "yuck" factor and be willing to donate.

  35. ChrisTS says

    I have not given organ donation enough thought to have a position on paying for organs. I doubt that very many trained ethicists would rely on "icky" as an argument, even if some of them have that reaction to the idea of paying for organs. As AlphaCentauri observes, there are possibilities for corruption and abuse that ought to be considered. But, again, not something I work on.

    I'm still puzzled by the not-real-atheists bit. I take it you are assuming that anyone who is a theist is incapable of using reason and/or relies on emotions in arriving at moral positions. I don't think either of these is a defensible claim, even though I find much religiosity, itself, to be irrational. At any rate, even if these claims were true re. theists, this would not entail that every one who does make moral decisions based on emotions or less than fully rationally is a closet theist or a pseudo-atheist.

  36. Laura K says

    Hi Patrick Non-White–not at all! I love Lewis' Letters and the Narnia collection; just could never quite enjoy the original Screwtape. Hope to see more missives to Wormwood as time goes by.

  37. different Jess says


    In general I assume that physicians, patients, and patients' families are capable of making moral decisions. If they aren't then we might as well give up. (Of course there are exceptions; that's why we have laws.)

    It's interesting that both responses made the same two basic mistakes, first in assuming that organ donors are necessarily deceased (true in most cases for hearts but not for anything else: livers, pancreases, and intestines can be subdivided and of other organs we're born with two), and second in automatically weighting a conflict of interest involving organs above myriad other conflicts of interest that can arise such as those involving insurance, inheritance, physicians' remuneration, relative wealth, etc. Since no reason is given for this exceptional weighting, I take it as an emotional, organs-are-icky reaction, at least until I see a principled argument otherwise.

    I do not assume that atheists are more rational in general than theists; that would contradict years of observation. You're correct to draw a distinction between belief in unreasonable religious propositions of "doctrinal fact" and the ability to consider a moral question in a rational, ethical manner. I swear, sometimes atheists seem to prefer to be wrong in the latter sense while they're right in the former, as if they want to reject religion in every way possible. If minds are open, however, they can usually be prodded into finding no ethical precept that bars a human from accepting compensation for organ donation. Typically when I prod in such a manner, I appeal to a pride in being atheist (I'm sure Screwtape would approve, although perhaps he wouldn't see the point). Those advanced enough in their thinking not to be afflicted with such pride typically don't need to be so prodded in the first place.

  38. AlphaCentauri says

    Most people do make moral decisions. And it's unfortunate that anyone should suffer because of the fact that some people make unethical ones. Payment for organs is just one type of remuneration that might influence a next of kin to make a decision that would shorted the life of a loved one. For instance, suppose 80 year old grandma slips in the shower and bumps her head. She comes to the hospital comatose and with irregular breathing due to a large blood clot inside the skull which is forcing the brain out the hole at the base of the skull. A simple procedure called "trephination" drills a hole in the skull and the clot oozes right out and relieves the pressure. It's so simple cave people used to do it, and at least some of the patients survived based on healing seen on old skulls. On the other hand, if grandma is 80, who's to say it's not her time, or that she won't survive with brain damage that would leave her nursing home bound? You could make a good argument either way, and I guarantee there will be members of the same family arguing about who should have made the decision and who doesn't deserve the inheritance because they killed grandma. Kidney-1 doesn't want to get dragged into a public squabble like that. It would make them look ghoulish, and they really rely on their squeaky-clean reputation.

  39. ChrisTS says

    @different Jess:

    I do not at all assume "that organ donors are necessarily deceased." Rather, I can see that there are serious concerns about paying for organs whether the 'donor;' is alive or dead. I do assume that anyone who is interested in this subject is aware that living persons have sold their – often needed – organs to unscrupulous middle men. I, also, have some concerns about a system that makes organs more readily available to those with money than those with need. Just to be clear, I will repeat that I have not done adequate work in this area to have a hard and fast opinion.

