Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Problem With "The Culture of Death."

Everyone is evil:

A new Canadian poll finds a tremendous incongruency in the thinking of Canadians on key social and political issues. The new survey finds Canadians are more outraged with the killing of animals or their medical testing than the destruction of unborn children and using them for scientific study.

A new national survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion and published in Maclean’s magazine finds practices pro-life advocates find objectionable are morally acceptable.

The poll asked: "Regardless of whether or not you think each of the following issues should be legal, please indicate whether you personally believe they are morally acceptable or morally wrong."

In 2007, 61 percent of Canadians found abortion morally okay and that number has increased to 66 percent today. On the other hand, a lower 53 percent of Canadians say buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur is morally all right.

While a minority of 44 percent of Canadians are morally fine with medical testing on animals, some 69 percent of Canadians have no trouble with medical research that uses stem cells obtained from human embryos -- which can only be obtained by destroying days-old unborn children.

The only issue on which Canadians place human beings above animals comes on cloning -- where 27 percent say they are all right with animal cloning compared with 11 percent who say human cloning is morally permissible.

The divide on pro-life issues is also seen in the case of suicide, which is important because the Canadian parliament will debate a bill next year that will legalize assisted suicide.

While just 28 percent of Canadians say suicide is morally all right, a larger 65 percent say they are fine with the practice of assisted suicide.

From LifeNews and every other individual or group that has chosen to demonize the majority of the population in order to justify the superior morality of their ideological position.


KLo and Robert George Save Manhattan!

KLo interviews Robert P. George on how the Manhattan Declaration could save Manhattan and the world from itself. An exerpt:

LOPEZ: How much did the health-care debate play into the timing?

GEORGE: The health-care debate obviously implicates questions of the sanctity of human life and the freedom of religion and conscience. The Declarations signatories strongly oppose paying for abortions with taxpayer dollars and favor strong conscience protections to ensure that pro-life physicians and other health-care workers are not required to participate in, or refer for, abortions, and pro-life pharmacists are not compelled to dispense abortifacient drugs.

Why just Christians?

GEORGE: For too long, the historic traditions of Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy have failed to speak formally with a united voice, despite their deep agreement on fundamental questions of morality, justice, and the common good. The Manhattan Declaration provided leaders of these traditions with an opportunity to rectify that. It is gratifying that they were willing — indeed eager — to seize that opportunity. Of course, as Cardinal Justin Rigali observed at the press conference at which the Declaration was released, the foundational principles it defends are not the unique preserve of any particular Christian community or of the Christian tradition as a whole. . . . They are principles that can be known and honored by men and women of goodwill even apart from divine revelation. They are principles of right reason and natural law. So the signatories are happy to stand alongside our LDS brothers and sisters who have worked so heroically in the cause of defending marriage, our Jewish brothers and sisters, members of other faiths, and people of no particular faith (even pro-life atheists such as the great Nat Hentoff), who affirm our principles and wish to join us in proclaiming and defending them.

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Prison Hospice.

Over the summer the New York Times did an illuminating story on prison hospice facilities. Today the USAToday newspaper follow up with their own. Here's a clip:

The hospice programs underscore the challenges prison officials face in taking care of a rapidly graying prison population. The number of state and federal prisoners age 50 or older has soared from 41,586 in 1992 to more than 167,000 in 2005, McAdoo said. About 3,300 inmates die in prisons each year, she said.

"Tougher sentencing laws have created a huge growth in the number of aging inmates and people who aren't going to get out before they die," McAdoo said.

Before the programs, inmates died alone in prison medical wards and often suffered through painful ailments, said Fleet Maull, a former inmate who helped start the nation's first hospice program at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo. The programs also save money by reducing hospital visits, he said.

"When we started, people were being given aspirin for bone cancer," said Maull, who served 14 years on drug trafficking charges. "Today, people can have a self-administered morphine drip. We've figured out how to do these things in a safe and a compassionate way."

No prison in the USA houses more life-term inmates than Angola, where 3,712 inmates — 74% of the prison population — are serving life sentences, Assistant Warden Cathy Fontenot said. More prisoners die a year at Angola (32) than are paroled (four).

