By Fr. George Welzbacher
November 13, 2011
The relentless campaign waged by this present administration, to diminish Americans' freedom of conscience rages on and on, and on many fronts. Just a few weeks ago, on September 30, the Pentagon enjoined all military chaplains, with no exceptions, to officiate at "marriage" ceremonies for same-sex couples and to make all military chapels available for such proceedings. This despite the vigorous protest of many chaplains, the Roman Catholics and the Evangelicals, together with their organized sponsors. The admonition of Isaiah- "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (5:20)--is now to be trumped by government fiat. Then there's the recent directive from Kathleen Sebelius, Mr. Obama's abortion-friendly Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and a self-certified Catholic, to the effect that religious corporations, in issuing health insurance policies for their employees, must cover contraceptives and abortifacients. (Ms. Sebelius is currently under investigation for her alleged complicity as Governor of Kansas in presiding over the destruction of a multitude of Planned Parenthood documents submitted to the State of Kansas, documents which presumably would have brought to light Planned Parenthood's systematic refusal to report, as is required by law, many cases of statutory rape). We also see the Obama Justice Department zealously urging before the U.S. Supreme Court (Hosanna - Tabor v. EEOC) a judgment that would seriously erode the age-old "ministerial exemption", until now a principle deeply imbedded in American jurisprudence preventing the state from interfering in religious corporations' internal affairs. As reported by Russell Shaw in Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly for November 6, 2011, the attorney representing the government in this case, Leondra Kruger, when asked if her interpretation of existing anti-discriminatory law would prompt the government to demand that the Catholic Church abandon its policy, normative throughout its history, of restricting priestly ordination to men, replied: "The government's general INTEREST in eradicating discrimination in the workplace is simply NOT SUFFICIENT TO JUSTIFY CHANGING the way the Catholic Church chooses its priests." Mr. Shaw comments: "Observers pointed out TWO UNSPOKEN ASSUMPTIONS underlying [this statement]: first, that the government DOES possess an authority to CHANGE the way the CHURCH CHOOSES PRIESTS that OUTWEIGHS the First Amendment's GUARANTEE of religious free exercise; second, that the government MIGHT ACTUALLY TAKE THAT STEP IF ITS DETERMINATION TO ENFORCE ANTIDISCRIMINATION LAWS WERE TO BECOME GREAT ENOUGH."
Further evidence of this administration's deep-seated hostility to the Judeo-Christian moral tradition has come to light with the recent announcement by the Justice Department to the effect that the Department will REFUSE to do what it is legally REQUIRED to do, namely, to defend in court of law the legislation called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which specifies that marriage is a legally sanctioned relationship between one man and one woman. Such refusal, itself a violation of U. S. law, will work to the clear advantage of those seeking to secure for same-sex liaisons the legal status of marriage What the administration has already decreed for the U. S. military is clearly what it desires for civil society as a whole.
All of this is part of a world-wide effort on the part of radical and aggressive secularists to strip away from America and from each and every society in the Western World every last vestige of Judeo-Christian morality, in which context one might take note of President Obama's recent public ridicule of those in Congress who were "wasting time" in reasserting "In God We Trust" as our nation's motto when they could have been channeling their energies more productively into passing the President's new stimulus plan.
Another item of great importance to the secularist agenda world-wide is the promotion of the culture of death. I refer of course to the euthanasia campaign. In this context may I share with you two reports: one dealing with the effort, favorably reported in the New York Times of October 26th, to advance the legalization of euthanasia in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, following precedents already established in Oregon and Washington State. The other report, profoundly disturbing and very much worth reading despite its length reveals just how deeply the euthanasia movement has sunk its roots into Western Europe. And what Western Europe is today, America may become tomorrow.
* * * * *The Next Death-With-Dignity Battleground
The New York Times, October 26, 2011
Most fall weekends, you can find Randee Laikind buttonholing people at the Shelburne Falls Market in western Massachusetts, or wielding her clipboard on the town common in nearby Greenfield or Amherst.
“I try to be very polite,” she told me. “I say, ‘Would you consider signing this petition to put the Death With Dignity Act on the ballot, so Massachusetts citizens can vote on it?’”
Ms. Laikind, who's 63 and no stranger to activism, has been a bit surprised by the response, or lack thereof. “I’ve never had anyone say no,” she said. “They don’t even ask me questions; they just say, ‘Where do I sign?’”
