Jun 02

Marketed under terminology crafted to trigger sympathy and compliance, it still is what it is.

The former Hemlock Society changed its name to Compassion and Choices. Sounds nice and fuzzy. So does Death With Dignity, though less so Aid In Dying although that still softens the fact that someone is ending someone else’s life. At least Mercy Killing uses the word, though softened with the spiritual concept of charity.

Working closely with Terri Schiavo’s family and some of their legal and spiritual counselors during that ordeal which erupted on the national and then international consciousness in early 2005, I did investigative reporting that turned up facts, claims, contradictions and records that mostly didn’t make it to big media reports on the story, though my radio network covered it all. Someone sent me a letter from a man in the Netherlands warning that if America let this woman die by court ordered starvation and dehydration, Dutch euthanasia would come to this country. How prescient that was.

Not long after, Hollywood gave the euthanasia and assisted suicide movements huge momentum, though not without warning there, either. Hollywood professional Barbara Nicolosi laid it all out here.

The evidence is undeniable: Somewhere in the middle of the Terri Schiavo tragedy, Hollywood and the cultural left climbed aboard the latest human-killing bandwagon and have since thrown the weight of their talent and creativity behind it. As with abortion, the forces of darkness are outmaneuvering the forces of good on what will certainly be the moral issue of the 21st century.

If we lose the fight on euthanasia, we lose our souls. By removing suffering and the meaning of suffering from our culture, we make the final step in denying and defying our creature-hood. Once again, the seductive lie of Eden will trip us up: “If you will do this thing, you shall be like God.”

Our response to the mercy-killing machine must be more than an occasional op-ed piece; we need a shrewd and all-encompassing cultural strategy if we are going to make a good fight in the euthanasia war.

Shrewd means that we fight smart. It means appealing to the emotions of the masses through stories, not non-fiction tomes. Songs, not philosophical tirades. Heroes, not pundits.

That was 2011, we’ve had heroes and storytellers since then, but we still need that shrewd and all-encompassing cultural strategy. Because death has been peddled as an available and increasingly acceptable option, through semantic engineering. Barbara Nicolosi, one of the heroes, swung for the fences in this appeal to awareness and action, sanity and reason.

If we’ve learned anything from the abortion wars, it’s that the words “choice” and “right to choose” set our cause back decades. We need an emotionally winning language for this fight. The other side should not get away with christening themselves “mercy killers”; they are “death dealers,” “elder abortionists,” “needlers.” Please, not “death with dignity”; let’s get there first with “medical murder” and “unnatural death.” Not “end-of-life clinics” but “human garbage pits.” We need slogans like, “Make your insurance adjuster’s day; let him kill you.” Or, “Everything we know about euthanasia we learned from the Nazis.”

We must be aggressive in exposing the deceptions driving the euthanasia movement — lies like the implication that personhood can somehow disappear from a wounded human body. Or that a human life could ever lose its value. Or that suicide can be a courageous act. We must contradict the notion that suffering is the worst thing that can happen to a person.

That message got a lot of currency with the sad and tragic Brittany Maynard story used to the advantage of the assisted suicide movement and sensationalized by complicit media. What didn’t get so much coverage were the stories, names, faces and voices of others who faced and knew extreme suffering, and tried to witness to the truth of Nicolosi’s message about human life, dignity, and living through suffering.

Like the seminarian who kept trying to reach Maynard through Facebook posts and interviews, mostly in pro-life media, with true compassion. Philip Johnson had the same diagnosis and knew the pain.

And Lauren Hill, the determined teenager, who played her beloved sport of basketball even through pain and increasing disability, because her motto was “never give up.” If you don’t click on these hyperlinks to check out the stories, at least read this short one on her legacy, written on a Marine news site by Pfc. Ned Johnson.She was a basketball player — an athlete. She scored legitimate points for her junior college. But more importantly, she scored a lot of points in life.

Hill was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Cancer. In high school. At 18.

That’s when Hill proved she was more than many of us could ever hope to be. She went to college with this tumor. Then she made the basketball team, scored 10 points across four games before her body became too weak for her to continue.

She started a fundraiser that raised more than $1.5 million for pediatric cancer research…

There are many others who witness to courage and hope and true dignity, through their own suffering. Mark Davis Pickup is one, and he’s appealing to California legislators to consider the gravity of the bill before them this week, and the consequences of their vote.

I am a Canadian. As you know Canada’s Supreme Court recently struck down my nation’s laws against assisted suicide, opening wide the gates for physician assisted killing of suicidal sick and disabled people. Please do not take California down a similar path. It is not the hallmark of a “civil society”. There is nothing civilized about euthanasia or assisted suicide. Do not be fooled by euphemisms for killing like “death with dignity”. Dignity is not bestowed on people by injecting them with poison when they are at their lowest point. That is abandonment not dignity. Death with dignity is not an event, it is a process, the end result of having lived a life with dignity, benefiting from the best 21st Century palliative care (which is capable of eliminating physical pain), and being surrounded by loved ones.