    Ugh, going to another comment because of this silly, tiny window.

  40. ChrisTS says

    @Different Jennifer:

    I'm sorry, I still do not understand what you are saying about atheists or pseudo-atheists. I will try again tomorrow.

  41. Xenocles says


    Reason is neither a necessary attribute of atheism nor one alien to theism. Even if you're saying it's irrational to believe in some spiritual element, it's easily possible to be rational in one area and just plain nuts in all others (and vice versa, and this doesn't even take into consideration the atheistic spiritual traditions out there – materialism is not the only branch of atheist faith).


    But you have this sort of consideration whenever there is a conflict of interest involved. Maybe Grandma's care is eating into the inheritance of her children. Maybe the kids just want their inheritance now, or maybe they're just tired of Grandma's repeated hospital visits. What you are citing is just a symptom of the greater agency problem – attacking these symptoms one by one seems far less effective than putting in the effort to select an honest agent for yourself (not that that's an easy thing, mind you).

    The way I see it is that every contributor to the organ transplant process is paid (or at least nobody would raise ethical issues if they were paid; certainly some do their work pro bono) except for the one providing what is arguably the most important piece of the puzzle, and almost certainly the rarest. To reduce it rather crudely: why is it ethical to charge for labor but not parts?

  42. AlphaCentauri says

    @Xenocles — The policy isn't based just on ethics; it's based on public relations. Organ harvesting asks people to set aside cultural and religious beliefs they grew up with. People like to think of the dead as merely sleeping, and they have trouble believing they are unaware of pain or disrespectful treatment; coffins have comfy linings and people are buried in their favorite clothes and with their favorite objects and jewelry. In addition, many religious faiths have very specific beliefs about how the body should be handled after death. (The Catholic Church used to prohibit cremation because of the belief in the physical resurrection of the body, and people like Joan of Arc were burned and their ashes scattered in rivers in the belief that this would prevent their bodies from being resurrected. Apparently there was a concern that God would have trouble keeping records.) Even today, with our separation of church and state, we have laws against "abuse of a corpse."

    So in order to expect people to lay all that emotional baggage aside and allow their deceased loved ones to be carved up and their organs sent in multiple directions, transplant programs need to convince people that this is a higher moral choice despite the distasteful details. And that strategy has worked — donating a loved one's organs is considered a wonderful, selfless, philanthropic thing to do. People will typically consent to organ donation even though they would be completely unwilling to permit an autopsy for educational/quality control purposes. But even so, many people still refuse to permit organ harvesting, because they feel their relative "has suffered enough."

    Maybe someday, organ donation will be so routine that payment won't make it look less noble. But as long is there a chance that people will whisper, "They sold their son's organs after his accident!" organ selling would do more harm than good.

  43. LauraW says

    I'm resurrecting the most recent PRISM thread I could find because I thought this Wired article would be of interest, especially to the defense and 1st amendment lawyers here. Money quote:

    “His lawyers — who all have security clearances — we can’t learn about it until it’s to the government’s tactical advantage politically to disclose it,” says New York attorney Joshua Dratel. “National security is about keeping illegal conduct concealed from the American public until you’re forced to justify it because someone ratted you out.”

    Welcome to the police state.

    There's also an Ars article, but it mostly just rehashes the Wired one.

  44. AlphaCentauri says

    Sadly, the little girl's first lung transplant failed. Since getting a transplant means her own diseased lungs had to be removed, she had to get an emergency transplant of whatever they had available. In this case, they were lungs infected with pneumonia. It will be very difficult to treat the pneumonia while simultaneously suppressing rejection.

    There are no lessons to be learned except that there is only so much in life we really have control over.


  1. […] Through a roundabout path, I ended up at an insightful article by Ace of Spades on that encapsulates what bothered me about this whole incident.  You should read the whole thing.  (Thanks to Robb, I bounced through Popehat who does an excellent imitation of the Screwtape Letters, "Screwtape Embraces the Internet"). […]