Genetic Enhancements and Brain Machine Interfaces

“Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” Isaiah 43:7

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Unfortunately, not everyone defines morals the same way and not all scientists look at the same moral compass. A few years ago, I looked at Karen Moxom’s Mind Over Matter Project that is moving beyond implanting chips in people who are paralyzed or missing a limb to implanting chips in addict’s brains to change their behaviors (Moxon, K, Ph.D., Ignacio Saez, Ph.D., and Jochen Ditterich, Ph.D., 2019). What I found disturbed me, and leads us back to moral and ethical questions about how technology should be used.

Karen Moxom speaking about her Mind Over Matter project stated that “Technology in neuroscience will soon let us simply think about something we want our computers to do and watch it instantaneously happen” (Moxon, et al., 2019). As the technology, she is working with becomes more available and safer to use there are also ethical questions to ask about when the technology is appropriate to use and how it should be used in the future. The technology can change someone’s life that is missing an arm or a leg by decoding algorithms of recorded neuron activity to carry out the patient’s intention to move. There is also a theory that the device will work with memory patients that suffer from Alzheimer’s or be able to change an addict’s decision-making process so that they make better decisions. Besides deciding how to use the device, there are also cost and inequality concerns because the device will be costly. Another concern is that no one knows what the societal impact of being able to plug thoughts into a computer will be. She did not mention any of those things in her reports though.

Besides the fact that technology has taken off so fast that there are not ethical guidelines in place to refer to when ethical questions arise, the definition of “personhood” may need to be changed to make the experiments legally ethical. Moxon’s study from 2015 intended to establish genuinely causal relationships between neurophysiological activity and behavior shows  brain-behavior causality can be achieved by disrupting neural activity with an external intervention and observing the consequent change in behavior. The study shows in neurorobotic BMI, brain-behavior causality is not between the brain and the body, but between the observed neurophysiological activity within the brain and an external device outside the body. Possibilities are endless and there are numerous studies about how neurol coding in the interface can be used to change behavior. They all show how beneficial the technology can be to someone that is missing a limb or suffering from paralysis or Parkinson’s disease but do not say much about the possible adverse effects of using the device.

“Who makes these judgments and how?” R&D (research and development) is crossing the line in genetic modifications. Science is always going to seek answers. Scientists are inquisitive beings that will always have more questions about how humans and other things are made and how to improve them. Addictions is a field with little scientific data to base any decisions on. Addicts are often misunderstood and are rarely cared for. Most addicts end up in jail and there are experiments there that raise ethical questions also, but the big question that I have about Moxom’s work is who gets to decide how a person is supposed to think and behave? To link that back to genetic modifications, who gets to decide what the perfect human is? Will we ever have eyes blue or brown enough? Will humans ever be the desired look? with the desired personality?

Who’s desire? It cannot be a matter for either science or society alone to decide. We as a culture have to decide what we will and will not accept as morally and ethically acceptable. Will we allow the definition of personhood to be changed so that scientist’s work does not legally violate human rights?

When considering genetic data healthcare professionals have to consider what data needs to be collected and how it should be analyzed and used. We also have to be careful with labels because words count and they can hurt. Patient’s lives can easily spiral out of control if they receive the wrong treatment or no treatment at all. Someone may become depressed or financially stressed, and that can lead to more problems with a person’s health. Low self-esteem about a known genetic characteristic might lead someone to think that they cannot be a good parent or that they can only have children that are physically and mentally disabled. Do we as a society believe that if someone does not look like or think like us that they should not be born? Adoption and fostering is an alternative that many people with physical disabilities choose to take out of fear that giving birth to a biological child will create a person who’s life will not be successful and appreciated. While many children do need homes and people that they can trust, do the genetically challenged people that want children think that by chosing to adopt and foster believe that they are receiving the “perfect child” because of the way that the child looks? That person will end up being disappointed because most orphan children have already suffered unthinkable trauma that looks cannot cover up. Jiankui’s work creating genetically enhanced babies was condemned because he deceived vulnerable patients into using a risky, untested procedure with no medical justification (Sample, 2019).

Society needs to be more aware of how our thoughts and actions affect others. Genetic enhancement can be life-saving such as with treating memory problems before a patient develops Alzheimer’s, or to cure blood disorders, cancer, blindness, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, and other diseases. Genetic screening can be used by doctors to detects pre-existing genetic characteristics.  The goal for most medical scientists is to create a healthier society. Gene editing can be done to prevent diseases, cure diseases, and to change or improve physical appearance, metabolism, and physical capabilities. Mental faculties such as memory and intelligence can also be genetically enhanced. Food can be genetically modified and created.

Beneficence is a foundational moral principle that means that doctors have a moral obligation to make decisions based on what is best for the client and to set their own needs aside to focus on the needs of the clients throughout the relationship. Fidelity is a moral principle that pertains to the importance of building relationships based on trusts. On agreeing to participate in a research project, participants are entrusting themselves to the researcher who has an obligation to protect each participant as much as possible from any harm as a result of participating in their research. Most genetic enhancements probably are for the good of the patient, but then there are other processes and procedures that may cause more harm. The entire mind, body, and spirit of each patient would have to be evaluated to assess how appropriate a genetic enhancement will be. In doing so I hope that doctors will remember that we are all made by God and in his image.

References

Moxon, Karen,  Guglielmo Foffani, (Brain-Machine Interfaces beyond Neuroprosthetics, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, Retrieved From,), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2015.03.036

Moxon, K, Ph.D., Ignacio Saez, Ph.D., and Jochen Ditterich, Ph.D., (2019), Mind Over Matter: Cognitive Neuroengineering, The Dana Foundation, Retrieved From, http://dana.org/Cerebrum/2019/Mind_Over_Matter_Cognitive_Neuroengineering/

Sample, Ian, (2019), Chinese scientist who edited babies’ genes jailed for three years, The Guardian, Retrieved from, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/30/gene-editing-chinese-scientist-he-jiankui-jailed-three-years

The Biological Basis of PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that occurs after a person experiences a traumatic event. PTSD can be the result of combat, abuse, assault, a natural disaster, an accident, or a terrorizing event (DSM-5). Symptoms can include a person reliving the event so much so that they live their life on guard as if they expect the event to reoccur. They may even isolate themselves socially so that they avoid reminders of the event. Sometimes people with PTSD develop anxiety, become depressed, or turn to drugs to escape.

