Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reader Writes: Racial Disparity in Health Care.

Check out the comment on my March 13 post regarding racial disparity in hospice enrollment. And please join the discussion.

How do we eradicate racism and discrimination from our health care delivery system?

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Best Way to Limit Access to Legal Service? Intimidate Doctors.

From the conservative, "pro-life" site LifeNews, a new effort to deny the recent court ruling in Montana and to limit it's decision by intimidating doctors with threatened law suits. Just disagreeing with a law - because you don't understand it or feel your faith should be the law of the land - doesn't make you a righteous vigilante, justified in defying the law or blocking access to services with intimidation. Ask Scott Roeder. (And before I get all of Jill Stanek's readers yelling at me, I'm not saying that ADF threatened murder. Just bullying and career-altering lawsuits. All for their opposition to a private decision that should be made between a doctor and their patient and all because, you know, the dying and women aren't smart enough to make their own decisions but ADF is.)

A Montana pro-life group has issued a new analysis saying the decision by the state's Supreme Court to allow assisted suicide there didn't legalize the practice. The Montana Family Foundation says doctors who engage in the practice may still be charged for homicides there despite the Montana Supreme Court's decision in the Baxter case.

The pro-life group hired two attorneys, Greg Jackson of Montana and Matt Bowman with the Alliance Defense Fund, to analyze the controversial decision.

"The purpose of the analysis is to place the decision in perspective, and to dispel much of the misinformation surrounding the issue," said Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation.

"Contrary to recent headlines, the Supreme Court did not legalize physician assisted suicide. Medical personnel and institutions must understand that if they participate in assisted suicide they expose themselves to potential civil and criminal liability, and may even be charged with homicide," the pro-life former state legislator added.

"Within a very narrow set of constraints, if a doctor assists on physician assisted suicide and they're brought up on a murder charge, they might be able to make the claim of consent," Laszloffy said. "But if it falls anywhere outside that narrow set of parameters, it quickly goes over to a murder charge."

Kathryn Tucker, director of legal affairs for Compassion & Choices, the major pro-euthanasia and pro-assisted suicide group, told KAJ-18 television that the only objective of the analysis is to confuse physicians and patients.

"The obvious objective of the analysis is to create fear among physicians," she said. "This is shameful. It may prevent suffering dying Montanans from having this compassionate option."

"There is a safe harbor created for physicians who prescribe medications to a mentally competent, terminally ill patient, which the patient can consumer to bring about a peaceful death," Tucker said. "And a physician operating within those boundaries has no need to fear criminal prosecution."

While Tucker says the decision is clear, Laszloffy says the Montana legislature has room to put more restrictions on assisted suicide in place.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition sent LifeNews.com a statement over the weekend saying it and Montana State Senator Greg Hinkle agree with the new analysis.

They said the ruling in Baxter v. State, did not “legalize” physician-assisted suicide in Montana and Baxter instead held that a physician accused of homicide for killing his or her patient would be allowed to assert a “consent of the victim defense.”

A new article in the Missoulian newspaper indicates at least one person has died from an assisted suicide since the Baxter decision last year.

The Montana Supreme Court decision made the Rocky Mountain state the third in the nation, after Oregon and Washington, to allow assisted suicides.

Related web sites:
Montana Family Foundation - http://www.montanafamily.org
New analysis - http://www.montanafamily.org/portfolio/pdfs/Baxter_Decision_Analysis_v2.pdf

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Orthodox Adherence to Religious Doctrine.

I don't agree with the conclusions in this post at the Catholic Mirror of Justice, about a new book on Catholic justices and the establishment clause, but it's short and I think a good reminder to all of us that church doctrine aren't always practiced/believed/adhered to by their denomination's members, irregardless of public role.

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GeriPal on DNR Orders and Doctor "Saves"

It is a story that happens all too frequently in a fragmented healthcare system. A woman with cancer on chemotherapy codes in the emergency room. Nobody knows her code status. The ER physician uses the skill and talent gained from years of training to successfully resuscitate her. The family arrives to let the physician know that the women had a DNR order. After discussions with the women’s oncologist and ICU team the family decided to not pursue dialysis and withdraw the ventilator. Disappointment sets in for the young physician as seemingly everyone gives up on his “save”.

