Marlowe's Shade

Friday, April 29, 2005

Euthanasia and Secular Humanism

In my last post I meditated a bit on the connection between leftist politics as embodied in the career of Bill Moyers and the right-to-die movement. I've been steeped in politics since the inception of this blog and I tend to operate with a number of assumptions about the political and ideological landscape in which this drama is playing out. I thought it might be useful to re-examine some of the influences on the thought life of the right-to-die/euthanasia movement.

I've already sketched out in part how strongly the Culture of Death resonates with the New-Age Movement

I don't think I've sufficiently treated another aspect of the right-to-die value set which is base one what I think can most accurately be described as secular humanism. The roots of this philosophy go deep but I'm focusing mostly on it's influence on traditional American culture. The more general aspects of humanism predate the founding of our country and I think it's influence was felt even in the early Nineteenth Century but for this discussion I think we can start with the work of John Dewey and the impact of the Humanist Manifesto.

Certainly the teachings of secular humanist rockstars like Darwin, Freud and Marx had already infiltrated academia. But I think I can show that Dewey's work had a greater impact on the culture as it reached young minds as their worldviews were being formed. The Catholic Church had long recognized the value of molding the thought life of individuals as early as possible. Much can be said about Dewey's influence on our educational system, but the key feature was replacing an absolute moral code with a relative one. He also substituted a scientific worldview for a supernatural one. This has had a profound affect on our education system, particularly on the National Educational Association who promotes a secular "progressive" agenda for our public schools. The implementation of Dewey's relativistic ethical theory and secular approach to education was carried out within the NEA through the agency of William Kilpatrick and Kurt Lewin. Even at that point, progressive education's track record was terrible. Dewey's social experiments in Communist Russia was declared a disaster by even the Soviets [who charged his theories with the creation of a generation of hooligans], and on their own progressive schools never caught on. But this didn't prevent the NEA from applying these ideas in an increasingly more militant way since the late 30's. The result by the 70's were triple digit increases in pregnancies, venereal disease, delinquency, drug and alcohol use and suicide. And the generation that was initially affected by this experiment in social engineering was the Baby Boomers.

The implication of this on the right-to-die movement are too numerous to treat in one post. As we saw in the career of Bill Moyers the right-to-die position relies at the very least on an underpinning of secular humanist philosophy, it that case as embodied in liberal politics. I'll probably do a case study in a future post of how this educational legacy plays out in the careers of the bioethicists who are now making policy on end of life issues. But one thing that is already apparent is to morally justify the agenda of the euthanasia movement a brave new world must be created to supply the philosophical freedom to tinker with social institutions and take on the authority to make decisions that were previously left to Deity. Secular humanism has made stunning progress to achieve this high position in our culture.
papijoe 6:23 AM |

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Book Tag

evariste got me, and I better respond and get my tags in before I run out of taggees.

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

The easy answer is that I'm in the process of "being" the Bible regardless. I'm on my second attempt to read it cover to cover, going back and forth through multiple translations. Last time I think I skipped chunks of Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers. This time due to my preoccupation with absolute moral law, I'm actually finding those parts fascinating. And who knew leprosy could grow on walls? Also this time there is a greater recognition of the Bible as the Sword of the Spirit. I don't have much scripture verse memorized, (my four year old can rattle off at least 26 passages at will), but what I do know is very useful.

But in a way I think this is a cop out, Christians shouldn't get any extra credit for the Bible. So I'd also memorize C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Not that I can remember, but I've had crushes on characters that were stranger than fiction...

The last book you bought is:

The Age of Sacred Terror For $1 in a cut out bin at Target. It got panned by the National Review for serving up a smorgasbord of excuses for Clinton's neglect of our security, but so far the basic facts presented are educational. We'll see.

The last book you read is:

Finished Stephen Hunter's Black Light for probably the third time.

What are you currently reading?

I'm finishing The Silmarillion for the second time.

Also The Spiritual Man by Watchman Nee.

Five books you would take to a desert island.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

Jaime at Song of Time because he's a brainy romantic with exotic taste.

Colt, coz it's his birthday.

Jaco Pastorius at cuanas because he's a recovering bohemian like me, and someguy is probably busy working or asleep by now.

Update - Jaime weighs in with his picks. Why didn't I think of Borges?

Jaco says he'll be posting his tonight...

And I think Colt is completely fed up with me this time.
papijoe 10:14 AM |

Euthanasia Hall of Shame: Bill Moyers

I've always known him as the guy on PBS who idolized Joseph Campbell and bashed Christians.

Joseph Farah of World Net Daily has this portrait of Moyers:

Moyers was never a newsman. He was a political activist from the beginning. He first came to prominence in 1964 as a media aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson. It was Moyers who produced the TV commercial that many believe sewed up the landslide victory by Johnson over Barry Goldwater.

It opened with a little girl counting the petals on a daisy on a beautiful day. It ended with a nuclear mushroom cloud and the ominous warning that this was the inevitable result of a Goldwater victory.

Christianity Today claims he was once a Southern Baptist pastor. Were they not so credible a source I would be highly skeptical, but assuming that is true Moyers has wandered far from his Christian roots.

So should we be surprised to find out that he is firmly in the right-to-die camp? This position seems inevitable given the morally relativistic unitarianoid quasi-Christianity that Moyers sometimes alludes to as his faith. According to our trusty Timeline, Moyers started work on the PBS special On Our Own Terms in 1999.

[In September 2000] Bill Moyers' On Our Own Terms airs on public television. $2.7 million from RWJF for the $6.25 million production. The program encouraged the audience to call in for information, and to join coalitions. Compassion in Dying, an organization that promotes assisted-suicide, provided volunteers to answer some of the phone lines. The network of volunteers across the country would provide the framework for Rallying Points (see January, 2001).
From Nathan Cummings Foundation, Inc.

1997 Educational Broadcasting Corporation $40,000
1998 Educational Broadcasting Corporation $500,000

From Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

1999 ID #35477 $2,750,000 (Last Acts site listed grantee as Public Affairs Television, Inc; RWJF Annual Report indicates grantee was Educational Broadcasting Corp.)
2000 ID #38964 American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) $560,000 (for a special companion piece in Modern Maturity. The title of the lead piece was "The Last Taboo.")

Prior to broadcast, Partnership for Caring hosted a Capitol Hill reception featuring Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), James Oberstar (D-MN), Frances Glendening, (First Lady of Maryland), Juan Williams, Daniel Tobin, MD, Joanne Lynn, MD, and Marian Gray Secundy. (See PfC's newsletter Voices, Winter, 2000; page 4; also Americans for Better Care of the Dying website.)

[January 2001]Karen Orloff Kaplan of Partnership for Caring calls the first Rallying Points meeting in Newport Beach, California, on January 8. This first conference is a gathering of about 300 people from across the US who participated in Bill Moyers' On Our Own Terms program. Rallying Points would not be formally launched until the next year (see February, 2002). Its purpose is "a bottom-up approach to changing the attitudes towards death and dying of consumers, providers and health care institutions. It is intended to complement the top-down strategies of Last Acts and other organizations that work at the national level to change the public mindset . . . "

Once again the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation provided the cash. Moyers' show also spun off another campaign which cynically billed itself as a response to the grief of 9-11:

Finding Our Way: Living With Dying in America
A 15-part newspaper series carried by Knight-Ridder, meant to build on Moyers' television series. As Partnership for Caring wrote in their newsletter, "Building on the momentum of the highly successful community outreach associated with last year’s PBS airing of On Our Own Terms, Moyers On Dying which had an audience nearly 60% larger than the PBS prime-time average the local coalitions hope to stimulate a similar response with Finding Our Way."
Funding for Finding Our Way: $300,000 from RWJF to Daniel Tobin's "Life Institute;" and $150,000 from Samuels Foundation to Partnership for Caring.
Though the program had been planned long before September 11, Last Acts released the new program as part of a grief management program in response to the World Trade Center attack, with the headline "Nation's Largest Health Foundation Commits Multi-Million-Dollar Response to Terrorism."

In 2002 another phase of this project launched, again backed by RWJF:

February: Last Acts formally announces the Rallying Points project. Four months prior, RWJF awarded $12 million to Karen Orloff Kaplan and Partnership for Caring (director of Last Acts) to establish Rallying Points and build upon the 300+ grass roots coalitions established by Bill Moyers' public television broadcast On Our Own Terms. Partnership for Caring named four resource centers that would counsel the coalitions. Three of the centers were regional centers as well as specialists in a field of concern to the activists:

Midwest Bioethics Center a/k/a Center for Practical Bioethics (Midwest region; specializing in advance directives; home of "Community-State Partnerships");

Hospice of the Florida Suncoast (Eastern region; specializing in community-level public education); [see below: Terri Schiavo]

Ira Byock's Missoula Demonstration Project (Western region; specializing in community-based research and developing needs assessments

Note the reappearance of George Felos' Florida Suncoast and Ram Dass disciple Ira Byock.

Moyers' series cites admirable goals of helping people choose a comfortable death. No one wishes anyone a painful miserable death. But this is a thinly veiled PR campaign for the right-to-die movement's agenda. There is open discussion of physical assisted suicide, and not one single pro-life voice is heard.

