Friday, October 16, 2009

Two New Studies Show Futility of Extensive Elder Care Treatments..


LOS ANGELES (October 15, 2009)--Two new federally funded studies show that a surprising number of frail, elderly Americans in nursing homes receive futile care at the end of their lives.

One study found that putting nursing home residents with failing kidneys on dialysis didn't improve their quality of life.

Click here to find out more!

The other showed many with advanced dementia will die within six months and perhaps should be given hospice care instead of aggressive treatment.

Medical experts say caregivers and families should consider making the feeble elderly who are near death comfortable rather than treating them as if a cure were possible.

End-of-life care became a divisive issue in the national health care reform debate after one proposal included Medicare reimbursement for doctors who consult with patients on end-of-life counseling.

Critics called the counseling a step toward euthanasia.

The Obama administration denied that claim, but has indicated the Medicare benefit will be dropped.

The new studies are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The two studies can be found at:

The Clinical Course of Advanced Dementia

Functional Status of Elderly Adults Before and After Initiation of Dialysis

"No Flesh and Bone to Hold Me."

From mnpnow, Emmylou Harris, the great singer-songwriter of my childhood soundtrack, has a song on her new album about the life and death of Terri Schiavo, with lyrics:

“So I go sailing round the room/Through my window, cross the silver moon/No flesh and bone to hold me/I’ll finally set my soul free/When I go sailing round the room ...”


New Orleans Doctor Contests New York Time Article on Euthanasia During Katrina.

via CourthouseNews, Dr. William Armington, a former doctor at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans where 45 patients were found dead after the flooding of the city during Katrina, is suing ProPublica and Dr. Sheri Fink for their part in supporting and writing the August 25th New York Times Magazine story, "The Deadly Choices at Memorial."

Sabrina Canfield writes:

Armington complains that "But for the defendants' sensational and scandalous article, which has been buttressed by a massive and strategically timed media campaign designed to promote book proposals and to attract critical acclaim, there would be little further interest in criticizing the conduct of physicians at Memorial Medical Center, as these issues have already been investigated fully by prosecutors, coroners, scholars, authors and reporters."

The Times Magazine printed the story for fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The title was later changed to "The Deadly Choices at Memorial."

Armington says that while ProPublica claims to focus on "truly important stories, stories with moral force" in a nonpartisan, nonideological manner, by "adhering to the strictest standards of journalistic impartiality," the manner in which "ProPublica carried out this story - by generating a controversy about Armington through false 'uncovering' of a thoroughly-examined event - is the epitome of partisan, ideological and partial journalism."

Armington claims Fink defamed him by writing that he did nothing to stop the euthanasia of ill patients who could not have been evacuated because of their disabilities and were medicated to death with morphine and other sedatives to prevent undue suffering.

Canfield writes:

Armington says he "has been damaged by the article and the trust that others have in him has been compromised."

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Pittsburgh Bishop Celebrates Respect Life Month with Letter on Culture of Life.

The Catholic Church's annual Respect Life month has caused Pittsburgh Bishop Zubik to write a letter, titled "The Church Living!," that comprehensively outlines the church's positions on preservation of life.

Per DioPitt, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh website, the letter will be distributed to households throughout the diocese:

A pastoral letter is an instruction addressed by the bishop to all in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in his role as the chief teacher of the faith.
Prime among threats to human life “are those which take innocent human lives,” including abortion, euthanasia, genocide, murder, cloning, the destruction of human embryos and “unjust killing in wars and capital punishment,” Bishop Zubik states.

Bishop Zubik cites other threats to human life as well, including “economic inequality, prejudice and bigotry, human trafficking; prostitution and pornography” and “a litany of other insults to and assaults on the absolute value of human life and the inestimable dignity of the human person.”

In the letter, the Bishop cites September 11 as the inspiration for his contemplation of fluctuating faith in daily life:

Since that day, I’ve pondered much why it is that only after extraordinary tragedies and inexplicable events many come to a greater need for God and a deeper appreciation of life and living itself, rather than having a consistent embrace of life each day.

and emphasizes that the Church is not just for the believer:

In order for the Church to teach clearly and accurately, the Church must recognize and embrace her sacred duty as The Church Living both to all its members and to the world-at-large. As Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical by the same name: “The Gospel of Life is not for believers alone. It is for everyone. The issue of life and its defense and pro- motion is not a concern of Christians alone” (#101). How important it is to start at the beginning.


The Church Living is a sign of the powerful dimension of love within every human heart—love that wants and needs to connect with God and the world. The Church, which Pope John Paul II called “an expert in humanity,” proclaims a vision of the world in which people may live in peace, freedom and truth.

The Bishop lays out the Catholic Church's "pro-life" platform in point 28:

Prime among threats are those which take inno- cent human lives. These include abortion, which is the deliberate killing of a human being before birth; euthanasia, which is the putting to death of those who are sick, disabled or dying; genocide, killing off an entire group of people; mur- der, willingly snuffing out another’s life; cloning, using science to replicate life; the destruction of human embryos, for medical research where the end can never justi- fy the means; unjust killing in wars; capital punishment. Other threats include econom- ic inequality; prejudice and bigotry; human trafficking; prostitution and pornography; and a litany of other insults to and assaults on the absolute value of human life and the inestimable dignity of the human person.

and uses the issue of abortion to outline the "slippery slope" down which society has fallen by its legalization:

It is also the damaging effect on human consciences. If public policy permits the killing of innocent human life in the womb, what else, or who else, will the law permit citizens to destroy? Physician-assisted suicide, though done in smaller numbers, especially weakens the moral fabric of society by allowing members of a profession whose vocation is healing to put to death lives they are entrusted to save.

To promote these teachings, he highlights each community group and gives special instructions for how they must enact the enforcement of these teachings. The young, the Church elders, public officials are all instructed in how to work toward the Church's goals. But he states that abortion and euthanasia are only two issues on the spectrum and lists, via bullet point, the various other cultural and social efforts that church members must make to promote a "culture of life."

The Bishop is receiving some modest criticism from anti-abortion activists for elevating other culture of life issues to the level of concern as abortion.