Why We Must Keep Fighting for Life

3DE361EE00000578-4644268-The_10_month_old_boy_also_has_brain_damage-a-46_1498586584367Western society has truly become a “culture of death.” Three recent news stories illustrate this unfortunate development:

1. Charlie Gard is a ten-month-old with a rare genetic disorder that has put him in a coma. An American doctor offered the family a potentially life-saving experimental treatment for Charlie, and the family soon raised over $1.6 million to cover the expenses.

Charlie’s story took a turn for the worse when his London hospital refused to permit his parents to take him across the Atlantic for treatment. His doctors believed that since he would likely be disabled if the treatment were successful, “it is in Charlie’s best interests to permit Charlie to die with dignity,” a sentiment echoed by a British judge after Charlie’s parents sued.

According to the judge, “Although the parents have parental responsibility [in making medical decisions for their children], overriding control is vested in the court exercising its independent and objective judgment in the child’s best interests.”

Charlie’s parents fought valiantly for the right to secure potentially life-saving treatment for their child, appealing the decision to the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Justice was denied, however, when the ECHR refused to intervene earlier this week, allowing doctors to end Charlie’s life.

2. The parents of an Iowa boy (“Z.P.”) born with cerebral palsy successfully sued their doctor for failing to inform them that their baby would be born with the disability. They say they would have had their baby aborted if they had known about the disability.

Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents. As James Silberman accurately notes, “If the right to kill unborn children exists, it follows that a doctor’s failure to inform the parents of an unborn child about the presence of an undesirable trait would indeed be a violation of that right.”

3. The Oregon Senate passed a bill (SB494) earlier this month that would have allowed nursing homes to starve disabled patients to death. The bill was introduced after Bill Harris sued the nursing home caring for his wife, Nora, who suffers from dementia. Harris wanted the nursing home to stop spoon feeding Nora.

Although Nora is dealing with advanced Alzheimer’s, she is still conscious and wants to eat. SB494 would have allowed the nursing home to withhold food and water from Nora until she starved to death.

Thankfully, the legislation recently failed in the House Judiciary Committee. Although the mere fact that the bill passed the Senate is remarkable and frightening, it is unsurprising, considering that Oregon was the first state to allow doctors to kill terminally ill patients who want to die.

Why We Must Keep Fighting

Human life is sacred. Every person, regardless of his or her disabilities or circumstances, has dignity and is inherently valuable.

Human life is beautiful. Anyone who has met the inspiring and beautiful people living with disabilities knows this to be true.

Those with disabilities offer so much to the world; most importantly, they provide the opportunity for society to grow in its compassion for the weak and vulnerable.

Those who have disabilities are no less human than you or me. Their humanity demands the same natural rights we all share, the most important of which is the right to live.

We have not been given the authority to decide whose lives are “worth living.” Abortion, euthanasia, and suicide are so destructive because these things demean human life.

Our shared humanity enjoins us to fight against these evils. We must defend the defenseless. We must speak for Charlie, Nora, and “Z.P.” We must not permit judges and legislators to change and manipulate our laws to allow for the murder of the innocent.

Who will defend the most vulnerable if we do not? I pray that we may never forget that their lives are immeasurably valuable, and I pray that more good people rise up to restrain the evil that has convinced far too many people that some lives are more valuable than others.

Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito (Latin: Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it).


This article was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.


 

Oregon Legislation Would Allow Nursing Homes to Starve Dementia Patients

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Nora Harris, 64, is in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s. Although she is conscious, she can no longer use utensils to eat and drink.

Under current Oregon state law, so long as Nora is conscious, her caretakers must offer her food and water and help her to eat and drink.

Bill Harris, Nora’s husband, believes that Nora would rather starve to death. He sued to stop the spoon-feeding last year but lost the case.

Oregon lawmakers are now considering legislation that would allow nursing homes and hospitals to starve and dehydrate patients like Nora.

Oregon Right to Life says SB494, which passed the Senate last week, “would allow the starving and dehydrating of patients who suffer from dementia or mental illness.” David Kilada, Oregon Right to Life’s political director, explained the legislation in a post on ORTL’s blog:

“SB 494 removes current safeguards which prohibit surrogates from withholding ordinary food and water from conscious patients with conditions that don’t allow them to make decisions about their own care. Currently, patients like Nora are given help with eating and drinking when they cannot do it themselves. This is not tube feeding or an IV—this is basic, non-medical care for conscious patients.