Like Joseph Farah, I also admit to being fascinated by Moyers' though process. To me the self assurance of his generation, which probably more than any other was able to influence the times in which they lived, is ultimately poignant. The conviction that they had lived on their own terms could be maintained by mutual consent, but no such option ultimately exists when we face death alone.
papijoe 6:12 AM |

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Euthanasia Hall of Shame: Hastings Center

Based on some encouraging feedback from Tim at ProLifeBlogs I'm going to continue this series, which is very heavily indebted to the oft-cited LifeTree Timeline because I think it's important to get the word out on how powerful economic, sociological and media forces are rallying to the right-to-die cause with a well thought out plan to change our society's valuation of life.

As noted in previous posts George Soros and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have been major financial backers of the multi-pronged initiative to influence our attitudes about life. According to the Timeline the Hastings Center also played a key role:

From 1996 forward, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and George Soros's Project on Death in America (PDIA) implemented end-of-life (EOL) programs that fit into a three-point strategy to change American culture. The strategy for social change had been offered by Daniel Callahan in a 1995 Hastings Center Report article. He argued that America was a death-denying society. Callahan's three points were later refined in an Institute of Medicine report, and adopted by RWJF. Each RWJF/Soros initiative advanced at least one of the following strategies...

    1)Professional Education
    2)Institutional Change
    3)Public Engagement

The Timeline goes on to describe how RWJF funded the bulk of the programs while Soros funded the leadership. The Hastings Center's role as a beneficiary was quite clearly to provide the blueprint for this ambitious program of social engineering.

[In 1969] Hastings Center is founded in New York by Daniel Callahan and psychiatrist Willard Gaylin, MD.

[1987] Guidelines on the Termination of Life-Sustaining Treatment and the Care of the Dying
a report by the Hastings Center. Briarcliff Manor, NY: The Center, copyright 1987.
xii, 159 p.; 28 cm. Bruce Jennings; Bernard Lo.

[1995] Hastings Center Report (special supplement, paid for by RWJF; Nov.–Dec. 1995.) Dying Well in the Hospital: the lessons of SUPPORT.
Daniel Callahan worries that [bellicose] America is waging a "war against death." We must accept death. Outlines strategy for campaign against death-denying society:

1) Communication;
2) Institutional change;
3) Public engagement.
Callahan's three-pronged strategy will form the basis for the first RWJF Last Acts conference in 1996

[1996] Congress of Clinical Societies: Conference on the Ethics of Managed Care (fourth in a series that began in 1987); held on October 7.
"The conference brought together leading scholars in medical ethics, health policy, law, and medicine with representatives of the managed care industry to discuss how the integrity of medical practice could be maintained and strengthened in managed care settings during a time of dramatic change in the health care delivery system." [ ]
Joseph J. Fins organized the conference; Speakers included Joanne Lynn and Daniel Callahan.
Hosted by American Geriatrics Society and Hastings Center.
Funding: RWJF grant #28153 for $49,000 to American Geriatrics Society.

[1997] Hastings Center Report publishes "Is There a Duty to Die?" by John Hardwig. (Mar-Apr;27(2):34-42.) Hardwig answers "yes," for the common good.

"Let me be clear. I certainly believe that there is a duty to refuse life-prolonging medical treatment and also a duty to complete advance directives refusing life-prolonging treatment. But a duty to die can go well beyond that. There can be a duty to die before one's illnesses would cause death, even if treated only with palliative measures. In fact, there may be a fairly common responsibility to end one's life in the absence of any terminal illness at all. Finally, there can be a duty to die when one would prefer to live. Granted, many of the conditions that can generate a duty to die also seriously undermine the quality of life. Some prefer not to live under such conditions. But even those who want to live can face a duty to die."

With that last entry in mind lets step out of the Timeline for a moment and examine how The Hastings Center describes itself:

The Hastings Center is an independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit bioethics research institute founded in 1969 to explore fundamental and emerging questions in health care, biotechnology, and the environment.

Hardwig's contribution to the Report is difficult to reconcile with this innocuous image of the Center, as are the undertones of Daniel Callahan's past statements. But this isn't the first time the Hastings Center has allowed a glimpse of it's more sinister side. In 1974, co-founder Dr William Gaylin published a article called Harvesting the Dead. In a previously cited article Earl Appleby of CURE unveils the strong advocacy for euthanasia in the leadership of the Hastings Center:

Over the years, physicians have practiced euthanasia," Dr. Willard Gaylin, of the infamous Hastings Center, acknowledges in Harvesting the Dead. "They have withheld antibiotics or other simple treatments when it was felt that a life did not warrant sustaining, or pulled the plug on the respirator when they were convinced that what was being sustained no longer warranted the definition of life."

The staged debate among its sundry sects notwithstanding, the real question posed by the brain-death cult is not whether its victims are dead but whether they have a right to life. We are, in Gaylin's words, "faced with the task of deciding whether that which we have kept alive is a human being, or, to put it another way, whether that human being . . . should be considered alive.'" "The problem," he concludes, "is well on its way to be resolved by what must have seemed a relatively simple and ingenious method. As it turned out, the difficult issues of euthanasia could be evaded by redefining death."

Do you think they use that kind of verbiage in their grant proposals or in their keynotes to healthcare professionals?

Meanwhile, back at the Timeline:

[2000]National Hospice Work Group, collaborating with National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) launches project: "Increasing Access to Hospice." The project is funded in part through a $125,000 grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation to the Hastings Center, awarded in 2000. The study led to the 2003 publication of "Access to Hospice Care: Expanding Boundaries, Overcoming Barriers" (588Kb PDF) as an insert in the Hastings Center Report.

Then the Center seems to be keeping a low profile for a couple of years but it has recently announced an analysis of the "End of Life reforms" of the last ten years, of course generously funded by RWJF:

...decisions concerning the use of aggressive and invasive life-extending treatments continue to be fraught with uncertainty and difficulty, particularly in those numerous cases where the patient has lost decisionmaking capacity but has not executed an advance directive. Families often experience deep conflicts. Communication with health care professionals needs to be improved. The question of withholding or withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration ("feeding tubes") remains a matter of legal and religious controversy.

Other topics under consideration include: the best use and interpretation of advance directives; the role of families in decision-making; the integration of palliative care into mainstream medicine; racial, ethnic, and cultural differences in attitudes toward death and dying; and the protection of those with severe disabilities from discrimination and neglect.

No mention of harvesting the living, but rest assured that despite what the press releases might say, the Hastings Center is working on it.
papijoe 6:41 AM |

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Value of Life

I was discussing family history with my four year old the other day. In explaining how her mother and I ended up getting married because of an convergence of events, she made the connection I think most of us make at some point. Our existence once depended on a series of events that, had even one of them gone differently, we would never have been.

I believe that not only does one's essential existence depend on both parents, but also on the timing of the birth. Children from the same parents are obviously very different, so to me it stands to reason that a birth postponed a year will be a very different child. So I think it is natural and appropriate for us to have a sense of awe, as my daughter did, when we consider the preciousness and uniqueness of our identity. When we think of this as something somehow belonging to us, the meaning is lost in the trite concepts and language of "self-esteem". But when we see it as a gift that we did in no way merit (how could we?) then we begin to see our existence clearly. We try to convince ourselves that if we hadn't been who we are, we would have been someone else. The deep truth is that "you" wouldn't have been at all. Creation would have had a hole where you were supposed to be. I'm very pleased my little girl is considering these matters so early in life.

From this point of view, we can't over-estimate the value of a single life. This is easily demonstrable with newborn life. Pharaoh and Herod committed their atrocities because they were acutely aware of the potential of their innocent victims. But this also extends to the damaged, the elderly, the disabled. While our current utilitarian culture can only value them as life support units for health organs, we ignore the implications of the undeniable uniqueness of each life. I could try to illustrate this with scores of hokey analogies, but I think we all have to come to this realization on a deep personal level. For me it was seeing that this individuality was one of the keys to the mystery of Love. Will you accept a substitute for your beloved?

Granted that there are circumstances, outcomes and entire lives that are flawed. But if we can't see into the future, how can we make judgments and decisions concerning them? I've seen happy outcomes from terrible beginnings and promising lives utterly wasted. Sorry, but we are not granted access to the mysteries of Free Will and Destiny.

Obviously my opinions are based on my Christian worldview, but most of my existence was well permeated with secular ideas and up to a point my decisions were based on these more post-modern guidelines. The results were disappointing. I think the value of all Life becomes self-evident beyond a modern concept of "self", and that value can be seen in the gift of our irreplaceable identity and this epiphany ignites the passionate sense of worth in all Life, which is the essence of Love.
papijoe 6:33 AM |

Monday, April 25, 2005

Diagnosis of "Brain Death" May Claim Another Victim

From BlogsforTerri

This recent case of a family struggling with the institutional pressures to remove treatment from a son that has been classified as "brain dead" again raised the question of whether this catagorization of a patient is valid or a nonmedical loophole to deny expensive treatment. The BlogsforTerri post also links to a recent post on precisely this subject based on an article by Earl Appleby of CURE (Citizens United Resisting Euthanasia)

Whether you are classified as dead or alive depends upon your attending physician's understanding of the concept of death. The radical departure from the traditional cardiorespiratory standard of death inherent in "brain death" has, in Capron and Kass's words, brought "extramedical concepts to the forefront of concern." Moreover, "medical judgments," as Lamb reminds us "are informed by philosophical presuppositions, whether or not the latter are explicitly formulated." The following article explicates the "philosophical presuppositions" underlying the "extramedical concepts" of brain death as articulated by its proponents.

