Category archives: Life & Bioethics

Pro-Life Until Natural Death

by Hayden Sledge

August 21, 2020

As medical technology evolves, doctors have been able to utilize new medicines that help to prolong life. At the same time, however, there has been an increase in the desire to end life in a more “peaceful” or “dignified” manner. Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) has grown in popularity due to an ideological shift and the personal experiences of numerous individuals. According to The Hastings Center, “Dying patients who see their lives being destroyed by illness sometimes come to view death as the only way to escape their suffering, and therefore view it as a means of self-preservation—the opposite of suicide.”

The original intent of PAS was to alleviate prolonged suffering for individuals with a terminal disease or sickness. Unfortunately, peoples’ ideas of what warrants PAS has become more ambiguous and subjective. It has become clear that there are those who would like PAS to become more accessible to everyone and not just those who are terminally ill. This would imply that individuals who are disabled, handicapped, or have poor quality of life could legally end their lives through PAS.

In The Oregonian, Erin Hoover Barnett tells the story of 85-year-old Kate Cheney with dementia. Cheney’s daughter, Erika, wanted her mother to choose PAS. However, before Cheney was permitted to choose PAS, she saw two psychologists. One found her unequipped to make such a difficult decision. The other found that her decision was heavily influenced by her daughter Erika. Despite these concerns, Cheney was able to choose PAS and died only a week after her last psych evaluation.

There are more stories like Cheney’s, but it can be challenging to learn and analyze the consequences of PAS. Dr. Katrina Hedberg from the Oregon Department of Human Services explains why there is not enough substantial research about PAS: “We are not given the resources to investigate [assisted-suicide cases] and not only do we not have the resources to do it, but we do not have any legal authority to insert ourselves.” Researchers have been unable to gather in-depth information about PAS due to the harsh law restrictions. It is evident that there are several loopholes in the PAS process.

For example, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund says that someone who has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder should be deemed incompetent to make the decision to end his or her life through PAS. The Oregon Death with Dignity Act Annual Reports found that between 2011-2014, “only 3% of patients (or fewer) were referred for psychological evaluation or counseling before receiving their prescriptions for lethal drugs.” This shows that people are not mandated to have a psych evaluation before the prescription of lethal drugs that end their life. Numerous Oregon psychologists have shared that they cannot diagnose someone with major depressive disorder after just one visit. A single appointment cannot determine the mental stability of an individual, especially in regard to that patient choosing PAS.

To ask psychologists to deem a patient mentally competent enough to choose PAS in just one visit is requiring those psychologists to neglect their responsibility to their patients. Psychologists recognize that mental health takes time to diagnose and time to heal. Even the most renowned psychologist cannot make a clear and accurate assessment of a patient in one session. 

Death with Dignity, a pro-PAS activist organization, claims that one should end their life, “when the quality of life has decreased to an unacceptable or intolerable level, and all that is left are days of suffering.” This creates a convoluted standard of what it means to have “quality of life.” It is impossible to predict someone’s death. PAS could lead to an unnecessarily premature death. Advocates of PAS are suggesting that quality of life is decided by each individual, with no set standard of quality of life. This means that people can end their lives based on relative standards, decreasing the cultural value on human life and dignity, which creates more issues.

It is important to recognize that there are individuals who are experiencing intense terminal suffering. There is no doubt that many people contemplating PAS are in deep agony and desire relief from that pain. However, physician-assisted suicide should be illegal because the standards for qualifying are vague and are not adequately supervised. Further, even death is not the answer to life’s worst sufferings. The intentional premature killing of those who are terminally ill devalues human life and robs relatives of precious time they could have spent with their dying loved one.

Scripture continually speaks of the inherent value of human life, whether that is of an unborn child or an elderly person. God’s hand is evident in every stage of life. Instead of ending lives, God calls us to celebrate life and trust Him during times of suffering. As Christians, we know that “suffering produces character” (James 1:2-4), and we can hold fast to God’s promise and spread the good news to nonbelievers that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Even in our most desperate times, He is sovereign. In our greatest sufferings, He is with us.

