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Commentary

The Point – November 2014

November 6, 2014

Article #1

Excerpted from Brittany Maynard, right-to-die advocate, ends her life,” USA Today. November 3, 2014 — Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old face of the controversial right-to-death movement, has died. She captivated millions via social media with her public decision to end her life.

Sean Crowley, spokesman for the non-profit organization Compassion & Choices, confirmed Maynard's death Sunday evening. "She died peacefully on Saturday, Nov. 1 in her Portland home, surrounded by family and friends," according to a statement from Compassion & Choices. The statement said Maynard suffered "increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms." She chose to take the "aid-in-dying medication she received months ago."

Her death brings a new element to the movement in the age of social media because the conversation has included younger people. "She's changed the debate by changing the audience of the debate," Abraham Schwab, an associate professor of philosophy at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, told the Associated Press earlier.

Maynard was diagnosed with a stage 4 malignant brain tumor. She moved with her family from California to Oregon, where she could legally die with medication prescribed under the Oregon Death With Dignity Act.

"I understand she may be in great pain, and her treatment options are limited and have their own devastating side effects, but I believe Brittany is missing a critical factor in her formula for death: God," said Joni Eareckson Tada last month in an article for Religion News Service.


Commentary #1

CMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): “I’m deeply saddened by Brittany Maynard’s suicide. As far as we know, she had no hope—despite Joni Erickson Tada, Kara Tippets (who is dying with Stage 4 breast cancer) and others pointing her toward God, our real source of hope. I’m saddened because Compassion and Choices used and possibly abused her as their ‘poster child’ for legalizing physician-assisted suicide in a slick media campaign that drew millions of Facebook and YouTube hits, as well as enormous favorable media attention. I can’t help but wonder why she announced she was going to postpone her suicide, only to take her life two days later? Did she feel pressured or obligated to do it?

“I’m even more saddened that many more patients are likely to die because Ms. Maynard glorified suicide as the answer to suffering, and it won’t just be highly controlling, terminally ill patients like her. In the short term, it will be vulnerable teens and the depressed. In the long run, it will be handicapped newborns, Alzheimer’s patients, the chronically sick and the mentally ill, as we have already seen in Europe. It’s inevitable, despite all the so-called safeguards. Who can deny ‘this right to death with dignity’ to anyone who is suffering or is even afraid they may suffer in the future? And if the patient is incompetent, should the physician, exhausted caregiver or the son or daughter set to inherit the estate decide ‘on their behalf?’ Ultimately, it will kill the ethos of healthcare as doctor-patient trust is destroyed.

“It is too late for Brittany, but not for you and me to speak the truth in love to alter the predictable future. I’m heading to New Jersey next week to meet with legislators to urge them to say ‘No’ on an expected physician-assisted suicide vote scheduled for Thursday, November 13. I’m then traveling from one end of Montana to the other, speaking out against physician-assisted suicide in every major city and doing media interviews along the way to hopefully halt their march off the physician-assisted suicide cliff.

“What are you going to do to alter the future—before it is too late?”

Resources:
CDD STAT Interview with Kara Tippetts, a stage-four cancer patient
Euthanizing Medicine, a presentation on the implications of legalizing physician-assisted suicide
Why Physician-Assisted Suicide Should Not Be Legal
Action

Physician-assisted suicide legislation is now being attempted in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. If you’d like to get involved in the fight against this dangerous legislation, please contact communications@cmda.org.


Article #2

Excerpted from "Tennessee Amendment 1 abortion measure passes," The Tennessean. November 5, 2014 — Tennessee voters by a solid margin backed Amendment 1, a measure that gives state lawmakers more power to restrict and regulate abortions. The measure was perhaps the most closely watched and most contentious Election Day vote in Tennessee's midterm elections. It passed with 53 percent of the vote. Its passage has no immediate effect on abortion policies in Tennessee. But it will give lawmakers far more power in enacting abortion regulations and restrictions in Tennessee.

Backers of the amendment were jubilant, embracing at the offices of Tennessee Right to Life, the campaign headquarters for the effort. "Obviously for those of us who believe life is sacred, this was the necessary first step toward protection not only for the unborn but for women and girls who fall prey to people looking to profit from untimely or unexpected pregnancies," said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life and a coordinator for the "Yes on 1" campaign, who has devoted much of the past 14 years fighting for the measure to get on the ballot.

Opponents on Tuesday night called the measure a "dangerous ballot measure that strips away the state's established right to safe and legal abortion" and vowed abortion rights supporters "will not stand for restrictions that serve only to create barriers to service," said Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood — Greater Memphis Region.

The abortion measure drew the close attention of national groups on both sides of the abortion divide — and large contributions from abortion rights advocates outside the state concerned not only about the impact in Tennessee, but beyond its borders. One in four abortions in Tennessee is sought by a woman from out of state. Proponents of the measure called on Tennessee voters to end the state's status as an "abortion destination."


