AMA Reconsidering Position on Physician-Assisted Suicide

american_medical_association_logoThe American Medical Association (AMA) will soon decide whether it will drop its stridently held position against physician-assisted suicide.

In June, the AMA asked its Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs to reexamine the association’s disapproval of the practice. It plans to make a final decision during its 2017 national conference.

The AMA has long opposed physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, believing these practices to be “fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer.” It most recently reaffirmed its opposition to physician-assisted suicide in the newest edition of its Code of Medical Ethics, which was adopted earlier this summer.

Other medical associations – including the California Medical Association, the Oregon Medical Association, and the American Medical Students Association – take a neutral stance on the issue of physician-assisted suicide.

A majority (54%) of American doctors support physician-assisted suicide, according to a 2014 Medscape survey of 21,513 American and European doctors.

Five states (Washington, Oregon, Montana, California, and Vermont) currently allow some form of physician-assisted suicide. In Washington State last year, there were 176 “participants” who received lethal medication from doctors to end their lives under the authority of the Washington Death with Dignity Act, according to state records.

Supporters of physician-assisted suicide are often motivated by misguided compassion. Arguments for physician-assisted suicide fail to recognize other more humane forms of treatment, as well as the inherent dignity and value of the terminally ill.

Instead of prescribing deadly drugs to end a patient’s life, physicians can more aggressively work to alleviate a patient’s pain and suffering through better palliative and hospice care.

Patients seeking physician-assisted suicide often suffer from depression and loneliness. This provides families and ministries with the opportunity to care for the dying, fulfilling intergenerational and communal duties by giving emotional support to terminally ill patients.

Physician-assisted suicide creates the perception that the terminally ill and elderly are burdens on their families and the medical system. It denies the most fundamental of rights – the right to life – and violates the basic principles of natural law and human dignity.

Life is an invaluable gift. Society looks to doctors for lifesaving medical care. The Hippocratic Oath, taken by physicians for millennia, dictates that they “do no harm.”

The American Medical Association should remain faithful to the oath taken by its members and reject efforts to change its position on this critical issue.


This post was originally published by the Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Seattle Children’s Hospital to Prep Children for Gender Transition

seattle_childrens_logoSeattle Children’s Hospital will open a clinic for transgender youth sometime in October.

Doctors trained in “transgender care” will provide puberty blockers, cross-sex hormone therapy, and mental health support to children struggling with their gender identity. The Gender Clinic will refer children seeking sex reassignment surgery to other medical providers.

The clinic, which is funded by a grant from the Pacific Hospital Preservation & Development Authority, will serve children between eight and 21 years old.

Seattle Children’s claims that treating transgender children early in life allows them to better integrate into society, despite growing evidence that treating gender dysphoria with puberty blockers and hormone therapies can irreversibly harm young children.

In a statement entitled “Gender Ideology Harms Children,” the American College of Pediatricians outlines the risks associated with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone therapies.

Puberty blockers prevent a child from beginning puberty. Children using puberty blockers find their growth and fertility inhibited, sometimes permanently. Their sexual organs never fully mature, leaving them deprived of the ability to reproduce and without the physical characteristics associated with either sex. Heartbreakingly, this can leave them feeling as if they belong to neither biological sex.

There are also health risks associated with these treatments. Puberty blockers decrease bone density and may hinder brain development. Cross-sex hormone therapy increases the risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, and cancer.

Dr. Paul McHugh, the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, likened these medical interventions to “child abuse,” noting that “close to 80% of such children would abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated.”

Other research summarized by the American Psychiatric Association suggests as many as 98% of boys and 88% of girls who struggle with gender dysphoria as children will no longer identify as the other gender after finishing puberty.

Troublingly, the majority of adolescents who will stop identifying as the other gender may be unable to revert to their biological sex if they received puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone treatments.

The American College of Pediatricians warns that “children and adolescents are incapable of making informed decisions regarding permanent, irreversible and life-altering medical interventions.”

We agree. Activist doctors shouldn’t encourage children to undergo unnecessary and potentially harmful and irreversible medical treatments – and that’s exactly why the news about the Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic is so concerning.

This post was originally published by the Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Iowa Civil Rights Commission May Punish Pastors Who Preach Sermons on Sexuality

fdmcocIt may now be against the law for Iowa pastors to teach that God created mankind – male and female – in His own image (Genesis 1).

The religious liberty organization Alliance Defending Freedom, on behalf of the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, launched a pre-enforcement challenge to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission’s new interpretation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act, passed in 2007.

Under this new interpretation, the state may prohibit churches from making “persons of any particular sexual orientation or gender identity” feel “unwelcome, objectionable, [or] not acceptable,” according to a brochure published by the Iowa State Civil Rights Commission.

Lawyers representing the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ worry that this broad interpretation of the Civil Rights Act could be used to silence preachers teaching from the pulpit about biblical sexuality. Comments from church officials that make a gay or transgender person feel ‘uncomfortable’ during services or any other event open to the public may put the church in violation of the law.