Someone may say “What about those who do not have loved ones?” Precisely! What about them? Is the answer to euthanize them or seek to include them within the tender embrace of community? Another person may say, “I should have the autonomous right to determine the time and place of my own death.” Really? That presumes decisions only affect the individual making them. That is not true. Our decisions always impact others. The idea independent personal autonomy is diametrically opposed to the concept of interdependent community.

If I choose suicide (assisted or otherwise) it will not affect just me: It will affect my wife, children and grandchildren. It will impact my community and my doctor for I will ask her to stop being my healer and become my killer. And it will affect my nation by helping to entrench the notion that there are some lives unworthy to be lived.

Doctors, patients and healthcare experts are appealing likewise to California lawmakers and the people who elected them to protect and defend human life at all stages. That state’s lesislature is poised to vote one way or the other on the assisted suicide bill before them. Stephanie’s Journey puts a personal face and family on a profound call for care taking in this delicate process. Carolyn Moynihan covered it well here.

Disability Rights & Defense Fund expert Marilyn Golden testified before the California State Senate Health Committee with this comprehensive, riveting report, so lawmakers at least would make an informed vote.

I’m covering this on radio Wednesday with a California expert speaking for the disability community, to hear what he’s been saying in calls to legislative offices in the state, and hearing in response.

Because as Terri Schiavo’s family continues to proclaim, in carrying on her legacy and give voice to the voiceless, where there’s life, there’s hope.

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May 07

It stated the obvious.

But on Thursday, this story appeared on the cover of the New York Times, prominently, above the fold, with a photo to help illustrate the point. First of all, look at the photo and read the caption. That pretty much sums up the story. Which became much more difficult to access online the very day it appeared.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

A small number of very premature babies are surviving earlier outside the womb than doctors once thought possible, a new study has documented, raising questions about how aggressively they should be treated and posing implications for the debate about abortion.

Several things about that. The photo shows a thriving young girl who was born ‘very prematurely’, illustrating the full humanity of life at all stages. The opening sentence in the piece emphasizes “a small number of very premature babies”, planting the idea that these babies are “very premature’ (so what?), and that only a “small number” of the them survive outside the womb if delivered that early (so…we should disregard them?). Oh, and another thing downplayed in the lead. It was documented in “a new study”.

What was buried deeper in the Times story was that this study was produced by the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine.

There’s a lot to say about this report, a lot to unpack. But for now, the clear and delightful humanity of the little girl on the swing in the photo accompanying the story says it all. And the implications this has on the debate about abortion…no question. After the Gosnell trial there were enormous implications. Truth has a way of coming out in spite of efforts to suppress it.

Across America, states are introducing bans on abortion after 20 weeks. That’s a five month old baby. This New England Journal of Medicine study will certainly add information to that heated debate, which is nothing more than a radical, ideological drive in the first place.

How the abortion movement has sustained power and influence after these many years is the bigger story.

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Oct 25

Authorities aren’t squarely facing the truth.

In all fairness, they may not know better, but they should. Tod Worner is a physician and writer whose blog posts cover mostly the life of the mind in literature and philosophy, the arts and culture, faith and reason. He’s been a guest on my radio show because of his intellectual gifts and skills, and engaging conversations that bring utterly refreshing clarity and charity (my catchphrase) to issues of the day, enhancing public discourse, or at least trying to contribute to that effort.

So on Saturday, this post appeared with that dreadful, ubiquitous photo of the Ebola strand set on a purple background and splashed all over big media, especially television news where they set it as the enlarged backdrop for the latest update and/or discussion panel on the virus and its spread and latest announced patient who tested positive for it. Coverage swings from the over the top alarming to the overly confident reassuring, and people are worried and afraid and want the truth.

Worner gets as close as anyone talking about it to what we can know at this point, and not know, and how to face that. This is a good post, an important one.

We crowded into a small room at my internal medicine clinic and looked at each other. Some decisions had to be made. Soon. We were charged to answer one fundamental question: What would we do if a patient suspected of having Ebola were to walk in our clinic door? As simple as it may seem, this is an incredibly complex question. It requires considering the well-being of the patient, the risk to other patients exposed to him (or her, but I will use him for simplification) in our waiting room, and the risks to medical and ancillary staff who are attending to him. We must concern ourselves with the risk of over-reaction as well as that of under-reaction. We need to consider the imperfect state of our understanding of the mode and ease of transmission. And we must recognize that risk and response changes daily with an ever-evolving national and international epidemic. Confronted with this question in that small room, to a person, there was sincere concern about the patient, earnest concern about personal safety and a clear sense that there is a lot of uncertainty about this virus and the epidemic that is unfolding day by day.  And yet, that has not been the message from the government leaders or the Centers for Disease Control. If anything, there has been an abundance of assurance.

