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Commentary

The Point Washington Update – January 2015

January 29, 2015

Article #1

Excerpted from "Assisted suicide movement gaining traction across U.S.," Washington Times, January 21, 2015 - The highly publicized physician-assisted suicide of 29-year-old brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard has given the ailing right-to-die movement a new lease on life. A national campaign advocating state right-to-die legislation kicked off Wednesday in Sacramento with the introduction of the California End of Life Option Act, modeled after Oregon's 1994 law allowing doctors to aid terminally ill adults who want to end their lives.

Another dozen states are expected to follow with similar legislation, including Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware and Missouri. The D.C. Council is considering a "death with dignity" proposal introduced last week by council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, and the New Jersey Assembly passed an Oregon-style bill in November.

"We have a goal of 10 in 10. In the next 10 years, we're anticipating having 10 more states," said George Eighmey, a former Oregon state legislator who serves as vice president of the Death with Dignity National Center in Portland, Oregon. "It's sort of like the other social movements that are out there — the gay rights movement, the legalizing marijuana movement. All those things get to a critical mass and once they get to that critical mass, you start seeing other states get on board very quickly," said Mr. Eighmey, who advised on the California bill.

Plugging Maynard's story behind the scenes was Compassion & Choices, a right-to-die group funded by liberal billionaire George Soros that emerged from the ashes of the now-defunct Hemlock Society.

After Oregon voters approved the Death with Dignity Act, the movement stalled. It took until 2008 for voters in a second state, Washington, to enact a similar law. In 2013, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law the Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act.

The Montana and New Mexico high courts have ruled that physicians may prescribe lethal drugs to the competent terminally ill. At the same time, state legislatures have snuffed dozens of right-to-die bills over the years, and Massachusetts voters defeated in November 2012 a "death with dignity" initiative by 51 percent to 49 percent. One big reason: The disabled community, led by groups such as Not Dead Yet, has mobilized against assisted-suicide measures, including the California bill, arguing that they are ripe for abuse.

"If this bill passes, some people's lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse," Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst for the Disabled Rights Education & Defense Fund, said in a Wednesday statement. "No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone."


Commentary #1

CMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): “A tidal wave of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) legislation is hitting the shores of state capitals across the country. CMDA is tracking efforts in 23 states, not a dozen as this article reports. Last fall, I completed statewide speaking tours in Montana and New Jersey to train church leaders, healthcare professionals and community leaders for this battle. I’m representing you in radio, TV and print interviews as well responding to op-ed pieces. In New Jersey, I met with individual legislators and was invited to address the minority party caucus in the state assembly. I stood with disability rights and other activists to speak your concerns at a news conference in the state capital.

“In Montana, where there is no law legalizing it, Compassion & Choices (C&C) representatives showed up at four of the five cities where I spoke to challenge my points during the question and answer period. During the first night’s session, a physician heading a hospice organization proudly and publically announced that she was already prescribing lethal drugs to her patients.

“The poignant Brittany Maynard story received enormous positive media coverage, and C&C is now using Brittany’s husband to lobby legislators. Billionaire activist George Soros’ money is funding an enormous effort and I’m extremely concerned that a half dozen more states will legalize PAS this year.

“CMDA staff members cannot stem this tide alone. As Christian healthcare professionals, we must link arms to halt this flood. I’m asking you to step up and be part of a leadership team in your state if it is targeted. My staff and I will come alongside each team to train and give you the tools and direction needed for this battle. We will guide you each step of the way.

“Once PAS is legalized, I doubt it will ever be reversed. Now is the time to halt this evil tide that will affect you and your patients.

“All that is required for evil to win is for good men and women to be too busy to fight it. This is a battle we dare not lose.”

Action

If you would like to help, contact Margie Shealy, who leads our state initiatives, at Margie.Shealy@cmda.org or call 423-844-1000.

Resources
State Legislative Issues
Kara Tippets Interview
CMDA Resources on physician-assisted suicide


Article #2

Excerpted from "March for Life reflects abortion awareness among young generation," Washington Times, January 23, 2015 - The 42nd March for Life again lived up to its reputation, drawing hundreds of thousands of mostly young marchers who oppose abortion.

Sara Silander, a 21-year-old senior from Jacksonville, Florida, who is president of Georgia Tech Students for Life, said, “I have always been taught that we should respect the dignity of everyone, including the unborn. We’ve always been told to protect the minorities, the impoverished and everyone, and that is so important, but we have also include the unborn.”

“I drove all the way from Michigan with my friends to be here. And I wanted to be here to walk for the unborn. I believe that little babies are just as precious inside of the womb as they are outside of it,” said Stephanie Mestizy, 25.

Several speakers talked about choosing life even when the unborn child is found to be imperfect. Eight or more of every 10 unborn children with disabilities are aborted. “That’s just wrong, isn’t it?” said Jeanne Monahan-Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican and a leader of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus, said her son, who was born with that distinctive chromosomal anomaly, has strengthened her convictions that every life matters. “That extra chromosome has brought my family a whole bunch of joy,” she said.

Mrs. McMorris Rogers and other speakers addressed the legislative drama on Capitol Hill: Instead of voting as promised Thursday for a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks because of the ability of a fetus to feel pain at that stage of life, the House took up — and passed — a bill to block federal funding of abortions, especially in the new health care insurance plans.

Rep. Christopher Smith, New Jersey Republican, said the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which he introduced, is necessary to end people’s “complicity” in paying for abortions, especially when they oppose the procedures. The House will soon take up the pain-capable bill, Mr. Smith added. “We will bring it to the floor and we will pass it.”

“The Senate will stand with the House” as it passes pro-life legislation, said Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican.