One Greenfield woman started crying. “She said, ‘If only this had been around last year when my father was dying.’” She added her signature, Ms. Laikind said. So did Ms. Laikind’s former internist, whom she ran into in a restaurant.
Since mid-September, a small cadre of similar volunteers has gathered about 70,000 voters’ signatures, aiming to make Massachusetts the fourth state where terminally ill patients may legally seek physicians’ help to end their lives. The organizers, who call their campaign Dignity 2012, need only 70,000 to put the question on the state ballot in November 2012, but to be sure they have enough to pass scrutiny, they’re aiming for 100,000. The signatures must be submitted by the end of November.
The proposed statute, closely modeled on an initiative that Washington State voters passed in 2008, would allow a patient who’s expected to die within six months to SELF-ADMINISTER LETHAL MEDICATION.
It includes a long list of precautions and protections: a lot of physician counseling and information; two doctors verifying that the patient is mentally competent and acting voluntarily; a 15-day waiting period between a first and second request, and another 48 hours before the prescription can be filled. At least one of the two witnesses to the written request can’t be a relative or an heir. And of course, the patient can always change his or her mind.
“Thousands and thousands of people have personal experience that leads them to support this,” said Steve Crawford, a spokesman for Dignity 2012. “They understand that as advanced as our medical technology is, we can’t relieve everyone’s suffering. Those end-of-life decisions belong to the individual.”
If it succeeds, the petition initiative would place the Massachusetts Death With Dignity Act before the State Legislature. But no legislature has ever passed such a law. It’s a safe bet that Massachusetts lawmakers will duck the subject, leading to a ballot question in November 2012, leading to a major emotional clash in this heavily Catholic state.
The Massachusetts Catholic Conference has already denounced the initiative in a statement saying, “The Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts stand firm in the belief that a COMPASSIONATE society should work to PREVENT suicide, which is always a terrible tragedy, no matter what form it may take.” Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of the Boston Archdiocese called the act “a corruption of the medical profession” that violates the Hippocratic oath. [The oath reads: Above all to do NO HARM"].
In the states where assisted suicide has won voter approval (Oregon in 1994 and again in 1997, and Washington in 2008) or has failed to win it (Michigan in 1998, Maine in 2000), advocates for people with disabilities, anti-abortion organizations, religious groups and others have battled it. But “the Catholic Church [didn't we HAVE to get THAT IN!] and its political arms [Hiss!! Boo!! Eek!!] provided the lion’s share of the campaign contributions to the opposition,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices, an end-of-life advocacy group. [Wouldn't you know! It's always the CATHOLIC CHURCH that stands in the wary of PROGRESS!] “These are big budgets.” In Washington State, Ms. Coombs Lee said, the campaign cost close to $7 million.
(Currently, supporters of legalizing assisted death for the terminally ill are mobilizing in Hawaii, where Compassion and Choices believes it is already legal under existing statutes, and in Vermont, where a bill has been introduced in the Legislature.)
We don’t know how things will play out in Massachusetts more than a year from now. But we do know, from Oregon’s long experience and Washington’s shorter one, what happens after all the furor, the ads, the charges and countercharges when a so-called death-with-dignity law actually takes effect.
What happens is less than one might expect [at least initially].
In Oregon, 96 people obtained end-of-life prescriptions last year and 59 died after ingesting the medication, according to the state’s Department of Human Services. A great majority had enrolled in hospice programs and died at home. In Washington, in the first full year with the law in place, 87 people received prescriptions last year and 51, mostly cancer patients, used them to die. Again, most had enrolled in hospice and died at home.
Notice that more than a third of the patients who went to considerable trouble to avail themselves of lethal medications didn't use them... [But MORE than half of them DID].
* * * * *
And as a preview of possible coming attractions this side of the Atlantic may I share with you here a report on the progress of euthanasia in Europe.
* * * * *Euthanasia Spreads in Europe
National Review Online, October 26, 2011
Wesley J. Smith
I spoke at a town-hall event about end-of-life care recently that, unfortunately, devolved mostly into an intense debate on assisted suicide. When the time came for audience questions, a self-described “mentally ill” woman took the microphone and strongly declared that she too should have the right to doctor-prescribed death. More than half the audience applauded, validating the woman’s potential suicide.
Ten years ago, supporting suicide for the mentally ill would have been unthinkable, even among hardcore Hemlock Society types. Now, alas, giving approval — or shrugging indifferently — to all manner of suicidal desires is becoming increasingly common. Indeed, you probably didn’t know that Sept. 10, 2011, was “World Suicide Prevention Day,” it received such scant media attention.