Tod nails it here. Read the post if you can open that link. He cites exactly what authorities have said, voices in medicine and government (who don’t happen to be authorities on medicine, but presumably speak after consultation with them).

Then says this:

Now here’s the thing. I don’t want to give the impression that the existence, transmission and wicked deadliness of the Ebola virus is the fault of the President or his appointees. That would simply be unfair and ridiculous. Throughout history we have seen the ravaging effects of infections such as swine flu, polio, measles, rubella, small pox, HIV and syphilis irrespective of the governing leadership. Yet with stumbling feet we have found our way to vaccinations, HAART therapy and antibiotics that can prevent or manage these illnesses.

And while there are innumerable better decisions that could have been made in reaction to this crisis, it is what has been forgotten that is most damning. Sir William Osler, pioneering American physician and thinker, once claimed,

“Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.”

Or in my words, medicine, like all endeavors touched by human hands, is rife with uncertainty and imperfection. Knowing this and admitting this is okay. The longer I have practiced medicine, the more I have come to appreciate why Hippocrates said what he said.

“First, do no harm.”

Because one of our greatest risks is to downplay uncertainty and believe in our own (or our system’s) perfection. Once we are overconfident in our understanding and our abilities – once we are not tempered by our inherent fallibility in practice and understanding – that is when we do the most damage. We become mindlessly dogmatic. That is when we become “frequently wrong, never in doubt.”

“Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.” Which means we cannot be exact. We play odds. We hope, but aren’t completely sure.

So, with perfect cadence and interconnection, he cites a lecture given by Michael Osterholm, the former Minnesota State Epidemiologist and current Director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy of the University of Minnesota. And puts a link on that post, urging readers to listen to the actual lecture.

In it, Osterholm admits that after researching over 900 articles and studies on Ebola (and related viral hemorrhagic fevers), he feels he know even less about this Ebola outbreak than before. Why is this particular outbreak so deadly and persistent? Are we confident that it has no associated airborne transmission? Why do some people have fevers and others don’t? Why do some with high degrees of exposure remain healthy while some with personal protective equipment or minimal exposure get sick? Is it wise to presume all health care facilities can manage this illness?

If a bright epidemiologist who has engaged in a respectable amount of research on Ebola finds himself grappling with uncertainty regarding these fundamental questions, how much more does it generate further questions? For example, why, though imperfect, would a temporary travel ban from festering hot zones not be helpful? How do we know our criteria for illness is accurate (or even adequate) when it relies on fevers which numerous infected individuals simply do not have? Are we certain there is no respiratory (droplet or airborne) element to Ebola’s transmission? How much more draconian should we be regarding enforcement of quarantine when even physicians flagrantly disregard it?

By asking these questions, we are attempting to better understand this illness and improve our response to it. I mean, honestly, we know there are things we simply don’t know (known unknowns) and things we can’t even anticipate (unknown unknowns or catastrophic “black swan events”). Essentially, there is uncertainty. We also know that we can be flawed in our practice. There is imperfection. And while we seek to minimize uncertainty and imperfection, it will always be with us. To deny this is to fool no one. And to admit this is not to create willy-nilly, chicken little pandemonium. Perhaps, by treating people like adults, leveling with them, and openly seeking a constructive solution, confidence will be engendered and a certain (albeit nervous) peace will be maintained. It is arrogant, officious and disrespectful to do otherwise.

His conclusion was how his medical team wrapped up this session of brainstorming and collaboration, by establishing a well informed plan. And suggesting that government, at the very least, do the same.

This may be going on in hospitals and clinics across the country, and in organizations – government and otherwise – tasked with the public health. But we don’t know, and only have public pronouncements to go on. Let’s hope and pray such calm, professional and seriously reasoned preparedness as happened in Worner’s clinic is going on everywhere else.

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May 19

ACOG, as in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the doctors who care for women through pregnancy and deliver their babies. If anybody knows the origin and development of human life, they should. Or did.

Years ago, they became very political and ideological, and thus very flexible with science and human embryology.

Journalist Mollie Hemingway picks it up from here, in commentary on a Washington Post piece that could have come from the Onion. It’s about the flap over remarks Sen. Marco Rubio made on global warming, and science.