Hayden Sledge is a Coalitions intern at Family Research Council.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of May 10)

by Family Research Council

May 16, 2020

Here are “The 7” trending items at Family Research Council over the past seven days:

1. Washington Update: “The Dog Days of COVID

Americans are getting a good look at their leaders as everyday people – especially after Senator Lamar Alexander’s napping Spaniel Rufus stole the show at Tuesday’s Senate coronavirus hearing. More importantly, Americans got an honest picture of something else: where the country really is in the fight against COVID-19.

2. Washington Update: “A New Twist on an Old Tradition”

Nothing about the National Day of Prayer was conventional, but for Americans hungry for hope in dark times, that didn’t matter a bit. Whether standing through sunroofs, sitting on asphalt, or just bowing their heads in their cars, a record number of Americans dedicated time on May 7th to praying for the nation.

3. Washington Update: “Hack to the Future: China’s Online War”

China is attempting to hack into U.S. labs and steal America’s coronavirus vaccine and treatment research. Tom Cotton, U.S. Senator for Arkansas and Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee, joins Tony Perkins to discuss China attempting to hack and steal American coronavirus vaccine and treatment research.

4. Blog: “Nigeria’s Christians and their Endless Persecution”

In recent months, the tempo of attacks on Nigeria’s Christians has accelerated. We must pray for Nigeria and our Christian brothers and sisters in the faith who are endlessly and brutally mistreated.

5. Blog: “Amidst a Global Pandemic, California Legislators Seek $15 Million for Transgender Hormone Therapy and Dance Classes”

It seems inconceivable that during a crisis caused by a global pandemic that California Legislature would even consider investing $15M into a transgender hormone therapy and dance class, yet they are doing just that. Nearly 70,000 Californians have become infected with the novel coronavirus and nearly 2,800 have lost their lives. This program reflects misplaced priorities and is an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars.

6. Washington Watch: Sen. Mike Braun gives his take on Tuesday’s hearing with members of the Coronavirus Task Force

Mike Braun, U.S. Senator for Indiana and Member of the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, joins Tony Perkins to discuss the May 12th Senate hearing with members of the Coronavirus Task Force.

7. Washington Watch: David Closson unpacks the survey that shows most Christians don’t have a purely orthodox worldview

David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, joins Tony Perkins to discuss understanding your life’s purpose and how FRC’s Biblical Worldview Series helps Christians apply the teachings of the Bible to the difficult questions in life.

For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.org, our Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. Get the latest on what FRC is saying about the current issues of the day that impact the state of faith, family, and freedom, both domestically and abroad. Check out “The 7” at the end of every week to get our highlights of the week’s trending items. Have a great weekend!

Good News for Women and Life: Kentucky’s Ultrasound Law is Here to Stay

by Katherine Beck Johnson

December 11, 2019

On Monday, the Supreme Court denied cert in EMW Women’s Surgical Center v. Meier. By denying cert, the Supreme Court allowed Kentucky’s ultrasound law to stand, as the Sixth Circuit held the law was constitutional this spring.

Referred to as H.B. 2, the law requires an abortion provider, prior to performing an abortion, to perform an ultrasound; display the ultrasound images for the patient; and medically explain the development of the unborn child. In April, the Sixth Circuit upheld Kentucky’s law, holding that because the law “requires the disclosure of truthful, nonmisleading, and relevant information about an abortion, we hold that it does not violate a doctor’s right to free speech under the First Amendment.”

Kentucky is far from alone in regulating ultrasounds prior to an abortion. Twenty-six states have an ultrasound requirement. Fourteen states require abortionists to display and describe an ultrasound image before an abortion. Nine states require that the abortion provider offer the woman an opportunity to view the image. These ultrasound laws allow women to be more informed about the life growing within them, rather than keeping women in the dark. Ultrasound images are powerful tools that illustrate and humanize the life within the woman. Pro-choice advocates claim they are for women’s choice, yet they fight laws that would properly inform women about the very choice they are making.

