Sunday, November 15, 2009

DC Same Sex Marriage: Catholic Discrimination "Somewhat Childish."

Next month the District of Columbia will vote on same-sex marriage, a bill that would enforce equality in marriage.

The Examiner (a British publication) has a fantastic little article about Catholic organizations working to impose a conscience clause on the bill that would exempt both institutions and individuals from performing marriage services they are "morally" opposed to.

Because I have recently been looking at Catholic hospitals and health care networks (which effect more than 20% of our patients), I found the reporting and quotes to be most telling. I've highlighted my favorites below:

On Tuesday, the final draft of the District’s same-sex marriage bill passed 4-1 by the D.C. Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary and is now ready to be voted on by the full city council next month. As reported by theGLAA Forum:

The bill calls for protections for religious institutions authorized to formalize or celebrate marriages. These groups shall not be required to formalize or celebrate any marriage.

Each religious society will still have control over its own doctrine, teachings, and beliefs. In addition, a religious society or a nonprofit organization run by that religious society shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, or goods related to the marriage of same-sex couples.

Committee member Yvette Alexander proposed an amendment that would have added a so-called "conscience clause" — that is, it would have added "any individual" to the list of those permitted to discriminate against a same-sex married couple on the basis of the individual's religious belief—but it failed 4-1

According to the Washington Post, the passed protections do not seem to be enough. The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington announced yesterday that it would still not be able to continue the social service programs it funds for the District if the D.C. Council votes for the bill next month.

According to Susan Gibbs, archdiocese spokesperson, “"If the city requires this, we can't do it. The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem."

The response to the Catholic Church was not positive. Council member Mary M. Cheh said the church's response was “somewhat childish.”

The sponsor of the marriage bill and chairman of the Health Committee, David A. Catania said, “They don’t represent, in my mind, an indispensable component of our social services infrastructure.”

The sticking point seems to be the “conscience clause” the committee rejected on Tuesday allowing individuals, not just religious institutions, to deny services to same-sex couples. Council member Yvette M. Alexander told everyone that because the amendment failed, religious groups that received city funds would be required to give same-sex couples medical benefits, open adoptions to same-sex couples, and rent a church hall to lesbian couples.

Peter Rosensein of the watchdog group, Campaign for All DC Families, said, “The issue here is they [religious groups] are using public funds, and to allow people to discriminate with public money is unacceptable”

According to Council member Phil Mendelson, “The problem with the individual exemption is anybody could discriminate based on their assertion of religious principle. There are many people back in the 1950s and '60s, during the civil rights era, that said separation of the races was ordained by God.”

Meanwhile, Clergy United for Marriage Equality, the group of Protestant clergy, continues to back same-sex marriage and urges the passage of the bill next month.

Any opposition to Catholic imposition of discriminatory rules on citizens makes me happy. These organizations, funded by the US government, are deciding what rights individuals have. Our laws, particularly on health care access, have long been far too lax to prevent such discrimination. I have no issue with individuals and organizations living by their own ideological "laws." In fact, I greatly believe in individual conscience (institutional conscience not so much!) but when ideological rules are applied, through government funds and social service participation, we should all get scared. It's called discrimination.

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Doctors Confirm God's Miracles with Medical Data!

I don't even know what to say about this but it makes me think I need to pay more attention to the World Christian Doctor's Network. I wonder how much power they have in countries, how effective they are at imposing their ideology as sound medicine over medical and scientific facts. Relying on prayer for medical treatment scares the hell out of me.

International Christian Medical Conference under the Theme "Spirituality and Medicines" Brought 400 Doctors from 30 Nations

The 6th International Christian Medical Conference was held at President Hotel on October 30 and 31, 2009 under the auspices of Ukraine Organizing Committee of WCDN (World Christian Doctors Network), whose founder and board chairman is Rev. Dr. Jaerock Lee, an evangelical pastor and the author of many Christian titles including "The Power of God"(978-1554522576).

This 6th Conference was attended by 400 doctors and medical professionals from 30 nations including USA and Italy, and was featured by many medical doctors from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan,Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and many other Russian-speaking nations.

On October 30, the Conference was kicked off with the opening remarks by Dr. Mikhail Morgulis, President of Spiritual Diplomacy Movement Foundations and welcoming address by Dr. Gilbert Chae, President of World Christian Doctors Network, and it was followed by a special message by Dr. Jaerock Lee, Founder and Board Chairman of WCDN, presented in Video saying that "Now if you become a true disciple of Jesus Christ, you will not only heal many people's physical diseases but also heal and save their souls as well."