Commentary #2

CMDA Member and Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology C. Brent Boles, MD: “The votes have been counted and Amendment 1 is now part of Tennessee’s Constitution. This amendment corrects the poor decision made by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2000 in Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist, in which four of five justices decided that Tennessee’s Constitution had stronger protections for abortion than the U.S. Constitution. Since that decision, the Tennessee legislature has been unable to pass meaningful regulation having to do with abortion in our state. As a result, the abortion industry was not accountable to the state’s Department of Health in any significant way. Now, the Tennessee legislature can work to protect vulnerable women from being victimized by the abortion industry and reduce the number of innocent babies lost every year in Tennessee. I hope we will see a restoration of a standard informed consent process and a brief waiting period, as well as the health department’s ability to enforce the same patient safety standards respected by all of legitimate medicine.

“How did the amendment pass? Planned Parenthood poured millions into the state to defeat this amendment because its passage was a threat to the abortion industry’s business model. They outspent the amendment’s supporters 2 to 1. Supporters of Amendment 1 couldn’t outspend Planned Parenthood, but they did outwork Planned Parenthood. A tremendous grassroots effort all over the state resulted in success.

“One of the key pieces resulting in success was the involvement of churches. Success for life and for women in Tennessee shows we can begin to see the tide turn if the church in America will find its voice. How can Christian healthcare professionals play a role? Paul tells us in Romans 12 that we are all parts of Christ’s body and we all have roles to play, and he admonishes us to fulfill our roles with diligence.

“Christian healthcare professionals are in a unique position to make a difference on this issue across the country. We are leaders in our churches and communities. Legislators listen when we call. Pro-abortion forces do not hesitate to use pro-abortion physicians in this fight on both the state and federal levels to promote the abortion industry’s many deceptions. We can do no less. The church has been silent on social issues in America for far too long, and if the church is to truly be salt and light in today’s society, then it is incumbent upon Christian healthcare professionals as members of Christ’s body to take the lead on the issue of life. Successful passage of Amendment 1 is cause for praising our God, but it is not the last chapter in the story of abortion in America. Now is the time to not only stand firm, but to also press forward at every opportunity. It may be that the church is finding its voice once again, and we as Christian healthcare professionals need to be part of the choir.”

Resources:
CMDA Abortion Ethics Statement
Remember to Remember: The Modern Implications of Abortion by Dr. John Patrick

Article #3

Excerpted from NBC/WSJ Poll: 71% Back Mandatory Quarantines for Ebola Health Workers,” NBC News. November 2, 2014 — More than seven in 10 Americans support mandatory quarantines for health professionals who have treated Ebola patients in West Africa, even if they have no symptoms, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. The survey shows that 71 percent of those surveyed say the health workers should be subject to a 21-day quarantine, while 24 percent disagree.

The question of mandatory quarantines exploded into the public debate after nurse Kaci Hickox battled with the governors of New Jersey and Maine over the mandated isolation, arguing that she has exhibited no symptoms and tested negative for the virus. Those who oppose the practice – including top health officials and White House administration officials – say that it is unnecessary and discourages health workers from fighting the Ebola outbreak at its source.

Support for the quarantines varies by political party, age and education level. Eighty-five percent of self-described Republicans say they think the quarantines should be enforced, versus 65 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents. Ninety-one percent of Tea Party backers also believe the quarantines are necessary.

Older Americans are also more likely to back mandatory isolation for the health workers. A third of those 18-34 years old oppose the requirements, compared with just one in 10 seniors. And those with lower levels of education are more likely to support quarantines (80 percent of those with a high school education or less are in favor) than those with college or post-graduate educations (63 percent are in favor.)


Commentary #3

CMDA Member and Chief of Infectious Diseases at Moffitt Cancer Center John N. Greene, MD: “The majority of people, including healthcare workers, favor the quarantine of those who care for patients infected with the Ebola virus, both at home and those returning from West Africa. This paradox exists despite the clear scientific evidence pointing to a lack of contagion of the asymptomatic but exposed person. The fear and hysteria created by the Ebola epidemic is unprecedented.

“Just to point out one of many examples: A teacher returning from Kenya (a country with no cases of Ebola) was asked to remain at home for 21 days and bring in a note from a doctor at the end of her home-bound detention stating she is non-contagious before returning to teach children. All this due to parents and faculty being fearful of contagion despite the impossibility of transmitting an endemic virus the teacher was never in contact with.

“The real question is why would rational people, especially those of the Christian faith, believe the unbelievable? I think it is fear, which clouds one’s judgment, and a lack of trust in authorities and experts who have led us astray and do not hold our Christian values. If we believe the Bible commands us to be a beacon of light for unbelievers, then we need to allow perfect love to cast away fear.

“Jesus and the apostle Paul did not fear death but instead entered into dangerous situations that ultimately claimed their lives. Why? They entrusted their lives to Him who judges righteously and did not count their lives as dear to themselves. Why can’t we have the same attitude and encourage those who risk their lives to care for those stricken with Ebola virus disease? Let’s not punish them for their service by placing an unwarranted burden on them and forcing them into quarantine to be shunned and avoided. Rather, let’s tell them, ‘Well done,’ and embrace them with a warm hug for their Christ-like service of those who can’t help themselves. What a testimony for Christ the world would see if we could lead this charge and go against the tide of unreasonableness and a lack of love.”

Resources

Ebola: ‘Beat the fire while it is far’ by Dr. David Stevens

Commentary