The appellate courts are still divided on these laws. In January 2012, the Fifth Circuit upheld Texas’s ultrasound law. In Texas, abortion providers are required to show the women an ultrasound and provide a medical explanation of the size of the unborn child along with the development of the child. After April’s ruling in favor of Kentucky’s ultrasound law, the Sixth Circuit now joins the Fifth Circuit. In 2014, the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina’s ultrasound law, holding that it violates the free speech of abortion providers. The Supreme Court did not grant cert in that case.

It is a triumph for life that the Sixth Circuit’s opinion was allowed to stand. This is a welcome victory that allows the women in Kentucky to see their children in the womb and understand the medical aspects of the life within her. Women will now be better informed, and there is no doubt that life will be chosen more often thanks to H.B. 2. 

Introducing Lecture Me! - A New Podcast from FRC

by Family Research Council

October 15, 2019

We all need to be lectured sometimes.

Family Research Council’s new weekly-ish podcast Lecture Me! features selected talks by top thinkers from the archives of the FRC Speaker Series. Our podcast podium takes on tough issues like religious liberty, abortion, euthanasia, marriage, family, sexuality, public policy, and the culture—all from a biblical worldview.

Listen with us to the lecture, then stick around afterward as we help you digest the content with a discussion featuring FRC’s policy and government affairs experts.

The first three episodes are now available. They include:

  • Nancy Pearcey: Love Thy Body

FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview David Closson joins Lecture Me! to discuss Author Nancy Pearcey’s lecture about her book Love Thy Body, in which she fearlessly and compassionately makes the case that secularism denigrates the body and destroys the basis for human rights, and sets forth a holistic and humane alternative that embraces the dignity of the human body.

  • Military Mental Health Crisis

Currently, an average of 21 military veterans are taking their lives each day. FRC’s Deputy Director of State and Local Affairs Matt Carpenter joins the podcast to discuss Richard Glickstein’s lecture as he shares the compelling evidence that proves faith-based solutions reduce suicides, speed the recovery of PTSD, and build resiliency.

  • Repairers of the Breach

How can the conservative movement help restore America’s inner cities? FRC’s Coalitions Senior Research Fellow Chris Gacek joins the podcast to discuss Robert L. Woodson, Sr.’s lecture on how the conservative movement must identify, recognize, and support agents of individual and community uplift and provide the resources, expertise, and funding that can strengthen and expand their transformative work.

Lecture Me! is available at most places you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Castbox.

What the New Guttmacher Report Tells Us About Chemical Abortion

by Patrina Mosley

September 20, 2019

Abortion research hub the Guttmacher Institute has released its latest report on the trends and incidence of abortion in the United States. This abortion surveillance report covers abortion occurrences from 2014-2017 and documents what we’ve seen consistently: abortion rates are in decline, but the percentage of chemical abortions continues to rise.

The trend continues, with the abortion rate dropping to its lowest point since 1973 at 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women for 2017, dropping eight percent since 2014. In 2014, the abortion rate was 14.6.

The estimated total number of abortions for the year 2017 was 862,320, and 339,640 of those were chemical abortions, which means they accounted for approximately 39 percent of all abortions. That’s a 25 percent increase in the use of chemical abortions (the report refers to them as “medication abortions”) from 2014!

Unsurprisingly, abortion advocates and Guttmacher have attributed the steady decline of abortions to contraceptive use, abortion facility closures, and pro-life protections – never to women choosing better options and rejecting the disempowerment of abortion. But this report added a second layer to their reasoning: “[I]ncreases in the number of individuals relying on self-managed abortions outside of a clinical setting.”

What does that mean? It means that Guttmacher is attempting to account for women who are performing their own chemical abortions at home. This type of abortion cannot, for obvious reasons, be accounted for through traditional methods of abortion reporting.

The report admits that the majority of “medication abortions” were seen in clinics for the year 2017. But the percentage of abortion clinics reporting that they “had seen one or more patients for a missed or failed abortion due to self-induction” increased from 12 percent in 2014 to 18 percent in 2017.