Psychological distress following exposure to a traumatic or stressful event with or without fear-based symptoms can vary. A combination of symptoms has been recognized in the DSM to include adjustment disorders marked by reactive attachment disorder and social engagement disorder that can develop into PTSD. The DSM includes diagnostic criterion for trauma and stress related disorders such as reactive attachment disorder, disinhibited social engagement disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, and adjustment disorders. Clinical characteristics of anhedonic and dysphoric symptoms resulting from demanding situations or the inability to feel pleasure because of circumstances are shown in the DSM-5 for both children and adults. The DSM considers direct and witnessed exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence leading to reoccurring involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the trauma. Flashbacks and other disassociative reactions are also listed to make the diagnosis.

These reactions to fear can cause problems in relationships and at work so what is happening? Neurobiological and physiological changes happen after a traumatic experience in the central and autonomic nervous systems. The brain rewires itself to cope with the experience by decreasing the volume of the hippocampus and activating the amygdala. The brain begins to act differently in an abnormal way so that processing memories is affected that can result in physical behavior that cause the body to act as if it is reliving the experience. These behaviors may cause other physical damage, but more research has to be done to find out what the physical and medical effects of PTSD actually are.

If symptoms are persistent and last for more than a month, a doctor can diagnose PTSD by gathering medical history and completing a physical exam on the patient. The physical exam rules out any physical causes of the symptoms.  After ruling out any physical or medical reasons someone shows symptoms of PTSD, the doctor can then refer the patient to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional that is specially trained to assess and use tools to evaluate a patient for PTSD.

Treatment for PTSD can involve both medication and counseling with the goal of reducing symptoms to help the patient cope and make daily life manageable. Psychotherapy can be used with both the patient and the family to teach new coping skills and to help work through the symptoms of PTSD. Patients that attend individual, group, and family therapies have better outcomes than patients that attend individual therapy or do not seek treatment at all. Medications may include serotonin inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Paxil, Celexa, Luvox, Prozac, and Zoloft; and tricyclic antidepressants such as Elavil and Doxepin, mood stabilizers such as Depakote and Lamictal, and atypical antipsychotics such as Seroquel and Abilify are sometimes used to control feelings of anxiety. Blood pressure medicines such as prazosin or propranolol are also sometimes used to control nightmares.

Related Articles: Parents Mental Health, Foster care, Addictions, and Prisons, Our Words Matter., BioEthics of using Stem Cells, Cloning, Genetic Enhancements, Brain Machine Interfaces, and rapidly growing technological advances in science, Think it won’t happen to you? Mom, who got $9.6M in same case, daughter sued Orange County. A look at the Right To Lie Case., Divorcing millennial parents choosing to keep their children in their homes by Birdnesting.

17 Tips for Professionals Addressing Abuse

Dr. Tchividjian, an accomplished leader in law ethics and in churches offers 17 tips to address abuse. Tchividjian told Roys Podcast that he was motivated by a shortage of lawyers who understand the distinct needs of sexual abuse victims. “Many of them (lawyers) should not be doing this,” he said. “They don’t understand victimization. They don’t understand the church … And they end up re-victimizing their own clients. I’ve encountered so many of these survivors who’ve been actually re-victimized by the very lawyers who are supposed to be advocating for them.”

Dr. Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian, the grandson of Dr. Billy Graham; a Florida attorney who served as an Assistant State Attorney in the 7th Judicial Circuit of Florida, where he created the first Sex Crimes Division at the Office of the State Attorney and served as Division Chief; Founder and former Executive Director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), an internationally recognized non-profit organization that equips faith-based organizations with the tools they need to correctly respond to allegations of sexual abuse and educates them on how to create safeguards to protect children and other vulnerable people within their communities; who published scholarly articles such as, “Predators and Propensity: The Proper Approach for Determining the Admissibility of Prior Bad Acts Evidence in Child Sexual Abuse Prosecutions” (American Journal of Criminal Law) and “Catching American Sex Offenders Overseas: A Proposal for a Federal Mandated Reporting Law” (UMKC Law Review; Boz also currently serves as an adjunct professor at Stetson University; and is an Assistant Professor of Law, Liberty University School of Law, Lynchburg, VA, and offers professionals tips to professionals that address abuse, When the Child Abuser Has a Bible: Investigating Child Maltreatment Sanctioned or Condoned by a Religious Leader, and Practical Suggestions for Legal Protections ….

17 Tips for Professionals Addressing Abuse

1. Review penitent privilege and other potential legal issues with the prosecutor prior to commencing the investigation.

In some states, various laws and privileges may make a criminal investigation of a church leader more challenging. If the investigator is not fully aware of these laws and legal issues, review them with a prosecutor well-versed in the subject. 

Although some states may have laws or court rules recognizing that certain communications between an ordained minister and a penitent are confidential, these states often have exceptions if the communication pertains to child maltreatment.14 It is equally important to determine who has the authority to waive the privilege. Generally speaking, penitent privilege is designed to protect the confidences of the penitent, not the clergy person. Accordingly, if the child victim or even a child abuser waives any confidentiality concerning communications with a church leader, the government may be able to access these communications, and any documents generated as a result. 

It is also important to review the state criminal code on aiding and abetting criminal conduct, before or after the fact, as well as state law on conspiracy to commit criminal activity. In many instances, the pastor or church leader may not have directly committed the criminal conduct but will have encouraged or provided instruction on the commission of the criminal conduct. 

It is equally important to review the state mandated reporting law. If the pastor is a mandated reporter and failed to report instances of child physical or sexual abuse to the authorities, this conduct is criminal in many states. 