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio took some heat for saying that he was skeptical of global warming activism. He was asked about the reaction to some of his comments and he noted some hypocrisy he’s witnessed on scientific consensus:

A snip from his response…

All these people always wag their finger at me about ‘science’ and ‘settled science.’ Let me give you a bit of settled science that they’ll never admit to. The science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life begins at conception. So I hope the next time that someone wags their finger about science, they’ll ask one of these leaders on the left: ‘Do you agree with the consensus of scientists that say that human life begins at conception?’ I’d like to see someone ask that question.

To which Hemingway responds

Now, it’s probably worth noting at the outset that everything Rubio said in this paragraph was true. Human life begins at conception and nobody is ever asked about whether they deny that.

But let’s look at what the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza tweeted out in response:

Marco Rubio demanded people look at the science on abortion. So we did.

Hemingway continues:

The blurb for the piece says, “‘Science is settled … that human life beings at conception,’ Sen. Rubio said. We spoke with an expert on the science who didn’t agree.”

The story itself, with the same UpWorthy headline, is written by one Philip Bump and reads, stunningly:

(repeat: reads, stunningly):

We reached out to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an association comprised of a large majority of the nation’s ob-gyns. The organization’s executive vice president and CEO, Hal C Lawrence, III, MD, offered his response to Rubio.

“Government agencies and American medical organizations agree that the scientific definition of pregnancy and the legal definition of pregnancy are the same: pregnancy begins upon the implantation of a fertilized egg into the lining of a woman’s uterus. This typically takes place, if at all, between 5 and 9 days after fertilization of the egg – which itself can take place over the course of several days following sexual intercourse.”

In other words: Consensus exists (if not unanimously), and the consensus is that uterine implantation is the moment at which pregnancy begins.

We presented that description to the senator’s office, asking if he wanted to clarify or moderate his statement. Brooke Sammon, the senator’s Deputy Press Secretary, told us that “Senator Rubio absolutely stands by the comment.”

Hemingway’s reaction:

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear…It is somewhat mortifying that the idiocy of this is not immediately apparent to everyone. Did you catch it? Are you smarter than a Washington Post reporter? Do you know that “when human life begins” and “when an embryo implants in the uterine wall” are actually not synonymous statements? I bet you did. Or I bet you could figure that out pretty easily.

See, you will not learn this — or much of anything else about the reality of abortion or unborn human life — from the media, but in fact there is consensus about when human lives begin. It’s almost a tautology to say what Rubio said. It’s like saying “human life begins when human life begins.”

See, here’s what gets me. That the term “consensus” is thrown about so loosely and on such fundamental truths as human life, truths for which there is scientific evidence and about which it’s either embarrassing or ridiculous or both to hear serious people even introduce the idea of consensus. As if there is a consensus on the sun rising and setting each day, as if there is consensus on the idea of “a day” and its parameters and duration, beginning and end.

Anyway, Hemingway then gets into the scientific “consensus” on when human life begins (to continue with this article). And for those who need show and tell, she provides video and emphasis on the parts to pay particular attention to, for better understanding.

So…

Who to believe, bloggers at the Washington Post or embryologists? I’m so confused! And the Post wasn’t just wrong but, like, so embarrassingly wrong as to require a correction, a mea culpa, and a serious amount of soul-searching. (I get a kick out of how the people who make these videos, which are used by medical and media sites, say “Low health literacy costs the US healthcare system between $106 billion to $238 billion each year. Please watch and share a medical animation to raise health literacy!” Indeed!)

You can’t make this up.

OK, so some people tried to gently point out the egregious and embarrassing error to Cillizza and Bump, who have steadfastly refused to correct the piece they promoted.

Stay with this. Hemingway wrote a long piece, but characteristically incisive and clarifying, like a blast of ice water to the face. Because that’s just what it takes, and even then some people won’t flinch.

Please note: Bump thinks the problem is not with his own flawed reporting and comprehension but with Rubio’s statement! Bump thinks this tweet and his piece do something other than make him look extremely bad!

But it gets worse:

(Bump writing here)…

There’s a blurry line between “pregnancy” and “life” in this discussion. When we asked ACOG if the two were interchangeable, we were told that the organization “approach[es] everything from a scientific perspective, and as such, our definition is for when pregnancy begins.” On the question of when life begins, then, the scientific experts we spoke with didn’t offer any consensus.

“Life” is something of a philosophical question, making Rubio’s dependence on a scientific argument — which, it hardly bears mentioning, is an argument about abortion — politically tricky.

Mollie Hemingway rebounds…

Uh, what? Let’s list the problems here:

1) Rubio didn’t mention anything about definitions of pregnancy, so there’s no blurry line in “this discussion” about his statement regarding when life begins and someone else’s statement about when pregnancy begins…

2) It’s probably a good time to mention that ACOG is a group known for its strenuous support of abortion. Beyond the question of why Bump used this group instead of embryologists as sources, there’s also the issue that he’s not identifying them as vehemently pro-choice (as in, they even support partial-birth abortions).