If as propagandist par excellence, Joseph Goebbels maintained, a lie repeated often enough is soon believed, the brainwashed public's blind faith in "brain death" is telling testimony to the pervasive power of the big lie. Regrettably, while the medical myth of brain death won't die, its victims do.

Brain death, a prominent proponent attests, is "a creation of prevailing medical technologies." Ironically, these "technologies" have nothing to do with the ability to determine death and everything to do with the ability to sustain life.

Dr Paul Bryne paints what I think is an even clearer medical picture:

Brain death is not about a definition of death, although it is often stated as a matter of definition. Rather, brain death vs. death is about the facts of death. If brain death and death were identical and equivalent, there would have been no need to coin "brain death."

One ought to begin with the known. Death is a fact. The concept of death can be defined, often from a theological or philosophical viewpoint. Medicine can have knowledge of the theological or philosophical concept, but the physician must make his determination of death based on the science (biology, biochemistry, etc.) that he knows.

The law should be for all. The purpose of the law should be for the protection of citizens. In the case of death the law should protect a citizen from being determined or pronounced dead before death, the fact, has occurred. This is not occurring in brain death.

These are facts of life. Anatomically and physiologically during life there is an interdependence of organs and systems maintaining the unity (oneness) of the body. In an organism as complicated as a human being, no one should be pronounced dead unless and until there is destruction of at least the major vital systems of the body, i.e., the circulatory and respiratory systems, and the entire brain.

Because of the desires of man to transplant vital organs, absence of brain functioning, functions or function was proposed and has been accepted by those who follow the leaders. Others have studied and realized that absence of brain functioning, functions or function is not identical and equivalent biologically or medically to death.

Furthermore, even though the Uniform Determination of Death Act calls for ". . . irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem," this is not what is occurring in practice. The Annals of the New York Academy of Science (ANYAS 9, 315, pg. 65, 1978) reported that only 4 percent of the patients in the Collaborative Study would have met the criteria of a dying brain stem. To say it another way, when the criteria based on the Collaborative Study became the practice and a standard for determining brain death, 96% of the patients did not and do not have a dying brain stem. While this is only one set of criteria, whether it or any other set of criteria based on the Collaborative Study is used, 96 percent of the so-called "brain-dead" patients still have a functioning brain. When the beating heart is then excised, the patient becomes dead, i.e., the patient is killed.

The acceptance of brain death is a major link in the euthanasia movement. Many of the difficult issues of euthanasia have been evaded by the acceptance of brain death (Willard Gaylin). "Brain death" is not death. Brain death is not based on data that would be considered valid for any other scientific purpose.

Brain death is not the truth, but someday the truth will have to be told.

So with this caveat not to rush to judgement as soon as a medical authority pronounces the pseudo-diagnosis of "brain death", lets look at Taran Francis' case as reported by Newsday:

An emergency hearing was held at a Bronx hospital Friday night after the family of a brain-dead boy alleged that the hospital had threatened to remove him from life support against their wishes.

The unusual hearing came after relatives of Teron Francis, 13, obtained a court order prohibiting Montefiore Medical Center from disconnecting his respirator.

About two dozen relatives stood outside the hospital, prevented by police from attending the closed hearing. A hospital spokesman said the hearing was being held in a small conference room, with only the judge, attorneys, doctors, the boy's mother, Marcerlyn Francis, and a stenographer in attendance.

Shortly after midnight the judge told about two dozen of the relatives assembled in the lobby that the hospital would not remove the boy from the respirator. He also told them that he would order an investigation into what happened to Teron.

"The judge said we won the case because they are not going to pull the plug on him," the boy's uncle, Fredrick Francis, 53, said. "Whenever his heart stops beating, that's when God is ready for him."

The uncle said the hospital told him that Teron has anywhere from an hour to two weeks to live.

Earlier Friday, Robert Genis, a lawyer for the family, went to State Supreme Court to get an order forcing the hospital to show why Teron's respirator should be removed.

"The hospital wants to cut him off now, even though we got a show cause order to continue his life support," Genis said before going into the 10:15 p.m. hearing.

A hospital spokesman, Steve Osborne, denied the attorney's allegations.

"We never threatened to turn off the respirator," he said. "It will be up to the mother, probably."

He said Teron is on a respirator but not life support. "The child is not on life support because he is brain dead and that's not a life condition.

"The judge ruled that we must make all efforts to make sure that we do whatever we can do to keep his heart functioning," Osborne said before the hearing. "The child is brain dead, but we are not going to take the child off the respirator."

Osborne accused Genis of "doing a disservice to the family" by misstating the hospital's intentions. As for the possibility of taking Teron off the respirator, Osborne said: "It's better to do it sooner than later because of the boy's condition. When you're brain dead, your organs just fade away slowly."

Teron's complications began Monday after he was taken to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital complaining of a severe headache and toothache. The family said doctors conducted a CAT-scan and told relatives that an infection had spread to his brain.

After he went into convulsions and became unconscious, Teron was hooked up to a respirator and transferred to Montefiore for surgery on Tuesday, his family said. "Something went terribly wrong because my brother was always conscious in the hospital," said Teron's brother, Erron Francis, 24. "On Wednesday, they were calling us asking us about donating organs." [Ed. note: this report contains an incorrect spelling of Taran's name]

Later reports stated that Taran's condition was caused by a dental infection that spread to his brain. Steve Osbourne's thinly veiled concern that Taran's organs be harvested while the body is still healthy is shockly insensitive considering the family is still coming to terms with this terrible event.

I think this case is will be typical of how the right-to-die movement will impact all of us. The twin drivers of cost of treatment and demand for organs will hasten the deaths of thousands (in fact it already is), denying them the benefit of all available treatment options and legal due process, while having a devastating emotional impact on surviving family who love them. Taran may not recover from this infection, but it is clear that the right-to-die movement and the denial of treatment policies that it has instilled in our medical system are turning our hospitals into death factories. Sooner or later all of us will witness a loved one being efficiently processed toward a cost-effective death, as if moving swiftly along a conveyor belt long before we are ready to say goodbye.
papijoe 6:52 AM |

Friday, April 22, 2005

Euthanasia Hall of Shame: The Wendland Case

The more I look into the history of euthanasia and the right-to-die movement, the greater a sense of shame I experience at my profound ignorance of how the culture of death has progressed. See if the deja vu doesn't kick in reading this:

ROBERT WENDLAND should die so that his family can "be allowed to live their lives," Dr. Ronald Cranford, a Minnesota neurologist and bioethicist, testified recently in the Stockton, CA, courtroom of Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt. The chosen method of death? Intentional dehydration and starvation.

What has Wendland, 45, done to deserve such a fate? He went into a coma in September 1993 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Sixteen months later, he awakened from the coma, paralyzed on one side and unable to walk, talk or swallow well enough to eat. He is physically and cognitively disabled and dependent on others for his care. He is not terminally ill. He is not hooked up to machines. He does require a feeding tube to sustain his life.

The villain of the story, Dr Cranford probably needs no introduction, and it was also written by Wesley J. Smith, who was the lone voice in the wilderness of bioethics who championed Terri Schiavo's cause.

The parallels to Terri's case are eerie:

Rose Wendland, Robert's wife, claims Robert would not want to live in his current condition. She bases her claim primarily on her husband's statements made in the aftermath of her father's death, three months before Robert's injury, that he would not want to live if he could not "be a husband, father or a provider."

But is it right to kill someone because he might have said he would not want to live in a dependent state? Is it right to kill someone because he can't work and be productive? Is it right to kill someone because he is disabled? Robert Wendland's mother, Florence Wendland, and half-sister, Rebekah Vinson, say no. They sued to prevent the dehydration.

It is important to note that Wendland has slowly improved in the nearly two years since he awakened from his coma. For example, he:
    Has maneuvered an electric wheelchair down hospital corridors and can now maneuver a manual wheelchair with his unparalyzed leg or arm.
    Has written the letter "R" of his first name when asked, as well as some other letters of his name.
    Has used buttons to accurately answer yes and no questions some of the time. (Is your name Robert? Yes. Is your name Michael? No.) In this regard, one of his doctors asked Wendland if he wanted to die. He didn't answer the question.

According to Cranford, these and other of Wendland's activities mean little. He also opined in his testimony that Wendland's therapists, who believe he has slowly improved, should be disregarded by McNatt because they are only "seeing what they want to see."

Perhaps it is Cranford who is not seeing what he does not want to see.

It is disturbing that McNatt did not dismiss Rose Wendland's desire to end her husband's life out of hand when the case first came to his court two years ago. It is especially disturbing that a noted neurologist such as Cranford believes that one reason to dehydrate Wendland is to benefit his family, even though Rose Wendland has said she now only visits her husband once a month for about 30 minutes, and his children do not visit at all.