The questionnaire used to collect this data changed from the year 2014 to 2017. The 2014 survey question asked whether “any patients had been treated for missed or failed abortions due to self-induction and if so, how many?” For 2017, the questionnaire removed the yes/no screener and only asked for the total number of patients treated for missed or failed self-managed abortions. Only 55 percent of abortion facilities (808) responded, but the report states that 106 facilities (seven percent) answered, “I don’t know.” The survey concluded that an “I don’t know” response meant the facility was unsure what they were treating – self-induced abortions or miscarriages – so the data here is sure to be incomplete.

It is also not unheard of that illegal abortion pill peddlers have encouraged women to lie and say they’ve had a miscarriage when going to an emergency room or clinic for follow up on complications.

According to one study, women who undergo chemical abortions experience roughly four times the rate of complications compared to women who underwent surgical abortions.

So, if 18 percent of these women were seeking follow-up care at an abortion clinic, then the question is: where were these women getting abortion pills in the first place?

It is reported that some Texas women have walked over the border to Mexico to purchase one portion of the abortion pill regimen, misoprostol, which is available without a prescription there.

What is even more shocking from this report is the implied support for the sale of illegal abortion pills from outliers like Aid Access:

More recently, drugs similar to those used in the U.S. medication abortion regimen—a highly effective combination of mifepristone and misoprostol—have become available on the internet, as have websites providing accurate information about how to safely and effectively self-manage abortion using drugs obtained outside of a clinical setting. In particular, Aid Access, an international organization that provides medication abortion pills via mail order to people living in the United States, launched their website in March 2018 (after the study period) and reported filling 2,500 prescriptions in that year. The majority of patients obtaining abortions are poor or low-income, many lack health insurance that will cover the procedure, and many live in states with numerous abortion restrictions.

These factors, along with the increased accessibility of resources to help individuals safely self-manage their abortions outside of a clinical setting, likely account for some of the decline in abortions that we have documented.”

This is the same Aid Access that the FDA instructed to cease dispensing abortion pills and comply with their drug safety procedures through the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), which essentially prohibits the distribution of the abortion pill regimen by mail or online.

Aid Access has pursued a lawsuit against the FDA. Aid Access is no doubt just another pawn of the abortion industry in their efforts to get the REMS lifted and have abortion pills accessible over-the-counter.

The abortion pill carries severe risks such as hemorrhage, infection, retained fetal parts, the need for emergency surgery, and even death. An incomplete abortion can occur up to 10 percent of the time; a chemical abortion is nothing to play with and should not be “self-managed.”

A total of 4,195 adverse effects from chemical abortions were reported from 2000 to 2018, including 24 deaths, 97 ectopic pregnancies, 1,042 hospitalizations, 599 blood transfusions, and 412 infections (including 69 severe infections). These are just the adverse events reported to the FDA, so the data is certain to be incomplete.

In spite of these devastating realities, the abortion industry proudly admits that their ultimate goal for the future of abortion in the United States is “self-management.”

Abortion advocates claimed that legalized abortion would eliminate “do it yourself” abortions! Now they want to return to the days of “back-alleys,” this time with “chemical coat-hangers.” This business model places the heavy burden and liability of abortion on the women and not on the abortion industry themselves.

At first, Guttmacher seems to suggest that the apparent decrease in abortion rates is not a true decrease at all, but rather an increase in unreported, self-induced abortions. But after dedicating an entire section of the report to analyzing what it calls “medication” and “self-managed” abortions, Guttmacher concludes the report by backtracking its earlier assessment, saying it is “unlikely” that unreported abortions could account for most of the decline.

No matter what the abortion industry’s propaganda might say, the real reason abortion rates are in decline is that women are choosing life, and pregnancy resource centers providing life-affirming care—often at no cost to the women—are prevailing.

Ross Douthat Exposes the Abortion Hypocrisy of the Left

by Quena Gonzalez

September 18, 2019

The inimitable New York Times columnist Ross Douthat recently wrote a column titled, “The Abortion Mysticism of Pete Buttigieg: How the party of science decided that personhood begins at birth.” Read the whole thing here. It’s a master-class in opinion writing.