Inmates volunteer for the program, which has served 134 prisoners since it began in 1997. They are taught basic hospice practices and how to counsel a dying inmate. Gary Tyler, 51, who's serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, joined in 1997 after witnessing four of his friends die.

"I didn't want the situation I'm in to dehumanize me," he said. "Everything I thought about life has changed. This program has reassured me of my humanity."

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WSJ Letters on Abortion Funding.

Two letters appear on the Wall Street Journal web site today. The first is by Guttmacher, the second by an individual in Michigan:

Sometimes accurate statistics can be used to draw inappropriate conclusions ("Limited Effect Seen in Abortion Clause," U.S. News, Nov. 17). True, the Guttmacher Institute estimates that some 160,000 women's abortions are currently direct-billed by the provider to private insurance plans annually, with an unknown, additional number of women seeking reimbursement after the fact. Also true, first-trimester abortions, which constitute 90% of all procedures, typically cost just over $400.

However, even putting aside the fact that later abortions, for instance in cases of fetal anomalies, can cost many thousands of dollars, neither of these figures is small, certainly not so small as to justify eliminating abortion coverage in private insurance plans. No one makes that case for other procedures that occur at similar rates or cost similar amounts, though for most people having to pay entirely out-of-pocket might not constitute an "insurmountable burden."

This is what is relevant: Abortion is a legal medical procedure that is recognized by health-care professionals to be medically appropriate and in some cases medically necessary, and its coverage by private insurance is currently the norm. American women, one in three of whom at current rates will have an abortion by age 45, shouldn't be denied the ability to purchase insurance that covers abortion care regardless of how many women use this coverage today.

A central reason why some women who have insurance that covers abortion choose not to use it is that the stigma surrounding abortion makes them fearful about who will find out. That antiabortion activists who have worked for decades to perpetuate that stigma are now using it to argue that the option of insurance coverage is underused and therefore unnecessary is deeply cynical.

Cory L. Richards

Executive Vice President

Guttmacher Institute


The 29-year-old Colorado woman's statements that abortion is "a woman's choice" and that the restriction on abortion in the House abortion bill "infringes on that choice" are ludicrous. Just because abortion is a woman's choice doesn't mean that the woman has the right to force a total stranger (i.e., a taxpayer) to pick up the tab for that choice. You cannot call something a "right" or a "choice" when exercising that "right" or "choice" means forcing someone to pay for it against his or her will. What about the right of taxpayers to spend their money as they see fit?

Chris Douglas

Grand Blanc, Mich.

Chris Douglas does some selective thinking here, not an uncommon approach to abortion funding. Where does he think the rest of his tax dollars go? Are all federal funds used for services that he approves of? And what makes him think that he has a right to dictate where tax dollars go when 1 in 3 women in the US is discriminated against by the Hyde Amendment? This "my federal dollars" rubbish is ludicrous, and used to protect a vocal minority's imposition of ideology on a legal service for all women.

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Jeff Sharlet, Rachel Maddow, and the "Kill Gays" Legislation Proposed in Uganda.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Don't miss Jeff Sharlet on the Rachel Maddow show last night. He drew the connections between the Family and a proposed "kill gays" law in Uganda.

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Ascension Health and the Myth of Greater Charity Work at Religious Hospitals.

Ascension Health, one of the nation's top ten health care networks - and a Catholic institution - operates according to ERDs (ethical and religious directive). I popped over to their website to find out how they represented their services.

Don't miss this amazing glossary that lays out their definitions and practices on everything from abortion to brain death.

Then compare it to their "healthcare that leaves no one behind" page for some hard sell.

I was discussing my current book project with my sister on the phone yesterday. The book will, I hope, address the larger issue of patients' rights, but specifically end of life care in the US. I propose that the struggle over aid in dying is actually the struggle of three institution within society to assert their jurisdiction over suffering: the medical profession, the state, and the church. All three come together in the issue of religious hospitals.

My sister, in the midst of my pitch, stopped me and said, "But you seem to be forgetting the absolute good that the Catholic church does for the poor and needy." It's an argument that is often used to justify Catholic provider refusal of services. Because the Catholic health care entities care for the poor and uninsured, do so much charity, are so committed to the "least of these," and command the moral high-ground, they should be able to barter patients' rights for the sake of the good they do. Because many of the services Catholic organizations deny fall into the category of women's reproductive services - easily conflated with the single contentious issue of abortion - undue reverence has been given religious organizations and their restriction of services have been overlooked.

