Friday, September 18, 2009

Bolivian Mennonite Killed by 22 of His Brethren for Rape.

A story came across my radar this summer of a Mennonite man in Bolivia who was accused of raping several community members.

Reports today account of the mans hanging death by 22 of his fellow community members.

Franz Wieler Kloss, a father of nine, who prior to his death had been punished by his community for drinking, not working hard enough on his farm and other infractions against his church and community was hanged from a pole by his arms for nine days before being let down.

He later died in a hospital.

For more news, see here.


On Sarah Palin's Gloating, Or Why Rationing is Good.

On September 8, Sarah Palin had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (via lifenews) about health care rationing that included the following "death panel" gloat:

Given such statements, is it any wonder that many of the sick and elderly are concerned that the Democrats' proposals will ultimately lead to rationing of their health care by—dare I say it—death panels? Establishment voices dismissed that phrase, but it rang true for many Americans. Working through "normal political channels," they made themselves heard, and as a result Congress will likely reject a wrong-headed proposal to authorize end-of-life counseling in this cost-cutting context. But the fact remains that the Democrats' proposals would still empower unelected bureaucrats to make decisions affecting life or death health-care matters. Such government overreaching is what we've come to expect from this administration.

I tried to ignore her; I was working on an article on rationing at the time (that hasn't yet gone live.) But there are a few points regarding her letter that are worth debunking if only because she makes such outrageous claims.

Firstly, the "death panels" claim was loudly debunked by AARP, the largest seniors group in the country. The only reason it caused so much noise and concern was because the media found it - and Palin - too juicy to resist. In other words, Palin has confused fearful alarm caused by erroneous accusations with lack of understanding of a complicated proposal. She helped create the fear-mongering and disinformation that she is now claiming as public concern.

Secondly, health care decisions are currently made by doctors and their patients and then approved (or disapproved) by insurance companies. Insurance companies are driven by cost. Which is why we have 50 million Americans who are completely rationed out of health care coverage. Rationing exists in our current system because private entities have been left to operate without strict oversight, without a conscience for those it serves, and without the cost containment necessary to serve the entire population. An estimated 20,000 people die each year because our current system neglects their health needs.

Government, however much hated by libertarian conservatives, is really the only entity in our society that can protect all citizens from the tyranny of private corporations. And isn't that what conservatives count on government to do when we are threatened by war, terror or other violent evils? Health care should be considered no different. But conservatives aren't concerned for the poor, the disenfranchised, or the voiceless because they have "big government" to chastize and private corporations to suck up to.

Historically, democracy hasn't been good to minorities and the poor. If you rely on a voting populace to get over it's petty racisms and discriminations you have a long wait coming. Legislation seldom steps in to protect those unprotected by economic and prejudicial forces in society. So the courts are often left to step in for equal justice. Look at women's reproductive rights. Look at civil rights. Democracy has a shitty history of catching up with social injustice. Our current health care system is a great social injustice.

But I digress. The truth is that rationing exists in our current system. And rationing will exist in any future system. The current medical culture has refused to face issues of death with anything other than extreme medical procedures. Chalk it up to a profession founded to save life, to poor end of life care training, to a tradition of not accepting the limits of its own powers.

And patients, who are raised on the authority of the medical profession have followed suit, accepting that death must occur in hospitals, that all options have been exhausted.

Add to that our human denial of death, our reticence to discuss end of life issues and you have a paternalistic medical system bullying patients into extreme treatments in the midst of their fears and egged on by a money-hungry industry all too willing to make a buck on grandma's death bed.

(I won't even get into religious conviction that suffering is redemptive and that government (or the state), God, doctors, and patients all make a claim for jurisdiction over suffering. I just finished another article on suffering that has not yet been posted.

Rationing will never go away. Nor should it! We are overtested, overmedicated, overtreated - and still the 37th healthiest country on the planet despite our expenditure of 1 in 6 dollars on health care. Mammograms do little to increase the survival rate of breast cancer patients. The examples of gratuitous, ineffective medical care are endless.

If a new drug costs $40,000 a month and only guarantees a patient one month more than a placebo, why should we cough up the money to prolong that patient's suffering and death and not better counsel the patient on what is to come?

We're not necessarily wired to accept death, but when it comes, no amount of medical treatment will cure it. And we would be juvenile to not recognize the resources freed up by noting this fact.

