Weekend reading, 5/13/16: Mercy, a response to “Little Thing,” NDY turns 20

Here are three of my favorite posts from other blogs from the past week, to enjoy after you’ve caught up on Leaven for the Loaf. Have a great weekend!

Amy Brooks: Dear brave soul standing outside Planned Parenthood… (prayerwinechocolate.com)

“…since you are judged by so many, yet you choose to stand there for a cause that many people avoid discussing – you are certainly brave. Well brave one – I am going to challenge you to put your thick skin on, because this message isn’t going to be a ‘let me just congratulate you’ post. I am going to ask that however you stand there,  whether it is with a rosary, a sign or just a quiet presence; whether you sidewalk counsel or silently make a statement . . . I am calling you to  ‘add more Mercy’.” View the post…

Roland Warren: Little things I wish she knew (video link from care-net.org)

“In our latest Life Chat, Roland Warren responds to the open letter, Little Thing, and discusses the dangerous implications of the recent shift in pro-choice rhetoric from denying the humanity of the unborn child to calling it a ‘life worth sacrificing.'” View the post

Not Dead Yet celebrates 20 years of resistance to assisted suicide and euthanasia (notdeadyet.org)

“In addition to direct action tactics, Not Dead Yet has continued using the full array of advocacy strategies, including filing friend-of-the-court briefs in over ten cases, two with the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition to briefs arguing against a constitutional right to assisted suicide, NDY has filed briefs in support of efforts to protect people with disabilities from involuntary withholding of life sustaining medical treatment by guardians or health providers, and in support of regulations protecting the right of disabled newborns to medical treatment.” View the post…


Gimme Shelter

Carson says remarks re Schiavo taken “out of context”

Dr. Ben Carson (photo by Ellen Kolb)
Dr. Ben Carson (photo by Ellen Kolb)

I wasn’t the only voter whose eyebrows went way up after Dr. Ben Carson’s made his recent remarks regarding Terri Schiavo. He gave an exclusive interview to LifeSiteNews earlier this week to address the furor.

“I am steadfastly opposed to euthanasia. I have spent my entire career protecting life, especially the life of children….I regret that my recent comments about Terri Schiavo have been taken out of context and misinterpreted. When I used the term ‘much ado about nothing,’ my point was that the media tried to create the impression that the pro-life community was nutty and going way overboard with the support of the patient.”

The article continued, “[Dr. Carson] told LifeSiteNews that his off-the-cuff remarks to a reporter from the Tampa Bay Times meant that doctors should allow terminally ill patients to refuse heroic medical treatment, not to deny food and water to someone diagnosed in a persistent vegetative state (PVS).”

I’m pleased that the good doctor acknowledged the concerns raised by his earlier remarks. My particular concerns expressed in an earlier post persist. If what he means is that he flat-out refuses to tolerate starvation for patients with brain damage, that’s good news.

 

How to promote assisted suicide, accidentally

The next time you hear or read anything from “Compassion and Choices” (founded as the Hemlock Society) about how many people want to see assisted suicide legalized, cry foul.

Watch this message from a pro-life woman who signed an online petition, not knowing that her name was being collected by C&C to be used in promoting assisted suicide – something to which the woman is 100% opposed.

A Petition Without Choices // Full Video from Katie on Vimeo.

How many legislative hearings will C&C representatives attend next year? How many legislators will be told that X number of constituents have signed a pro-assisted-suicide petition? And how many of those constituents will have unwittingly lent their names to an assisted suicide campaign?

(h/t Caffeinated Thoughts)

He said it: Wesley Smith

Wesley Smith (Discovery Institute photo)
Wesley Smith (Discovery Institute photo)

We are at a crossroads that forces us to choose between two mutually exclusive value systems. Will we remain on the trail that leads ultimately to the full realization of the equality-of-human-life ethic and with it, the tremendous potential for the creation of a true community, or do we take a hard turn down the slippery slope toward a coarsening of our views of the afflicted, the dying, the chronically ill, the disabled, and those in pain or depression to the point where we feel they have a duty to die and get out of the way?