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C&C Reports on the Status of Aid in Dying in Montana.

You can read the article here.

An aside: I'm delighted to see Compassion and Choices announcing itself under the rubric of patients' rights. I've consistently advocated for various patients' rights groups - women's rights, elder rights, disability rights, medical marijuana rights, LGBT rights - to come together to reform our health care system and end discrimination against minorities. I hope other groups take note and follow in the stand for patients' rights from inequality and discrimination.

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Nebraska Assaults Women's Intellect and Autonomy.

Two laws are being pushed in Nebraska - and are likely to pass - that further inhibit a woman's right to privacy and autonomy in decision-making about her health care. The first law assumes that women must be crazy, impressionable imbeciles if they decide to have an abortion (irregardless of her life circumstances, other than being female). Because we all know that women can't possibly make health care decisions on their own. That's what we have patriarchy for! The second assumes that 167 scientists and physicians who have reported that the fetal brain has no sense of pain until after 28 weeks are kooks. And it assumes that a woman who needs an abortion after that period of time is of course less important to society than a potential human being. There's nothing new to this assault on women's equality and privacy; just the same old assumption that women are stupid evil whores and murderers if they want to manage their reproductive health.

Of course none of this could be reported in the Washington Post's he-said-she-said article. As if facts don't matter and an over-simplified version of religious vs. secular America is worth denying women autonomy.

Nebraska could become the first state to require doctors to screen women for possible mental and physical problems before performing abortions under a bill that received final approval from the nonpartisan Legislature on Monday.

Republican Gov. Dave Heineman's office said Monday he will sign the bill Tuesday, along with another groundbreaking abortion measure lawmakers are expected to pass then. That bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks based on the assertion that fetuses feel pain.

Both bills are likely to be challenged in court. Abortion rights activists describe the measure passed Monday as a drastic shift in abortion policy that would block abortions by scaring doctors who might perform them. They say the second bill is aimed at blocking late-term abortions in one of the few states where there's a doctor willing to perform them.

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Packing the California Courts.

At California Progress Report, Dan Aiello reports on the new push to add religious judges to local courts in California:

In what has been described as an attempt by right wing religious conservatives to "pack the courts" with judges who will oppose Separation of Church and State and "uphold traditional moral beliefs," an organization created by former Prop 8 activists is working to shift the San Diego Superior Court further to the right with a slate judicial conservative candidates to challenge four moderate incumbents of San Diego County's Superior Court in the June primary.

The candidates of the organization, Better Courts Now, were vetted on issues of Separation of Church and State, abortion, same-sex marriage and "traditional moral values," according to the group's web site and BCN leaders. In what has become the all-too-familiar alliance between religious fundamentalists and pro-business interests, Better Courts Now candidates also pledged their opposition to "end frivolous lawsuits against California businesses."

Challenging incumbent judges, most of whom are appointed by California's governors, is rare, but there have been challenges to the independence of the judicial branch by conservatives before, according to Jennifer Pizer, chief counsel for Lambda Legal, a national organization focused on the attainment of equal rights for gays and lesbians.

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Calling Out Sedition.

At Campaign for America's Future, Sara Robinson says if it looks like sedition and acts like sedition, maybe we should call it sedition. (h/t to Talk to Action):

These two events are a wake-up call for progressives. They're telling us that it's time to openly confront the fact that conservatives have spent the past 40 years systematically delegitimizing the very idea of constitutional democracy in America. When they're in power, they mismanage it and defund it. When they're out of power, they refuse to participate in running the country at all -- indeed, they throw all their energy into thwarting the democratic process any way they can. When they need to win an election, they use violent, polarizing, eliminationist language against their opponents to motivate their base. This is sedition in slow motion, a gradual corrosive undermining of the government's authority and capacity to run the country. And it's been at the core of their politics going all the way back to Goldwater.

This long assault has gone into overdrive since Obama's inauguration, as the rhetoric has ratcheted up from overheated to perfervid. We've reached the point where you can't go a week without hearing some prominent right wing leader calling for outright sedition -- an immediate and defiant populist uprising against some legitimate form of government authority.

