Friday, February 12, 2010

What Then Is A Natural Death?

Alex Schadenberg warns those vulnerable and child-like seniors, incapable of making their own health care decisions, to stay far, far away from those evil living will forms because their lawyers, their family, and doctors are trying to kill them!

Can you think of a greater disservice anyone with the public's ear could do for seniors? Convince them that living wills are deadly? When we living in an age where every citizen should write up a living will as soon as they reach voting age?! And update it annually.

It is just this sort of irresponsible fear-mongering and redefining of natural death, or rather illogical defining of "the culture of death," that alarms me about those who ascribe to a "pro-life" perspective on end of life care. Shaming or scaring seniors into making the decisions you feel they should is coercion, plain and simple. And perpetuates the fear of death and dying that our society battles.

From his site, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition:

Living Will - Killing Will

During the last few days I have received three Power of Attorney/ Living Will legal documents that in fact are designed as Killing Will documents.

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care is a legal document that assigns a person to make medical and care decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so for yourself. These are important documents because the wording of the document will either protect your life and or may give medical professionals the right to abandon you or even dehydrate you to death.

My concern is that many people will visit their lawyer and have a Will and Power of Attorney documents drawn up for them without understanding that the language in the Power of Attorney document may be neutral, may protect their life, or may actually hasten their death.

Last week a supporter contacted me after reading his Power of Attorney for Personal Care document. He was shocked that he had signed a document that instructed the physician to dehydrate him to death if he were terminally ill or living with a chronic condition.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition distributes the Life-Protecting Power of Attorney for Personal Care to protect you from being killed. We charge $25 for this document. The information for ordering the document is at:

Today, I received a Power of Attorney document from a supporter that was by far the worst one I have seen in a while. It stated:

If and when it becomes clear beyond any reasonable doubt that I am afflicted with or suffering from an irreversible injury, disease, illness or condition that is terminal, then:
(a) I direct that I be allowed to die, and that I not be kept alive by artificial means or invasive measures of any kind. Measures of prolonging life that are to be avoided, withheld, withdrawn or discontinued include:
(i) electrical or mechanical resuscitation of my heart;
(ii) nasogastric tube feedings, gastric tube feedings or parentral nutrition;
(iii) artificial mechanical respiration when my brain can no longer sustain my own breathing;
(iv) radiation treatment and chemotherapy, unless used strictly as palliative measures;
(v) any treatment for any other illness or disease (such as pneumonia) which I contract when already afflicted with a terminal disease, illness or condition (such as Alzheimer's Dementia); and
(vi) dialysis when my kidneys fail.
(b) I request that a "Do Not Resuscitate" ("DNR") notification be kept with me at all times - whether I am at home, living with family or friends, or in a hospital or other health care facility.
(c) I desire that medication be mercifully administered to alleviate pain and suffering, even though the result may be to hasten the moment of my death.
(d) If I am under the care of a physician whose moral, religious or personal professional beliefs are not in sympathy with the directives set out herein, I direct my attorney for personal care to ask that physician to withdraw from my care and to arrange for me to be cared for by another physician whose beliefs and views accord more closely with my directives, and, if necessary, to transfer me to a different hospital or health care facility to better ensure that my wishes as expressed herein are respected.

The problem I have with this document is that it not only orders the physician to not provide any medical treatment, other than palliative care, but it also orders the physician to dehydrate the person to death, even if they are not in the dying phase. Read section (a), subsection (ii).

Further to that, the person who sent me this document was a suppoorter of our work and this was the document that his lawyer was suggesting that everyone obtain.

The fact is that many unsuspecting people have obtained, legally signed, and put-in-place, similar power of attorney for personal care documents without knowing how the document will be interpreted.

Further to that: Power of Attorney for Personal Care documents are only legally binding when the person is incapable of making legal decisions. At that point the document can't be amended.

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Faith and Racism.

Wendy Wood of USC conducted an analytical study of existing research into the link between religion and racism. Here findings are both expected and shocking.

One can only ask what the implications are for other discriminatory opinions in the US such as anti-reproductive rights and anti-social services. And, at risk of running out these implications too far, what this study says about the Tea Party-furcated Republican party, committed to “no”-ing our nation’s way to a complete stalemate under our current black-led administration.

From Science and Religion Today, where I found the study. Here's a clip:

The researchers found barely any difference between the amount of racism among religious fundamentalists and more moderate Christians. “Only religious agnostics were racially tolerant,” they write in their paper.
We shouldn’t be shocked, Wood explains:

Religious groups distinguish between believers and nonbelievers and moral people and immoral ones. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the strongly religious people in our research, who were mostly white Christians, discriminated against others who were different from them—blacks and minorities.

She also points out that people who are religious because they value tradition and social convention were especially likely to be racist, noting:

The effect stays significant even in recent years. For people who are religious for conservative reasons, they have become less racist in recent years as racism has become less socially acceptable. But even they are still significantly racist, just that the effect has reduced in magnitude.

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New Angus Reid Poll on "Euthanasia."

From Seattle Post Intelligencer, a post today on a new poll by Angus Reid (a canadian firm I know very little about) on public opinion about "euthanasia." One problem with the poll is that it fails to make a number of distinctions about the definitions it uses, confusing death with dignity with assisted suicide with euthanasia. But for that reason, the poll most likely reflects the public's knowledge of the practice more than it's opinion about it. Here's the article - and don't miss the comments.

Incidentally, I'd love to know who commissioned the poll. Washington has had legal Death with Dignity since 2008. I smell more "pro-life" tampering with a democratically approved bill, even while they support the legitimacy of such a bill in California's prop 8 case....