…Will we choose to love each other or abandon each other? …The choice is ours. So will be the society we create.

Wesley Smith, from Forced Exit (©1997)

(By the same author: the blog Human Exceptionalism)

NH assisted suicide bill, round 1

For hours yesterday, people spoke up against assisted suicide in New Hampshire, essentially saying “hell, no.” The count was impressive. The only decisive count will come from legislators, though, and the outcome is very much in doubt. Here’s this morning’s Facebook post by a committee member, referring not only to HB 1325 but to a second bill, HB 1226, to set up a committee to study end-of-life decisions

“NH Voters: If you are concerned with end of life decisions and you are against Assisted Suicide, please send e-mails to the House Judiciary Committee, flood our in boxes. We had two public hearings yesterday on the subject and some committee members are actually planning on voting for this to pass. NO ONE spoke in favor of these two horrific bills, but plenty of people spoke out against it. Unfortunately, some of the speakers were from out of town and most e-mails have come from out of town. Their thinking is that since no one is speaking out in NH, it must not be something people are concerned about, so let’s pass it…… The link is HouseJudiciaryCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. Thank you!”

The setting for the hearing

Too much was going on at once yesterday. Two hearings, only a few yards apart in Concord’s Legislative Office Building, and I had to choose. I went with door #2. Over an hour later, first round of business done, I hurried to where the House Judiciary Committee was having its hearing on HB 1325.  I hoped I wasn’t too late.

I could barely get in the door.

There was the committee, seated around its big U-shaped table taking up two-thirds of the room, with no one aside from House staff permitted to stand along the walls. This is the standard set-up for New Hampshire House committees. In the remaining third of the room, the two rows of seats were full, with more people standing in clusters at each end of the rows. When I managed to squeeze into the room, I became the de facto doorkeeper as people entered and left.

I was so wedged in that I couldn’t reach my phone or use my tablet, so the world had to get along without my livetweeting (and at last report the world was getting along fine without it). Just as well, since I’d been using the hashtag #hb1325, which someone later pointed out to me was the same hashtag used for a bill in Colorado on a different subject. In the future I’ll use #noPASnh (with PAS standing for physician-assisted suicide).

Some of the testimony

I had earlier provided the committee clerk with the testimony I had prepared on behalf of the New Hampshire nonprofit organization for which I work. The committee members will see this, even though I didn’t testify in person. The core of the testimony is here:

Nothing is more certain to inhibit support for palliative- and supportive-care strategies than to make physician-prescribed death a treatment option. Pain management, respite care, and adaptive technology can require complex, time-consuming effort. Taking a handful of pills is cheap. The negative message to vulnerable, depressed individuals would be unmistakable.

I recognized friendly faces in the crowd, including legislators who have worked for years to resist assisted-suicide legislation. I also saw many people I didn’t know, and I could only hope they were there to protest the bill. I later heard from a committee member that they were indeed opponents – and articulate ones, too. Two of them posted their testimony online via links on PRWeb. They’re worth quoting, but I heartily recommend you go to the PRWeb link to read the statements in full.

From John Kelly, on behalf of Not Dead Yet and Massachusetts Second Thoughts:

We were the progressive voice in Massachusetts that defeated the assisted suicide ballot question.  Our opposition is based in universal principles of social justice that apply to everyone, whether disabled or not….We chose our name Second Thoughts because we find that many people, once they delve below the surface appeal of assisted suicide, have “second thoughts” and oppose it.  In Massachusetts a month before the election, 68% of Massachusetts voters supported the ballot question.  But upon closer look at the real-world threats the legislation posed, voters had serious “second thoughts.”  …

There is nothing in this or any other assisted suicide bill that can protect people who are being abused.  Every year in New Hampshire, it is estimated that there are over 26,000 reported and unreported cases of elder abuse.  No independent, disinterested witness is required when the lethal dosage is taken, which means that the stipulation that someone “must” self-administer the drug is merely a recommendation.  These bills take no notice of how self-interest can motivate family members and caregivers.  Because of the typical provision in these laws that death certificates list the cause of death as the underlying illness, investigations are foreclosed….