The denouement of the story was perhaps more merciful for Robert Wendland:

Robert Wendland died of pneumonia today (July 17, 2001). His mother was at his side. Neither his wife nor his children were.

During the last several weeks of her son's life, Florence Wendland was not permitted to take him out of his room. She was denied all knowledge about the state of his health.

She does not know if he was properly turned or how or whether he was treated for pneumonia. She did not even know what ailed him. She has been denied access to all medical records and all medical information about his care. Florence Wendland learned of the purported cause of his death via a press release sent out by Lawrence Nelson, Rose Wendland's attorney, which he issued after her son had died.

The fight to save Robert Wendland from dehydration was not in vain. A dangerous legal precedent was avoided. The lives of other disabled people, whose names we will never know, may well have been saved.

But this was merely a holding action. Unless we are able to convince society that disabled people like Robert Wendland have lives of equal moral worth, our society will continue to discount their humanity and brush off their deaths.

I wonder how aggressively the pneumonia was treated and also whether Dr Cranford and his ilk felt cheated of the legal victory for which they had to wait almost another four years.
papijoe 6:45 AM |

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Euthanasia Hall of Shame: Governor Richard Lamm

From LifeTree Timeline

Three term Governor of Colorado Richard Lamm became the focus of national attention in 1984 when he made this statement to The Colorado Health Lawyers Association:

"Like leaves which fall off a tree forming the humus in which other plants can grow, we've got a duty to die and get out of the way with all of our machines and artificial hearts, so that our kids can build a reasonable life."

This was not an ill-considered one-off remark, but reflects Lamm's entrenched position on end-of-life issues, as we see in this article:

The 1984 "duty to die" message is something Lamm has been closely associated with ever since. He has gone beyond the original scope of those remarks to question how much treatment we should offer AIDS patients, severely handicapped children and others in an era of limited health care dollars.

Still convinced that aggressive life-prolonging treatment of the terminally ill and very elderly soaks up precious health care dollars that should go to the poor, young and uninsured, Lamm remains a crusader. Death, he argues as a lecturer on the speaking circuit, is no longer a private issue. Studies have shown that more than 70 percent of those who die each year are elderly and insured by federal- and state-funded Medicare, making death a matter of public policy.

Now director of the Center for Public Policy at Denver University, Lamm is full of questions about how the government should weigh end-of-life care decisions to better spread health care benefits around.

On the speaking circuit Governor Lamm has an number of horror stories that he trots out regarding patients who were kept alive for years at public expense. What he doesn't address are stories like these [Thanks to Allen Turner]:

On March 29, 1986, Jacqueline Cole, the middle-aged wife of a Baltimore Presbyterian minister, suffered a massive stroke. Her daughter, who was with her when it happened, said, "She raised her arm at one point and said, 'Christine, I am having a stroke, I can use my arm but can't feel it.' Then she said, 'I don't want to live as someone other than who [I] was"' (Euthanasia: Spiritual, Medical and Legal Issues in Terminal Health Care, pages 78,79). Following this, she collapsed and went into a coma in which she survived on a respirator and tube feeding. Forty-one days later, her husband asked a judge to remove the respirator. He said, "It should be done because I believe she would not wish to continue to exist in this present state...I do not believe she would wish to live anything other than a full, rich, qualitative style of life such as she enjoyed" (Ibid.). Mrs. Cole's physician described her condition as "virtually hopeless" with a one in a hundred thousand chance of any significant neurologic recovery. The judge, John C. Bymes, refused to have Mrs. Cole taken off the respirator saying "too brief a time has elapsed." Six days later a friend of Mrs. Cole came into the room where she was to see her for the last time. He called out her name and she opened her eyes. Within six months she had almost completely recovered, except for the use of her legs and some short-term memory loss. She even remembered moments during her coma. I later saw this woman on a television program where she said she was very happy to be alive. It was interesting and chilling to hear from several of her grown children that they thought their mother should have been allowed to die. Their argument was that she was no longer the woman she had once been. She could not take care of herself, they said, and it was necessary for them to care for her—something, they claim, she would not have wanted them to do. When one adds to these the March, 1990 case of the Madison, Wisconsin. man who woke up from an eight year "vegetative state" after being given a tranquilizer for routine dental work, one ought to conclude that there is still a whole lot about coma and death we simply do not understand!

Life most in the right-to-die movement Governor Lamm seeks to justify his utilitarian world view by claiming it reflects public opinion:

"I am fairly sure that the young generation and the baby boomers are going to demand more control over life and death," said Lamm. "I think they're going to demand physician-assisted suicide. We have some of these ethical issues that lie in our future, and we just have no idea of how tough they're going to be."

The agenda of euthanasia progresses both by obscuring its true nature when it can, and de-sensitizing us when it can't. Governor Lamm's advocacy has stayed true to this strategy.
papijoe 6:36 AM |

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Culture of Death Rewriting History

Of all the sites I was introduced to during the Blogburst for Terri, bLogicus is one of the best. Tim posted this article from the St Petersburg Times, a paper that was squarely in Michael Schiavo's camp.

Their argument is essentially that because God has a plan for every human life, individuals may not choose to cut short that plan, meaning every human must die a natural death. What I don't understand is how medications, feeding tubes, emergency operations and machines are considered in any way natural. And couldn't it be just as much "God's plan" for someone to die at a time of his choosing, surrounded by loved ones, than being stuffed with tubes and monitored by machines? Even the pope came home to die.

Under the Bush Justice Department - and former Attorney General John Ashcroft in particular - there has been a relentless drive to stop Oregon's program. Ashcroft is one of those true believers who wants to impose his religion on others through the law. In November 2001, he threatened Oregon physicians with the loss of their prescription-writing privileges if they provided pills to hasten a patient's death. The state challenged that action, and the case has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear the issue next term.

To me, there is only one legitimate concern in the right-to-die debate, and that is the possibility that severely disabled patients might feel societal pressure to end their lives prematurely. However, a look at Oregon allays much of those fears. In the seven years since the state has permitted physician-assisted suicide, only 208 people have taken the option. Numbers that small suggest that suicide is a rare choice and not something encouraged by a social norm.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who assisted more than 100 people in ending their lives on their own terms, lives out his days in a Michigan prison. His grandstanding tactics and arrogant demeanor condemned him as much as his actions. But Kevorkian had it right. Future generations will look upon his imprisonment the way we now view the Inquisition's indictment of Galileo or Margaret Sanger's troubles under the Comstock laws - a backward authority using its power to stall advancement.

I have no doubt that one day we will all be granted the dignity to make a choice about our own death. What doctors surreptitiously do to help a suffering patient bring about a quicker end will one day come out of the closet. Maybe all the attention given Terri Schiavo will make that happen a little sooner.

Robin Blumner's op-ed is a perfect example of moral relativism in the end of life debate. She casts opponents of right-to-die legislation (such as in Oregon) as trying to impose their morality on the majority. But anyone is free to bear the consequences of suicide (including the possibility that you might fail) and when it is considered illegal, by it's nature it is not a punishable crime. I challenge anyone to deny suicide is momentous act and make a case that another should share the responsibility for it.
Like many is the media she blurs the distinctions between voluntary denial of treatment with physician assisted suicide and then brings it up in context of Terri's case, which is an other matter entirely. Grave issues are treated so cavalierly in the current marketplace of ideas. And this idea of the majority supporting PAS or euthanasia is a glaring misrepresentation. But Ms. Blumner's canonization of Kervorkian and Sanger as martyrs in her secular distopia is more telling than any of her arguments. Whether she is aware of it or not, Ms. Blumner has sold out to the Culture of Death.
papijoe 6:18 AM |

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Euthanasia Hall of Shame: George Soros

You may know George Soros by his reputation for toppling banks and entire currencies by manipulating money markets. Or you may know him as the man who used his vast fortune in an attempt to torpedo George Bush's re-election bid. However Soros is also an eminence gris of the right-to-die movement as well.

I'm indebted to a resource of inestimable worth, the LifeTree Timeline for the information on Soros' influence on the Culture of Death. According to the authors of the timeline in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (if that sounds familiar it's because you heard their blurbs on NPR. Shame on you.), Soros' ridiculously well funded Project on Death in America has taken on the task of changing the attitude towards death in our culture to a secular model that emphasizes a utilitarian mindset that rejects the sanctity of life. The different initiatives are almost endless, and the timeline covers them in great detail. For now I want to outline Soros' involvement.

[In 1994]George Soros delivers a speech at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center (NY), explaining how and why he created Project on Death in America. He says that his mother had been a member of the Hemlock Society, and he approves of the Oregon law just passed; but he does not speak for PDIA, which is taking a neutral position.
The next month, the foundation issues a formal press release announcing Project on Death in America. To start, Soros invests $15 million over 3 years

By 2003 Soros as spent $200 million:

November 9: Boston Globe reports, "After 10 years, $200m effort on dying reaches its own end" (by Carey Goldberg, Globe Staff, 11/9/2003)

". . . In particular, the Project on Death in America, financed by billionaire George Soros and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, poured more than $200 million over the last decade into end-of-life programs and research.