As to the horrible, deadly government bureacracy Palin says will decide who lives and dies? I would rather it be the government, subject to regulation, privvy to the latest science, invested in the health of it's constituents, willing and able to protect the poor and minority, than some corporate entity that gives two licks for it's clients: their wallets and their monopolization. Oh, and maybe their fear.

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"Pro-Life" But Wanting to Pull the Plug: Baptist Cranks Challenge the Whole Cloth

Miguel De La Torre writes at Associated Baptist Press about the challenge to his "pro-life" stance his mother's painful death caused. He admits to ascribing, at least theoretically, to the "whole cloth" notion that to be truly "pro-life" one must oppose abortion, euthanasia, war and capital punishment but admits that watching his suffering mother die left him with the desire to pull the plug on the machines that artifically kept her alive:

For my part, I am trying to be pro-life -- that is, I am trying to stand against abortion, euthanasia, war and capital punishment.

I say that I am simply “trying” because I am relying on God’s strength to stay true to this position, yet recognizing that if I fall short, there is grace. I stopped my prideful boast of truly being pro-life when I was faced with a painful decision and discovered how easy it was for me to fail to live up to my religious ideals.

Four years ago my mother entered her last week of earthly life. I flew to Miami to be by her bedside. She, a non-smoker, was dying of lung cancer. By this time the cancer had spread to other vital organs, and the doctor informed us she would not live for long. While she was still conscious, we had a wonderful opportunity to discuss eternity. She knew she would soon die and made her peace with God.

Soon after, the pain became so intense that she was drugged to make her as comfortable as possible. At this point she lost her dignity and her consciousness. For about a week she lay there in pain. For a week I did not leave her side, waiting for a death that took its sweet time to arrive. The woman I knew and loved left, but machines kept her body alive.

Even though I claim to be pro-life, given the opportunity, I would have pulled the plug myself. My action would have been motivated by my deep love for the woman who gave me life.
The law, of course, prevented me from taking such actions. But if Jesus said that if I think it in my heart, I’ve as good as done it; therefore, I am guilty of euthanasia. I am guilty of not truly being pro-life, regardless of my confession to the contrary.

Since her death, my greatest regret is that I stood by as she suffered that last week of life. The drugs were not enough, as she occasionally emerged from the fog of death. Nothing good came from that last week. I ask myself why she had to suffer. I remain with very conflicted emotions and dogmatic beliefs that, I confess, I have not yet been able to resolve.

If my belief that euthanasia is wrong is true, why then was I willing -- and, if I am honest, am still willing -- to pull the plug when the issue actually became real and personal? Was my love for my mother so strong that I was willing to go against my own pro-life stance and be left with nothing except God’s grace and forgiveness? But how can I be forgiven if I can’t repent from how I felt -- from what I experienced?

Maybe I will not find resolution to my struggle until that final heavenly reunion when I find forgiveness from my mother for not loving enough to act.

You would expect De La Torre's soul searching to elicit Baptist sympathy and condolences, but no. Instead he takes it in the comments for Nazi sympathizing and not believing in the justice of God. For a real chill, catch posts by the likes of Charlie Mac which state:

Life isn't perfect and men and women who truly love as Christ loved are willing to kill and be killed for the good of others. This is totally divorced from killing for convenience as abortion is as is execution of individuals who have and may again kill for personal gain or just to be mean.

pjerwin writes:

When the Lord commands His angels to pour out His wrath on the earth, destroying millions, perhaps billions, of lives, what will be the response of these folks? When Jesus himself fails to show hospitality to the lawless strangers He “never knew,” but who called Him “Lord, Lord” and performed many miracles in His name, and He shuts eternally them out of heaven, I'm sure these folks will want Jesus brought up on charges of some kind. And on the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, when the resurrected dead, great and small alike, stand before the throne and those whose names are not found written in the Book of Life are thrown into the lake of fire, I'm sure these folks will want to prosecute the Lord for crimes against humanity.

Padre Jud quotes the Catechism with two paragraphs that could be used to support assisted suicide:

2278. Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

The key principle in this statement is that one does not will to cause death. When a person has an underlying terminal disease, or their heart, or some other organ, cannot work without mechanical assistance, or a therapy being proposed is dangerous, or has little chance of success, then not using that machine or that therapy results in the person dying from the disease or organ failure they already have. The omission allows nature to takes its course. It does not directly kill the person, even though it may contribute to the person dying earlier than if aggressive treatment had been done.

