Tuesday, October 6, 2009

An Overview of the Supreme Court This Session.

The conservative majority in the Supreme Court is expected to have their way with a number of high-impact cases this session. Write reporters at ThinkProgress:

This term, several cases will show whether the justices still believe that unyielding rigidity is a substitute for justice.


McCaughey and Weiner Scrap on Morning Meeting.

Don't miss this video boxing between it's-gonna-kill-the-elderly Betsey McCaughey and New York Senator Anthony Weiner about health care reform:

via dailykos. And you can find Ben Smith's coverage at politico.

Labels: , ,

Spelling Out Thanatology.

Dr. Allen Malnak is three parts into a multi-part series on death, end of life issues, and bioethics considerations at NaplesNews. Here's part one; subsequents are linked at the bottom.

I could quibble with some of Malnak's points but for the most part the article is well-intentioned and informative:

I’d like to throw in the importance of physician-patient communication at this point. I have always felt physicians must be upfront and honest with their patients, even though it may be much more difficult both for the health care team as well as the patient’s loved ones. For many years a kind of “let’s keep any bad news away from the patient” mentality persisted among medical personnel. It didn’t work then, and it’s way out of line now. It’s the patient’s life, and every person is entitled to the best and most complete information the health care team can provide. Just because someone has developed a serious illness doesn’t mean that person has lost their ability to reason.

But we must keep in mind how the information is presented may well determine whether a patient continues to have a positive or negative attitude. In other words, even a life-threatening illness can be communicated as a challenge rather than a verdict. That’s the difference between hope and despair. Hope sustains us, despair overwhelms us. Hope and positivity are comforting, emotionally nourishing, and even healing, producing those “sense of well-being” endorphins. Despair wears us down even more, adding to our misery. So, no matter how grim the prognosis, a patient should understand that modern techniques of palliative and hospice care will almost always relieve the type of suffering that was common just a short time ago.

Labels: , , ,

Engaging the Taboo.

The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue has a new issue out, available online, that focuses on Engaging the Taboo: Gender, Sexuality, and the Body in Our Religious Traditions.

"Virtue and Danger: Sexuality and Prophetic Norms in Muslim Life and Thought," by Kecia Ali

"In the Pursuit of Love," by Marianne Farina

"Picturing Bodies: Sacred Images and Transformative Practice in Byzantium and Tibet," by Thomas Cattoi

"The Influence of Black Church Culture: How Black Church Leaders Frame the HIV/AIDS Discourse," by Sandra L. Barnes

Labels: , ,

What Is an Evangelical?

Tony Jones discusses the shifting and contested definition of Evangelical at BeliefNet:

So I can see why Scot and others fight for the term "evangelical," against both the apathy towards that term of people like Rob and the popular use of the term in the media. Personally, I have never considered myself an evangelical, though many others do consider me one, but I can understand those who embrace that term and their loyalty to it.

Interestingly, Scot uses the following definition, taken from a book by evangelical scholars,

an evangelical is a Christian Protestant for whom the central ideas are the leading authority of Scripture, the necessity of personal conversion, the centrality of the death of Christ on the cross as a substitutionary atonement, and the importance of a life of active following Jesus, seen in such things as Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, and deeds of compassion and justice.
I've added italics around what I consider the most curious phrase. I get every other point, but does one really need to submit to an Anselmic interpretation of the crucifixion event to be an evangelical? That seems odd to me, since I know lots of Weslyans and Anabaptists who are fiercely evangelical, but think of the atonement through other lenses.

Don't miss the comments!


What Unreformed Health Care is Doing to Our Elderly.

Steve Taylor tells the sad story of how illness is driving his parents out of their home, at God's Politics. His story should serve as a reminder to opponents of health care reform that our current manner of caring or the ill and the elderly is flawed and often tragic.

Such is the nightmare of the time and culture in which we live — a financial system built on and collapsed by the greed of those who cared little for the consequence, and an insurance/illness industry pregnant by the profits of sick people. In such a system, good people can work hard, have medical insurance, get sick, and lose their homes. It is no wonder that Jesus said, “…for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” It was not meant as a compliment.

The home has been in our family for about a century. My mother grew up in the home. I spent my early childhood years there. My grandparents and great-grandparents lived there. Its walls have contained almost every important event of our family’s life for the last 100 years. And now, on October 16, if we are unable to slow this process through legal action, it will go to auction. Even if we get a few months reprieve, it still seems certain that my folks will lose their home.

Labels: ,

AKA Green Rape.

Sorry, I couldn't let this pass:

Despite the rhetoric that bombards us, the possibility of positive impacts of a warmer world is simply not discussed. Instead we are told we must take immediate steps — even draconian ones — or life as mankind has known it will come to an irreversible end.

Bureaucrats aggressively push the imposition of policies to curb "greenhouse gases" (GHG). These emissions include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. The feared "carbon footprint" is a measure of GHG emissions. All we hear is how we must reduce the carbon footprint. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that will impose "cap and trade" rules on emitters of carbon. The biggest emitters are power plants. This bill, if implemented, will result in an increase in the average household utility bill, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, of $1,761 per year — equal to a 15-percent income-tax hike. If enacted, according to a Heritage Foundation study, it would eliminate over 3 million jobs between 2012 and 2035.

