June 24, 2017


St. Boniface Hospital, Winnipeg, Manitoba
By Hendrik van der Breggen
June 24, 2017


In view of St. Boniface Hospital's recent controversial decision not to permit medical assistance in dying (MAID), it might be helpful to look at some questions and answers about MAID.

Q. What is MAID?

A. The term Medical Assistance In Dying/ MAID is a dangerous euphemism.

Yes, of course we all want medical assistance in dying: please, doctors and nurses, don't abandon us as we die, please provide clean sheets, food, and morphine as death takes its course.

But MAID—the procedure—is the KILLING of a patient.

MAID, in other words, suggests comfort care, but translates the meaning of "care" into direct killing action.

Q. Are there other concerns about MAID?

A. Yes, MAID weakens our society's respect for life because its practice assumes life is no longer the default position. There is no doubt a non-fallacious slippery slope that lurks close by when we accept killing the sufferer is a solution to suffering.

Also, MAID places yet another burden on the elderly, terminally ill, and disabled. How? By subtly implying they must justify their continued existence. This is unkind, surely.

In addition, proponents of choosing MAID inadvertently insult the elderly, terminally ill, and disabled by communicating this message: We'd rather be dead than be like you.

Q. University of Manitoba ethicist Arthur Schafer says this: "The fundamental principle of health-care ethics is the needs of patients come first." What about that?

A. Let's think. A patient NEEDS to be killed? Really? There is confusion here between needs and wants.

Also, shouldn't we remember something called the Hippocratic Oath? We should remember at least this part of it, especially if we're having a discussion of fundamental health-care ethics: "I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect."

Q. Schafer (again) about St. Boniface Hospital: "They're not taking into account people's end-of-life comfort." What about that?

A. This is simply not true. Significantly, St. Boniface is one of two hospitals in Winnipeg which provides palliative care. Palliative care is a branch of medicine that focuses on patient comfort when facing a life-threatening illness. St. Boniface doesn't conflate comfort and killing.

Q. St. Boniface Hospital is a publicly-funded institution, i.e., it receives taxpayer dollars, so, as Schafer argues (in the words of a CBC reporter), "the church has no place deciding the care doctors can provide at a public hospital." What about that?

A. We should keep in mind that St. Boniface is not merely a public hospital. It's also a church-run hospital. It was founded by Grey Nuns and has historically been governed by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is part of the public, too. Catholics are taxpayers, too.

Moreover, not every hospital offers all services, nor is required to.

We live in a free, pluralist society which requires wisdom on the part of its government. It seems to me that the official statement by Manitoba's Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen shows such wisdom: "We think that we've struck the right balance by ensuring that there is access to MAID but also ensuring that those individual rights and those hospitals that are uncomfortable with the procedure can also have their rights respected as well."

Thank you, Health Minister Goertzen.

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College where he teaches ethics (and other philosophy courses). The views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.

Additional columns/ articles on physician-assisted killing, for further reading: 

C16 and Forcing Your Religion

By Hendrik van der Breggen
June 24, 2017

C16 and Forcing Your Religion

Remember R.E.M.'s song Losing my religion? In view of the passing of Bill C16, a.k.a. the Transgender Rights Bill, I think a new song should be sung. I title it “Forcing your religion.”

Consider this.

Very apparently, if we take U of Toronto psychologist Jordan B. Peterson's arguments seriously (which I do, because I think they're strong logically and evidentially), then C16 will require Canadians to use a person's preferred pronouns.

Conservative Senator Grant Mitchell, at a November 28, 2016, senate debate said the following in defence of C16:

“There is also the argument that transgender identity is too subjective a concept to be enshrined in law because it is defined as an individual’s deeply felt internal experience of gender. Yet we, of course, accept outright that no one can discriminate on the basis of religion, and that too is clearly a very deeply subjective and personal feeling.”

Here is Senator Mitchell's argument restated: Freedom to identify as transgender is like freedom of religion, so just as I am free to determine and live according to my religious identity, so too transgender persons are free to identify and portray themselves as such to the world.

Hmmm. Let's think.