Moderates and liberals are responding to this rising threat with feckless calls for "a return to civility," as if all that's needed to put things right again is a stern talking-to from Miss Manners. Though that couldn't hurt, the sad fact is that we're well past the point where it's just a matter of conservatives behaving like tantrum-throwing spoiled brats (which they are). When a mob is surrounding your house with torches and telling you they intend to burn it down, "civility" really isn't the issue any more.

At that point -- and we're there -- criminal intent and action become the real issues. Progressives need to realize that the right began defiantly dancing back and forth over the legal line, daring us to do something about it, quite some time ago. And it's high time we called it out -- and, where appropriate, start prosecuting it -- for exactly what it is.

What is Sedition?
Before we start throwing around inflammatory terms like "sedition," it's essential that we understand the strict definition of the word -- and use it carefully and precisely, lest it lose all meaning.

(That's what happened with the word "fascism," which has been distorted into meaninglessness by hyperbolic overuse on the left and willful redefinition on the right. Once a word is abused and distorted this way, it's very hard to recapture it and restore its original meaning. And that's no small thing, because losing the word makes it functionally impossible to even discuss the political idea the word represents. Worse: as Orwell told us, when we no longer have the language to describe what we're dealing with, we also lose our ability to deal effectively with fascism at all. That's a real danger with loaded words -- so, please, let's be extremely careful about how we brandish this one.)

Here's the defining line we need to hold on to. People who promote subversive ideas, no matter how dangerous those ideas might seem, are completely protected under the First Amendment. Even calling for the overthrow of the government is protected (though not benign, as we'll see later, because it creates justification, permission, and incitement to seditious acts). That's why the conservatives have been safe -- so far.

It's only when those people start actively planning and implementing a government rebellion that it turns into criminal sedition. In this case: the weird rantings on the Hutaree website -- not seditious. The group's allegedly operational plans to assassinate a police officer, ambush the resulting funeral, and thus bring on a national militia uprising -- absolutely seditious, if the charges stick.

This bright-line distinction, which has been part of American sedition law for the past 50 years, parallels closely the line drawn by terrorism analysts in sussing out which groups are benign and which ones are headed for trouble. As I've noted before, one of the cardinal signs these experts watch and listen for is a fundamental shift in rhetoric. In the early stages of dissent, groups establish the lines of conflict by obsessively focusing on their enemies and loudly denouncing their essential evilness. You hear this kind of talk in politics all the time these days. It's always ugly, but not inherently dangerous.

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A New Film: Chaplains in the Military.

Chris Rodda at Talk 2 Action writes about a new film that looks at religion in the military. You can learn more about the film here.

Here's an excerpt of Rodda's post:

While MRFF does receive a good number of complaints about chaplains, it is actually far more common in complaints about the pushing of religious beliefs on the troops for the pushing to be coming from a superior officer or senior NCO than from a chaplain. InChaplains Under Fire, one of the chaplains interviewed describes an incident that is very typical of the kind of incidents reported to MRFF. The chaplain recounts what he walked into when he was called in after a member of a Marine unit committed suicide and a senior NCO's pronouncement of his theological opinion had made the situation even more upsetting for the other members of the unit.

"But the evening after, there was a senior staff NCO who talked with the guys, and he stated, 'We've lost one of our Marines, but we need to go forward with the mission that we have, even though right now that individual is burning in hell.' And luckily I came in afterwards, dealing with especially those who were immediately close with him."

Chaplains objecting to this sort of behavior by NCOs, officers, and even other chaplains, is not uncommon. Among the thousands of service members who have contacted MRFF, ninety-six percent of whom are Christians themselves, have been a number of Christian chaplains. These are the chaplains who understand what Billy Baugham and Arthur Schulcz, who, in Chaplains Under Fire, talk about the infringement on the First Amendment's free speech rights of the chaplains, just don't get. Chaplains are there to serve the troops and ensure their First Amendment rights, not the other way around. Chaplains simply do not have the right to push their beliefs on the troops, nor should a chaplain encourage their congregation to push their beliefs on their fellow troops, as one chaplain is shown doing inChaplains Under Fire. While chaplains certainly do have the same right as a civilian minister to preach the beliefs of their religion in the setting of an actual worship service, statements like the following from a chaplain in a worship service are troublesome.