Don’t miss that point. It’s critical to this whole article, and more gravely, to the public debate over abortion, human life, women’s health, and frankly violations of law. Partial birth abortions: see Kermit Gosnell.

But stay with Hemingway for now…

3) No one is mentioned in this piece other than ACOG. Yet Bump claims, “the scientific experts we spoke with didn’t offer any consensus.” This is a difficult claim to swallow…Is there any evidence whatsoever that he spoke with anyone other than the pro-choice group?

4) Dude, life can be a totally trippy thing, I agree, but Rubio was not talking philosophy. He was talking science. And the question of when human life begins is not philosophical, it’s scientific. You might debate when you have the right not to be killed by someone else, be it three months’ gestation, five months’ gestation, or birth. Some deny the right to life of various classes of people long after birth, too. Philosopher and abortion advocate Peter Singer has said children don’t achieve full moral status until after two years. And these are, in fact, philosophical questions. But the scientific question of when life begins is actually pretty straight forward, if mysteriously unknown to some at our biggest media institutions. Or as Dougherty mocked, “Guys, guys. Human ‘life’ is an illusion created by social consensus, WaPo is breaking this whole thing open!” To me Bump’s bizarre statements are more reminiscent of a group of college students from a third-rate public university having what they think sounds like a really deep conversation after passing around the bowl.

So here Hemingway brings readers back to the present ‘Politics vs. Science’, because science has been politicized for an ideological agenda.

If this is long for some readers already, here’s a cue to pay close attention now:

Bump inadvertently hit on something in his final lines, when he wrote, “After all, if someone were to argue that life begins at implantation, it’s hard to find a moral argument against forms of birth control that prevent that from happening.”

Did you know that the definition of pregnancy was changed not long ago from beginning at “fertilization” to beginning at “implantation”? Did you know that this was a political decision? Did you know that some groups have even tried to say that implantation is when “conception” occurs, too?

Before we get into this story of politics and science, I might note a few statements from early in the birth control battles. Alan Guttmacher, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a leader in the International Planned Parenthood Federation said:

We of today know that man… starts life as an embryo within the body of the female; and that the embryo is formed from the fusion of two single cells, the ovum and the sperm. This all seems so simple and evident to us that it is difficult to picture a time when it was not part of the common knowledge.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, said, “If, however, a contraceptive is not used and the sperm meets the ovule and development begins, any attempt at removing it or stopping its further growth is called abortion.”

Birth control pioneer Marie Stopes said, “A large number of the opponents of birth control deliberately confuse birth control with abortion. I suppose it is all right for me to explain to you that abortion can only take place when an embryo is in existence. An embryo can only be produced after the sperm cell and the egg cell have actually united, after their nuclei have fused and after the first cell divisions have taken place. The moment that that has taken place you have there a minute, invisible, but actual embryo, and anything which destroys that is abortion, and we never in our clinic do anything which can in any way lead to that destruction. But until the sperm cell has united with the egg cell, no embryo exists or can exist, and anything which keeps the sperm away from the egg cell cannot lead to or be abortion because no embryo can then exist.”

All of these statements are from the first few decades of the 20th century. As technology developed that enabled embryos to be destroyed before implantation, what was so “simple” and “evident” and “common knowledge,” in Guttmacher’s words, suddenly became none of those things.

There’s still much more in this article, fully available at the link and advisable to read and re-read and grasp in its scope. Hemingway realizes it’s long.

So she concludes:

OK, that was a lot to work through. And for people who value the sanctity of all human life, from actual conception to natural death, none of these semantic changes matter one bit. But you can see how they would help those activists with different views on when human lives can be ended.

The thing is that activists can redefine pregnancy all they want and it won’t change the central issue at hand — the question of whether it’s ok to end the life of a genetically distinct human. We won’t resolve that debate any time soon, but obscuring the facts on when and how human life begins will not help matters.

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Oct 23

They’ve been evident lately on most major league baseball and football teams. And their advertising. They’re so ubiquitous, those pink ribbons are seemingly on most products in the stores right now.

So I’m grocery shopping and every aisle features food products that have somehow worked the pink ribbon onto its packaging. In fact, nearly every aisle I turn the cart into has a special display of these products to catch shoppers’ attention. Caught mine, because I write about this every year at this time. And interview people on radio in between Octobers…

I stop at one display and really look at it. ‘Okay, I’ll pay the attention you ask for. What is it you’re promoting?’ I think…

The signs all say the same thing. ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’. I looked at that and wondered, what does that mean?

Okay, we’re aware. But being aware of this dreaded disease is just the beginning, as it is with any form of cancer or any other affliction.

What needs an awareness campaign is the link of breast cancer to abortion.