Here is an insightful reply.

Referring to the above argument at a later senate hearing, Dr. Bruce Pardy, professor of law at Queen's University, states this: “Those are the equivalents.”

“But,” Professor Pardy quickly adds, “here's the one thing that people who claim freedom of religion do not have: they do not have the right to demand that other people agree.”

In other words, in a free society religious people have the freedom to believe (and live as if) religion X is true, but they don't have the right to require others to say they agree X is true too. Similarly, transgender people have the freedom to believe (and portray) themselves as other than their biological sex, but they don't have the right to require others to say they agree with what they believe. Such agreement is implied by preferred pronouns.

So, dear proponents of preferred pronouns, by using the force of law to require others to use preferred pronouns when they disagree with them, you are in effect pushing your religion onto those others. Sheesh. Oh, sorry, I meant Zheesh.

“Oh no, I've said too much; I haven't said enough.”

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College, Otterburne, Manitoba. The views expressed here do not always reflect the views of Providence.

June 21, 2017

Untangling LGBTQ arguments

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, June 22, 2017

Untangling LGBTQ arguments

Popular arguments in defence of LGBTQ matters often consist of knots of illogic that should be untangled. Consider the following.

1. Critics of LGBTQ matters are homophobic, biphobic, transphobic, etc., so their arguments should be dismissed.

Reply: This is an ad hominem fallacy, i.e., the mistake of dismissing arguments on the basis of some (alleged) characteristic of the arguer. The merits or demerits of the critics' arguments should be addressed, not the characteristics of those setting out the arguments. The messenger isn't the message.

2. Being gay is like race, so questioning homosexuality is unjust—as racism is unjust.

Reply: This commits the fallacy of faulty analogy, i.e., the mistake of basing an inference on a comparison when there are relevant dissimilarities.

First, unlike race, "being gay" is not 100% biologically determined. Though sexual desires are not chosen, various factors are involved: some biological, some psychological, some social. Even though one can have same-sex etc. attractions (for various causal reasons), one needn't construct or centre one's identity on those attractions. We are more than sexual impulses—much more.

Second, unlike race, people can change or at least not act in accordance with their sexual impulses. See LivingOut.org, Restored Hope Network, Sy Rogers, etc.

Third, unlike race, significant health issues are associated with gay sexual behaviour.

Physician Miriam Grossman: Compared to the general heterosexual population, persons who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual report “more high risk sexual behaviors, higher rates of infection with HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea, and more mental health problems [anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts].”

Significantly, Grossman adds, these disparities also occur in more accepting, gay-friendly societies (e.g., The Netherlands), so can't be blamed wholly on cultural attitudes.

[See, too, my column Is being gay like race?]

3. LGBTQ people are born that way, so that justifies LGBTQ sexual behaviour.

Reply: Aside from the small percentage of intersex people, the premise is false (see above: it's not 100% biologically determined).

Moreover, even if one is "born that way," the argument commits the Is-Ought fallacy, i.e., the mistake of moving from a descriptive statement (of what is) to a prescriptive statement (of what ought). Just because I have a propensity to do X, it doesn't follow logically that I should do X.

A propensity for anger doesn't justify having a temper tantrum. A propensity for alcoholism doesn't justify drinking to excess. A propensity for pedophilia doesn't justify sex with children. So too a propensity for same-sex (etc.) sex doesn't automatically justify acting on that propensity. More reasoning is needed.

4. If you disagree with persons who identify as LGBTQ, then you are a hater. Either you affirm LGBTQ or you show disrespect.

Reply: This incurs the false dichotomy fallacy.

This is a mistake in reasoning which occurs when we assume that there are only two options, when there are actually three (or more), yet we go on to assume that one of the two options must be the way to go.

Missing third option: be genuinely hospitable and respectful to those who identify as LGBTQ (etc.) AND hold to the wisdom of reserving sex between one man and one woman in permanent monogamous marriage.

5. Reserving sex between one man and one woman in permanent monogamous marriage is silly.

Reply: This is false.