The crisis promoters point to an Oregon State University study (Oregon was the first political jurisdiction in the world to legalize assisted suicide). Professor Paul Murtaugh tells us, "Up to this point, little attention has been given to the overwhelming importance of reproductive choice." Murtaugh says each child born in the U.S. contributes 9,411 metric tons of carbon dioxide. He claims this is about 5.7 times the amount an average person should contribute.

Oh nos! The "culture of death" rooted in Oregon, that dastardly state, is working to prevent global warming!

Anti-Choice: Coming after the Rights of Other Minority Groups Now.

Health care reform, Britain's recent clarification of assisted suicide laws, the legalization of Death with Dignity in Montana, and countless other countries' discourse on assisted suicide have caused "pro-life" groups to share the anti-abortion stage with anti-assisted suicide work. While "euthanasia" has always been one wheel on the "pro-life" machine (abortion, stem cell research and cloning, being the other three - war and capital punishment thrown to the wayside long ago), abortion has been the "sexy" topic, stealing the limelight, stirring emotions and raising vast amounts of money.

However, "pro-life" events, websites, advocacy sites, and churches are now giving more or equal time to "anti-euthanasia" work.

The 2010 National Prayer Breakfast, to be held in Pittsburgh, PA June 24-26, has announced that LaRee & Mark Pickup will be keynote speakers. The couple have long spoken against abortion, having elected for an abortion decades ago and regretted it ever since. And as a multiple sclerosis patient, Mark is triplegic and wheelchair dependent. From their website:

Throughout their grief journey, they confronted fundamental issues revolving around the profound sorrow and grief that often comes with acquired catastrophic disability ― and can draw people to question the value and purpose of life.

LaRee and Mark will explore reasons why people choose assisted suicide and family dynamics that contribute to such a terrible decision or deciding to euthanize a terminally/chronically ill loved one.

They will illustrate parallels between a mindset that sanctions abortion at the beginning of life and the acceptance of euthanasia consciousness at the other end of life.

LaRee and Mark will conclude with a challenge and plan to counter the prevailing culture of death.

Women have long been accustomed to the double talk espoused by anti-choice groups. They have been told that they shouldn't have to make reproductive decisions themselves, they have been paternalistically encouraged to listen to their male spouses, pastors or doctors. They have been told that choice will damage them, their families, and the social fabric.

Now the elderly, disabled and infirm are being targeted by anti-choice groups. They are told that the medical industry knows best, that they are incompetent to decide how or where they wish to die. They are told that their suffering will make them stronger and that choice of medical services will erode the social fabric and perpetuate the culture of death down a slippery slope.

Same song. Different end of the life spectrum. Same machine and tactics; new minority groups to push around and infantalize. Anti-choice groups feed on fear and control. And they are working to maintain their jurisdiction over the suffering.

Labels: , , ,

Depression and the Advance Directive.

A number of religious sites have taken up the recent case of Kerrie Wootorton who drank antifreeze last week, pinned a living will to her shirt and called an ambulance. Because of respect for her living will, doctors did not revive her. She was 26, depressed by her infertility, and had attempted to kill herself nine times before. Many in Britain, where the Debbie Purdy case and a recent clarification of prosecutorial guidelines for assisting suicide have brought the issue to the fore, fear that the case will now open the "back door" to assisted suicide.

Watching the case, I have been concerned by the tie being made between assisted suicide as legalized in the US - also called death with dignity, which requires a mentally competent, terminally ill patient self-administer lethal medication - and depression. When the case is made that no one wishes for death unless they are depressed - and therefore incompetent - assisted suicide is lumped in with suicide. When depression is considered the only cause of desire to end ones life, the argument for death with dignity is skewed. An article by Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor for the Telegraph (linked via Anglican Mainstream), goes there. Wait for the last line:

The case was highlighted by the Daily Telegraph after an inquest ruled that doctors had no choice but to allow Ms Wooltorton, 26, from Norwich, to die after she had written a letter saying she did not want to be saved.


Doctors in the case said it would have been considered assault if they had treated her against her wishes.

The case has prompted Andy Burnham, Health Secretary, to signal that the law may need to be changed because living wills or advance directives were not intended for this purpose. He said it made him ‘uncomfortable’.

Dr Luk Ho, a consultant psychiatrist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, wrote in response to a British Medical Journal blog: "My biggest concern with this case is that it could lead to ‘assisted suicide by the backdoor.

"I am well aware of the euthanasia debate about whether it is ethical to use the distinction between ‘act and omission’ to justify withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment in incapacitated terminally ill patients.

"Could professionals be legally permitted in the future to allow patients to commit suicide ‘in their best interests’, because it is the patient who commits the ‘act’ and the professionals merely ‘omit’ treatment?"


Dr Luk also questioned whether Ms Wooltorton’s advice directive was applicable because her history of mental illness and previous suicide attempts raised issues over her mental ability to refuse treatment.

"Is is ever possible for a person wishing to commit suicide to have full capacity?"

Emphasis mine. We don't know what counseling Wooltorton received after each of her previous suicide attempts, what extent her doctors went to to address her depression, or what fertility options she was informed of.

Those who oppose assisted suicide, however the laws are constructed to protect the mentally infirm, determine that the desire to end one's life is a sign of depression. Kerrie Wooltorton's sad death helps to make their case for them.

Labels: ,