A microbiologist says there are so many published studies confirming the link between induced abortion and breast cancer that he plans to publish one every day on his blog until he’s mentioned them all. It will take Dr. Gerard Nadal so many weeks to cover them all, the blogging will continue until early next year.

Nadal, who has a has a PhD in Molecular Microbiology from St John’s University in New York, has spent 16 years teaching science, most recently at Manhattan College.

He will report on one abortion-breast cancer study daily until he has exhausted all of the abortion-breast cancer studies and he anticipates he may be reporting on these studies as late as January or February of 2011.

“Today begins the inexorable presentation of the scientific literature on the abortion/breast cancer link,” Nadal writes. “Women’s lives depend on us getting the truth out to them. In short order we’ll generate plenty of pros armed with the simple truth of science!”

Yes, let’s have awareness.

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Aug 22

Time is a gift. Especially in a hospital urgent care setting where final determinations are made in more haste these days.

So another story emerges…

Aaron Denham was lying motionless in his hospital bed after suffering a broken neck, smashed pelvis and punctured lung.

Doctors were within hours of turning off the 22-year-old carpenter’s life support machine.

But now, just a few months later, he is making a rapid recovery and can even walk unaided.

The first sign that talk of Aaron’s funeral was premature was when his hand flipped over at Southampton General Hospital. His mum, Deborah, ran from the intensive care unit in disbelief as the unexpected movement sparked dreams that he may survive the ordeal.

She had been preparing for the worst – even beginning the heart-breaking task of choosing music for the funeral with his sister Leanne.

What a dreadful scenario.

But Aaron, from Fair Oak, near Southampton, Hants, has done more than just survive. And despite initial fears he would be paralysed for life he is now on the road to recovery.

Doctors described Aaron’s turn-around as “miraculous”.

Note in the story that doctors seemed to give it just hours, determing that if there were no sign of recovery in that short time, they would have to switch off life support. Thankfully, in this case the tunraround happened within that time. The medical ethics clash is, in part, over the unaffordability of the gift of time in health care. I understand the arguments. I just rejoice that cases like this still prove human truths beyond the calculations of medical science.

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Aug 03

Let’s count the ways…

So why is the federal deparment charged with the health and human services of its citizens suddenly requiring a massive implementation of an ideologically based scheme to cover birth control, sterilization and morning-after pills at great cost to insurers and taxpayers, and at a time when the federal government is in a budget crisis already?

To say this makes no sense is to state the obvious.

Go back for a moment to that AP report on the HHS announcement in the post below. The one that refers to this as a “broad expansion of coverage for women’s preventive care under President Barack Obama’s health care law.” Let’s parse this, according to the story as it originally appeared, because it’s gone through so many revisions and renditions, it no longer says the same thing at that same link.

Here’s what the AP said Monday:

Indeed, a government study last summer found that birth control use is virtually universal in the United States, according to a government study issued last summer. More than 90 million prescriptions for contraceptives were dispensed in 2009…Generic versions of the pill are available for as little as $9 a month. Still, about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Many are among women using some form of contraception, and forgetting to take the pill is a major reason.

So. It’s not a matter of availability. And there’s no need for the government to provide this form of active population control under the guise of ‘women’s health preventive services’ or some variation therof. Why does the government see a need to provide what’s already available cheaply or freely, and allegedly being used by the vast majority of women? Which, important to note, is not preventing pregnancies in a large percentage of cases.

That point came up in a debate on radio this week between bioethics nurse Nancy Valko and a Planned Parenthood director. She went on to cite statistics from the Guttmacher Report online (a research arm of Planned Parenthood).

Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently.

Forty-six percent of women who have abortions had not used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant…according to this report, cost was not a factor in not using contraceptives.

Valko went on to say “fertility is not a disease and powerful hormones are not vitamins, and many women are not aware of the sometimes life-threatening complications. She cited two cases of healthy young women hospitalized in the past year for life-threatening blood clots in their lungs. “Doctors attributed this to the pill,” she said. She went on to note the irony that women are choosing hormone-free food but don’t think about taking powerful hormones to “treat” fertility.

Furthermore

The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute (of Medicine), which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.

“These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, an abortion advocate, said…

Science? What science?

Here’s some science, which another nurse concerned with women’s issues made available, since most media won’t. And Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, has plenty of science Sebelius should be aware of.

This is not health care. It’s blind ideology.

And it’s a threat to healthcare providers with religious believes and moral convictions that oppose that ideology, convictions that have long been protected by law. This new mandate requires a new law, and two congressmen co-authored one that deserves attention. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act started in the House and has now been introduced in the Senate. This is a good time to remind elected representatives what the people do not want, and cannot afford. In more ways than one.

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Jul 21

There’s a lot in the news about contraception and health care and Planned Parenthood right now. And a lot more that should be.