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission has also determined that places of public accommodation — now including churches, which are open to the public — must allow individuals to use whatever locker room, shower, or bathroom is consistent with their gender identity, regardless of their biological sex.

First Liberty Institute, another religious liberty organization, sent a letter to the Civil Rights Commission on behalf of Cornerstone World Outreach, a church in Sioux City. The letter asks the Commission to provide the church with an exemption by August 4. First Liberty Institute is willing to pursue “all available legal options” if the church is not granted the exemption.

“The state claims it has the power to regulate what the church even teaches – what they are allowed to say from the pulpit – in addition to how they operate regarding matters of gender and sexuality,” Chelsey Youman, an attorney with First Liberty Institute, said. “If the church has a doctrine or theology that is at odds with the state and they speak out about that – they can have the full weight of the law brought down against them.”

The most worrisome development is the Iowa Civil Rights Commission’s decision to subject churches to public accommodation requirements. Though churches are exempt from requirements of the Iowa Civil Rights Act in their “bona fide religious activities,” the Commission has decided that any service or activity open to the public is a public accommodation that is not exempt from civil rights law.

Our founding fathers warned us about the danger of tyranny when government begins to meddle in the affairs, beliefs, and practices of churches. In the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote,

“That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own.”

Churches in Washington state should pay attention to these developments in Iowa. Religious organizations are currently exempted from Washington’s non-discrimination law, though what qualifies an organization as “religious” is murky. If Washington were to follow Iowa’s lead in defining church services as public accommodations, the religious organization exemption may no longer protect a significant portion of church activities.

If pastors don’t stand up now, they may soon have to break the law in order to preach the Word.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/07/05/iowa-civil-rights-commission-bans-pastors-from-preaching-sermons-on-sexuality/.

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Update: After this article was published, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission issued a “clarification” that churches are “generally exempt” from the law. Alliance Defending Freedom and Fort Des Moines Church of Christ are proceeding with their lawsuit, stating that the agency’s clarification amounts to “cosmetic changes.”

In her statement, Christina Holcomb, an attorney with ADF, said, “The change in the brochure doesn’t fix the inherent problem with the Civil Rights Act that forms the basis of the lawsuit—that the act gives the commission power to determine what parts of a church’s activities do not have a ‘bona fide religious purpose’ and are thereby subject to the act’s prohibitions.”

Why Schools Aren’t The Place to Learn About Gender Identity

classroomWashington State’s new health and physical education standards have provoked a strong backlash from parents and citizens who are outraged that children will be taught about gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation in elementary school. For example, children in third grade will now be taught that they can choose their own gender. Their fourth grade peers will learn about the spectrum of sexual orientation.

Astonished by what their children will be taught under the new standards, parents are left wondering whether public schools are the appropriate forum for dialogue about gender identity and sexual orientation – especially in elementary and middle school.

Parents should be concerned. The latest science supports what we used to regard as commonsense – that teaching very young students about gender identity and alternative sexual lifestyles could be a confusing and harmful experience for them.

The American College of Pediatricians warns against parents, doctors, and teachers encouraging children to undergo gender transition.  “Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies, will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to ‘gender clinics’ where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs.” The American College of Pediatricians likens the normalizing of transgenderism among children to “child abuse.”

Despite this, Washington’s public education system stands firmly behind its decision to push gender identity and gender expression on students as young as five years old, despite strong warnings from the medical community.

The vast majority of children who struggle with gender identity will eventually outgrow their confusion and accept their biological sex. According to statistics provided on page 455 of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5, as many as 98% of boys and 88% of girls who struggle with gender dysphoria as children will no longer identify as the other gender after finishing puberty.

Gender transition, which is promoted as the solution to gender dysphoria, is also dangerous. Cross-sex hormones present unsafe health risks for the individual undergoing transition. These hormone treatments increase the risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, and cancer. When children undergo cross-sex hormone therapy, their growth is often inhibited and their fertility is often irreversibly impaired.  The suicide rate among those who have undergone sex reassignment is twenty times higher than that of the general population.

Teaching gender identity and sexual orientation in schools normalizes the behavior. Once the behavior is normalized and students are told they can choose their own gender, we will undoubtedly see an increase in children pursuing harmful hormone therapies and irreversible gender reassignment surgeries.

If public schools rationalize gender dysphoria to young students, why are we to assume that more children won’t be subjected to the associated risks, as the statement by the pediatricians’ association suggests?  Children who would have otherwise never “struggled” with gender dysphoria may now be taught to question their own identity.

Teachers are rarely equipped to teach about topics relating to gender identity and sexual orientation.  Requiring them to teach this information may also cause them to violate their own beliefs.  Additionally, how can parents be sure that their convictions and values will not be undermined by what their children are being taught in school?

Schools should heed the warnings from doctors and researchers. Children are harmed when they are taught that alternative gender identities and sexual orientations are normal. Conversations with children about gender identity and sexual orientation should be left to parents and doctors, not schools.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/06/07/opinion-why-schools-arent-the-place-to-learn-about-transgenderism/.