“The way these safeguards are removed is subtle. A cursory look at SB 494 might lead you to think it merely updates the law regarding advance directive. This is true, but there’s more. If the bill passes, it could allow a court to interpret a request on an advance directive to refuse tube feeding to also mean you don’t want to receive spoon feeding! SB 494 would also create a committee, appointed rather than elected, that can make future changes to the advance directive without approval from the Oregon Legislature. This could easily result in further erosion of patient rights.”

The patients who would be affected by SB494 aren’t comatose. They aren’t relying on ventilators, tube feeding, or an IV to stay alive. Instead, these patients are fully conscious and aware; they are simply unable to feed themselves.

Current Oregon administrative rules require that nursing homes offer their patients three meals and snacks each day. The facilities must also provide “assistance with eating (e.g., supervision of eating, cueing, or the use of special utensils).”

Patients can refuse to eat the food they are given, but Nora still expresses a desire to eat. SB494 would allow Nora’s nursing home to withhold food and water from her, even if she wants to eat and drink.

With its passage in the Senate, SB494 now moves to the House of Representatives. Oregon was the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide in 1997 for terminally ill patients. Since then, a total of 1,127 patients have died from doctors giving them prescription medication to end their lives, according to a 2017 report by the Oregon Public Health Division.


This article was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.


 

When Doctors and Judges Turn Murderous

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 9.20.28 PMDoctors and judges in Great Britain may kill an innocent baby boy today.

Charlie Gard is ten months old. Like many baby boys, he likes holding his stuffed animal monkey.

Sadly, Charlie has mitochondrial disease, an extremely rare genetic disorder affecting the part of cells that create the energy needed for life. Although Charlie has been on life support for months, a doctor in the United States has offered the family an experimental treatment that might save his life. Tens of thousands of people have donated $1.6 million to pay for the treatment.

Despite the possibility of successful treatment across the Atlantic, Charlie’s doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London refused to let his parents take him to America for treatment. Specialists then petitioned a British Court for permission to end his life, despite pleas from the his parents to keep him alive.

Justice Francis, the High Court judge who heard Charlie’s case, ruled that “it is in Charlie’s best interests” for the hospital “to permit Charlie to die with dignity.” In his ruling, Justice Francis rejected the objections of those who ask why courts should make these decisions and override the rights of parents:

“The duty with which I am now charged is to decide, according to well laid down legal principles, what is in Charlie’s best interests. Some people may ask why the court has any function in this process; why can the parents not make this decision on their own? The answer is that, although the parents have parental responsibility, overriding control is vested in the court exercising its independent and objective judgment in the child’s best interests.”

According to Connie Yates, Charlie’s mother, the American doctor says there is no reason why the treatment wouldn’t work for her baby boy. Yet the British doctors and judges steadfastly refuse to budge.

Connie posts regular updates on her Facebook page. Her timeline is filled with pictures of her holding her son, alongside captions like “We won’t give up on you baby boy” and “If he’s still fighting, we’re still fighting.”

Throughout the ordeal, her social media posts have kept a positive tone. At times, though, her vexation seeps into her posts. “We have had the money for over 2 months but we are NOT allowed to take OUR OWN SON to a hospital that want to try and save his life!” Connie wrote last week.

“Why can’t we be trusted as parents?? I would never sit by my Sons side and watch him suffer, I’m not like that! Why can’t the drs in America be trusted either?? Why why why can’t we try and save our Sons life??”

Connie and Chris (Charlie’s dad) are heroes. When doctors told them their son’s life wasn’t worth saving, they kept fighting. When a judge unilaterally decided it’s better to kill the baby than to allow them to seek treatment elsewhere, they kept fighting.

The Telegraph, an English newspaper, even published an insensitively written editorial by a mother who had lost a son. Her advice to Charlie’s young parents? “Sometimes in life things just don’t go as you want them to… Sometimes you have to let go.”

But these heroes keep fighting. They know the immeasurable value of their baby boy’s life.

On the other hand, the doctors and judges involved in Charlie’s case are nothing less than murderers, perversely justifying their senseless slaughter with the fallacious claim that their murderous act will be merciful and in the best interest of their victim.

What about the parents? Don’t their wishes and beliefs count for something? Are they not ultimately responsible for their child?