Finally, review state laws pertaining to emotional abuse. Although these statutes are rarely enforced, many states prohibit egregious conduct that inflicts mental harm on a child. For example, forcing the child to publicly or even privately confess responsibility for being sexually abused may violate the law in some states.15

2. Understand the general dynamics of secrecy in a particular religious setting. 

In many churches condoning or sanctioning violations of the criminal law, there are numerous steps taken to disengage the church from the local community.  Even when parishioners interact with the general public, some pastors stress the importance of maintaining distance from those outside of the church community. In one instance, a pastor teaching that babies must be struck with dowel rods urged parents not to physically strike infants at Walmart or in public settings simply because others outside the church “may see this as abuse.”16

3. Understand that faith issues are often distorted and manipulated in order to coerce victims to submit to abuse. 

Child abuse within religious environments is often carried out by those who use common scriptural terms and twist their meaning to accomplish and justify their criminal acts.  For example, physical and/or sexual abuse may be justified as a necessary expression of “God’s love.”  Thus, the victim is manipulated into believing that such criminal conduct is condoned by God and therefore acceptable.  These environments also tend to be very legalistic, whereby children are taught that God’s approval of them is based upon their “good behavior,” which is usually determined by their obedience to the very adults who inflict the abuse.  It is critical to understand these dynamics when approaching and interviewing children and adults living in such an environment.  Oftentimes, they will initially be very defensive of the abuse and the abusers because they have been conditioned that such behavior has been ordained by God. Wes Stafford, who endured physical and sexual abuse at a Christian boarding school, writes:

The boarding school staff abused us in every way a child can be abused—not only physically and emotionally but spiritually as well. We were terrified of their powerful and vengeful God, reminded daily that we were little sinners in the hands of their angry God.17

4. Understand the unique spiritual blocks and problems the child victim may have.

A child who has been forced to “confess” her sins to a pastor or congregation will likely accept that he or she is responsible for her abuse and may be worried about the wrath of God if she cooperates with a governmental investigation. Some child abuse victims have been “shunned”— a period of forced isolation as a means of discipline or to otherwise reinforce the belief the child is actually to blame for his or her own abuse.18

Given familial, religious and societal pressures to be strong, some boys may be reluctant to acknowledge abuse out of fear of being labeled weak. C.S. Lewis notes this was a factor in his reluctance, and the reluctance of his classmates to disclose the physical and emotional abuse inflicted at their boarding school: 

Vanity helped to tie our tongues…A boy home from school…would hate to be thought a coward and a crybaby, and he cannot paint a true picture of his concentration camp without admitting himself to have been for the last thirteen weeks a pale, quivering, tear-stained, obsequious slave.19

Accordingly, the forensic interviewer may need to spend additional time in building rapport, offering reassurance, and in otherwise earning the trust of the victim.20 The MDT will need to select a mental health professional competent to address the child’s emotional and spiritual injuries.21

5. Understand that exploitation of authority is at the heart of abuse perpetrated and/or ignored by those within the faith community.

From the earliest age, children are taught to respect and obey their elders.  Unfortunately, abusive church leaders often distort their role and authority by claiming to speak for God.  This type of environment provides no accountability for those in leadership.  This form of authoritarian control tends to cultivate over time and usually results in an environment where; 1) leadership is unresponsive to concerns raised by parishioners regarding suspected abuse; 2) reporting abuse to outside authorities is discouraged or even prohibited, and; 3) adults are openly valued more than children.  Such environments produce parishioners (adults and children) who are initially unwilling to report criminal behavior and are uncooperative with criminal investigations.  Investigators must make every effort to communicate with these individuals away from their authoritarian leaders with the understanding that it will take patience and time to gain their trust. 

6. Look for church records. 

Increasingly, pastors and other church leaders use social media in spreading their message.22 Accordingly, examine church websites, Facebook pages and other sites for sermons or other messages relating to a case of child abuse. If, for example, a parent who beats his baby with a dowel rod says this was taught in church sermons or parenting classes, obtain any recordings of these messages. If there are no recordings, ask the pastor if he has a written copy of the sermon or sermons. If this form of “discipline” was taught as part of a parenting class, obtain all records and course materials. 

If a child abuse issue has been brought to a church council or otherwise addressed within the church body, obtain any minutes of the meeting and interview anyone who may have been in attendance. These witnesses may have significant knowledge about the abuse, the parties involved, and the role of a religious leader in protecting an abusive party, and in ostracizing a child victim.

7. Determine the absence of church child abuse policies. 

A growing number of churches have policies in place to protect children. These policies may include background checks, limiting or excluding situations in which a church worker or volunteer is alone with a child, and some sort of training on child abuse for those working with children.23 However, churches that condone or sanction abusive behavior will usually not have taken the time to develop or implement child protection policies.   Documenting this absence may assist an eventual jury in seeing that a particular religious leader was fully aware that the policies he was promoting violated state law—and he and other church leaders had no intention of confronting  known  or potential child abusers.

8. Explore the educational background of the religious leader. 

Some church leaders have received little or no formal Bible education (Bible School, Divinity School or Seminary) and thus have never studied scripture in its original Hebrew or Greek languages or otherwise mastered the very scriptures they are citing in support of abusive practices. Obtaining this information, as part of the interview or interrogation of a religious leader, may help an eventual jury understand why it is the pastor or church leader could stray so far from generally accepted interpretations of scripture and could otherwise establish him or herself as the definitive source of knowledge on all things related to God.24 This information may also be relevant to determining whether the pastor or church worker is properly ordained or is otherwise leading a recognized church for which penitent privilege and other legal rights pertain. 

9. Look for evidence documenting whether the criminal behavior is a result of the religious leadership’s uniquely held beliefs. 

When a religious leader expounds extreme views—such as hitting infants for “selfish crying”—it is helpful to establish that these views are uniquely held by the pastor and/or local church leadership being investigated.   Many churches are part of a larger body of churches which make up a denomination.25  Each denomination has certain governing rules and leadership structures that each church must follow. Furthermore, most denominations have some degree of centralized authority that is exercised from its headquarters. The investigator should always contact the denominational headquarters to assist in determining if such positions are endorsed by the denomination or whether they are simply the result of the peculiar beliefs of the local church.26   Non-denominational churches are those that do not have any formal association with other churches and are usually not subject to any form of central authority.  Since non-denominational churches do not have a centralized leadership structure that can be contacted,  the investigator should attempt to communicate with the religious or educational institutions the leader has attended  to determine if they have taught, currently teach, or in any way adhere to these extreme views. If the investigator can establish that the educational institutions the leader has attended condemn particular views, it becomes much easier to establish that a religious leader’s views are distinct from mainstream religious views—including those who taught him theology.  