According to researcher RyanT. Anderson, reliable studies from social sciences strongly suggest parenting by married biological parents—i.e., biological mother and biological father—is ideal for well-being of children. Redefinition of marriage (along with divorce and single parenting) takes society another step away from this ideal.

Also, stepping away from sexual complementarity increases demand for reproductive technology.

In Vitro Fertilization may become normalized and its problems exacerbated. IVF creates leftover frozen human embryos, i.e., human beings; often requires “selective termination,” i.e., abortion of unwanted implantations/ fetuses; exploits women as surrogates and egg suppliers; plus threatens to turn children into commodities, abolishing their biologically-based moral right to know and be raised by both biological parents.

Further reading: Ryan T. Anderson, Truth Overruled.

[See too: Ryan T. Anderson lecture at Princeton University: What Is Marriage?(56 minute online video); Q&A (36 minute online video).]

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily the views of Providence.)

Other Apologia columns on related matters, for additional reading:




 Homosexuality (general) 

 Homosexuality (non-religious criticisms) 

Homosexuality (and Bible) 

Same-sex marriage 


  Replies to my critics 

Note to critics: Please read at least a few of my (relevant) suggested readings before commenting. Thanks.

June 13, 2017

Bill C16 is incoherent—and that's a concern

Bill C16 is incoherent—and that's a concern
By Hendrik van der Breggen
June 13, 2017

Canada's Bill C16, a.k.a. Transgender Rights Bill, attempts to add gender identity and expression to human rights and hate-crime laws. Below I argue (with Jordan B. Peterson's help) that the bill is incoherent. I also show why, logically, that's a concern—for everyone.

Jordan B. Peterson, a psychology professor at U of Toronto and an outspoken critic of Bill C16, appeared recently in a Senate hearing on Bill C16. He expressed concern that the bill compels speech, and thus is a threat to free speech. He also testified to Bill C16's incoherence—my interest here.

Peterson's testimony correctly points out that the appropriate context of interpretation for C16 is constituted by the policies of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), as was indicated by a link at the website of the Department of Justice. (The link was later taken down, which is a discussion for another time, a discussion having to do with this question: Are Bill C16 proponents hiding something?)

In defence of C16, to refute Peterson, a senator read from OHRC policies. The OHRC clearly allows citizens not to use preferred pronouns—as an alternative we can always use the person's chosen name. So preferred pronouns are neither necessary nor mandatory.

Significantly, however, Professor Peterson ALSO read from the OHRC policies, which just as clearly state this: "Refusing to refer to a person by their self-identified name and proper [preferred] personal pronoun constitutes gender-based harassment."

See the contradiction? You may use a chosen name only versus you must use the chosen name AND personal pronouns.

Peterson goes on to argue for several other contradictions within the legislation or implied via OHRC policies. For example: sexual preference is immutable, which implies biological grounding, i.e., dependency on sexual identity, but also sexual identity and gender identity and gender expression are entirely independent. (For substantiation, check out YouTube: Jordan B. Peterson, Senate Hearing on Bill C16.)

So Bill C16, when interpreted correctly, is in fact incoherent.

At this juncture, a reader might respond: So what? Why is it a concern that a piece of legislation is logically incoherent? Especially if I get what I want.

Answer: Because from a set of contradictory claims, anything follows validly.

That an argument is logically valid (deductively valid) means that whenever the premises are true the conclusion must be true too. Validity means it's not possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false. This is Logic 101.

If the claims that constitute a properly interpreted piece of legislation are contradictory, then these claims, when used as premises to infer some other legal conclusion—any new legal conclusion—will always constitute a deductively valid argument. Why? Because it's not possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.

Think about it. Because it's not possible for the premises to be true, because they're contradictory (A and not-A can't be true at the same time and in the same sense), this means that it's also not possible for the premises to be true AND the conclusion false, which means that the definition of deductive validity is satisfied.

So, if Bill C16 is accepted (as is), it provides a precedent or grounding for ANY new and weird piece of legislation—including what you might not want.

This should be a concern for every one of us, whatever one thinks about gender identity, gender expression, and preferred pronouns.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)

For further reading: Transgender preferred pronouns?