Poll: Sharp divisions on euthanasia

A new Angus Reid poll find that 42 percent of American adults are in favor of making euthanasia legal in the United States, although 52 percent feel legalizing induced death would leave vulnerable people without sufficient legal protection.

The survey steered clear using such deliberately non-threatening terms as "Death With Dignity" favored by supporters of assisted suicide. In the 2008 election, by a 58 percent to 42 percent vote, Washington became the second U.S. state to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

In its poll of 1,001 American adults, taken Feb. 4 and 5, Reid asked:
"Generally speaking, do you support or oppose legalizing euthanasia in the United States?"

The results: 14 percent answered "Strongly Support," 28 percent "Moderately Support", 14 percent "Moderately Oppose," and 23 percent "Strongly Oppose." A total of 22 percent were not sure.

A near-majority of Democrats (47 percent) support euthanasia, while a bare majority of Republicans (51 percent) oppose it. A total of 47 percent of Independents backed legalized euthanasia.

Still, the public has reservations about induced and assisted death.

The poll asked if people felt that legalizing euthanasia "would leave vulnerable people without sufficient protection." Fifty-two percent agreed, 32 percent disagreed, 15 percent were unsure.

As well, Reid asked if legalizing euthanasia "would send the message that the lives of the sick or disabled are of less valued. The poll's respondents split down the middle, 44 percent in agreement, 44 percent disagreeing, with 12 percent unsure.

A contrasting opinion came when the pollster asked if legalizing euthanasia "would give people who are suffering an opportunity to ease their pain." Seventy percent agreed, only 19 percent disagreed.

The public seemed compassionate toward those making life-or-death choices.

"Do you think people who help a person to commit suicide should be prosecuted?" Reid asked.

Thirty-seven percent said "Yes," 34 percent answered "No," with 28 percent "Not Sure." Independent voters were strongest in saying those who assist suicide should not be prosecuted.

The poll put a related question more bluntly:

"If a parent is found guilty of assisting a terminally ill son or daughter to die, what do you think should be the appropriate punishment."

Just 6 percent opted for life imprisonment, and only 21 percent for any prison sentence, with 12 percent favoring a fine. Thirty-five percent opted for "No Penalty at All", while 26 percent were unsure.

Advocates of Washington's assisted suicide measure, led by former Gov. Booth Gardner, spent $4.8 million on their successful 2008 campaign.

The Washington vote gave momentum to a movement stalled for more than a decade after Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

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Public vs. Private and Americans United.

Daniel Henninger, of course at the super pro-business Wall Street Journal, gets a great couple of things wrong in his opinion column today about the struggle that is taking place in the country between faith in government and faith in the free market.

Scoff at "the public good" all he wants, like the notion is some quaint nicety afforded "the help" by the country's true plantation owners, the noble, superior corporations, government's role is not to protect the public for corporations' use but from corporations' abuse. We've got three branches of government; we don't need a corporate branch.

Yet, that's exactly what we have. To the tune of paid-for politicians, a decimated middle class, an unworkable health care system, a barely-surviving minimum-wage class, and a warped social mythology that our businesses are what have made us great. To some extent, the rise of America's global corporations have aided American global dominance but for the most part I'm not sure that's something to brag about. Not when you consider what it's cost us.

Too many decades of letting these selfish, powerful entities run rough-shod over the world market should have taught us a lesson in the eighties. And the nineties. And the oughts. Yet, Republicans, Democrats and the courts have aided and abetted corporate gutting of citizen's pockets, standard of living, and rights.

It's a sad myth that market-running, unregulated corporations are our best national asset, a romantic myth akin to that of America's "greatest schools on earth" and "greatest health care system on earth" and "greatest God-fearing nation on earth."

As our economy sits in ruins and the good public suffer yet again with this recession at the hands of unchecked corporations, it's laughable that the myth still holds weight. If I could, I'd send Henninger and his fellow believers to work in a sweat shop in south east asia or a coal mine in Pennsylvania. Because what they fail to acknowledge is that the public is not just made up of corporate CEOs with private jets and multiple (un-foreclosed) houses. The public is not even made up of folks like me who have a college education and tap away at a "desk" job.

It's the hundreds of millions of forgotten Americans who have no ability to chose their way because they are slaves to the very same corporations who have just been given their vote. Bootstraps be damned; until we break the myth that corporations actually care about the public good - or are even above responsibility for it - we'll be using social program after social program to repair the damage they continue to do.

From the article:

America's Democrats and Republicans, crudely defined, are with this presidency and this Congress living today on opposite sides of a moon that they both call the United States.

In the universe inhabited by Justice Stevens and President Obama, corporations—the private sector—are a suspect abstraction, ever tending toward "the worst urges" which have to be "comprehensively regulated." The saints regulate the sinners.

If you think this way, what one does to the private sector, such as the proposed $90 billion bank tax, can never be wrong in any serious way, so long as the rationale offered is the "public good." Private-sector players are seen as barely more than paid galley slaves on the ship of state. So it is with the health-care bill's mammoth, comprehensive regulation of American medicine and insurance.

Mr. Obama seems genuinely perplexed that the opposition can't just, you know, sign onto it. What's their problem?

Evidently, the voters of Massachusetts have a problem with that and more.

In the past year, Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congress passed a $787 billion stimulus, seized banks and the auto industry, embarked on a $1 trillion reorganization of the private health-care system, and passed a fiscal 2010 budget that put spending as a percentage of GDP at 24.1%. These are very large claims for the public good.

This public-private tension is an ancient and never-ending debate in the U.S. But what we are seeing this year, in Massachusetts and elsewhere, is American voters arriving at a tipping point over the scale and role of government. Most Americans still go to work each day inside a private economy organized around tens of thousands of corporations. Their basic view of the world and that found inside Justice Stevens's dissent and this White House are out of sync.

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