10. Check with prior congregations that have been served by members of the church leadership.  

Many pastors and staff have served numerous congregations and, in some cases, a congregation removes them because of their unbiblical teachings or behavior. Accordingly, it is important to ask where else the church leader/s may have served and then contact church elders, leaders, and/or congregation members of those churches. In some cases, the investigator will be able to show a pattern of an individual who is out of control in his teaching and practices. This evidence will assist the prosecutor in proving that a particular leader was not practicing religion—he was practicing child abuse in the name of religion. 

11. Look close to home for evidence of abuse

Leaders who espouse beliefs that foster abusive church environments often practice these beliefs in their own home. In his autobiography, C.S. Lewis describes a childhood boarding school as a “concentration camp”27 and notes that the headmaster’s physical and emotional cruelties were also inflicted on his own family.28 

Investigators must make every attempt to contact and interview family members of the suspect.  As in most abuse cases, the family members who no longer live under the same roof as the perpetrator will often be the most willing to disclose the abusive home environment. Joy Davidman (the wife of C.S. Lewis) found that after she left Douglas Gresham (an abusive first husband) that she was able to confront him and to protect her children. Davidman wrote Gresham: “It must be a great surprise to you that I now have such powers of resisting your commands and persuasions. Throughout our marriage you could always make me knuckle under one way or another, and I’m sure you find difficulty in understanding that them days are gone forever.”29

Just as Davidman and her children 30 were able to speak of their terror once separated from the abusive party, investigators may find that family members who have some distance from an abusive religious leader will likewise be able to speak more freely. Oftentimes, investigators will discover a common thread between the pastor’s spiritual rhetoric, his behaviors at home, and the behaviors replicated in other church families. 

12. When interrogating a religious leader, be prepared to play in his ball field. 

Perhaps the most famous, and one of the most effective cross-examinations in history, was

Clarence Darrow’s cross examination of William Jennings Bryan in the “Scopes Monkey Trial.”31 Darrow, an agnostic, understood the value in using scripture itself to undermine the religious tenets espoused by William Jennings Bryan.32 Investigators and prosecutors confronting a religious leader using scripture to justify their conduct will gain little traction in citing child maltreatment laws or other “secular” institutions or regulations—but religious leaders are oftentimes very willing to discuss the biblical basis for their conduct and teachings.  It is important for investigators to realize that the church leader will most likely have a greater familiarity of scripture and thus will attempt to use such knowledge to manipulate its meaning to justify and/or explain the abusive behavior.  Prior to the interview, the investigator should seek out the opinions of local clergy and biblical academics who can provide insight to the precise scripture passages the investigator expects to address in the interview with the church leader. It will also be helpful to find out what translation of the Bible the religious leader is using. If the suspect cites a passage from scripture, the investigator will want to be able to read the passage in the same translation the suspect uses. It is crucial that the investigator remember  the objective is not to win a theological argument, but to simply expose the leader’s condoning or sanctioning of criminal behavior.   

As an example of possible investigative questions to pose, consider these:

Pastor, you told us the Bible requires parents to discipline their children with a rod. In Proverbs 13:24 it states “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” Is that the verse you are relying on in support of hitting children with a rod? What does it mean when the verse says to be “careful” in disciplining a child? Is there anything in that verse, or any other part of scripture, that teaches the necessity of hitting babies? Is there anything in scripture that teaches where on the body a baby should be hit? That teaches a child’s clothes should be removed and it is the bare bottom that needs to be hit? That it is acceptable to cause injuries or even draw blood? Are there other theologians or religious leaders at the university you attended or at the other churches you served who would disagree with you? Why would they disagree? Is it possible they may be right? 

Are you familiar with the passage in Luke 17:2 whereby Jesus says, “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones”?  Would you agree that Jesus has some extremely harsh words for those who hurt children?  Do you believe Christ’s words are applicable to the man who sexually assaulted this girl?  Do you think it is possible that blaming the child for “seducing” the adult into a sexual relationship may also cause that child hurt?33  

Questions along these lines will force the religious leader to justify his teachings and practices and will either force him to back away from his words and conduct—or will expose the extremity of these views. For example, there simply is no verse in the Bible explicitly stating that babies should be hit with dowel rods, or that children are responsible for being sexually assaulted. Advocating for such positions will expose the leader’s self-created doctrines which will be very clear to anyone who subsequently listens to the interview with the religious leader. 

13. Explore the concept of “submission” during the investigation.

If the pastor or church leader justifies abusive conduct toward women and children in the congregation by citing Bible verses pertaining to submission,34 it may be helpful to discuss his views on portions of scripture requiring church leaders to submit to the government.35 As one example as to how this might work, consider the following set of questions:  

Pastor, in the book of Romans, it states: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God

has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”36 Do you agree with the teaching contained in this verse? Are you aware that it is a crime to have sexual contact with a child? Are you also aware that you are required to report to the authorities whenever you have a reasonable suspicion that a child has been sexually abused? Accordingly, when you failed to report the abuse of this child to the police, you not only violated state law, you violated the teachings of your own church? 