The scope of this is staggering.

Let’s go through just a few of the many stories.

Contraceptives are now recommended to be required in health care law.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is praising a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine that insurance companies be required to offer free contraceptives to all women in a report she called ” historic,” suggesting she may make the recommendation an official policy.

The prospect of free, government-ordered contraceptives and even agents to induce abortion, has ignited a national debate. Some are clearly pleased.

Many are clearly not.

After the Institute of Medicine (IOM) this week publicly backed government-mandated birth control coverage, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is standing in the breach against what would prove a massive victory for abortion giant Planned Parenthood…

“Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Tuesday.

Like other conservative leaders, the USCCB pro-life chairman noted that the mandate would violate the conscience rights of Americans morally opposed to birth control, and objected to coverage of “emergency contraception” such as ella, a chemical functionally identical to the abortion drug RU-486.

But the cardinal’s challenge did not stop there: DiNardo noted that the IOM report was so radical as to have indicated interest in recommending full abortion coverage as well. The report stated that, “despite the health and well-being benefits to some women,” abortion was outside of the project’s scope given federal legal restrictions.

“But most Americans surely see that abortion is not healthy or therapeutic for unborn children, and has physical and mental health risks for women which can be extremely serious,” wrote the cardinal, who noted the celebration of Planned Parenthood, “the single largest abortion provider in the United States,” over the report.

“I can only conclude that there is an ideology at work in these recommendations that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children,” he said.

That’s an understatement.

Let’s go back to some coverups by federal agencies for the abortion industry. Like this one that would have been called famous had it been reported by the media.

Though it did get reported.

Less than two months since the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force issued new guidelines recommending against routine mammograms for women in their forties, a second breast cancer scandal involving a U.S. government panel of experts has come to light which has implications for healthcare reform.

An April 2009 study by Jessica Dolle et al. of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center examining the relationship between oral contraceptives (OCs) and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) in women under age 45 contained an admission from U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) researcher Louise Brinton and her colleagues (including Janet Daling) that abortion raises breast cancer risk by 40%.

(emphasis added)

“Although the study was published nine months ago,” observed Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, “the NCI, the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and other cancer fundraising businesses have made no efforts to reduce breast cancer rates by issuing nationwide warnings to women.”

Brinton was the chief organizer of the 2003 NCI workshop on the abortion-breast cancer link, which falsely assured women that the non-existence of the link was “well established.”

(emphasis added)

Brinton has been out of reach of the media since the 2009 report that abortion raises breast cancer risk by 40 percent. Even liberal pro-choice writers checking on this incongruity have found the NCI website to only answer inquiries by linking back to the faulty and biased 2003 report.

The founders of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute have abundant resources on their site detailing the scientific studies and medical evidence linking contraceptives and abortion to breast cancer.

Which is why it’s crazy to think that the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation would be linked in any way with Planned Parenthood. They ought to extend their considerable resources to researching prevention before a cure is necessary. But that would direct them back to Planned Parenthood…

Which is why some U.S. bishops have finally called on Catholic institutions to redirect their charitable contributions and fundraising for breast cancer prevention and cure to other organizations without any morally objectionable connections. Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair issued this letter, for instance. Here’s a snip:

For some time, moral questions have been raised from various quarters about the research funded by the Komen Foundation. The Bishops of Ohio have discussed this and have looked into the matter. As best we can determine, at present the Komen Foundation does not fund cancer research that employs embryonic stem cells. However, their policy does not exclude that possibility. They are open to embryonic stem cell research, and may very well fund such research in the future. They are also contributors to Planned Parenthood, which, though it may claim to provide needed medical services to poor women, is also the largest provider of abortions in our country.

But they got that way by being extremely industrious and aggressive in their lobbying and political activism. Which gets back to the top and latest news story in this cycle…

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May 22

I have been an avid follower of the NASA program and followed its missions since childhood. So I found this last one particularly poignant.

So did Pope Benedict.

The shuttle Endeavour and space station crews gathered on Saturday for an unprecedented conversation with Pope Benedict, who asked how the space program could promote peace and if the astronauts prayed while in orbit.

“I think it must be obvious to you how we all live together on one Earth and how absurd it is that we fight and kill each one,” the Pope said.

“When you are contemplating the Earth from up there, do you ever wonder about the way nations and people live together down here, about how science can contribute to the cause of peace?” he asked via a televised link from the Vatican.

This is a sweet story. The pope spoke with members of the crew about their own personal dramas as they carry out this universal one. (funny…the word catholic means universal…but I was referring to the nature of the space mission) Personal dramas like commander Mark Kelly’s, whose wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, is still recovering from being shot in January. Kelly thanked Benedict for thinking of her.