Why the change from an anti-suicide culture to one that is, at minimum, suicide-tolerant? I am convinced that, at least in part, the assisted-suicide movement has eroded society’s commitment to suicide prevention. It has created an atmosphere where many people now see “dead” as better than “dying” and suicide as a valid remedy for the debilitations caused by serious illness, disability, or being frail, elderly, “tired of life,” or chronically — or even, as I have seen, mentally — ill. Indeed, rarely a day goes by without some story implicitly or explicitly supporting assisted suicide as “death with dignity” or a compassionate response to the problem of human suffering.
So far, the U.S. has mostly resisted the siren song of legalizing assisted suicide. But that is not cause for complacency.
Assisted-suicide advocates never tire of offering the hemlock. And we mustn’t forget that during the 1990s, Jack Kevorkian assisted the suicides of mostly depressed, disabled people to general societal applause.
This is cause for great worry, for, once a society embraces doctor prescribed death as an acceptable answer to human suffering or as some kind of fundamental liberty right, there are no brakes. We need only look to European countries that have gone down the Euthanasia Highway to see how society is impacted deleteriously by accepting killing as a suitable answer to the problem of human suffering.
The Dutch trailblazed societal acceptance of euthanasia beginning in 1973, when a judge ruled that, if doctors followed certain guidelines when committing euthanasia, such as repeated death requests and acting lethally only when there is no other way to control suffering, they should not be punished. This led to an ever-expanding category of people receiving doctor-administered death, even BEFORE formal legalization by the Dutch parliament in 2001.
Since that fateful court ruling, Dutch doctors have gone from euthanizing the terminally ill to the chronically ill, to people with serious disabilities, to the emotionally and mentally ill (the last approved by the Dutch supreme court when it refused to punish a psychiatrist for assisting the suicide of a woman distraught over the deaths of her two children). Moreover, Dutch doctors MURDER INFANTS born with serious disabilities or terminal conditions. Such euthanasia killings remain felonious under Dutch law, but the law goes almost wholly unenforced. Indeed, doctors at the Groningen University Hospital were so emboldened by the Dutch acceptance of infanticide that they published “The Groningen Protocol,” a bureaucratic checklist for deciding which babies qualify for euthanasia, in a range of journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine.
All of the above is bad news, but also relatively old news. More recent events in the Netherlands show that the ever-expanding Dutch euthanasia license set into motion in 1973 shows no indication of slowing down.
For example, the Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) wants to loosen the definition of “unbearable suffering” for euthanasia qualification to include non-medical issues. From a Radio Netherlands Worldwide report:
Until now, factors such as income or a patient’s social life played almost no role when physicians were considering a euthanasia request. However, the new guidelines will certainly change that. After almost a year of discussions, the KNMG has published a paper which says a combination of social factors and diseases and ailments that are not terminal may also qualify as unbearable and lasting suffering under the Euthanasia Act.
These social factors include matters such as “loneliness,” strained “financial resources,” and a “loss of social skills.”
Dutch doctors have now been told they may ethically supply “how to commit suicide” instructional materials to their patients who don’t qualify legally for euthanasia. The practice, known as “autoeuthanasia,” was blessed by the KNMG in an ethical position paper. From “The Role of the Physician in the Voluntary Termination of Life”:
There is no punishment for physicians and other persons if they provide information about suicide. Physicians are also legally permitted to refer patients to information that is available on the Internet or to publications sold by book vendors, or provide these on loan, and to discuss this information with patients.
But what about Dutch doctors who are morally opposed to euthanasia? As the old saying goes, tough toenails. The KNMG has decreed that dissenting doctors do not have a right to refuse participation in euthanasia on the basis of conscience. From the same KNMG position paper:
If a physician cannot or does not wish to honor a patient’s request for euthanasia or assisted suicide he must give the patient a timely and clear explanation of why, and furthermore must then refer or transfer the patient to another physician in good time.
If the Dutch parliament passes a law consistent with the KNMG’s ethical opinion, it will mean every physician in the Netherlands would be forced to be complicit in euthanasia — even if they are pro-life or believe in the Hippocratic Oath’s prohibition against physician-assisted suicide — by finding a doctor willing to kill their euthanasia-qualified patients. Either that, or quit the practice of medicine.