"How many of you on a day to day basis go up to your neighbors in your workspace and witness to them about Christ? Why not? It's risky, isn't it? Somebody might look at you, and they might label you something, right? Two words. He's a Jesus freak. That's a little bit scary. I'm not saying that God's calling you to go to Baghdad and preach the word there, because, first of all, I don't think you're gonna get clearance to get off the base to do that. But God's got plenty of missions for you every single day right here on base."

On the one hand, evangelizing is part of the Christian faith, so the chaplain has the right to talk about it in a worship service, but on the other hand, the chaplain's military congregation does not have the right do what the chaplain is encouraging them to do -- evangelize in the military workplace.

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Christian Reconstructionism.

Do not miss Sarah Posner's recent post on Christian Reconstructionism at Religion Dispatches. Here's an excerpt:

Back when Huckabee was running for president, a reporter asked him if he was a Christian Reconstructionist. It was an amusing moment -- because anyone who didn't want to be linked with some Christian Reconstructionists' endorsements of slavery or the death penalty for homosexuals would of course say no. And Huckabee did. But many have documented his Reconstructionist ties, and how his callsfor biblical law in place of the Constitution reflect Reconstructionism's influence.

Huckabee is not alone. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who backed away from his controversial thesis during his campaign last year, was shown by Diana Butler Bass to be tied to Christian Reconstructionism, both through the subject matter of his thesis and his advisor Herb Titus.

Now comes Star Parker, a favorite on the religious right speaking circuit for being a walking example of how a welfare queen who had had multiple abortions can be transformed into a conservative Christian icon. Parker -- an early endorser of Huckabee in 2008 -- is now running for Congress in the 37th district of California, and hopes to "have the opportunity to share my ideas inside the Congressional Black Caucus" about how the country is sliding towards socialism.

Parker -- who is an admirer of Christian Reconstructionism founder R.J. Rushdoony -- recently gave aninterview to the John Birch Society, which during the Kennedy administration insisted that proposed civil rights laws were "in flagrant violation of the 10th amendment," and threatened individual freedom. (Sound familiar? The same arguments are being made about health care reform.)

In the JBS interview, Parker said that Obama "is a secular leftist" who doesn't have a "biblical worldview" and is "pushing the envelope as far as angering God." Whether he is a "Pharaoh or a Nebuchadnezzar we don't know, but we do know that ultimately he will not succeed. The Scriptures are very clear, that God abhors the bloodthirsty and the deceitful." (According to some eschatology, Nebuchadnezzar is the Antichrist.) Parker not only endorsed the notion that abortion is genocidal in black communities, but added that Obama supports abortion through the ninth month (which is false).

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The Blaine Amendments.

Watch today for news about a new bill in Florida that would end the ban on government funding for religious institutions. There are a number of Blaine amendments around the country, enacted in the late 1800s during what many call a period of anti-Catholic sentiment. While the amendments were enacted for the wrong reasons, they do the right thing. Their repeal would increase the federal funding of religious institutions - to anyone who ascribes to separation of church and state (as stated in the Establishment clause of the first amendment and held up in common law since then), a clear violation.

For more noise on the Blaine Amendments and some history, see here, here, here and here.

As an aside, I was speaking to a class yesterday about abortion and assisted suicide. Both caused a stir during the health care debate with conservatives crying "not with my tax dollars." Yet we don't hear the same cries regarding other governmental support of services that other minority groups oppose. And that list is long. My single point is that the Religious Right has won the illegitimate battle of decrying what they oppose as unworthy of government funding. Those who support separation of church and state know they can't make the same arguments because, well, we all pay for lots of services we don't agree with or make use of.

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We Believe in Theocracy.

Rick Santorum spoke at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last week. And told us what we believe: free enterprise, a Christian God, that the traditional family is the primary unit of society. Watch the creepy video here.

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