The now-massive March for Life is held on the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court rulings that made abortion a federal constitutional right.


Commentary #2

CMA VP for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody: “I enjoyed the privilege of representing you on stage just moments before the massive crowd of half a million pro-life marchers took to the streets to peacefully and impressively mark the Supreme Court's tragic 1973 decision opening the door to abortion on demand. Besides demonstrating the visible strength of the swelling pro-life movement, the March for Life also aims to influence public policy by having marchers visit their lawmakers after the march.

“This year a few otherwise pro-life GOP lawmakers managed to delay a planned vote on a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks. That is the stage of fetal development at which when our own members and others have testified that babies have all the architecture needed to feel pain yet lack the pain inhibitors that protect fully developed individuals. A few GOP representatives questioned a rape exception requirement that simply ensured reasonable compliance by stipulating that the rape must have been reported to authorities. The bill does not affect abortions sought during the first five months of pregnancy.

“As an alternative, the House of Representatives passed another CMA-backed bill, the No Taxpayers Funds for Abortions Act. That's good, and we expect in this new, more pro-life Congress to pass more bills backed by popular opinion, which disfavors government abortion funding, favors a ban on late-term abortions and favors parental involvement when minor girls are considering an abortion.

Action
  1. Maybe marching in the streets hasn't been on your bucket list, but you might consider joining next year's March for Life simply to join hands with hundreds of thousands of other committed believers to demonstrate your support for the notion that every life is a sacred gift from God. Perhaps you could organize a passel of students or fellow church members to join you. You will be standing alongside many people just like you--normal, church-going believers who may not be politically inclined but sense a call to put some kind of action to their life-honoring values.
  2. Voice your values by urging your lawmakers to support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill will ban abortions after 20 weeks, when our own members and others have testified that developing babies have all the architecture needed to feel pain at intense levels. Click here to use our Freedom2Care pre-written, customizable form.
Resources
March for Life
CMDA resources on abortion
Fetal pain testimony
President Obama's statement

Article #3

Excerpted from "January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services blog, January 6, 2014, by George L. Askew, MD, FAAP, Chief Medical Officer: Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex, debt bondage or forced labor. It is estimated that more than 20 million women, men and children around the world are victims of human trafficking. Among the diverse populations affected, children are at particular risk for sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the federal agency responsible for providing victims and survivors of human trafficking access to benefits and services needed to help them restore their lives and achieve self-sufficiency. The Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services to Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States calls for coordinated, effective, culturally appropriate and trauma-informed care for victims and survivors.

Trafficking victims and survivors may suffer from an array of physical and psychological health issues stemming from inhumane living conditions, poor sanitation, inadequate nutrition, poor personal hygiene, brutal physical and emotional attacks at the hands of their traffickers, dangerous workplace conditions, occupational hazards and general lack of quality health care.

Preventive health care is virtually non-existent for these individuals. Health issues are typically not treated in their early stages, but tend to worsen until they become critical, even life-endangering situations. In many cases, health care is administered at least initially by an unqualified individual hired by the trafficker with little if any regard for the well-being of their “patients” — and even less regard for disease, infection or contamination control.

A few months ago in response to the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services to Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States, our office collaborated with the HHS Office of Women's Health to develop a pilot project that will create a national technical working group to strengthen coordination of medical and health system responses to human trafficking. Specific actions include:

  • Supporting the development of protocols to manage and provide services to victims of human trafficking
  • Training and educating health care providers to recognize signs of human trafficking, identify potential cases, and respond effectively
  • Creating a referral mechanism for healthcare professionals to inform and connect with law enforcement agencies, social service providers, and community-based organizations
  • Promoting effective, culturally relevant, and trauma-informed care to improve the short-term and long-term health of victims.

Commentary #3

CMDA Health Consultant on Human Trafficking and Direct of U.S. Training for Hope for Justice Jeff Barrows, DO, MA: “I was honored to serve on the technical working group mentioned by Dr. Askew that was established by the Department of Health and Human Services in response to the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Human Trafficking. This past year, that technical working group developed a two-hour training for healthcare professionals on human trafficking and piloted that training in five different locations across the country.

“There is need for standardized training curriculum on human trafficking that is evidence-based and shown to be effective in helping identify victims of human trafficking within the healthcare setting. A study published last year found that almost 88 percent of victims of domestic sex trafficking encountered a healthcare professional while being trafficked.1

“The CMDA Commission on Human Trafficking is about to undertake a randomized survey of a portion of the membership of CMDA regarding their knowledge of human trafficking. This survey is being conducted in association with Liberty University and is an effort to add to the limited existing data regarding healthcare professional knowledge of human trafficking. A survey of emergency room personnel in 2012 found that less than 6% were confident in their ability to identify a victim of human trafficking, while only 2% had received any formal training on human trafficking.2

Action

  1. If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888. For more information on human trafficking, visit www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.
  2. If you are chosen to participate in this survey, please help us gather this critical data by taking the few minutes necessary to complete the survey. It will help us develop evidence-based training curricula that will eventually lead to victims being identified and freed.
  3. Equip yourself to recognize and respond to victims of human trafficking by taking CMDA's CME-credit online course at www.cmda.org/TIP.

1 Lederer, L. and Wetzel, C.A. “The Health Consequences of Sex Trafficking and Their Implications for Identifying Victims in Healthcare Facilities.” (2014) The Annals of Health Law 23:1. 61-91.
2 Chisholm-Straker, M., Richardson, LD., and Cossio, T. “Combating Slavery in the 21st century: The role of emergency medicine.” (2012) J Healthcare for Poor and Underserved 23:980-987.

Resources
CMDA resources on human trafficking

Commentary