Friday, October 30, 2009

Conscience of a Minority More Important Than That of Majority.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has begun in earnest their campaign to sink health care reform unless a conscience clauses is added and abortion coverage is removed.

To be clear, this is about 15 to 20% of the population working to assert it's conscience on the rest of us by way of claiming persecution of beliefs. (To hell with women's consciences. To hell with the consciences of the dying. To hell with the medical profession's duty to honor a patient's wish. To hell with upholding access to legal services.)

From TheCatholicKeyBlog:

The USCCB has kicked into high-gear urging a nationwide effort by Catholic parishes to ensure abortion coverage is removed and conscience protection included in health care reform. The bottom line message from the bishops:

The U.S. bishops’ conference has concluded that all committee approved bills are seriously deficient on the issues of abortion and conscience, and do not provide adequate access to health care for immigrants and the poor. The bills will have to change or the bishops have pledged to oppose them.

AmericanPapist reported earlier today that an action item was sent late yesterday to all diocesan pro-life directors asking them to help disseminate bulletin inserts and pulpit announcements to every parish in their diocese.

Every bishop in the country has received the same request and also late yesterday, Helen Osman, Director of Communications for the USCCB, sent the same request to diocesan communications directors and made the inserts available as ads for diocesan papers. I have not seen this level of coordinated effort by the bishops’ conference in nearly 20 years of church work.

In response, the Vicar General and the Chancellor of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph sent the following to all pastors today:

In unison with the U.S. Bishops, Bishop Finn is urging all parishes to take part in a nationwide campaign to educate and advocate for health care reform that is consistent with Catholic social teaching. The USCCB has prepared parish bulletin announcements, pulpit announcements, and suggested prayers of the faithful to assist with this endeavor.

As you know, Bishop is out of the country. We spoke with him, and he is in agreement with this plan to engage our parishioners. With this message, we are forwarding the materials developed by the USCCB.
We encourage you to distribute the bulletin announcement on Sunday, November 1; otherwise, this must be accomplished by Sunday, November 8. We thank you for all that you do to carry on the work of God in our diocese.

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Mennonites Take on Obama's Unjust War.

Pastor Marty Troyer of the Houston Mennonite Church takes on "redemptive violence" and the Obama administration:

What is the more powerful force in our world: violence, or peace? Our President ordered the killing of more Pakistani civilians this week. This happens so frequently, and receives so little attention in the corporate media I find I need reminding of its outrage. Obama has already ordered more drone and missile attacks into Pakistan in his brief Nobel-winning Presidency than George Bush ordered in his entire second term in office. The fight with our “enemies” is said to be moving more into Pakistani territory, thus justifying these incursions. DemocracyNow news anchor Amy Goodman reported on October 28th that between 326-538 civilians have been killed since Obama took office, saying, “there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official US policy.” All appearances point to an increase in drone attacks over the coming months, and thus to an increase in civilian casualites. To be clear, these drone attacks do not pass international law standards, the Christian theory of the Just War, let alone a nonviolent standard. These increased drone attacks come at the same time Obama is considering increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. War seems to be playing an ever bigger role in the toolbox of change for our President. But is it change we can believe in? Or is it just more of the culture of death we have come to be all too familiar with? Obama, like Bush before him, has bought too deeply into the myth of redemptive violence.

I find it encouraging to see the church taking on "unjust war" as an aspect of what is called the "culture of death," although I have issues with the terms because they often include women's reproductive justice, scientific advancement, and alleviation of suffering in the dying.

Yet calling out Obama and his administration for the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is something the church and all of us must do.

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Better But Not Best: "Pro-Lifers" Criticize End of Life Provisions in Health Care Bill.

Wesley J. Smith considers the end of life counseling provisions in the announced health care bill and finds them improved - giving credit to Palin and McCaughey for bringing attention to this aspect of the bill.

The new text blunts the criticisms about end of life counseling made here at SHS and elsewhere. I am especially pleased that the counseling is not to be directed toward a particular result and that the option of receiving care is to be included in the directives. However, the bill does not, as far as I can tell, guarantee that the provider cannot be sanctioned for not pursuing the issue. Moreover, as Rita Marker told me in a conversation this morning, the language is far from air tight and regulators may interpret it in ways that take back what appears to have been gained. For example, the requirement not to “promote” assisted suicide certainly doesn’t preclude it from being brought up or discussed in the counseling sessions. And let us not forget, there is still a pending Senate Bill that would deprive providers of payment if they did not offer the counseling.

While Smith still says he thinks the bill should be defeated, he and other "pro-life" activists have backed off criticism of end of life counseling because, well, they got over their unnecessary hyperventilating from the summer. Smith still has a beef with counseling because he sees it a coercion of the elderly and ill to even think about how they wish to die.

And he has a vested interest in preventing discussion of Death with Dignity (legal in some form in three states). A requirement already built into Oregon and Washington's bills moots his point. Patients must bring up Death with Dignity; doctors are prevented by law from doing so.

End of life counseling makes sense for so many reasons and on so many levels that opponents had to temper their rabid "death panel," "government-encouraged euthanasia" claims.

It's laughable that they made a stink about nothing this summer and now take the time to credit their own disingenuous concerns. Even more laughable is the fact that the White House didn't see McCaughey's "euthanasia" talk coming and better prepare for it.

Ultimately, we'll have a much weaker health care reform bill because the administration and Democrats, very much in power at the moment, neglected to better manage the messaging about reform or assume that power. They let Republicans, social conservatives and "pro-life" groups railroad their proposals, were swayed by a lot of the noise - without refuting the lies! - and delivered a watered-down bill that is ultimately an unnecessary compromise.

Generous commentators are calling it compromise, bipartisanship, and a political victory. While many of the improvements reform represents are necessary and right, the weakened public option, the chance that women who are currently covered (50 to 85%) for abortion services may lose that coverage, and the fact that end of life care has been battered all make this bill an unnecessary compromise that leaves the medical industry too much power over our health.

Republicans and conservatives, in other words, worked out of bad faith to destroy a bill that had potential to bring greater benefits to the public at large. And for that we have Palin, Smith, McCaughey, and both parties to thank.

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New Study Highlights Need for Better Prescription Drug Labels.

Another example from GeriPal on how conflict of interest in drug regulation prevents consumers and doctors from fully assessing drug effectiveness. A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine argues for more extensive labeling on prescription drugs:

Schwartz and Woloshin note that when the FDA reviews a drug, expert reviewers consider a wealth of data about the benefits and side effects of the drug. They also raise questions, make judgments, and make statements about their degree of certainty that the benefits of the drug outweigh the risks. However, effectiveness and harm data that patients and their providers might want to see often do not make it to the drug label. Opinions of the expert reviewer, including their degree of uncertainty about the drug, would be of great interest but these virtually never make it to the label. This information is contained in FDA documents, but these voluminous documents are not practically accessible.

One commenter notes why the FDA does not have stricter requirements:

...drug labels are created in a process of negotiation between FDA and the drug manufacturer. There would clearly be less conflict of interest if the FDA would create the label without having to negotiate with industry about every word. Part of this would require greater funding of FDA to provide the human resources to take on such tasks. Unfortunately, previous attempts to use industry money to support FDA activities through the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) have resulted in their own conflicts of interest, whereby the FDA is beholden to industry for its funding. Thus, a better system needs to be devised to get the FDA the resources it needs to protect the public health while avoiding the conflicts of interest that have resulted in questionable decisions.

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