During the Conference, an Australian Doctor Irene Jacovou presented a healing case of a 68-year-old man, and this was the most outstanding case of healing presented. In 2003, he was diagnosed to have severe emphysema, asthma and alpha 1 anti-trypsin deficiency, and had a bilateral lung transplant and received immunosuppressive therapy. In 2008, he noticed a skin lesion on the top of the right shoulder, which was later found to be a malignant tumor. He was diagnosed with skin cancer and was surgically treated, but it recurred. In October, 2008, cancer cells metastasized to chest and lungs, and he was sentenced to live just a few months longer because of this cancer. In winter of that same year he attended a Christian healing prayer meeting and tumor regression started. All the tumors in his skin were gone through fervent prayers, and the CT scan showed that lung metastases disappeared.

A Ukrainian Doctor Larisa from Ukraine presented the case of healing on hepatitis C by prayer, and this was really confirmed as the person of the same case firsthand showed up and testified to his healing. Another Australian doctor Mieke Kuiper presented the case of healing of eclampsiaand subarachnoid hemorrhage by prayer. Two Korean doctors presented the cases of healing of the infected cystic mass in the submandibular area and the retroperitoneal necrotizing fascitis due to perforated acute appendicitis, with scientific and medical data confirming the healing cases. In addition, the many cases of the healing of various diseases including schizophrenia, pancreonecrosis, and AIDS that cannot be cured with medicine but only by the power of God.

Whenever the healing cases were presented, the audience submitted various questions and the speakers gave sincere and effective answers, which made the Conference exciting and featured to the doctors and many other people in attendance.

Dr. Jenis av Rana from Faroe Islands commented, "I am running a radio station and our station broadcasts various works of God's healing every Thursday. When I am back home, I will let my staff introduce the healing cases presented during this conference and share them with as many listeners. Then, they will send their prayer requests for their problems to us."

And Dan Wooding, Founder and International Director of Assist News Ministry said, "At the same time that Ukrainian candidates are battling each other for votes in the upcoming Presidential election, Christian doctors gathering in
Kiev, the country's capital for a "Spirituality and Medicine" conference, have already cast their vote-for "miracles."

WCDN (World Christian Doctors Network) was organized to medically analyze divine healing cases performed by God, clarify the data before and after the healing and testify with those data that God is alive and the Bible is authentic, and thereby to awaken not only unbelievers but intellectual people including medical doctors and scientists as well and has been holding annual international Christian medical conference in Seoul of Korea, Chennai of India, Cebu City of the Philippines, Miami of USA, Trondheim of Norway and Kiev of Ukraine, and the 7th Conference will be held in Rome, Italy.


"Culture of Death" in Health Care Bill: A Summary.

At LifeSiteNews, Peter J. Smith and Kathleen Gilbert summarize "pro-life" issues with the proposed health care bill. Their concerns fall into five categories: abortion, conscience protections, rationing, end of life planning and sex education.


  • School-based health-clinics: Sec. 2511 (p.1352) prohibits school-based health clinic grants from being used for abortion, and specifies that eligible clinics are those that do not perform abortion. However, no language prohibits school-based health clinics from giving school-girls referrals to an offsite abortion facility. [ ]

  • Expanded access and funding for abortifiacient contraception (Sec. 2526)
They oppose referrals of young girls to abortion services and they oppose contraception. In other words, because they work to make abortion and contraception illegal, they work to prevent information about these services from reaching the public. Sex of course is worthy of punishment.


  • Sections 258 and 259: though containing some conscience protections, the bill does not clearly extend to health-care entities and workers that object to contraception, esp. abortifacient contraception. Thus health-care providers with these moral objections, such as Catholic hospitals, would be affected. [Source:]
They favor conscience protections for medical workers but not for patients; the objective is to protect discrimination in health care services. Patients' rights are unimportant to them, institutionalizing a specific religious ideology is.


Pro-life advocates fear that H.R. 3962 will effect health-care rationing on a scale that does not yet exist in the United States, but is a way of life in countries with socialized health care such as Canada and the United Kingdom.

  • The law of supply and demand: Congressional Budget Office forecasts that H.R. 3962 will insure an extra 36 million non-elderly individuals between 2013-2019. Some analysts conclude that, since the supply of health care professionals will not be able to keep up with such a sudden influx of demand, that this will likely lead to rationing.