14. If the religious leader cites materials or sources outside of the Bible—find them. 

A religious leader teaching that infants should be struck for “selfish crying” or who advocates any other unlawful behavior towards children will often cite non-scriptural resources such as “parenting books” or pamphlets, which are loosely based upon unconventional and warped interpretations of particular biblical passages.37 For example, one survivor of child physical abuse explained that her parents precisely followed the disciplinary techniques contained in a book written by Roy Lessin.38 The victim describes the procedures used as follows: 

My first spanking was when I was six months old. My mother spanked me for crying after she put me to bed. She had to spank me repeatedly to teach me not to cry when she put me down. I know about this incident because my mother used to tell all the new mothers about how young I was when she started spanking me. My last spanking occurred when I was thirteen years old. The Roy Lessin spankings that I remember most vividly took place between the ages of three and seven…My father would explain the reason for the spanking…I had already developed irritable bowel syndrome and would feel my guts cramp up with anxiety during his speech. Then he would ask me to take off my pants and underwear. I would feel deeply embarrassed because my father was not supposed to see me naked….The stick, paddle inscribed with Bible verses, or belt would swish violently through the air before slapping painfully…I would scream in pain and anguish…My parents were never concerned about the marks they left on my body…Pulling up my pants was incredibly painful…After we prayed, it was time for me to be happy. But my insides would be a mess…It would be a lesson I’d learn for life—being falsely happy regardless of how my body felt…39 

If a religious leader or parent informs the authorities that they discipline pursuant to a book or manual such as the Lessin book, it is important to obtain a copy of the book and ask the party inflicting or encouraging the abuse if the procedures taught in the publication were routinely followed or recommended in a particular home or church. Such a book  is evidence that should be seized and turned over to the prosecutor. In essence, you have  discovered a “how to” manual for abusing children. 

When seizing the material, note its location and photograph it. Materials of this nature found in the pastor’s office closely connect him to the book. If the book or other materials are in the church library, determine if the pastor must review and approve all materials placed in the library. Also, check with congregation members to find out who has borrowed or checked out these materials. The investigator may be able to establish a clear pattern of a church leader recommending these materials to particular families, and the children in these families being subjected to abuse.   

15. Ask for a “demonstration.” 

If a religious leader advocates hitting babies with a dowel rod, ask him to produce the rod and demonstrate the force he would recommend by striking a doll. Make sure to video record the “demonstration.” If the pastor strikes the doll with excessive force, this is evidence there are few, if any boundaries when inflicting blows. If, on the other hand, the pastor strikes the doll lightly, this may assist the prosecutor in establishing the pastor’s beliefs are disingenuous. After all, if a baby has bruising or other injuries, it likely required a blow more significant than a light tap. 

If a pastor claims that infants should be hit for “selfish crying,” show him some video or audio tapes of infants crying and ask him to distinguish between needful and “selfish” cries. It is critical to record the pastor’s attempts to distinguish or explain these various cries. This will likely be powerful evidence that there is little rhyme or reason to the pastor’s teachings. 

16. Confront the religious leader with evidence. 

Generally speaking, confronting a suspect with physical evidence increases a chance for a confession.40 If the investigator has physical evidence of children being abused in a congregation, such as photographs of bruises or other injuries, it may be helpful to confront the religious leader with these photographs and ask him if the injuries depicted are excessive. If the leader says no, it is evidence that he does condone excessive discipline in violation of the state’s penal code. If the leader acknowledges the injuries are excessive, he is conceding that some of his church members have violated the law.  

17. Objectivity and respectfulness is critical. 

An investigator should not assume that everyone in a particular congregation agrees with the pastor’s views or conduct. In addition to the children abused, there may be parents or others who are skeptical but may be afraid to speak out because they fear ostracism or are worried about damaging the church. Accordingly, an investigator who remains respectful of religious views during the course of the investigation is more likely to find witnesses willing to speak with him or her. Although the nature of the crime will necessarily involve a discussion of theology, the investigator must be mindful that his role is to collect evidence—not to reform a particular church. 

An investigator may want to attend worship services or otherwise make him or herself available at public gatherings of the congregation. The investigator should freely distribute his card and otherwise express his concern about the welfare of children. Making himself known as a resource to the entire congregation increases the chance the investigator will receive a phone call, perhaps in the middle of the night, from a worried parent or parishioner who believes that children are being abused—and that can lead the investigator to evidence. 

Part of the Criminal Law Commons, Criminal Procedure Commons, Law and Psychology Commons, Religion Law Commons, and the Sexuality and the Law Commons

References at Tchividjian, Basyle and Vieth, Victor, “When the Child Abuser Has a Bible: Investigating Child Maltreatment Sanctioned or Condoned by a Religious Leader” (2011). Faculty Publications and Presentations. 53. https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/lusol_fac_pubs/53

Ethics regarding cloning

Are clones property, or human beings? What rights do clones have? And what rights do others have over clones?

Cloning is something that I think we need to discuss more. I agree with you that healthcare professionals are constantly challenged. Saving lives and making lives better are not easy tasks. The idea of cloning humans raises so many questions in my mind. Why should humans be cloned? What purpose does cloning humans serve? Why would someone want to produce individuals, entities or populations, identical to the parent or original organism from which they were obtained or derived (Iqbal et al., 2020)?

I agree that the idea of saving stem cells from umbilical cords can be useful and ethical, but how many people can afford to store the stem cells once they are harvested? Cloning organs this way is probably the most ethical way to clone organs, and it is certainly better for the patient receiving identical body parts. Are scientist considering cloning people for their organs? That is scary! I would hate to know that the only reason for me being on earth is so that someone could harvest my organs.

Cloning can be useful and improve some people’s lives, but there are still so many unanswered questions about it that I hope the experiments would be limited to plants although I have read about experiments using animals. Legal and ethical issues arising from the human genome project at the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington in 2001 included discussions about the methods used to clone, whether or not cloning is feasible, and property rights issues (Hilmert, 2001).

There are two methods used in cloning; blastomere separation which involves splitting an embryo soon after fertilization and the somatic nuclear technique (SNTC) that was used to clone Dolly (Collins, 2006) which is a technique that removes the egg cell and replaces it with the nucleus from a somatic cell (Hilmert, 2001). Both methods are capable of creating clones.

Back in the early 2000s when lawmakers were making legislation to ban cloning, a former ethicist for the NIH, John Fletcher, commented, “the reasons for opposing this are not easy to argue.” (Hilmert, 2001). We are now twenty years down the road and scientists are cloning organs. Therapeutic cloning, which is also known as organ cloning, is the process of creating new human organs and tissues, never newborn babies, from the cultivation of stem cells. As such, the resultant organ has an identical gene structure as the recipient such that there are theoretically little chances for rejection (Surfcrs, 2011).