Alas, the "seamless garment" is thrown aside for "the great wrath of God" and "stopping tyranny."

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Government's Obligation to the Elderly?

At firstthings blog, a post by Peter Lawler (postmodernconservative) of Roger Scruton's A Political Philosophy:

…[G]given that fact, it is more than ever necessary for us to incorporate death into our life plans. We need to recognize the value of timely death and the futility of living beyond the point where anyone will mourn our passing. Whatever our viewing of the afterlife and the promises and threats of religion, we must recognize that happiness on Earth is available only through giving and receiving affection. From the first-person perspective the critical question is not that of terminal illness and the suffering can usually be alleviated, and a person can be terminally ill even though fully capable of giving and receiving love. The critical question is longevity itself, which has brought about a situation in which we all have something to fear worse than death, namely the living death of the loveless.

The church, its own populations aging, seems to be asking, more so than any other societal group, how we institutionalize and socialize care of the elderly as they grow in number.

Don't miss the comments!

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Pain for the Sake of Pain: Killing the Killers.

This morning the New York Times reports on a case in Ohio that gives us another look at how we usher people in our society to their death. In 1984, Romell Broom was convicted of raping and murdering a 14 year old girl. On Tuesday, the state tried to execute him with lethal injection, but failed. Because of prior drug use or dehydration, the executioners were unable to find a viable vein on Romell. Execution by lethal injection typically includes three separate drugs. The times article quotes a 2007 study from The New Scientist:

In most states, the lethal injection is a three-drug cocktail: sodium thiopental to make the person unconscious; followed by pancuronium bromide to paralyse muscles and stop breathing; and finally potassium chloride to stop the heart.

An Ohio judge last year ordered the discontinuation of use of a drug that was found to be banned in pet euthanasia in 42 states. Yet:

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that lethal injection was not “cruel and unusual punishment,” like other methods of execution, “such as disemboweling, beheading, quartering, dissecting, and burning alive, all of which share the deliberate infliction of pain for the sake of pain.”

Now an Ohio attorney, Tim Sweeney hopes to convince a judge that attempting to execute Broom a second time, after the first two hour, "unsuccessful" ordeal, will amount to cruel and unusual punishment. The mother of the girl Broom is convicted of killing doesn't agree:

She doesn’t buy the argument that Broom’s two-hour ordeal amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. “Look what happened to my daughter,” she said. “Was that cruel for him to take a knife and stab her all up?”

If our society doesn't consider a humane, painless death for the "innocent," terminally ill important, of course the fight for a humane death of convicted killers is an uphill battle. Suffering is a form of punishment that the state is not required or obligated to alleviate; in fact, as punishment, suffering is a realm that the state, as warden of justice, wishes to control. The Appellants' (state of Montana) brief for the Baxter v. Montana case now before the Montana Supreme Court which will determine the constitutionality of assisted suicide states that our society's role for the suffering, terminally ill is, "...where suffering cannot be further alleviated, to show solidarity with them by standing by them and furnishing what support we can." Whatever that support is, I don't know, other than denial of the dying person's wish to end their suffering.

Suffering plays an important redemptive role in our society. It is seen as a person's duty to experience the pain that God, in the form of a terminal illness, or the state, in capital punishment, inflicts. Innocent or guilty, pain is an important part of life, the reasoning goes. The idea that those who have inflicted suffering and pain, like Romell Broom, deserve a painless death goes against our equation of getting what you give. In the case of Broom, Phillip Morris, a columnist at the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes:

[I]t’s time to turn back the clock a bit on capital punishment. The death penalty was once administered with ropes, guns and electric chairs, not technicians with syringes. What we have now is a gentle form of euthanasia designed to ease the conscience of civil libertarians or those who want to take out the garbage in the most humane way possible.

We kill with just a bit too much kindness.

ASIDE: If palliative and general practice doctors know how to end life painlessly with injection, as is done in Washington, Oregon and other countries for assisted suicide, why is the penal system still using unproven, painful methods of drug injection to end prisoner's lives?

One can only assume that the medical profession, reticent to take up pain relief and issues regarding end of life for "innocent" patients, has limited interaction with the prison system. That the science of ending a life exists in only particular fields is alarming but not surprising. Our government still practices torture, after all.

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