We cannot stand silent as this innocent baby boy is murdered by the government that is supposed to protect him and the doctors who swore an oath to “do no harm.” This is the fruit of the culture of death. This is the fruit of the “death with dignity” movement. We have devalued life to the point that doctors and judges think they can decide whose lives are worth living.

Yesterday, Charlie’s parents were able to enjoy their first picnic with him. “Charlie was awake the whole time. It was wonderful for him to feel the sun on his face and the wind in his hair,” Connie said. “We put on some music and Chris and I lay down next to Charlie. For the first time in months we felt like a normal family.”

Charlie’s fate now rests in the hands of the European Court of Human Rights. It will likely decide today whether Charlie’s life is “worth living.”

No matter how the Court decides, we cannot give up fighting for the most vulnerable. We must keep defending life.


Update (06/14/2017): The European Court of Human Rights will allow Charlie Gard to be kept on life support while they consider the case.


This article was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.


 

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.

Me Before You, Disabilities, and Suicide

21deffa3036682dc425a1e7d830d7fedMe Before You, a recently released film adaptation of a book by the same name, is garnering attention for promoting the notion that disabilities so greatly encumber life that physician-assisted suicide is a brave and reasonable solution to be celebrated.

The fictional book from which the film takes its story was written by English author Jojo Moyes.  The movie, which was released to theaters on June 3, is produced and distributed by Hollywood production giants MGM and Warner Brothers.

The story centers around Will, a young man from a wealthy family who had been injured in a motorcycle accident, and his caregiver Louisa, whose lack of ambition and humble lifestyle prevented her from experiencing all that life had to offer.

Though the two eventually fell in love, Will, who had attempted suicide months before, decides that life as a quadriplegic is not worth living. He receives a lethal dose of medication from a Swedish suicide clinic and leaves Louisa an inheritance to pursue her dreams.

Disability rights advocates believe that the movie’s ending, which celebrates the death of Will so that Lou might boldly live life with the inheritance he had left for her, implies that caring for Will would have been too great a burden on Louisa to make her life worthwhile.

“We are not ‘burdens’ whose best option is to commit suicide,” said John Kelly, regional director of Not Dead Yet, a national organization that opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia. “No one’s suicide should be treated as noble and inspirational. Our suicides should be viewed as tragedies like anyone else’s.”

Responding to criticism, Thea Sharrock, the film’s director, said, “This is a brave ending. It’s too easy to do it the other way. But this way… this is the more interesting way.” The movie, according to Sharrock, is “about how important the right to choose is.”

Thankfully, under Washington law, Will would have been unable to pursue the doctor-assisted suicide that he received in the film. Though Washington voters decided in favor of the Washington Death with Dignity Act (Initiative 1000) in 2008, the law requires that those seeking to end their life must be terminally ill patients with less than six months to live.

That a major Hollywood film is celebrating the suicide of a disabled man speaks loudly about the deteriorating moral condition of American culture. Generations ago, political philosophers like John Locke and William Blackstone, both of whom greatly influenced the philosophical ideas of the American founding, argued that suicide violated natural law and should therefore be illegal.

In his Second Treatise on Government, John Locke wrote,

“We are all the property of him who made us, and he made us to last as long as he chooses, not as long as we choose.”

Regarding the unnatural and illegal nature of suicide, William Blackstone wrote in his legal Commentaries,

“[N]o man has a power to destroy life, but by commission from God, the author of it: and, as the suicide is guilty of a double offense; one spiritual, in invading the prerogative of the Almighty, and rushing into his immediate presence uncalled for; the other temporal, against the king, who has an interest in the preservation of all his subjects; the law has therefore ranked this among the highest, crimes, making it a peculiar species of felony, a felony committed on oneself.”

Until the last few decades, most states, influenced by the philosophy of Locke and Blackstone, classified the act of suicide as a felony.

How have things changed since then. By the end of this year, five states (Washington, Oregon, Montana, California, and Vermont) will allow some form of doctor-assisted suicide. According to Washington state records, in 2014 there were 176 “participants” who received medication from doctors to end their lives under the authority of the Washington Death with Dignity Act.

Contrary to what the Me Before You director says, suicide is anything but “brave.” Every single person, regardless of the disabilities and challenges they face, has inherent value and is created in the image of their Creator. Suicide, even when assisted by doctors, robs society of the incredible potential for good offered by each of its victims.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/06/06/new-movie-celebrates-suicide-insults-disabled/