We have a moral obligation to cure diseases when we can, and to save lives when we can, but it is still unclear what rights a clone has and who owns the rights to a tissue. Could a clone ever be developed for the well being of the clone?  Cloning plays an important role in the development of stem cell research for embryonic stem cells transplantation into patients because the stem cells would be a genetic match for the donor patient. There would be no risk of rejection and for xenotransplantation which is the cloning of organs using animals that has a higher rejection rate.

Who owns the clones? Courts already recognize a property interest in living material.” Several different parties may potentially claim cloned organs or tissues: the DNA/tissue donor, the clone, and the scientist who developed the cloned tissue/organ or transgenic animal (Hilmert, 2001). Property law governing renewable and nonrenewable body parts addresses ethical and moral questions. The DNA donor to has an interest in his or her own DNA and any claim over the organs of the clone. In the cloning case, Moore v. Regents of the University of California, the court determined Moore had a cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty, but the court declined to find a cause of action for conversion.’ To bring an action

for conversion, Moore had to “establish an actual interference with his ownership or right of possession” (Hilmert, 2001). In other words, he had to have retained ownership of his cells after they had been removed. The court in Cornelio v. Stamford Hospital” followed a similar line of reasoning. However, other cases indicate that there may be property interest in cryopreserved pre-zygote and the Hecht v. Superior Court that involved property rights concerning sperm(Hilmert, 2001).

Patentability of living things is addressed in the Diamond v. Chakrabarty case where the respondent filed a patent application for a genetically engineered bacterium capable of degrading oil, something which no naturally occurring bacteria is known to do. The patent examiner rejected the claim on the grounds that “micro-organisms are ‘products of nature,’ and… as living things they are not patentable subject matter.” But the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, Supreme Court found the bacterium is  patentable subject matter under § 101 of the Patent Act and reversed the decision (Hilmert, 2001).

Patent US 6,211,429, granted to the University of Missouri on April 3, 2001 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) was written so broadly that it appears to include human cloning and products of cloning in its protection (Cunningham, 2002). Cunningham’s vision of public policy concerning humans either conceived or created through science entails; a right to autonomy, i.e., that his or her bodily integrity must not be invaded or compromised by others; No person or entity has the right to enslave, own, or control any human being, regardless of stage of biological development; Any organism that is genetically human is a human being; A cloned embryo is distinct and separate from the person donating the genetic material, and therefore is a unique being protected in law; No person or institution has the right to control or profit from any process designed to clone a human being.

Related Articles: BioEthics of using Stem Cells, Cloning, Genetic Enhancements, Brain Machine Interfaces, and rapidly growing technological advances in science.

References

Collins, F. S. (2006). The language of God: A scientist presents evidence for belief. New York,          NY: Free Press. ISBN: 9781416542742.

Cunningham, Comstock, (2002), The Right to Patent a Human Being: Fact, Fiction, or Future Possibility?, The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, https://cbhd.org/content/right-patent-human-being-fact-fiction-or-future-possibility

Hilmert, Laura, J., (2001), Cloning Human Organs: Potential Sources and Property Implications, J.D., Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington 2001; B.S. Biology, Indiana, University, 1998, Retrieved from, http://ilj.law.indiana.edu/articles/77/77_2_Hilmert.pdf

Pozgar, G. D. (2019). NVPMD: Legal aspects of healthcare administration. 13E-Liberty Custom. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett. ISBN: 9781284170931.

Surfcrs, (2011), Organ Cloning Ethics, http://www.cloneorgans.com/organ-cloning-ethics/18/

BioEthics of using Stem Cells, Cloning, Genetic Enhancements, Brain Machine Interfaces, and rapidly growing technological advances in science.

Discussing bioethics and rapidly growing technological advances in science.

I was a little confused this week when I started looking at the different ways that scientists can use technology to enhance patient’s lives. Actually, I think I still am a little fuzzy on the subject and the differences between techniques. The discussion surrounding genetic enhancements is similar to the discussion about the use of stem cells. Cell therapy can be defined as a technique that infuses or transplants stem cells into patients to treat diseases or repair tissues. The key difference between gene therapy and stem cell therapy is that in gene therapy, genetic material is injected to patients while, in stem cell therapy, whole cells are injected to patients to treat diseases (Samanthi, 2017). Both bring up varying ethical issues about how this knowledge should be used and when it should be used.

The somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) that scientists used to clone Dolly the sheep stirred the entire world (Collins, 2006). People wondered how long it would be before scientists cloned people and when and if so, if those people would be spiritual human beings. The good that came from the experiment is that life-saving human organs can be cloned. Would it be ethical to clone a human for organs? It is scary to think of where this science is capable of going.

Technology is advancing faster than the ethical guidelines for it are. Karen Moxom created a mind-over-matter project decades ago to help patients regain use of their limbs (Moxon, et al., 2019). It sounded like sci-fi fiction back then and it still does to some people today. As with neurotechnology, stem cell technology is also a rapidly advancing science that can greatly improve patient’s lives. One of the most useful and least questioned techniques to harvest stem cells is from the umbilical cord. The cost of getting the stem cells and then storing them until they are needed is more than most people can afford though. Deciding right and wrong, costs, and equality concerns, and the overall benefit to humanity will help us put guidelines in place for future experiments.

Stem cell research and cloning raise the issue of clones having a living soul. I looked up the definition for personhood at dictionary.com and found it defined as; the state or fact of being a person, the state or fact of being an individual or having human characteristics and feelings. Genetics makes up our physical bodies, and environmental factors form our developed feelings. Maybe our DNA holds more than we think it does. Bioethics addresses complex issues about how vulnerable people should be treated (Pozgar, 2019). Clones would most definitely be a vulnerable population that people would want to know the answers to many questions about.

Related Articles: Ethics regarding clones

References

Collins, F. S. (2006). The language of God: A scientist presents evidence for belief. New York,  NY: Free Press. ISBN: 9781416542742.