The Pope also had a personal message for space station flight engineer Paolo Nespoli, whose mother died on May 2.

“How have you been living through this time of pain on the International Space Station? Do you feel isolated and alone, or do you feel united amongst ourselves in a community that follows you with attention and affection?” the pope asked, speaking in Nespoli’s native Italian.

“Holy Father, I felt your prayers and everyone’s prayers arriving up here,” Nespoli replied in Italian.

“My colleagues aboard the space station were very close to me at this important time, for me a very intense moment,” Nespoli said. “I felt very far but also very close.”

Astronaut Roberto Vittori, also from the Italian Space Agency, demonstrated microgravity by flipping a coin given to him by the Pope, a symbol of the Vatican’s involvement in the mission, the next-to-last for NASA’s space shuttle program.

The coin will be returned to the Pope after Endeavour lands, now scheduled for June 1.

“To live aboard the International Space Station, to work as an astronaut is extremely intense, but we all have an opportunity when the nights come to look out and, more, to look down at Earth. Our planet, the blue planet, is beautiful,” Vittori said.

“I do pray,” he added. “I do pray for me, for our families, for our future.”

This story is amazingly human, and global, and larger than each of us. Because it’s about what holds together all of us. And I know that sounds corny, but….

I’ve said it here on this blog before, a while back, that a long time ago I was thinking about ‘fanhood’ and loyalty to a small town school or sports team, then a larger one…and how the rivalries disappear and new alliances form when those circumferences spread to wider territories. The ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ grows into much larger bodies of individuals the bigger the contest and state or nation. Then my thoughts rolled forward to an odd idea….that one imaginable force that would cause otherwise hostile factions on earth to suddenly unify as a planet and work together (imaginable thanks to science fiction) is if earth were attacked by aliens from another planet and we faced destruction unless we were able to fend them off.

I would never have shared that, but then I heard one day that Ronald Reagan one time said the same thing! (or something similar, though more eloquently, to be sure)

Anyway, that thought came back to me while reading this story, and I found this conversation between the astronauts and the pope very touching.

The Pope asked the astronauts about the environmental health of the planet, as viewed from space.

“On the one hand, we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been given is, but on the other hand we can really clearly see how fragile it is,” said NASA astronaut Ron Garan, a member of the live-aboard station crew.

“For instance, the atmosphere, when viewed from space, is paper-thin. And to think that this paper-thin layer is all that separates every living thing from the vacuum of space and is all that protects us is really a sobering thought,” Garan said.

What the astronauts find hopeful, Garan added, is the space station itself, a $100 billion project of 16 nations that took more than a decade to build 220 miles above the planet.

“That just shows that by working together and cooperating, we can overcome many of the problems that face our planet,” he said.

Now, how to apply that here

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Apr 29

Sometimes, the best scientific argument over a controversial bioethical issue is just dry and uninteresting to anyone but the science and medical comunity.

So Dr. Gerard Nadal does this thought experiment.

Imagine one is dining in a family restaurant and there are three different families, each with five children. Family A has children who are engaged in a food fight, screaming and jumping about.

Family B has children who are generally very well behaved but are given to bouts of restlessness and need to be spoken to by their parents.

Family C has children who are models of decorum, and who on their own have even taken it upon themselves to quietly clean up some of the mess left by other patrons.

That’s the stem cell war in a nutshell.

Clever. He explains how the analogy works in each case.

Now, back to our analogy. Imagine a reporter comes to the restaurant looking to do a story on children’s manners in restaurants but spends 90% of her time interviewing the father of Family A. He makes not one mention of his children’s recklessness and destructiveness, not one mention of the exemplary behavior of the children in Family C, but instead he holds forth on the dire future of the children in Family B, whose behavior is merely in need of periodic tweaking.

If that sounds unbalanced and bizarre, that’s the essential structure and trajectory of a recent Reuters article by Julie Steenhuysen, entitled “Imperfections mar hopes for reprogrammed stem cells.”

The core of the article is built around the father of Family A, Dr. George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

In other words, intellectally dishonest and obviously tendentious.

…Dr. Daley makes no mention at all of Family C, the adult stem cells, which have over one hundred therapeutic applications. In so doing, he fails to grasp the essential reason why induced pluripotent stem cells were sought after. It’s because biologically, embryonic stem cells are wild and untamable, while adult stem cells have gone through the process of cellular maturation naturally and are remarkably stable. They are also expensive to isolate, which is an economic limitation to their widespread use. Also, as embryonic stem cells come from another person, there is the issue of tissue rejection by the recipient.

And that’s happening, time and again. But we aren’t hearing that from the proponents of embryonic stem cells, because they’re too invested in the biotech industry that relies those unruly cells.

That famous line from Jurassic Park comes to mind again. Life finds a way.

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