  • Price controls: Section 104 allows the Health Insurance Exchange Commissioner has the authority to kick out insurance companies participating in the health insurance exchange that he judges have "excessive or unjustified premium increases." Private insurance companies face the choice of going out of business altogether or rationing health care services as a way to absorb the revenue loss. [Source NRLC]

  • Lack of protection in balancing cost and quality: Sec. 2401 establishes a "Center for Quality Improvement" that has four prime responsibilities: one, identifying existing "best practices;" two, create new ones; three, evaluate the old against the new; and four, implement the best practices in health-care. The bill does guard against "quality-adjusted life year measures or any other methodologies that can be used to deny benefits to a beneficiary against the beneficiary's wishes on the basis of the beneficiary's age, life expectancy, present or predicted disability, or expected quality of life." However, as NRLC points out, the stipulation applies only in the "development" of such practices, and advances no such safeguard regarding the center's other three roles.

  • Sec. 1159 commissions the creation of Medicare reimbursement standards that ostensibly provide incentives for "high value care;" it, too, does not guard against "quality-adjusted" rationing.
They fear for the profits of insurance companies! And, despite strong desire to protect supply and demand principles, a major criticism for health care reform is that covering all Americans will create doctor and resource shortages. I've debunked rationing conversations before. Our medical industry is out of hand, milking Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance programs for all they can because there are no strong regulation stops in place. With the exception of those uninsured, our patients tend to be over medicated, over treated, over tested. It has become a lucrative policy for the medical industry to convince us that we need services that don't have much life-lengthening benefits.


  • "Nudging": Section 1233: offers to pay for voluntary consultations once every five years on end-of-life options. As many critics have pointed out, in principle, this provision gives a financial incentive to doctors to take advantage of uncertainty or vulnerability on the part of the patient in order to "nudge" him or her towards options that would cost less.

  • The Assisted Suicide loophole: Sections 240 and 1233: Health-care providers are forbidden from disseminating literature that encourages "assisted suicide", "mercy killing", or "euthanasia." However no section defines what the terms mean - opening up a serious loophole. States like Oregon and Washington do not use the term "assisted suicide." Instead the term is "physician assisted death." In effect, this bill fails to prevent assisted suicide options from being presented under another name.
As with reproductive rights for women, "pro-life" groups assume a patriarchal position on end of life care: patients don't know best, doctors don't know best, we do. Removing patients' rights from the conversation, they work to impose religious ideology on care. And claim that doctors will coerce vulnerable patients into - a host of fear mongering that is unjustified but further's their cause.

Actually the laws in Washington and Oregon are, well, laws. With strict guidelines. Doctors are not allowed to bring up aid in dying with patients there. "Pro-life" concerns are unjustified. They simply want to make aid in dying illegal so they work to oppose them in any way they can.


  • Federal funding of Planned Parenthood-style permissive sex education programs “to prevent teen pregnancy” (section 2526), similar to that stipulated in the Senate version of Obama
  • care
Abstinence education has been proven ineffective statistically. Yet, "pro-life" groups work to punish teens for having sex, to keep them from learning how to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.

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Philip Nitschke's Office Raided.

Dr. Philip Nitschke, Australia's so-called "Dr. Death" for his work on assisted suicide and founding of Exit International, had his office raided last week.

Reports say the lethal drug Nembutal was found during the search of properties linked to Dr Nitschke’s organisation, Exit International, on Thursday.

Dr Nitschke has previously come to Britain to demonstrate his suicide techniques.

When in the UK, Dr Nitschke told people where they could obtain Nembutal.

Queensland Police, who were responsible for carrying out the raids, confirmed they was part of an “ongoing investigation” but did not add further details.

Read more here.

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WJS Warned of Gloom and Doom; We Got Doom.

Wesley J. Smith, the prolific conservative who writes about the sweep of the "culture of death" across the country, summarizes the wins and losses for "pro-life" groups.

What he says about the Obama administration is telling:

Indeed, I worried that "the people now in power have views that are inimical to the sanctity and equality of human life."

I still believe that is true. But I underestimated the resiliency and determination of those who oppose the development of what is sometimes called a culture of death. Thus, the year didn't go nearly as badly as I feared.

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A Reminder of Catholic Law on "Euthanasia."

Griffin Morality reminds us of the Catechism of the Catholic Church guidelines on euthanasia:

CCC 2276: Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.

CCC 2277: Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.
Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.

CCC 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 [in the case that death is inevitable as a result of the current ailment]. 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.