Moxon, Karen,  Guglielmo Foffani, (Brain-Machine Interfaces beyond Neuroprosthetics, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, Retrieved From, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2015.03.036

Moxon, K, Ph.D., Ignacio Saez, Ph.D., and Jochen Ditterich, Ph.D., (2019), Mind Over Matter: Cognitive Neuroengineering, The Dana Foundation, Retrieved From, http://dana.org/Cerebrum/2019/Mind_Over_Matter_Cognitive_Neuroengineering/

Pozgar, G. D. (2019). NVPMD: Legal aspects of healthcare administration. 13E-Liberty  Custom. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett. ISBN: 9781284170931.

Samanthi , (2017), Difference Between Gene Therapy and Stem Cell Therapy, Key Difference – Gene Therapy vs Stem Cell Therapy, https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-gene-therapy-and-vs-stem-cell-therapy/

Words Matter.

Labels are necessary in many fields and for many reasons. Doctors use labels to diagnose, treat, and refer patients to other specialized services. Teachers use labels to organize, test, grade, and categorize students. There is no doubt that labels are not going to go away, but it is important to think about how and why we label people. Our words matter. Our jobs, our looks, and our religion define how the world sees us and how we see ourselves and this is how we see others.

Labels are all around us in everyday life and we seldom ask why. We are labeled, and we learn to label at early ages and throughout life. Pastor, criminal, crazy, artistic, police officer, judge, teacher, unworthy, insignificant, shameful, low-life, fat, ugly, bad, good, selfish, worthy, lazy, incompetent, nice, rude are some of the labels that people commonly use and we need to talk about this. Getting the labels out in the open with our colleagues, friends, and family gives us the chance to discuss what the labels mean and why we use them. Is it appropriate to use labels?

Discussing labels will make us aware of our own thoughts and prejudices. Once we become aware of our own thoughts and prejudice we can make sense of them. We can accept that we are wrong sometimes. And as we become aware of how what we think and say affects how we treat others, we become more aware of how we want others to see us. Nobody wants to be the bad person that mistreats others.

There are things that we can do to remove stigmas and negative effects that happen because of labels. Be less judgmental and more supportive. Empowering other people is empowering. It feels good to make others feel good. Smile and the world smiles back. Don’t be judgmental and challenge your friends, but let your friends know how their words can affect other people in negative harmful ways. We catch more bees with honey. Identify stereotypes and negative feelings. Choose your words carefully, be supportive, and focus on the positive.

Doctors, teachers, and other professionals are going to label people as a way of communicating. Some children may need special education classes even though they are excellent athletes and mechanics. The criminal justice system labels people with an intent to deter crime and protect society. And there are a lot of negative effects that happen when people are labeled. Labels also change the way that we feel about ourselves. Someone that has been convicted of a felony may have a lower self-esteem and that can lead to other unacceptable behavior and even self-fulfilling prophecy. Felons often have a hard time entering back into society and finding employment after serving time in prison. Labeling theories hypothesize that official assignment as a deviant or criminal can lead to a person taking on the identity and criminal behaviors that eventually lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy with the person ending up in jail.

Labels ripple throughout our entire lifetimes and that is why it is so important to think about how and why we use labels. Labels can lead to changes in a patient’s self-esteem causing reduced contact with peers, unemployment, and even lead to deviant behavior. Labels can also increase confidence and self-esteem. With that in mind, it is important to consider the implications that labeling has on a person and on society.

Labels lead to a chain of events, but what is not accepted in one culture may be perfectly normal in another culture. Culture plays a huge role in labeling. Culture is more than just a person’s ethnicity. It can be a social group, a neighborhood, and even an occupation. Behavior that is accepted in one group may be thought of as deviant in another. For instance, here in the United States boys putting their hands in a basket full of stinging ants is not something anyone is going to do and if they did we would probably wonder if they had lost their mind. However, in Brazil boys put their hands in a basket full of stinging ants as an initiation process to show that they are brave. Other examples of cultural differences can be seen in the way that we think about time. In the United States and in Japan someone will be considered unreliable if they do not show up on time and are not punctual. In other countries though, people do not see time the same way and may be offended by our hurriedness. Labeling is an important subject to think about because in the real-world people are labeled at home by parents, in school by teachers and peers, and people are labeled by doctors when they are diagnosed with a disease or disorder. People are also labeled because of their occupation and income. Labels change the way the world looks at us and the way we look at ourselves.

Culturally deviance is decided by what is acceptable in a society and the United States is a mixture of many different cultures and not everyone has the same background experiences or values. People from different cultures will interpret experiences differently. Here in the United States laughing is seen as a sign of happiness, but in Japan laughing is seen as a sign of confusion and embarrassment. Commonwealth countries such as Ireland understand the word “compromise” to be a positive word because it means that two parties agree. Here in the United States, we think of compromise as giving in or giving up. Someone labeled as happy in the United States may be labeled as a confused lunatic in Japan and someone that is labeled a loser here in the United States for compromising may be praised in Ireland for their ability to negotiate compromise.

Related Articles: Homeless PeopleInterview With A Homeless CoupleFostered or Forgotten?

Parents Mental Health, Foster care, Addictions, and Prisons

Parents, Mental illness, Homelessness, Addiction, Foster Care, Prisons

A social worker recently confronted me with her concerns about parents who have been diagnosed with mental illness and homeless families. I have to agree with her that there are problems that should be addressed. However my personal belief is that family units should be preserved whenever possible. Right now, state and federal governments are just beginning to make policy changes that are required by the Family First Preservation Act of 2018. It is 2021 and states have not implemented the new law! Currently, as in the past decades, services are geared towards adoptive and foster families. Biological family is almost always overlooked because previous to the Family First Act of 2018 the funding only provided for children to be placed in out of home placements with complete strangers. This led to children being crammed into group homes and being placed out of state with strangers.

Children will run away and parent’s lives spiraled out of control. The system causes more harm than good so new laws were made and states are supposed to be making the needed changes. My response is as follows:

Homelessness can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Mental health issues can also lead to homelessness. Families are for the most part ill equipped to handle a family member with a mental condition. We need more NAMI’s to help everyday people cope with these kinds of issues. The National Alliance of Mental Health Illness (NAMI) has volunteers and paid counselors that can help individuals, family members, teens, youth, veterans, and others dealing with mental health issues. Depression, unshakeable feelings of dread, despair, loneliness, and hopelessness seem to be leading signs and causes of suicide. Most of the suicide letters that I have seen include statements about “not seeing a way out”, ot that the family “will be better off without me”. The context is usually about child support and custody situations taking place in family courts. America has a problem! Family is the foundation of any society and courts are tearing our families apart!