The argument goes: if you require Catholic institutions to deny their conscience and provide all services according to unrestricted patients' rights, they will leave the health care realm and the 20% of the population they serve will be left without.

This is a false argument. Statistically, Catholic hospitals and health care systems do no more charity than other non-profits. Yet the myth is that the Catholic church has a greater commitment to charitable work in health care. Even Ascension's page states, "In fact, in 2008 Ascension Health’s hospitals and other health facilities treated, on average, one uninsured patient approximately every 34 seconds, every day."

This care of the uninsured is not from the goodness of Ascension's heart. It is a due to a law in the US that all hospitals treat uninsured patients when they enter. That Ascension abides by federal law is not a unique good, it is a mandate, reimbursed by the federal government. And all hospitals in the country do the same. But Ascension continues to work the myth that Catholic hospitals do more good charity work than other health care organizations.

What has happened over the past three decades is that Catholic and other religious organizations, which began their hospitals and care facilities to address the needs of those in their denominations, were granted tax exemption and given the right to deny services according to their beliefs; they have moved farther and farther way from the charity of the church and into the business of health care, expanding their religious missions into the realm of personal rights. The government has allowed this, granting provider refusals for abortion after Roe v. Wade, and approving receipt of federal funds with the advent of Medicare and Medicaid. This creep of influence over patient's health care choice is profound and has been done with the approval of state and federal government for a number of reasons: most often because these institutions have sold themselves as committed to charity.

The Catholic Church has become good at running hospitals and health care facilities. And they have succeeded at imposing their ideology on more and more of the population. Now we face a point at which they are able to hold our health care freedoms hostage because they have grown so large.

How should federal and state governments address the either/or argument that my sister and so many others make that we must allow Catholic hospitals to impose on patients' rights or ask them to leave health care altogether? Compromise.

The work of The MergerWatch Project which advocates for patients' rights when a secular and Catholic hospital merge is an example of how communities rights can be protected in the face of Catholic ideology. By requiring and enforcing access to all health care services at the merged hospital, federal and state laws will ensure that patients are not denied necessary care. The Catholic facility can form a separate entity that provides these services, with separate finances. There are various other "creative solutions" that MergerWatch pursues.

What should not be allowed is reverence for any religious institution simply because it claims to do honorable charitable work. The government can not support any one religious ideology over another; they exist to protect individual rights.

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Britain and C-384.

Brian Lilley writes for today's Examiner regarding the debate for assisted suicide in Britain:

Today was supposed to be the day that members of Parliament held their second hour of debate on the bill to legalize euthanasia, the vote to either support private member’s bill C-384 and send it to committee or mercifully kill the idea was supposed to happen tomorrow. Instead Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde has put her bill on life support, delaying any further debate until February. The reason is simple, Lalonde doesn’t have the votes.

There has been little debate about Lalonde’s bill or the euthanasia issue in general and what there has been has been either ill informed or misleading. People seem to confuse “pulling the plug”, what doctors at times call passive euthanasia; with what Lalonde is proposing, a very active euthanasia.

When the bill was given its first hour of debate my press gallery colleague Don Martin put his views forward in a
National Post column. Martin relates how he has informed his family members that “If incapacitated or enduring intense suffering caused by a hopelessly terminal condition, my will orders the plug pulled quickly and sets aside a pile of cash for one hell of a wake in my favourite pub.” From there Martin goes about setting up his support for Bill C-384, finishing off with yet another story about pulling the plug on a family member.

Here’s the thing though, we don’t need Bill C-384 to pull the plug on ourselves or a loved one, we already have that ability. Any lucid and competent individual can refuse medical treatment, any incapacitated individual who has left an advanced care directive or “living will” can spell out exactly when it is time to disconnect the respirator and allow nature to take its course. Even the Catholic Church, one of those “influential religious groups” that Martin says are “screaming loud enough” to scare MPs away from this issue, allows its members to reject medical treatment and die with dignity.