In a single, cohesive essay, Douthat pulls together several disparate threads to demonstrate the Democratic Party’s abortion extremism, including Pete Buttigieg’s recent comments that perhaps “life begins with breath,” the recent firing of Planned Parenthood’s Leanna Wen over the politics of abortion, and last weekend’s revelation that Buttigieg’s hometown abortionist had stored over 2,200 dead unborn children in his home.

The only thing I might add is that Democrats do not actually draw the line on abortion when, as Buttigieg suggested, the baby draws his or her first breath. Witness Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the Democrat state legislators who in 2019 undid or blocked protections for abortion survivors in New York, Illinois, and North Carolina, and came harrowingly close to doing so in Virginia and New Mexico. Witness the House Democrats who may soon vote for the 100th time to block protections for abortion survivors. When it comes to abortion, no baby is safe from the Democrats unless he or she is wanted by his or her mother.

While the destructive force of the sexual revolution rolls on to enthusiastic cheering from the Left, its unfortunate casualties—both unborn and born children—are discarded.

House of Horrors 2: 2,246 Bodies of Unborn Children Shows Need for Fetal Dignity Laws

by Katherine Beck Johnson

September 18, 2019

The horrendous discovery of jars containing thousands of aborted baby body parts at deceased abortionist Dr. Ulrich Klopfer’s home reaffirms the horrors of abortion and underscores the need for laws that provide for the dignity of the unborn.

Klopfer performed over 30,000 abortions in Indiana before his license was suspended in 2016 for various violations. His egregious acts included performing an abortion on a ten-year-old girl who had been raped by her uncle. He then sent the girl back to her family without notifying the authorities. Now it is abundantly clear that his misdeeds didn’t stop there.

After Klopfer’s death, his family discovered medically-preserved remains of 2,246 unborn children in his home. The horror of this discovery strikes at the very core of a fetal dignity law that was passed in Indiana and affirmed by the Supreme Court. Although his license was suspended for other reasons, there appears to be no Illinois state law barring him from harboring the remains of thousands of unborn children in his Illinois home.

In 2016, then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a state law that required the burial or cremation of fetal remains. Designed to honor the human dignity of unborn children in death, the statute specifically prevents the incineration of fetal remains together with surgical byproducts. The law was challenged and eventually made its way up to the Supreme Court, where it was affirmed in Box v. Planned Parenthood. The Court held that the State had a legitimate interest in the proper disposal of fetal remains and that the requirements were rationally related to that legitimate interest, a principle that the Court noted in City of Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reprod. Health.

Many other states followed Indiana’s example and enacted laws that affirm the dignity of the remains of the unborn. Texas, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Idaho, Arizona, Florida, Arkansas, and Wyoming all passed fetal dignity laws that provide various protections for the remains of the unborn. A number of other states introduced bills that would have provided similar protections but failed to pass them. Such laws refuse to treat the remains of the unborn as mere surgical byproducts, and instead, acknowledge the humanity and life lost with each abortion.

Klopfer’s storage of thousands of baby body parts should shock the conscience of Americans. In Box, Planned Parenthood challenged the Indiana fetal dignity law that would have outlawed Klopfer’s actions, claiming the law was unnecessary and an attack on women’s rights. However, Klopfer’s collection of unborn remains debunks the myth that there is no need for fetal remains laws.

Atrocities from the disgraced abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s infamous House of Horrors and the recent discoveries at Klopfer’s residence highlight the need to regulate the abortion industry in ways that keep women safe and care for the remains of unborn babies. In June, Illinois proudly expanded abortion access when it enacted the Reproductive Health Act. The law is one of the most sweeping pro-abortion laws in the country: it removed restrictions on the abortion industry and required that insurance providers cover abortion procedures. While the Illinois legislature and Governor were proudly lifting many restrictions on the abortion industry, Klopfer was harboring thousands of unborn remains in his Illinois residence. This stark contrast emphasizes precisely why the industry must be strictly regulated.