Parents who suffer from mental conditions fall into even deeper despair when their families are destroyed and they are told that they can never be parents because of their condition. Studies also show that there is a high prevalence of mental illness in the foster care population and that many of the children will be homeless when they age out. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) has collected data that tells us that children are prescribed doses higher than the maximum levels cited in guidelines developed by the FDA and that legislative action is being taken to address how states are doing this (NCSL, 2021).

The last I looked over 300,000 children less than a year old were prescribed adult doses of medications. Some I would guess were born of parents that were either taking street drugs or prescribed medications, but even if they were born addicted to some substance the amounts of psychotropic drugs they are being prescribed is concerning. What will their lives turn out to be like with no family ties and a bunch of pills to ease the pain?

Serious mental illness costs the United States an estimated $193.2 billion in lost earnings annually and only about 41% of persons with a mental disorder receive any treatment (Shi & Singh, 2019). Mentally ill patients are at higher risks of becoming homeless and homeless people do not have access to medical care and experience higher rates of adverse physical and mental health conditions, suicides, substance abuse, and respiratory diseases. SAMSHA’s national mental health statistics show that yearly, about 42.5 million (18.2%) American adults suffer from some mental illness (Health.am, 2021). Approximately 9.3 million adults (4%) experience severe mental illness that interferes with their daily lives. Nearly half (45%) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for two or more disorders, with severity strongly related to comorbidity. Mood disorders affect about 20.9 million American adults (9.5%) with the median age being around 30 years old (SAMSHA, 2021).

Homelessness does lead to bigger problems for an individual and for society. People with mental conditions and former foster children make up much of the homeless and prison populations. Reports showed that 50% of the girls in foster care become pregnant before 19 years of age, many (about half) before 18 years of age, 50% of foster children will be in prison within two years of aging out and 74% of foster children will end up in prison, 80% of the people on death row were in foster care (HHS, DOJ, Casey Family Foundation, National Coalition for Foster Children). Less than 3% of foster children will go to college! The foster care system is broken and parents are having difficulty working through mental health and legal systems. Foster children don’t stand a chance! They are too young to advocate for themselves and are often passed through several homes. They don’t get to have a permanent doctor or team to help them make it through life. This results in missed appointments, miscommunications, and a lack of proper care. Only about 25% of foster children receive services at any given time (Polihronakis, Tina, 2017).

Legislation was made a few years ago to provide for pediatricians to address mental health conditions in children (NCSL,2021), but are they actually qualified to make the diagnoses and help the child through what is happening in their lives to a healthy recovery. What I see is pediatricians prescribing medications for mental health issues and discussing it with lawyers and social workers instead of doctors and family members. 

As Christians I believe that we have to do better. In Biblical times children became orphans when their parents died. In today’s times even Mary would be under fire by the state. After all, she did ride around the desert on a donkey, homeless and some would say hallucinating because she said she talked to angels and they talked to her. Jesus was not born in a hospital either. He wasn’t even born in a house which is something that is not widely accepted today in the United States. Jesus was born in a barn. When I think about how to deal with homelessness, mental illness, and foster care, I have to think of it from a Christian perspective and ask myself, What would Jesus do? (KJV)

Related Articles: Homeless People, Runaways, Mental Health Disparities, and Homelessness, Is It Ever Appropriate to “coerce” children into loving someone through force and court orders?

References

Casey Family Programs, (2021), https://www.casey.org/

Health.am, (2015), Mental Health Disorder Statistics, http://www.health.am/psy/more/mental-health-disorder-statistics/

KJV, King James Version of the Holy Bible, https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/

NAMI, (2021), National Alliance on Mental Illness, https://www.nami.org/home

NCSL, (2021), National Conference of State Legislatures, https://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/mental-health-and-foster-care.aspx

Polihronakis, Tina, (2017), Information Packet: Mental Health Care Issues of Children and Youth in Foster Care, http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/socwork/nrcfcpp/downloads/information_packets/Mental_Health.pdf

SAMHSA, (2021),  mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, https://www.samhsa.gov/

Shi, L., & Singh, D. A. (2019). Essentials of the U.S. health care system with access (5th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. ISBN: 9781284156720.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

A little bit about me. I am a grandmother, mother, and a daughter. I was raised in a small town where everyone knew everyone during the 1970s and 1980s. The beginning of my career revolved around helping small businesses thrive. Later, as the world begin to change, I began to sometimes wonder if I still live in the same country that I grew up in. I watched things happen to others in my community and most often I was always fighting my own battles when it happened. “Hearts and Minds” a little voice inside my head would say and then go away. Years went by and I continued to see things changing and people suffering and sometimes that little voice would come back and say “Hearts and Minds”. Finally something happened that was so unbelievable and so indescribable that I felt like I had to do something to make a difference in this world for the people I care about, and for the people that don’t know that these things can happen to them too. Life changed and that little voice became stronger. I decided that I had to do something. I went back to school to improve my education and skillset and to learn how to effectively advocate for my own family and other families. I have seen some things that happened to people that just didn’t make any sense, and it certainly didn’t do anyone any good. If anything, most of what I saw happening hurt people. And it did not just hurt the individuals that were intended to be hurt or punished. Other people were also affected. Children and family members feel the ripple effects of other’s actions. Anytime someone sets out to hurt someone that is what happens. The end result will always be hurt and so few people will take a stand against anyone or anything when it doesn’t affect them personally. But it can happen to them. Their lives can change in an instant just like other lives have changed in an instance. Sometimes overnight. I am still learning. I will always be learning new things about people and life. I am using this blog to write about some of the experiences I have had, both my own and others and some of the things I research to learn more about. I hope I receive feedback and meet a lot of people like me that want to make a difference. People that connect the dots and intersections in life’s circumstances and look for solutions. The world needs more problem solvers.

“First they came . . .”

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 — Martin Niemöller

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