CCC 2279: Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

The rules read sound enough. Yet the USCCB has moved to count artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) not as "over-zealous" treatment for a dying person but as ordinary care. Currently it is legal to remove a patient from ANH in all 50 states. Soon, in all 600 Catholic hospitals, removal from ANH will be forbidden according to their Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs).

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Patients' Rights In The US.

Peggy Mahar asks in the Washington Post:

What if we had a single-payer health-care system and someone like Jeb Bush or Sarah Palin were running the country?

Many liberals remain angry and disappointed that single-payer legislation never stood a chance in Washington. To them, a government-run health-care system seemed an obvious way to put patients ahead of profits.

But a single-payer system would have put us at the mercy of whomever happened to take control of Washington. I'm very happy to have a public plan as an option. But since I don't know who will be in the White House in the years to come, I'm glad that government-run health care won't be the only game in town. If you're not happy about the Stupak amendment, imagine what other limits a conservative government could impose on our health care.

Parts of the country remain more conservative on issues of life and death than many progressives remember. When single-payer advocates imagine single-payer health care, they often look to Canada as an example of how it would work. But America isn't Canada; many of our fellow citizens are more conservative than the average Canadian. Moreover, in the United States we have let the dividing line between church and state blur. Christian conservatives are a political force in their own right, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has felt free to weigh in on health-care reform. Under a conservative president, such beliefs might be reflected in single-payer health policies.

She concludes:

So I want to hedge my bets. I want alternative insurance options, especially from nonprofits such as Kaiser Permanente. And I don't want to find myself locked into an insurance plan run by conservatives -- or Democrats -- who feel they have a right to impose their religious beliefs on my access to care.

Because the US government has failed to properly protect patients' rights, instead favoring ideology or big insurance, I think she has a point. What we see with the imposition of Stupak-Pitts, in an atmosphere where few laws provide for individual patient rights of conscience, is an environment where health decisions are controlled by large health organizations like the Catholic church (which operates under Ethical and Religious Directives set by the Vatican) and greedy big pharma corporations who have a reason use aggressive care.

Her point then is that some governments have enough patient protections to ensure that access to services is considered a right.

The political dynamic in the US, a conservative bartering of patients' rights for the sake of ideology or corporate independence, does make Mahar's point worthy of discussion.

Aside: I'm not sure her point about Canada being less conservative than the US is valid. Note the incredible struggle they are having there regarding end of life care and aid in dying.

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Britain and Assisted Suicide.

This summer Debbie Purdy won her case in the British courts to ensure that her husband would not be prosecuted if he helped her to leave the country to end her life. Purdy is a multiple sclerosis patient; her case has caused the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, to draft revisions to the laws regarding assisted suicide. But the revision is meeting with strong opposition from lawyers, former lords and parliament. A group of like-minded players has come together to write a lengthy brief to the DPP strongly opposing the DPPS revisions. From the Telegraph:

In September, he published a list of factors to help lawyers to decide whether to prosecute people for assisting suicide. The rules have been interpreted by some campaigners as a way of “legalising” assisted suicide.

The DPP has now launched a consultion on the guidance which says that families who help terminally ill loved ones to end their lives are unlikely to face prosecution as long as they do not encourage them and assist only a clear and settled intention to die.

But the group - which also includes Lord Walton of Detchant, Professor Sheila Hollins, a former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Baroness Campbell of Surbiton - says the new guidance is “not fit for purpose”.

The group has signed up to a hard-hitting response to the proposals from campaign group Care Not Killing, in which it warns that changes to the law could mean that the lives of stroke-sufferers, disabled people and those with arthritis, could be at risk.

It says: “Among the factors proposed as tending against prosecution are that the deceased was seriously ill or incurably disabled or had a history of suicide attempts. In Care Not Killing’s view these proposals are discriminatory as well as dangerous.”


In all, 11 of the 29 specific criteria proposed for deciding whether to prosecute or not to prosecute were judged to be “unacceptable in any circumstances”.

Dr Saunders added: “We recognise the attempt that the DPP has made to carry out a very difficult remit given to him by the Law Lords, and there are several aspects of the guidelines that we can support.

“But current guidelines adopt, however unwittingly, the political assumptions of the pro-euthanasia lobby, that assisted suicide will not be prosecuted if the right boxes are ticked.”

The group suggested that the guidance “should start with a clear statement that assisting a suicide is a criminal offence and that, in the absence of a decision by Parliament to change the law, it will remain so”.

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Britain and Assisted Suicide.