CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

My Supreme Court Nomination

Last night the phone range--it was the White House asking if I would consider nomination as a Supreme Court Justice.

I agreed, expressing thanks for being considered, but thought it would be a good idea for the White House to first review my writings. "Unlike other candidates the President is proposing, I've actually committed my views to paper. I've left a paper trail. Which means the elected representatives of this country will actually have to read my written record of opinions, beliefs, exhortations, messages, analyses, poesies, prophecies, and perambulations through the legal craft."

"It would be so much simpler if all you had written was fan mail to President Bush," the White House representative exclaimed. "And in any event, we're far too busy to read anything. Can't you provide a sound bite or two?"

I thought a moment. "All right. What would you like to know?"

"Well," he shot back, "what are your views on the environment, separation of church and state, Constitutional interpretation, abortion, end-of-life decision-making, and the role and reach of the federal government?"

"I believe we should protect the environment. If we don't respect Mother Nature, then She won't respect us. We've shut ourselves up in bricks and concrete boxes, stripped the forests and hunted species to extinction. We spend most of our energy trying to inflict our will on nature rather than harmonizing with it. We extract more oil, which is the blood of the earth, than the earth has available and in turn the earth extracts our blood in the form of endless warfare over resources. We're decimating what has been given to us as stewards, and cheating our children's children. We need to stop raping the earth. Does that give you a good picture of where I stand on the environment?"

"Got it," the rep said. "How about the other issues?"

"Church and state should remain as separate as possible in our nation. There are some nations where 'church' and state are inseparable, and these experiments have worked to greater or lesser degrees, the main concern being that no person should be compelled to follow the state's decree in such a private and essentially personal mater. With a nation as large and diverse as ours, we need to take the Establishment clause seriously. It is one thing to pray silently in schools, another to force one's prayer upon another--at that point it is no longer prayer, it is compulsion."

"How about Constitutional interpretation? Are you an originalist?"

"Let us respect what the framers wrote in light of modern circumstances, following judicial restraint in regards to precedent yet breaking new paths where justice so demands."

"Abortion?"

"The question of defining life, or deciding when to take life in any form, cannot be resolved definitively by law, nor by religion or science. 'Those who think they know, do not know; those who know they do not know, know.' When does life begin? Life neither begins nor ends; our personal identity exists in a continuum of consciousness. And that is a matter for philosophy and contemplation, not public policy. What is important is to fashion public policy in a way that maximizes commonly accepted standards of compassion and dignity for all the creation. Compassion is shared among religious traditions, particularly if one looks to the mystical sects within these traditions. Compassion for the mother, compassion for the father, compassion for the unborn: balance these with wisdom and thus formulate policy.

"Similarly, we do not know what comes before life or after life, but we do know that the compassionate philosophy is to end life, as to begin it, with dignity, in a way that minimizes suffering and maximizes the individual's self-actualization in the moment. We need to articulate legal principles that resonate with the ethical principle of compassion."

"And where do you stand on federalism?"

"The federal government was initially intended to be one of limited powers, so that decisions can be made locally and left in the hands of the people."

"Great," the White House contact enthused, snapping off the recorder. "I think I have enough for the confirmation hearings. Let me get back to you in a few days. Oh and by the way, do clones have souls? I haven't had a chance to read the chapter yet."


***

From Future Medicine:

"Emerging technologies present an opportunity for deeper contemplation of the meaning of what it means to be a human being, and the role of the awareness of health and healing in human transformation. For example, bioethical issues associated with the human genome project have brought to the fore not only new issues regarding privacy and confidentiality, but also the role of the state in regulating the frontiers of human knowledge. Similarly, cloning raises questions tied to the essential identity of a human being. Likewise, the advent of pre-natal screening and diagnosis has raised questions regarding the limits of so-called "selective abortion," and has triggered debate about the scope of allowable human choice in deciding whether (or which) prospective children should live. Ethical debates to date have focused around competing, dualistic perspectives (e.g., the "right to life" versus "pro-choice" approaches), but have failed to resolve more fundamental issues such as the assumption, for example, that fetuses diagnosed with severe disabilities should be terminated because "life with a disability is not worthwhile and is primarily a source of suffering."

"The question of consciousness threads, almost invisibly, throughout these debates. For example, why does a body house consciousness, and what bioethical choices reflect the evolution of all consciousness associated with that body? Does the suffering behind disability have a spiritual purpose, and does it invoke relationships between material and spiritual agencies? Does the soul of the child hover around the parents prior to incarnation, and is the not-yet-incarnated being somehow a part of the process of decision-making?

"Other new technologies also suggest that questions concerning the nature of being, and the boundaries between embodied, human existence and disincarnate, spiritual existence, permeate a new bioethical inquiry. For example, the possibility of implanted brain chips will change the way the self is viewed. Such implanted chips will not only allow persons to fuse mind with technology, but also to connect minds directly via implants. In this way, the future experience of personhood itself could be different. As one author suggests:

'If people are actually connected via their brains, the boundaries between self and community will be considerably diminished ... [and] the pressures to act as part of the whole, as a 'collective consciousness,' rather than as an isolated individual would be increased. The sense of self as a unique and isolated individual might be changed ... [and this] could change our psychic state and understanding of what it means to be human.'"

"Mystical traditions in many religions have spoken of a unifying ground of being underlying all experience, and of the human ego as creating an artificial boundary between the individual personality and the rest of creation. The unifying ground of being has been articulated as based in a state of cosmic, unconditional love for all things. When minds fuse, the experience of the self may differ from that classically experienced as individual. In other words, individuation and transcendence potentially constitute states of being from which future perspectives on ethical/unethical may emerge. By changing perceptions of the self, such future technologies suggest the limitations of a bioethical analysis that relies on analytical reasoning, and point to a bioethics less dependent on the strictures of philosophy and logical analysis, and more closely tied to the human heart and spirit."

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Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173