But now the Project on Death is itself dying, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is phasing out almost all related projects and shifting toward childhood obesity and the nursing shortage."

But according to the PDIA website the work continues in Europe:

Although PDIA is no longer making grants in the United States, the Open Society Institute's International Palliative Care Initiative will continue its work in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and South Africa. Part of the OSI Public Health Program, these international initiatives exemplify the Open Society Institute's continued committment [sic] to advocate for palliative care as a public health issue. These global issues are an important part of the legacy of the Project on Death in America. Find out more about OSI's International Palliative Care Initiative.

Soros has turbocharged the right-to-die movement with this massive cash infusion. Now the initiative has been taken up by the numerous recipients of his patronage. The grantees read like a Who's Who of the right-to-die movement and will be examining some of them at a later date.

It's impossible to say what Soros will be best remembered for, but I want to make sure he gets full credit for his legacy of death.
papijoe 6:19 AM |

Monday, April 18, 2005

Thousands Being Euthanized in the US Every Year.

Possibly even tens of thousands.

Ron Panzer, founder or Hospice Patient Alliance commented back in 2000 on a study done in 1998 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A total of 355 oncologists (72.6% response rate) were interviewed on euthanasia and PAS. On 2 screening questions, 56 oncologists (15.8%) reported participating in euthanasia or PAS; 53 oncologists (94.6% response rate) participated in in-depth interviews. Thirty-eight of 53 oncologists described clearly defined cases of euthanasia or PAS. Twenty-three patients (60.5%) both initiated and repeated their request for euthanasia or PAS, but 6 patients (15.8%) did not participate in the decision for euthanasia or PAS. Thirty-seven patients (97.4%) were experiencing unremitting pain or such poor physical functioning they could not perform self-care. Physicians sought consultation in 15 cases (39.5%). Overall, oncologists adhered to all 3 main safeguards in 13 cases (34.2%): (1) having the patient initiate and repeat the request for euthanasia or PAS, (2) ensuring the patient was experiencing extreme physical pain or suffering, and (3) consulting with a colleague. Those who adhered to the safeguards had known their patients longer and tended to be more religious. In 28 cases (73.7%), the family supported the decision. In all cases of pain, patients were receiving narcotic analgesia. Fifteen patients (39.5%) were enrolled in a hospice. While 19 oncologists (52.6%) received comfort from having helped a patient with euthanasia or PAS, 9 (23.7%) regretted having performed euthanasia or PAS, and 15 (39.5%) feared prosecution.

The key to this are the two coincidentally identical percentages: the 15.8% of the oncologists who were involved with euthanasia or patient assisted suicide, and the 15.8% of that segment where the patients "did not participate in the decision for euthanasia or PAS" (patient assisted suicide). Meaning they were euthanized based on the doctor's decision. It's an important point because as wrong as I believe PAS to be, at least there is complicity by the patient. Although the textbook definition of euthanasia would leave room for it's interpretation to be either voluntary or involuntary, in this context the use of the term is clear that it is not voluntary. Thus euthanasia is more serious by any criminal or moral standards.

Using those figures and factoring in over half a million cancer patients a year (based on 2000 estimates) Panzer's calculation comes up with a shocking figure of 13,783. Granted the purpose of the study was more general and a larger sample would be needed to validate the findings, but this is still outrageous. Even if the number was off by a factor of ten, even 1300 euthanized patients every year is a staggering amount. And this doesn't account for other types of patients that have also been reportedly targeted for euthanasia who suffer from other lingering illnesses, depression or Alzheimer's.

I don't know what else I can add to this, but two other findings caught my eye:

...[nine oncologists](23.7%) regretted having performed euthanasia or PAS...

Only one third of cases are performed consistently with proposed safeguards.

Two very different issues, but both are outcomes of the same catastrophic error...doctors playing God.
papijoe 10:53 AM |

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Illegal Immigration: From the Border to Disaster in Ten Days

Thanks Pundit Review

I've missed a lot of the recent debate about immigration. Mexico is far from Massachusetts, but not far enough for this Salem police officer:

A Salem police officer remained hospitalized and a Brazilian teenager was behind bars yesterday, both of their lives suddenly and dramatically altered when the girl struck the officer with a car Wednesday night.

Salem Patrolman Michael Shea, 39, who suffered a head injury when he landed on a sidewalk and his head hit a curb, was listed in fair condition yesterday at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. Shea had been directing traffic near a work site in Peabody.

"They have removed the breathing tube, and he is breathing on his own," Salem police Capt. John Jodoin said yesterday, adding that doctors said Shea should make a "complete and full recovery."

Meanwhile, Leila Aparecida Lopes, 17, who has been in the United States just 10 days, was being held without bail at Framingham State Prison, facing charges of negligent driving to endanger and driving without a license. She is also being held on an immigration warrant and faces deportation back to Brazil.

Ms Lopes recently participated in the Border Patrol's catch and release program:

Lopes, who speaks no English, had crossed the border between Mexico and Texas on April 4, police learned from immigration officials. She and her father were stopped by Border Patrol agents. Both were detained, but the girl, who is a minor, was released with an order that she leave the country within 30 days.

Lopes made her way north to Peabody, where there is a large Brazilian population.

The Salem News article devoted quite a bit of space to the plight of immigrants like Ms Lopes:

Teresa Ramos, who works as an interpreter for local hospitals, said many people are desperate to leave Brazil.

"Living in Brazil is very tough," Ramos said. "People come here to try to make a better life for themselves."

In Brazil, "there are no jobs, no money, no food," said Ramos, who visited her native country in January. "There's nothing there."

Families often sell everything they own and borrow money to finance their journey to the United States, desperate to escape the poverty, she said.

Being married to a legal immigrant, I'm sympathetic to Ms Lopes' situation. President Lula of Brazil prides himself on being on the socialist vanguard with his pals Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, but while being an outspoken critic of the US, he has no problem exporting the social problems that his political system fails to address. This story encapsulates everything that is wrong with the current immigration system.

Almost as an afterthough, the Salem News mentioned that the officer seemed to be pulling through ok:

Shea, a 17-year veteran of the department, was said by Jodoin to be alert yesterday.

"He actually remembered that he is due to go on vacation this week, and the first words out of his mouth to his wife were, 'Are we still going to be able to make the cruise, honey?'"
papijoe 6:25 AM |

Friday, April 15, 2005

Assisted Suicide Bill Proposed in Vermont

From A Mom and Her Blog

The Death with Dignity Act would allow Vermonters with six months to live to take a lethal dose of prescribed medications. There must be two physicians who sign off on the illness as terminal, and the patient must voluntarily make a written request for the medication.

"It scares me to think I might have taken that option," said Maureen Kelly, who is opposed to the legislation. Twenty years ago, Kelly suffered severe brain damage in a car accident that left in her in the hospital for three years -- including nine months in a coma. While she may have considered using lethal medication, she's glad she did not.

"I don't think it's a good situation for people to have that choice until they know how they're going to heal and get better," she said.

Kelly said she soon will be getting married. She worries the bill could have taken that joy away from her.

"If they can knock me off with physician-assisted suicide for $100, then they would rather do that than pay for my therapy every month I'm alive," she said.

Advocates of the bill said it would protect the chronically disabled such as Kelly, while giving others and their families some comfort.

I have enormous sympathy for terminal patients, but the bottom line is we didn't grant ourselves life and we don't have the right to end it either.
papijoe 7:01 AM |

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Reuters Melting Down

First the implosion of the New York Times, then the Beeb showed it's butt, Dan Rather and the memos, and the long slide of the non-Fox cables news. And now Reuters.

Reuters, the news agency which bars its reporters from using the word "terrorist" in stories, is in turmoil following an e-mail from its global managing editor lamenting "terrible quality problems'' at the wire service.

"Our content platform is burning," wrote David Schlesinger in a memo intended for 10 senior managers, but was read by thousands of employees in the company's daily briefing. "Our news is perceived as not having enough insight; our data is perceived as having terrible quality problems. Both news and data are not nearly the differentiating factors in Reuters' offering that they should be, that they could be, that they need to be."

The memo continued to say the group had a "web of inefficient and duplicative technology."

After its initial distribution April 6, Schlesinger sent out a follow-up, stating, "Due to a misunderstanding, a note I wrote intended to stimulate discussion among a small group of colleagues was published for a short while on Daily Briefing."

"We're angry and perplexed," one Reuters staffer told the New York Post. "We're in the midst of contract negotiations, why would [Schlesinger] want to be telling the troops at this delicate time that they're all doing a crappy job?"

The last pay increase at Reuters was in February 2002, and the Newspaper Guild has been working without a contract at Reuters since February 2003.

Some reporters are now calling for the ouster of Schlesinger. Yesterday, the National Union of Journalists passed a nearly unanimous motion stating: "This chapel believes that the note written by David Schlesinger ... makes his position as global managing editor untenable. It's particularly offensive for him to denigrate his staff at a time when Reuters journalists are risking their lives in many countries to provide outstanding coverage."

A Reuters spokeswoman called the NUJ motion "ridiculous."

Schlesinger himself told the Guardian newspaper in Britain that "quite a bit" of the reaction he received was "supportive."

