Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Church and State, Before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court will take up a case that again considers the constitutionality of religious memorials on public land. Via the New York Times:

The narrow question is whether a large cross that has been placed on federal land violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, the founders’ direction that there must be a wall of separation between church and state. The court should rule that it does.

Not Enough Faith: Who Is Responsible for the Death of Madeline Neumann?

Eleven year old Madeline Neumann died in March of 2008 from diabetic ketoacidosis, too little insulin in her body, because her parents relied on prayer rather than medical treatment for her illness. Her autopsy determined that her condition was treatable.

Yesterday her father, Dale Neumann, was sentenced to probation for 10 years and service of 30 days in jail a year for the next 6 years. Her mother, Leilani Neumann, received the same sentence a few months prior. According to a Fox news report:

Neumann, who once studied to be a Pentecostal minister, testified Thursday that he believed God would heal his daughter and he never expected her to die. God promises in the Bible to heal, he said.

"If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God," Neumann testified. "I am not believing what he said he would do."

A January 2009 article in the New York Times quotes the Neumann's pastor as stating, "“Jesus never sent anyone to a doctor or a hospital. Jesus offered healing by one means only! Healing was by faith.”

Most states allow government authorities to enter homes when a case of medical neglect is brought to their attention, though intervention tends to come too late to save the child's life. Yet parents are often protected from prosecution by constitutional religious clauses, both federal and state.

Nothing can be worse than the personal hell of losing a child. But at the same time, a message needs to be sent that parents ought to be obligated to seek medical attention for their children when things go on for more than a few days. Dale and Leilani Neumann ought to serve as examples for other parents that you can’t let things go as far as they let them go while hoping that God will save your sick child. It’s sad that Madeline is dead, but I mostly blame her parents, not God.

We can’t find it in the news articles we’ve scanned, but we have no doubt that Dale & Leilani are creationists. We recognize the mentality. [Addendum: Yes, it's almost certain that they're creationists. According to the Wikipedia entry onPentecostalism: "Pentecostals generally adhere to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, believing that the Bible has definitive authority in matters of faith, and adopt a literalist approach to its interpretation."]

Photos of the hearing can be found at GreenbayPressGazette.
A discussion on faith healing can be found at the Canadian ReligiousTolerance.


Self-Indulgent Suffering and Attitudes Toward Assisted Suicide in Britain.

Clare Allen, who writes on mental health, has an article in today's Guardian about recent events in the assisted suicide movement in Britain, namely the court case won by Debbie Purdy and subsequent updates to the prosecutorial guidelines on assisted suicide:

While it strikes me that the choice of a rational adult to end their life must be theirs by right, and that the threat of prosecution for people who assist those who cannot act alone contravenes that right, the consequences of changing the law are potentially devastating, not only for those with mental health problems but for the mental health of society as a whole.

This is not an easy subject to discuss. It's a topic about which people feel strongly, and understandably so. Moreover, there is sometimes a sense that if you aren't suffering from a terminal illness, or caring for someone with terminal illness, or profoundly disabled, then you have no right to express a view at all. But the law on assisted suicide, and indeed on euthanasia, has the greatest possible impact on our attitude towards life itself, and no one is exempt from its implications. It is crucial that the psychological signal of any proposal to change the law be properly evaluated.

Regarding societal attitudes toward pain and suffering:

If we legalise euthanasia, we inevitably shift our attitude towards suffering. There's a sense in which pain becomes self-imposed, and even self-indulgent. Not only does this have profound implications for our willingness to fund palliative care and to provide for people who are disabled, but also for our perception of difference in general.

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Connecticut Doctors Sue to Allow Assisted Suicide.

From ConnPost:

Two southwestern Connecticut doctors said Wednesday that they are suing the state to allow them to provide "aid in dying" for mentally competent, terminally ill patients.

Dr. Gary Blick, a Norwalk physician, and Dr. Ron Levine, of Greenwich, said during a news conference in the state Capitol that "terminal sedation," the only legal treatment for them to offer, is inappropriate.

The choice of providing dying patients "medically and ethically appropriate treatment," is the reason for the lawsuit filed in state Superior Court, Blick said.

Sheldon Smith, 86, of Bethany, dying fron abdominal cancer, said "I've lived a great life" and intends to continue living until the pain gets unbearable.

"However, I'm quite concerned about how the very end of my life will unfold," he said. "I know the type of pain that abdominal cancer can cause and I'd like a physician to be able to prescribe medication that I could consume to bring about a peaceful death if my dying process becomes intolerable."

Kathryn Tucker, legal director of the advocacy group Compassion and Choices, said the state lawsuit is the first of its kind and will attack Connecticut law as antiquated.


Bill C-384 Debated in Canadian Parliament.

We're not the only country grappling with the issue of assisted suicide. Canadian Parliament began debate on Bill C-384 on Friday that could legalize assisted suicide in that country.

You can read a report on the initial debates at eChurchWebsites, and at the "pro-life" StandYourGround.

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My Case for "Rationing" Health Care at

I have a story at AlterNet today that makes the case for rationing health care. You can read it here. An excerpt:

Because resources are finite, rationing will always be a part of any health care system, whether overseen by insurance companies or the government; and frankly, always should be -- but not like this.

According to a 2-year-old study by Consumer Reports, about 40 percent of the U.S. population has inadequate access to health care, all but ensuring an early death to those among the un- and under-insured who have a life-threatening condition. Among the remaining 60 percent, many receive far more health resources than they need or want, more than is even good for them.

Excessive medication, tests and treatments are not only costly;they do little to improve the nation's health (PDF). If this abundance of treatment and testing truly reaped a bonanza in national well-being, the U.S. brand of health care would have a higher rating among nations than the pitiful ranking of 37 awarded the U.S. health care system by the World Health Organization.

Please let me know what you think! Best, Ann

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