Matters are even worse in Belgium, which legalized euthanasia in 2002. Where the Dutch slid slowly down the slippery slope over decades, Belgium has leaped off the moral cliff head-first. Consider that Belgian doctors have coupled euthanasia with organ HARVESTING. The first reported case of organ harvesting following voluntary euthanasia was reported in 2008. It involved a completely paralyzed woman who first requested euthanasia, and when told she would be killed, asked to donate her organs after she was dead. In a blatant example of ethical bootstrapping, doctors who participated in the case validated their own good conduct in a 2008 letter in the medical journal Transplant International :
This case of two separate requests, first euthanasia and second, organ donation after death, demonstrates that organ harvesting after euthanasia may be considered and accepted from ethical, legal, and practical viewpoints in countries where euthanasia is legally accepted.
In the years since, Belgian doctors have expanded the kill-and-harvest agenda, even promoting it at medical symposia. For example, one group of advocates created a PowerPoint presentation, arguing that unlike, say, cancer patients, euthanizing people with serious NEUROMUSCULAR diseases who want to die and donate should be accepted because such patients have “HIGH QUALITY organs...
Tying euthanasia to organ donation crosses a very dangerous bridge, giving Belgian society a utilitarian benefit from mercy killing, as it informs despairing, disabled, or mentally ill people that their deaths have greater value than their lives. But rather than an outcry, as it would have have been the reaction not too long ago, we instead witness articles written by the harvesters in respected medical journals dispassionately describing the entire process.
But wait, there’s more: Belgian doctors have performed joint euthanasia of a non-terminal elderly couple who didn’t want to live apart should one die — and medical “ethicists” cheered, one telling an interviewer:
Non-terminal partners, as we call them, also have the option of dying together. It’s legally possible. There are no legal difficulties. People think that euthanasia can only be applied to terminal cancer patients. But the group is a lot bigger. . . . And this is a beautiful example that allows us to provide a dignified death to this couple thanks to euthanasia and proper guidance.
But it’s all about “choice,” right? Not necessarily. NON-voluntary euthanasia is common in the Netherlands. So too now in Belgium, but at an even higher rate. For example, a study conducted by the Canadian Medical Association found that about HALF of the nearly 500 euthanasia deaths the authors investigated were NON-VOLUNTARY. Some of the patients were even killed by NURSES. Both killing WITHOUT request and euthanasia by NURSE violate Belgian law, but as in the Netherlands, the law is rarely enforced.
Meanwhile, the number of euthanasia deaths in Belgium is soaring, increasing 100 percent between 2008 (when there were about 500 reported euthanasia killings) and 2011, in which it is projected that there will be 1,000. That probably undercounts the actual toll significantly. A study in the British Medical Journal estimated that in Flanders, only about 50 percent of euthanasia deaths are actually reported, as required by law.
Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since the early 1940s. But suicide entrepreneurs have taken the practice to a whole new level, opening for-pay SUICIDE CLINICS where people from all over the world come to die — a phenomenon known in the media as “suicide tourism.”
Suicide tourism is not by any means limited to the terminally ill. For example, a recent death involved an active elderly woman with arthritis pursuing suicide as a prophylactic against, according to her suicide note, “a long period of decline.” There have also been, as in Belgium, joint suicides of elderly spouses who didn’t wish to live after the other passed away. In another case that garnered much press attention, U.K. parents took their son, who had become quadriplegic in a rugby accident, to Switzerland for suicide — and then used their grief as a means of promoting legalization in Britain, the idea being that the young man should have been able to have help in killing himself AT HOME.
There are seemingly no limits to whom the Swiss suicide clinics can serve — including, apparently, the mentally ill. Indeed, in a case brought by one suicide clinic, the Swiss supreme court declared a constitutional right to assisted suicide for the MENTALLY ILL...,
All of this, by the way, in a nation that outlaws the flushing of live goldfish down the toilet.
To be sure, most countries in Europe have not followed the Dutch, Belgians, Swiss, and Luxembourgers down the legalized-euthanasia rabbit hole. But they might soon have no choice. The European Union guarantees the “right to family life.” When a German court refused to let a husband help his wife commit suicide, he took her to Switzerland to die. He then sued, stating that the German refusal amounted to an infringement of the couple’s right to private family decision making. Incredibly, the case has been accepted for adjudication by the European Court of Human Rights, which COULD issue a ruling decreeing that a RIGHT TO FAMILY LIFE INCLUDES, within its emanations and penumbrae, a concomitant liberty to assist in a family member’s DEATH.
— Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, a legal consultant to the Patients Rights Council, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.
* * * * *