"They saw it for what it was, an attempt to provoke a small group of people ... into thinking about how we should improve for the future," he said.

He denied his comments denigrated Reuters, saying "We are very, very good in a number of the things we do ... but we are certainly not perfect."

One senior editor told FreelanceUK: "A lot of what he is saying is true. However, how it was expressed shows that the problems we have in our writing go right to the top."

Burn, baby, burn.

Update - Case in point from lawhawk at LGF: Reuters runs story from last September
papijoe 3:49 PM |

The Long Strange Trip of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

After it came out, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' book On Death and Dying she became an instant authority on death, a celebrity even. In three years she was testifying before the Senate to influence policy on "dying with dignity". Although others are credited with the founding of the hospice movement, her Five Stages because the philosphical underpinning of the entire movement and is still revered today.

This is despite the fact that within a decade of her heyday, she was discredited and disgraced as a scientist by a bizarre detour into the world of New Age fakery:

The scandal concerned the involvement of Kübler-Ross—and some of the grieving widows visiting her retreat—with a self-proclaimed spirit medium who conned them all into believing he had the ability to channel "afterlife entities." Not only channel them but facilitate their having sex with the grieving widows.


She herself first encountered the "afterlife entities" during an "out of body" experience after one of her "workshops." She wrote that "I saw myself lifted out of my physical body. ... [I]t was as if a whole lot of loving beings were taking all the tired parts out of me, similar to car mechanics in a car repair shop. ... I had an incredible sense that once all the parts were replaced I would be a young and fresh and energetic as I had been prior to the rather exhausting, draining workshop."


Enter the spirit medium of Escondido—a guy she had invited to her workshops, who somehow facilitated intercourse between the grieving widows and the "afterlife entities." The scandal erupted when several of the widows came down with similar vaginal infections, and one turned on the light during a session with an "afterlife entity" and discovered the opportunistic spirit medium himself, naked except for a turban. (He offered the completely plausible explanation that the afterlife entities had "cloned" him—and the turban, too, I guess—to help enable the afterlife entities to engage in the pleasures of the flesh.)

Kübler-Ross response to this was less than reassuring:

"There are those who might say this has damaged my credibility," Kübler-Ross said, when she finally conceded that the spirit medium's behavior "did not meet the standards" of her retreat. But it's not important "whether people believe what I say ... I'm a doctor and a scientist, who simply reports what she sees, hears, and experiences."

I don't think Kübler-Ross had even a thimble of evil intent in her work. She was sadly and profoundly misguided. And her philosophy of death contained a kind of hubris that thought it could "manage" the encounter with a Great Mystery. In every manifestation the right-to-die/euthanasia movement falls prey to this assumption that we know enough about Death and Life that we can make the decisions that were formerly left to God.

Even when her life lingered on after she had decided that she was ready to die, Kübler-Ross displayed this trait:

"I told God last night that he's a damned procrastinator."

Two years later she passed away at the age of 78.
papijoe 6:23 AM |

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Mass Euthanasia in UK

Recently posted by The Anchoress and Okie on the LAm

A CORONER is demanding a public inquiry into claims that 11 hospital patients were deliberately starved to death. He believes that it could be Britain’s first case of forced “mass euthanasia”.
Peter Ashworth, the coroner for Derby, will open an inquest later this year into the suspicious deaths at the city’s Kingsway hospital.

He considers the matter so serious that he has written to the Department of Health asking for the inquest to be superseded by a judicial inquiry with powers to investigate practices at the hospital.

There is now increasing concern across Britain about the way hospitals appear to be hastening the deaths of elderly patients. Police in Leeds and Hampshire are also looking into similar cases.

The 11 patients, all men aged between 65 and 93, died in the Rowsley ward for the elderly at Kingsway. A review of the cases, ordered by the coroner, found evidence that their deaths may have been speeded up by withholding sufficient food.

The allegations first surfaced after Jayne Drew, a healthcare assistant, alerted the hospital managers after the deaths of Simon Smith, 74, and Arthur Boddice, 81, in the summer of 1997.

Families of fellow patients at the hospital claimed that some staff had become so upset at seeing elderly people being starved that they had taken it upon themselves to feed them secretly.

One relative has described how it was distressing to see his father go without food. Andrew Hughson said his 75- year-old father, also called Andrew, would vainly stretch his hand towards meals being delivered to other patients.

The story came out over a year ago, but in light of recent events I thought it was heinous enough to merit re-examination.
papijoe 8:08 AM |

Euthanasia Hall of Shame: Dr Kevorkian

I find ad hominem attacks distasteful. And yet even with those of us who adhere to traditional values there is a reluctance to publicly declare a moral judgment, as doing so brings repeated negative reinforcement from the culture we live in. I think this has caused a blindness in all of us and we deny the presence of evil right in front of us. With this in mind I think we need to really scrutinize the players in the right-to-die movement and expose evil when we see it. If that statement makes you uncomfortable, I'll warn you now you are not going to like the rest of this post, or at least what it will make you confront in yourself.

I've already mentioned Jack Kevorkian and his Australian counterpart Dr Philip Nitschke in a previous post. Dr Nitschke turned out to have a disturbing past. As a teenager, he slit the throat of a neighbor's dog. Recent studies have found a link between violence to animals in childhood with violence against people later in life. Law enforcement professionals consider this a red flag in investigations of serial killers, and Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, and Jeffery Dahlmer, among others exhibited cruelty toward animals early in life, as did school shooters Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Kip Kinkel, Luke Woodham, and Andrew Golden. This doesn't mean that everyone who has abused animals becomes a serial killer or school shooter, but it's a warning sign that can't be ignored. The question it raises for me is whether the right-to-die movement attracts those who find it a secret channel for their rage and violence.

I think a good case for that has been made for George Felos . But what of the euthanasia icon that has gotten the lion's share of media exposure over the last fifteen years, Dr Jack Kevorkian?

In one sense what characterizes Dr. Kevorkian is his lack of guile. He seems to be exactly who he claims to be, and makes no excuses for it. He is a man openly fascinated with death. In his early career he hovered around wards of dying patients waiting to capture a moment on film of their eyes as life left their bodies. He also performed experiments of transfusing blood from recent cadavers into living subjects. Even his colleagues found his interests disturbing and distasteful, but Dr Kevorkian was influenced little by others. He clearly had his own internal guidance system. Most of my impressions of him were formed by reading an article from Esquire and some selections from a biography. I can't encompass a man's life in a single post, but to me this is the tale of an exceptional mind desperately working in a nihilistic void. I can't say where the morbid inclination occurred. It may have been the gruesome stories of the Turkish genocide against the Armenians that later caused him to publicly state, "I wish my forefathers went through what the Jews did...They've had a lot of publicity, but they didn't suffer as much."

He had an existence of monastice intensity, marked by professional disputes, tempermental outbursts and failed relationships. The cold demeanor cracks at any invocation of Kevorkian's nemesis, which usually manifests as the "system", or any tradition vestiges of a society he considers obsolete, and then he becomes strange, quixotic, and almost endearingly pathetic. Even some of his would-be allies like pro-right-to-die Michigan State Senator John Kelly after repeated exposure to the doctor, decided that Jack Kevorkian had the psyche of a serial killer.

Kevorkian like almost everyone you have met, is not pure evil. Yet he is a modern monster. If you have any lingering doubts of this after reading the two links above, spend some time with his artwork. I don't think that he will survive his jail term, and if he does, I don't think he will continue his cavalcade of death. I believe the torch has already been past. But let's not forget him and credit should be given where it is due. Whenever we consider the right-to-die movement, let us remember that Dr Jack Kevorkian was their champion.
papijoe 7:12 AM |

Monday, April 11, 2005

Culture of Death: A Clearer Picture Emerges

In the past week the life-affirmers on the blogosphere have roused themselves from their grief and torpor and started the Herculean labor of documenting the sources of the culture of death that recently claimed Terry Schiavo.

Hyscience and Blogs for Terri had their own take on euthanasia in hospices. This post featured an email from the invaluable Ron Panzer of the Hospice Patients Alliance that was first posted on MichNews

Right to life organizations have been out-maneuvered by the so-called right to die organizations. How did this occur? We have to look at the history of the right to die organizations and then the answer will be clear.

Before the Third Reich, before World War II, the eugenics and euthanasia advocates were quite active in the U.S. The Euthanasia Society of America, formed in 1938 in New York, having failed in getting passage of laws legalizing euthanasia, changed its tactics. Realizing that the sanctity of life ethic was alive and well in the U.S., they sought a way to chip away at the bedrock blocking their way. Commissioning research to learn what phrases their dark agenda could be palatably sold to the American public, they came up with terms such as ‘choice in dying,’ ‘dying well,’ ‘the right to die’ and ‘patient choice.’

In the 1960s they changed their name to Choice in Dying, choosing to focus on incrementally advancing the euthanasia agenda. Living wills, advanced directives, and do not resuscitate orders were successfully sold to the U.S. and accepted by the mainstream health care industry policymakers.

Simultaneous with the introduction of the living will and the advanced directives initiative, hospice care arrived on the scene, suggesting that we avoid aggressive acute hospital care when such interventions may be burdensome and intrusive for patients who are truly dying. Providing compassionate care to the terminally ill, relieving their suffering while allowing a natural death in its own timing ... who could object?