HB 1325 uses a definition of “terminal condition” that directly threatens the lives of me and many of my disabled friends.  Section 13 reads:“Terminal condition” means an incurable and irreversible condition, for the end stage for which there is no known treatment which will alter its course to death, and which, in the opinion of the attending physician and consulting physician competent in that disease category, will result in premature death.

The day this bill goes into effect, thousands of people will be instantly made eligible.  For example, my quadriplegia constitutes “an incurable and irreversible condition.”  It has “no known treatment,” and likely “will result in premature death.”  This bill would authorize a New Hampshire doctor, whom I saw “regularly,” to validate temporary feelings of being a burden as being worse than death.  Legalizing assisted suicide sends the wrong message to anyone who depends on caregivers, the message that feeling like a burden is not only an acceptable reason for suicide, but a justification for our health care system to provide the lethal means to end your life.  We are not better off dead.

From Stephen Mendelsohn of Second Thoughts Connecticut:

This bill, with its expansive eligibility targeting a wide range of people with long-term disabilities who are nowhere near death, morphs New Hampshire’s honored state motto, “Live Free or Die” into an ableist obscenity: “Live Nondisabled or Die.”… 

Let us remember that people in Oregon and Washington [where assisted suicide is legal] are killing themselves not because of pain, but because of fear of disability, because they view needing assistance with eating or toileting as a “loss of autonomy,” a “loss of dignity,” and a “burden” on others [according to Oregon’s 2012 report on the Death with Dignity Act]….

As Oregon’s experience shows, death is always the cheapest “treatment.”  Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup found that out when Oregon Medicaid refused to pay for chemotherapy, but offered to pay for lethal drugs so they could commit suicide under that state’s “Death With Dignity Act.”…

And what message does this legislation send toward those contemplating suicide?  We constantly hear the six-word slogan from proponents, “My Life. My Death. My Choice.”  If “my death” is “my choice,” what message are we sending to an autistic or LGBT teenager who is being mercilessly bullied?  After all, victims of bullying also experience “severe, unrelenting suffering.”  Why even have suicide prevention? … Let us reject HB 1325 and instead work to build a world where no one feels they ought to die merely because they cannot do everything for themselves and instead receive blessing from others, whether they may have days, months, or many years of life ahead.

When I arrived at the hearing, Margaret Dore was speaking, trying vainly to compress extensive testimony into just a few minutes. It’s a fact of life that even when a committee chair goes out of her way to be accommodating, as did Judiciary chair Marjorie Smith (D-Durham) yesterday, all those who testify late in a hearing bear the burden of everyone’s impatience. Dore is an elder-law attorney from Washington state, and she has come to New Hampshire before to fight other assisted suicide bills. Her experience with her own clients has thoroughly schooled her in the risks of abuse inherent in any law that makes physician-prescribed death just another medical option.

The hallway conversations – and what must be done next

Before the hearing began, I spoke with a veteran legislator from the Judiciary committee. He was not optimistic. “Lobby the Senate. Now.” I raised an eyebrow (perhaps two) and asked for his count of the votes on the committee. He declined to elaborate.

Another committee member caught up with me after the hearing and filled me in on what I had missed. She said the turnout by anti-1325 forces had been great. Then this morning, she wrote the warning with which I opened this post. As if the truth changes at the state line … but I appreciate her candor.

Yesterday, a lot of people did a good day’s work. I wish it were enough. Instead, it’s only round one. If this gets through House and Senate – and I concede nothing at this point – it may come down to a veto by Governor Maggie Hassan. Hassan has not addressed this bill directly, but she did veto a bill last year for an end-of-life study committee, introduced by an assisted-suicide supporter. At that time, she said our focus should be “on helping all of those in our society to fully live their lives with the dignity that they deserve.” That sounds promising.