Friday, January 29, 2010

What Obama Did Right.

A quick divergence from my usual religion/patients' rights beat:

The president spoke with Republicans in Baltimore today.

Obama did one thing that was absolutely necessary. He brought the conversation around to what works. Facts, statistics, provable solutions to Medicare and Medicaid, trade, health care reform.

Tort reform doesn't work. Selling insurance across state lines (without restrictions) won't work.

He made the Republican proposals that come straight out of impractical ideology sound silly and he debunked them. We need much more of this. We're got a part of the country that is running around mad as hell about ideas and shouting out for solutions that will not meet their objectives. They have been disserved by an unintelligent or manipulative media and party.

A little truth felt awfully good. Instead of putting out ideological solutions to problems, I hope the Republicans (and Democrats) will be held accountable for the viability of their proposals. Not just politically but factually. Today was a first step.


Artificial Nutrition and Hydration Becomes "Obligatory."

Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, has an article today at their site about how the Catholic Church came to change their policy on artificial nutrition and hydration last November.

Coombs Lee explains that the conservative Pope worked to enforced a strong hierarchical hand on the health care decisions of society - not just Catholic society because the Catholic church is the second largest provider of health care in the US.

At 624 hospitals in the country, your advance directive or living will wishes will not be honored:

Extreme pro-life Catholics, however, argued that food and water, even artificially administered, are ordinary and basic, and sustaining life itself of any quality is fundamentally beneficial. Pope John Paul II fostered the ascendancy of the pro-life movement within the Church.

Prompted by The Terri Schiavo case, the Pope sided with the picketers outside Ms. Schiavo’s hospice room, declaring that tube-feeding patients in a permanent vegetative state “always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act” and should “be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate.”

Did the pope’s guidelines allow for the patient’s view of benefits and burdens? Some ethicists still thought yes, but a September, 2007 response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF, formerly called the Office of the Inquisition), said:

No. A patient in a ‘permanent vegetative state’ is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means.

Even then some Catholic bioethicists like John Hardt looked for personal choice in the CDF’s use of the phrase, “in principle.” But in November, the Bishops closed the door: feeding tubes are obligatory.

Why did the bishops make a nationwide rule at odds with the beliefs of many devout Catholics, with a tradition of weighing benefits and burdens on an individual basis, and with established medical practice at most Catholic institutions? My own opinion is the Vatican and the Bishops turned to serious enforcement to impose their dogma precisely because Catholic patients and practitioners were not following their extreme pro-life doctrine in private medical decisions.

My friend Dan Maguire, Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University, has said,

In Catholicism there are three sources of truth, (or three “magisteria”): the hierarchy, the theologians, and the wisdom and experience of the laity (called in Latin sensus fidelium).

Like a three-legged stool, multiple sources of wisdom have maintained the stability of Catholic wisdom. In the feeding tube decision, I believe the honest observer would see a one-legged stool making all the decisions, and a clear victory for the hardliners.

The moderates have lost the debate, and so have we. The Vatican has cut off the two offending legs of the stool and nullified ethical consideration of individual weighing of burdens and benefits. Cardinal Rigali, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Bishop Lori, chair of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, in stern tones, announced as much:

Even if one judges that such a condition, when prolonged, makes survival itself a burden, such a judgment does not justify removing food and water …

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Religious Left Raises Voice on CBS "Pro-Life" Superbowl Ad.

Yes, there is a Religious Left. And it doesn't agree with Focus on the Family's plans to run a "pro-life" ad during the Superbowl, in violation of CBS's existing policy about acceptable ads.

Here's a statement from Women's Media Center:

The religious organizations listed below represent more than ten thousand religious leaders and tens of thousands of people of faithwho believe that abortion must be safe, legal, and accessible. We come together to ask CBS to pull a divisive anti-choice ad by Focus on the Family slated to be aired during the Super Bowl. We believe strongly that the Super Bowl is not the appropriate venue for pressing discussions about moral decisions.

We are concerned that this ad will imply that a specific religious doctrine speaks for all people of faith in America about abortion, not recognizing that many religious denominations have passed policies in support of legalized abortion. No single religious voice can speak for all faith traditions on abortion, nor should television networks like CBS take sides on religious differences. We believe women must have the right to apply or reject the principles of their own faith in making the decision as to whether or not abortion is appropriate in their specific circumstances.

Rev. Steven C. Baines
Assistant Field Director for Religious Outreach
Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Rev. Dr. Ignanio Castuera
National Chaplain
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Rev. Robert Chase
Founding Director
Intersections International

Rev. Steve Clapp
Christian Community, Inc.

Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess
Director of Communications
United Church of Christ

Rev. Debra W. Haffner
Executive Director
Religious Institute

Harry Knox
Director, Religion and Faith Program
Human Rights Campaign

Rev. Peter Laarman
Executive Director
Progressive Christians Uniting

Rev. Barry W. Lynn
Executive Director
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

Rev. Jill K. McAllister
President, Clergy Advisory Board
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Rabbi Dennis S. Ross
Concerned Clergy for Choice

Rev. Carlton W. Veazey
President and CEO
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Bishop John L. Selders, Jr.
Interdenominational Conference of Liberation Congregations and Ministries

Rabbi Dennis S. Ross, Director
Concerned Clergy for Choice
The Education Fund of Family Planning Advocates of New York State

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