What the public did not know is that the first hospice in our nation, the Connecticut Hospice, was founded by a major representative of the euthanasia movement, Florence Wald, MSN, who stated that assisted suicide should be available for just about any reason at all...

Ron's message ends on this chilling note, which directly links the founders of the euthanasia movement to Terri's executioners:

…The euthanasia advocates have taken over the national policymaking circles of the entire hospice industry. Doubt it? Well, remember the Euthanasia Society of America? It changed its name to Choice in Dying, which sounds great, but was clearly an early indication that the choice they really wanted to promote was the choice to have physician-assisted suicide and/or euthanasia.

Choice in Dying completed its mission, the nationwide acceptance of incremental changes in our attitude toward life, substituting a ‘quality of life’ ethic for the ‘sanctity of life’ ethic. Having done its job, it looked forward to the next step: the direct control of the hospice industry. Choice in Dying merged with the hospice industry coalition, Partnership for Caring, whose goal was the changing of state and federal laws to favor utilization of hospice. Partnership for Caring merged with Last Acts, one of the largest hospice coalitions in the world, funded by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, to become Last Acts Partnership. Many who have served as Last Acts Partnership's directors also serve on the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization board.

For example, Mary Labyak, C.E.O. of the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, served as secretary at the Partnership for Caring and is a prominent leader in the hospice industry, having served on the boards of Last Acts and the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. It is Labyak's hospice, Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, which has actively participated in accepting a non-terminal patient, Terri Schiavo, into the hospice, for the express purpose of euthanizing the ‘unworthy of life’ victim, Terri Schiavo.

Those who think hospice is the safe alternative to open euthanasia have been outfoxed. The euthanasia society has run circles around the well-meaning but naive right to lifers. So whether euthanasia is legalized openly or ‘back-doored’ through hospice, euthanasia is here, and it has been here for a long time. The National Right to Life Committee has known about the hospice killings for years, yet has refused to expose these killings.

Sherri posted this timeline from Tree of Life of the influence of the euthanasia movement on the right-to-die agenda. This is a goldmine of information and I'll be referring in future posts to the light it sheds on some of the players, many of whom we've encountered before.

And thanks to Nana and Fiery Celt for this ominous report from Europe:

Nearly half the newborn babies who died in Flanders over a recent year-long period were helped to die by their doctors, a new study reported yesterday.

Paediatricians in the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium either discreetly stopped treating the babies or, in 17 cases, illegally killed them with lethal doses of painkillers.

The study, published in The Lancet, examined the deaths of every baby who died within a year of birth in Flanders between August 1999 and July 2000.

The results of a survey on the causes of death were stark: paediatricians who responded to the survey admitted they had taken "end of life" decisions in more than half the cases.

Can't happen here? Recently two bills were proposed ( S.1629 & H.R.3127) specifically to set new guidelines for pallative care and end of life treatment for children. Note the recent medical guidelines for palliative care that define it in opposition to life-saving care.
papijoe 6:09 AM |

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Are Hospices Enabling Euthanasia?: Part 3

In the past two posts I've addressed some of the philosphical and even spiritual justifications for the right-to-die movement, and I think I've demonstrated that ideologically it represents euthanasia with some good marketing. In this post I'd like to explore how this is being applied in hospices. I have heard of and personally experienced many positive end of life situations in hospices, and do not intend to tar all of them with the same brush. But as we recently saw with Suncoast Florida were Terri Schiavo was illegally held, when the governance of the hospice is guided by any of the principles outlined in the last two posts, abuses can and will occur.

The Hospice Patient Alliance is a consumer advocacy group for patients of hospices and their families. They have been documenting reports of patients who have been euthanized in hospices and have posted over a dozen on their site. They are all heart-wrenching but this one was particularly poignant:


I want to tell a story of a Holocaust survivor who I watched and begged for help even to the police I went. His name is Heini Sobel, born in Vienna, Austria, in 1919, June 10. He suffered thru the Holocaust and in the end murdered by a local Lawyer, who refused to let him have his blood transfusion which Heini's best friend who is from *********, Calif. and his name is Dr. ** Rosen*********, had requested be given to him. Between the two of us we tried our best to get help but this Lawyer and Hospice overruled us. Heini, begged his self to please let him have the blood. In the process I was forced to watch him be drugged and continuously be given shots which he did not want and every time they shot him he would say it hurt him. He even said they are "murdering me"!!!!!!

Not to mention the starving and no water. I my self am from a Holocaust family from Vienna, Austria. I became so sick not one human cared and this is legal. The Angel of Death is living in America, this Death Angel left the Nazi Camps and moved to America. I find this so unbelievable that a man who suffered all his life was given to legal murders in America. In the end the Nazis got him after all.

What can be done can I speak out what?? Please let me know!!


I previously posted some of these stories of the injured and disabled being targeted for euthanasia in other medical settings.

One pattern that emerges from the stories above is the god-like power the medical staff can wield and the lack of accountability especially to the families of patients. We only need to look again at the full-blown euthanasia model in The Netherlands;

Before 1991 it was difficult to obtain facts about the incidence of euthanasia in Holland, because the KNMG had chosen a very narrow definition of the word. The Dutch officially define euthanasia as the ending of the life of one person by another at the first person's request. If life is ended without request, as it often is, it is not considered to be euthanasia and therefore official statistics have always been lower than actual numbers. For example, Dutch doctors, for obvious reasons, prefer not to use the term "involuntary euthanasia" but call it the more sanitized "termination of the patient without explicit request". Dr. John Keown, an English legal scholar, has commented on this redefinition, "By narrowly defining euthanasia as referring only to "active voluntary euthanasia" rather than to all cases in which death is brought about on purpose as part of the medical care given to the patient, the Dutch minimize the frequency with which death is "intentionally accelerated by a doctor."

The Remmelink Report of 1991 found that about 38% of deaths in Holland were due to a "medical decision at end of life" but only a fraction of these were reported as euthanasia, despite the fact that the doctors and not the patients are heavily protected under Dutch law. What this tells us is that much of the euthanasia occurs in an unregulated fashion by doctors making medical decisions without accountability. This reflects the situations in the US hospices cited above.

Euphemism, secrecy, and a lack of accountability seem to be inherent in the practice of euthanasia. For this reason alone it should be opposed. We clearly have a choice between the cold utilitarianism of the Nazi euthanasia programs, echoed by right-to-die pundits, or we have the committment to face these end of life challenges in a way that values life and and has true respect for human dignity.
papijoe 9:26 AM |

Friday, April 08, 2005

Dead or Alive

From NewsMax

Karijotas posted a slightly different version at Discarded Lies

Terri Schiavo is not the first innocent victim of murder sanctioned by judicial fiat, although the heroic efforts of her parents alerted the world about her heartbreaking death sentence.

Almost four decades ago, the fallacious concept of "brain death" was introduced to pry open the legal doors to the killing of another group of unnoticed innocents - people who agree to donate their vital organs at death.

Deeply compassionate people are encouraged to consent in writing to allow another person to benefit from their vital organs, such as the heart or liver, after they die. Potential donors overcome their discomfort about the procedure by imagining they will be giving away unneeded organs from their cold, lifeless bodies. But the real situation is often quite different.

According to the testimony of Dr. Paul Byrne, a neonatologist from Toledo, Ohio, to a Pontifical Academy of Sciences meeting in Rome in February:

"All the vital signs of the donors are still present prior to the harvesting of organs, such as: normal body temperature and blood pressure; the heart is beating; vital organs, like the liver and kidneys, are functioning; and the donor is breathing with the help of a ventilator."

Since organs deteriorate rapidly after the moment of actual death, the "brain death" fiction allows them to be removed while they are still alive and usable for transplant.

Those who defend the removal of organs in this way may agree that the donors are actually alive in the traditional sense, but then argue that "brain death" means the quality of the donor's life is so poor that the benefits of transplanting their organs to extend the life of another outweighs the cost of killing them in the process.

The usual meaning of the word "death" is twisted for the benefit of people who have an interest in declaring a dying person dead as soon as possible. Such interested third parties could include family members, like Michael Schiavo, who want guaranteed legal immunity when they discontinue life-prolonging measures.

As with living wills, I'll going to think twice now about checking the box on my registration form to be an organ donor.
papijoe 12:05 PM |

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Ellen Horowitz on Terri's Death

From Arutz Sheva (Hat tip: NY Nana)

This is without a doubt the best ethical analysis of Terri's case that I've seen. If you've cared at all about this issue, you will be edified by reading this short but powerful piece.

Sentencing a brain-damaged woman to death by dehydration and starvation is an embarrassingly barbaric and pitiful solution for a modern, purportedly evolved, world. Regardless of which side of the argument one takes, this should have been a humbling moment for humanity.

How limited and primitive we are.

Much of the discussion surrounding the case circumvented the moral crux of the issue, and instead was directed towards the matters of personal, spousal and parental rights, and whether or not the victim would feel the pain of death.

But behind the scenes, this was clearly a battle between individual rights and moral obligations; between the takers and the givers; and between the material and incorporeal worlds. The hands-down verdict is that we live in a very selfish and material world.