What Lalonde’s bill proposes to do is allow active euthanasia which requires a planned and purposeful act such as a doctor giving a patient a lethal injection. In the United States lethal injection has been challenged in court as a cruel and unusual punishment for death row inmates, here in Canada we have banned the death penalty as inhumane, too fraught with mistakes. Now Parliament is considering allowing the sick to be given what we find unacceptable for criminals.

Two notes from me:

Catholic doctrine will only allow patients in such hospitals to be removed from life support if that support is deemed no-obligatory by the church. A new "law" or ethical and religious directive states that artificial nutrition and hydration is obligatory. Lilley is hedging his argument by assuming that his advance directive will be honored in Canadian Catholic Hospitals. I don't know how many Catholic institutions there are in Canada but in the US, one in five patients is treated in a Catholic hospital.

And Lilley works to distinguish between active and passive "euthanasia" asserting that C-384 would legalize a very new and dangerous power of doctors and family members to "kill" patients. He is, like most opponents of aid in dying, making much of a very porous line. The "double effect" already allows a doctor to sedate a patient to death so long as pain relief is the objective, even knowing that the dose he is giving will kill the patient. This is an issue of intellectual honesty. Call it continuous deep sedation and it's not killing; call it aid in dying and it's illegal. Even the Catholic Church honors the "double effect" in a number of ways other than end of life. If a woman has an ectopic pregnancy and her life is in danger, the doctor is allowed by ethical and religious directives to operate on the woman and remove the fetus but not allowed to give her the much less invasive and dangerous medical abortion because the purpose of the former is to save the woman's life and of the latter is to "kill the baby." This sort of parsing is ludicrous and an absolute disregard for patients' rights. It should be called such.

And lastly, I'm all for the consequences of elections! I love the mechanics of democracy. But as I wrote elsewhere this morning, democracy is not the best tool to protect individual rights. If Lalonde doesn't have the votes to protect an individual's power over his own body, that is not great achievement of democracy, it is institutionalized prejudice and discrimination. After all, parliament members are also members of society, just as subject to ideology, prejudice, and discrimination as the rest of society, and for the influence of power, perhaps even more.

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Tolerance in Canada by Income Bracket.

A new study in Canadia, reported by Muchmor Magazine shows that tolerance varies with income bracket:

In the online survey of a representative national sample of 1,003 Canadian adults, most respondents in the higher-income bracket (54%) find pornography morally acceptable, while fewer in the middle-income (41%) and lower-income income brackets (37%) agree.

The same is true when Canadians assess whether the death penalty is morally acceptable. Sixty-three per cent of respondents in the higher-income bracket have no moral qualms about capital punishment, but this proportion is lower amongst middle-income respondents (52%), and drops even further amongst lower-income Canadians (46%).

For the purpose of this analysis, Canadians were divided into three categories according to their yearly household income: $50,000 or less (lower-income), between $50,000 and $99,000 (middle-income), and $100,000 or more (higher-income).

Respondents in the higher- income bracket are more likely than other Canadians to believe that certain issues are morally acceptable. For instance, while almost eight-in-ten (78%) people in this group regard embryonic stem-cell research as morally acceptable, this is true for 73 per cent of those in the middle-income bracket, and 62 per cent of those in the lower-income group.

Lifestyle choices such as wearing animal fur (65%) or gambling (76%) are morally acceptable for higher-income Canadians; but fewer respondents in the middle-income bracket also accept them (58% and 68%, respectively). Less than half of those in the lower-income bracket, however, feel the same way about wearing animal fur (47%) or gambling (49%).

But only regarding some issues:

In some cases, it is middle-income Canadians who appear readier than others to see issues as morally acceptable.

About three quarters of respondents in the middle-income bracket (74%) regard sexual relations between two people of the same sex as acceptable, compared to 67 per cent of higher-income Canadians, and 58 per cent of those in the lower-income bracket.

In cases when a married man or woman has an affair, a fifth of middle-income Canadians (21%) condone it, but less than 15 per cent of those in other brackets concur.

Middle-income Canadians (70%) are also slightly more inclined than those in the higher-income bracket (66%) to find doctor-assisted suicide morally acceptable. Fewer lower-income respondents (60%) agree.

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