Monday, November 23, 2009

A Wesley J. Smith Absurdity Sampler.

Our "culture of death" is telling the elderly that they're a burden and should therefor kill themselves:

We have become a culture that tells the elderly, people with disabilities, and others who need care and support that they are “burdens.” Indeed, in my recent debate in Edinburgh with Dr. Libby Wilson, my opponent explicitly supported legalizing assisted suicide so that the ill and disabledcould give their families the “gift” of not being a burden.This is why I think that the assisted suicide/euthanasia agenda is a culture-changing issue that will–if it succeeds–radically and adversely transform the way we interrelate as members of society and as family members. And when you read about murder/suicides motivated by the “burden” fear, it really raises the alarm. From the story:

An elderly husband killed his poorly wife then committed suicide because he feared she would outlive him and become a ‘burden’ on their family. When Eileen Martin, 76, developed dementia, her husband of more than 50 years, Kenneth, cared for her at their home. But when he developed cancer he vowed not to leave his sick wife behind for the family to care for. Kenneth Martin and his wife Eileen. He hanged himself after killing her He warned his children: ‘I won’t leave you with the burden of your mother. When it’s my time to go, it’ll be her time to go.’

The message that it is worse to be a burden than dead is being broadcast and received–and stories like this tragedy, I believe, are a direct consequence. It’s a very scary time to be old, disabled, or needing care.

So Smith merges a comment from a conference and a case of mercy killing to "prove" the point that society is telling the elderly they are a burden and should kill themselves. The absurdity here is that Smith tells us there are two "approaches" to elder care: kill 'em or consider our elder and infirm family members a joyous blessing.

The truth is that elder care can be traumatic, costly, and a great weight on a family. But no one is saying that we should resort to killing the elderly. Instead, we should be addressing in practical ways the challenges that elder care places on families. His is an argument with two purposes: to scare seniors and shame family members for struggling to provide the kinds of care that ailing elders require; and to push an ideological agenda of imposing church and "pro-life" health care restrictions on us all. No surprise. Smith and others use the same tactics when telling pregnant young women in crisis what to do. They say, with puppies and butterflies, that a baby is a blessing from god. They don't support the woman who is in a challenging situation, they condemn her to their ideological, sentimental life decisions.

And a rail from Smith for the right of providers to decide what a patient's health care needs are, even when those decisions are based on a religious ideology that the patient doesn't share:

Here’s another example of intolerance of medical conscience: In the waning days of the Bush Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule preventing employment discrimination against medical professionals who refuse to perform a medical service because it violates their religious or moral beliefs. Based on the decibel level of the opposition, one would have thought thatRoe v. Wade had been overturned. “That meddlesome regulation encouraging healthcare workers to obstruct needed treatment considered offensive,” Barbara Coombs Lee, the head of Compassion and Choices, railed on her blog, “allows ideologues in health care to place their own dogmatic beliefs above all.” Protecting the consciences of dissenting medical professions is “dangerous,” she wrote, because “it’s like a big doggy treat for healthcare bulldogs who would love to sink their teeth into other people’s healthcare decisions.”

It wasn’t just overt true believers like Lee. Even before the final rule was published in the Federal Register, Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray introduced a bill to prevent the rule from going into effect. Immediately following its promulgation, Connecticut—joined by California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island, and supported by the ACLU—filed suit to enjoin the regulation from being enforced. One of the Obama administration’s first public acts was to file in theFederal Register a notice of its intent to rescind the Bush conscience regulation.

Newspaper editorial pages throughout the nation exploded, opening another front against the rule. The New York Times called it an “awful regulation” and a “parting gift to the far right.” The St. Louis Post- Dispatch went so far as to state: “Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists choose professions that put patients’ rights first. If they foresee that priority becoming problematic for them, they should choose another profession.” In other words, physicians and other medical professionals who want to adhere to the traditional Hippocratic ethic should be persona non grata in medicine—an astonishing assertion.

Society is approaching a crucial crossroads. It seems clear that the drive to include death-inducing techniques as legal and legitimate methods of medical care will only accelerate in the coming years. If doctors and other medical professionals are forced to participate in these new approaches or get out of health care, it will mark the end of the principles contained in the Hippocratic Oath as viable ethical protections for both patients and medical professionals.

Let's be clear on what Smith's objective is (besides bashing his latest target, Barbara Coombs Lee): He advocates that the church should determine what services a patient receives. He believes a doctor who has religious views that discriminate against specific medical decisions of a patient should take precedent - legally. (And to hell with those doctors who don't abide by this ideology (such as those who work in Catholic hospitals but agree that a woman should be able to have an abortion.))

He can call it "conscience clause" and claim first amendment protections all he wants but what Smith has based his entire career on is blatant discrimination. Discrimination against all those who do not believe the way he does. And he proposes that the government should endorse that discrimination, should render doctor's faith more important than patients' rights.

And he's lying and extrapolating eventualities, fear-mongering and extorting sentimentality in order to assert some sorry logic in his view. In doing so, he preys on the elderly and terminally ill, he works to impose his ideological decisions on the suffering, he throws compassion to the side in order to assert that suffering should be protected. And the alleviation of suffering flies in the face of the church because suffering is considered part of life, redemptive, and endorsed by the church as an effective way to win believers.

Smith is like the religious fanatics who claimed heart transplants, when first introduced, were allowing doctors to play god. His positioning is against medical advancements, against natural societal evolution, against patients' rights, against women's autonomy, against the necessary work that must be done to ensure minorities and women have equal access to health care, and against logic.

He may work to claim a moral high-ground in this - as does the church and all "pro-life" activists who politicize reproductive rights in order to discriminate against women who have sex. He is a throw-back with reductive, antiquated notions of how humans should live: Women aren't wise enough to make their own reproductive decisions, elders are incapable of deciding how they die, doctors and the church should instruct the public on how they manage their health.

Regarding aid in dying in the Senate bill, Smith writes:

In other words, it is a conscience clause protecting medical professionals who don’t commit assisted suicide. There is no prohibition on promoting it or having it paid for under the plan.Why need a conscience clause? Get this clause under the section 1323 of the bill creating the public option (p. 183), beginning at page

186:(F) PROTECTING ACCESS TO END OF LIFE CARE.—A community health insurance option offered under this section shall be prohibited from limiting access to end of life care.If assisted suicide, or even euthanasia, are legally considered forms of “end of life care” in a particular state–as it is now in Oregon, Washington, and Montana–it seems to me that the area’s community health insurance option would be required to provide “access” to it under this clause. How else can the provision be read? And because it would have been passed later in time, this clause could be construed to subsume existing federal law that prevents federal funds from being used in assisted suicide.None of this is by accident. The next question becomes: Why might that be?

Uh, Mr. Smith: because it's legal? If you wish to make abortion and aid in dying illegal, go after those bills (as you are surely doing). Don't expect the health care bill to extend your ideological discrimination.

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