I also loved this quote at the beginning:

"The moral law can never be legislated in ultimate terms by the human mind." -- Rabbi Yosef B. Soloveitchik
papijoe 7:37 AM |

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Are Hospices Enabling Euthanasia?: Part 2

In the last post I examined the role of the New Age movement as an enabler of the right-to-die movement and it's links to hospice care in this country.

Based at least on media exposure, secular euthanasia advocates and bioethicists are an even greater influence.

Convicted murder Jack Kevorkian recently gave his first interview in six years on "Good Morning America".

He told the program that he was "dismayed" by the Schiavo case and opposed efforts by lawmakers to get involved.

"What bothers me is the bit of hypocrisy in all of this," said Kevorkian. "When the president and the Congress get involved because life is sacred and must be preserved at all costs, they don't say anything about the men on death row, and their lives are just as precious

Presumably prison has only enhanced his sense of the preciousness of the lives of convicted killers.

It's kind of a smarmy aside, but I can't let this go without sharing:

Michigan authors and Kevorkian friends Neal Nicol and Harry Wylie say they have been helping Kevorkian to prepare a 300-page manuscript, tentatively titled "The Life of Dr. Death." Kevorkian has been shopping it around to publishers.

Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple and producer Steve Jones plan to begin filming a movie version in Michigan later this year.

Jones says Oscar winner Ben Kingsley would head the short list of people he would like to play the imprisoned coroner. Kingsley is a three time Oscar nominee who won the award for best actor in 1982 for his role in the film Gandhi.

Does the media love this guy, or what?

In case you think that Dr Kevorkian is an anomaly in the medical field, consider the strange career of Dr. Philip Nitschke, an Australia "euthanasia activist".

Few advocates of euthanasia were willing to publicly support the Dutch proposal as it related to children. A notable exception, however, was Dr. Philip Nitschke, an Australian euthanasia campaigner and activist. Known as the Australian "Dr. Death," Nitschke legally practiced euthanasia in Australia during the few months in which the now defunct "Rights of the Terminally Ill Act" of the Northern Territory was in effect. He now conducts "how to commit suicide" programs in Australia and New Zealand and is often a featured speaker at right-to-die conferences in the United States.

Nitschke said he believed that Australia should move down a track similar to that of the Netherlands since he couldn't see any principled reason to preclude young children from receiving assisted suicide or euthanasia. According to Nitschke, a child has the maturity to make such a life and death decision.

This statement is rather ironic in light of Nitschke's own youth:

According to news accounts, Nitschke had a somewhat troubled childhood. As a young teen, he was deeply unhappy and, at the age of 15, he took out his frustrations by killing a neighbor's dog. He devised a plan in which he faked going to church on Sunday, then doubled back to the neighbor's house to strangle the dog. When the dog didn't die, he slit its throat with a knife.

The story has caused embarrassment to Nitschke over the years. But he has explained it by chalking it up to his immaturity. "I was very young; I just didn’t have the world experience to be able to make good judgments," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "It was the ill-considered action of a child, " he says now.

Thus, according to Nitschke's logic, a 15-year-old who kills a neighbor's dog is exhibiting the actions of a child who is too immature to make good judgments. But a child who decides to kill himself is sufficiently mature to do so.

Bioethicists like Arthur Caplan and Dr Timothy Quill had come out in favor of euthanizing Terri Schiavo. The fact that both are firmly in the right-to-die camp has generated no discussion in the Mainstream Media. Even PETA favorite, Peter Singer, who believes that animals should be considered ethically on par with human and infants may be considered "non-persons" up until the age of two, is barely seen as on the fringe. In his recent article in NRO Wesley Smith names at least six prominent bioethicists who condon at the very least Terri Schiavo's judical homocide, and in some cases, even organ harvesting.

And according to the Times Online, the situation is the same in the UK:

BRITAIN'S leading medical ethics expert has suggested that the frail and elderly should consider suicide to stop them becoming a financial burden on their families and society.
Baroness Warnock spoke on the eve of a Commons debate on the Mental Capacity Bill, which critics claim will allow "euthanasia by the back door".

In an interview with The Sunday Times, she said: "I know I'm not really allowed to say it, but one of the things that would motivate me [to die] is I couldn't bear hanging on and being such a burden on people.

"In other contexts, sacrificing oneself for one's family would be considered good. I don't see what is so horrible about the motive of not wanting to be an increasing nuisance.

"If I went into a nursing home it would be a terrible waste of money that my family could use far better."

Warnock, 80, a Lords' cross-bencher who helped frame Britain's legalisation on embryo research, also suggests that parents of premature babies should be charged to keep them on life support machines if doctors write off their chances of leading a healthy life.

Lest we think this is solely an academic discussion, euthanasia is being practiced in The Netherlands and for a short time in Australia as mentioned above. And according to the linked article on Dutch euthanasia, the practice is unoffically widespread throughout Europe.

In France, 73 percent of doctors in one study reported using drugs to end a newborn's life, but those cases aren't reported to authorities. Meanwhile, 43 percent of Dutch doctors surveyed and between 2 percent and 4 percent of doctors in the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Germany and Sweden reported doing so.

And of course euthanasia is now legal in Oregon, although apparently they are still working out the kinks.

Next we'll see how this burgeoning tolerance of euthanasia in the guise of the right-to-die movement has impacted the hospice industry.
papijoe 9:34 AM |

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Are Hospices Enabling Euthanasia?: Part 1

Judi McLeod of the Canada Free Press (hat tip: Fiery Celt) posed the question last week, and recently I've been suspicious myself.

The opening quote from George Felos pretty much tells the whole tale:

"The force that created today’s hospice also propels the right-to-die movement." - Litigation as a Spiritual Practice.

There is currently so much surrounding the issue of hospices and the right-to-die movement that I can't unpack it all, but I'd like to sketch out three forces I see driving it: on the metaphysical side, the New Age movement, and on the other hand a cabal of bioethicist, HMOs, doctor/advocates, and of course the hospices themselves.

Ms McLeod spends the bulk of her article focusing on Felos' wacky New Age beliefs. And I think it's fair to say his apparent obsession with death and Eastern mysticism is not a fluke.

Richard Alpert was Timothy Leary's colleague and LSD vision-quest companion at Harvard in the early 60's. The then went off to study under guru Neem Karoli Baba in India and now styles himself a "HinJew" and answers to Ram Dass. on the Board of the "Compassion in Dying" Federation ,which is a splinter group of Dr Cranford's Hemlock Club. He is also on the staff of the openly New Age Alaya Institute. To get a sense of how Ram Dass is grounded, read this first person account of how the Hindu god Krishna appeared to him in the form of a New York State Trooper (scroll about 3/5 down the page).

Maybe this is the time to disclose that while in college I avidly read Dass' books as part of my spiritual quest. I understand the appeal completely. The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the Hare Krishnas also hid deadly secrets behind a facade of exotic spirituality. And I want to be clear that I don't equate these transplants of Eastern religions with the original beliefs themselves. Rather they are hybrids of the indigenous faith with something distinctly American that has been tailored and packaged like any other product for the consumption of their particular market. The "pitch" is perfect self-fulfillment, a kind of 24/7 "spiritual" buzz. But the price is being valued below what our culture had formerly give as worth to the individual. Those who buy into this proposition are extremely succeptable to suggestion and control. This makes the New Age movement particularly suited to it's self-appointed role of enabling the right-to-die movement. If the connection isn't apparent yet, here is an interview with a doctor who credits Ram Dass with helping form his perspective on these issues:

What hooked me initially is the same thing that continues to draw me. That is, when people's basic needs have been cared for during the dying process, they will sometimes say, "This is a remarkable time in my life."

The first three or four times people said something like that to me, I dismissed it. It was nice, but I had no conceptual model to understand it. Actually, that isn't quite true. I did have a model, but it wasn't a Western model. I'd spent significant time in meditation classes and studying various religions of the world. In the late 70s, I'd also taken a class with Ram Dass that dealt with end-of-life issues.

I could explain some of what I witnessed clinically by referring to Buddhist models, for instance, but I struggled to integrate the spiritual perspective with what I was learning in Western medicine.

After hearing a number of people talk about the value of the end of life, I realized that the universe was trying to teach me something. I began to pay particular attention to cases that went well.


I remember a situation a few years ago with a man I'll call Jason. Jason was a very healthy young man, who had a fluke cardiac arrhythmia. He was resuscitated, but remained in a deep coma. He could breathe on his own, but that was about it.

Jason had a young wife, and his family came out from the Midwest to be with him. Together, they made the decision to stop feeding him via his tube, and to let him gradually pass away.

To his credit, Dr Byock is vehemently against assisted suicide. But essentially Jason wasn't dying, like Terri he was starved and dehydrated to death. We don't know all the details of this person's diagnosis, and the family was in agreement. But with what we've been learning about the uncertainty of diagnosis in these cases, the casualness with which Dr Byock speaks of allowing a patient to die is unsettling.

In the next installment, we'll leave the astral plane for the more worldly realm, we see an equal, if not greater influence of secular right-to-die advocates and bio-ethicists.
papijoe 10:55 AM |