Had Indiana’s law been in place when Klopfer was performing abortions, he would have been legally required to surrender the remains for burial or cremation within ten business days. He also could have been charged with transporting a fetus out of Indiana as a Class A misdemeanor, as well as intentionally acquiring fetal tissue as a Level 5 felony. Had Indiana’s law been in place when Klopfer was performing abortions, 2,246 unborn babies might have never been stored in a house like some perverted trophies. There is a crucial need for fetal dignity laws to affirm the unborn and prevent people from perpetrating heinous acts like Klopfer’s. It appears Gosnell’s case is no longer as isolated as we once thought, and there must be legal protections to prevent these types of atrocities.

Our laws must protect the most vulnerable in our society. Indiana’s fetal dignity law and similar laws in other states are crucial steps towards recognizing the humanity of the unborn even in death. Dr. Klopfer, Gosnell, and others have shown what the abortion industry is capable of, and they must not be allowed to disgrace the bodies of their unborn victims howsoever they wish.

Katherine Beck Johnson is the Research Fellow for Legal and Policy Studies at Family Research Council.

Pregnant Women Aren’t Foolish. So Why Do Pro-Choicers Treat Them Like They Are?

by Bailey Zimmitti

August 12, 2019

Those dedicated to the pro-life movement understand that there are two people in need of defense in an unplanned pregnancy—the woman and her unborn child. The child’s undeniable right to life is an obvious subject of focus among pro-lifers, but the women carrying these children need attention too.

No sensible person would think that poverty and other adverse life circumstances render a person foolish or less dignified. So why does our society often treat women with unplanned pregnancies like they’re ignorant? Why do we treat these women like they need a savior to rescue them instead of like the dignified grown women that they are?

In 2017, while volunteering for a pregnancy resource center (PRC) called ABC Women’s Center in Middletown, Connecticut, I witnessed for myself the abhorrent savior complex of pro-abortion advocates. On an early Wednesday morning, our staff got word of a protest that was co-organized by NARAL Pro-Choice CT and Lady Parts Justice League as a part of the “#exposefakeclinics” campaign. What NARAL did not consider was that since we served many single mothers, and that since it was the summer when kids are not in school, the mothers always took their kids with them to come for parenting classes and other services at ABC. We didn’t want them or their children to be forcefully exposed to that kind of hurtful rhetoric. But when the mothers asked why we were asking them to reschedule, we told them the truth—and they were angry. Very angry.

And then something amazing happened: our clients asked to come and peacefully counter-protest the anti-pregnancy center protest. And we listened. We bought signs, markers, and water bottles, and our coalition of mothers and ministers were ready when NARAL arrived.

Oftentimes in the abortion debate, we talk about giving women with unplanned pregnancies a voice where they previously did not have one. That’s exactly what happened at the ABC Women’s Center in Middletown—these women spoke for themselves. But instead of listening, Connecticut’s pro-abortion activists are covering their ears. They targeted pregnancy centers again this past month with a dangerous piece of legislation aimed at undermining PRCs.

On June 6, HB7070, “An Act Concerning Deceptive Advertising Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers” thankfully failed in the Connecticut State Senate after it was not called on for a vote by midnight. One of the most frustrating aspects of this debate was that the proponents of the bill could not cite a single complaint filed against any pregnancy center in the state. This clearly shows that these kinds of actions from the Left do not concern the safety and flourishing of women; they are instead focused on advancing their own agendas at any cost, even if it means stifling the voices of real women with real unplanned pregnancies.

The Left’s narrative is that “deceptive advertising” is used by pregnancy resource centers and that low-income women of color must be protected from the wicked snares of white conservative Christians. This narrative is a lie. Women with unplanned pregnancies already have individual, dignified, worthy voices—and trust me, they have plenty to say. The problem is that we are not listening.

The mothers from ABC came on that scorching day in 2017 so that the liberal elitist voices wouldn’t drown out theirs. One pro-abortion woman dressed in a superhero outfit spoke into a microphone about giving voice to the voiceless—while the very women she claimed to defend stood in front of her expressing exactly what they need and want.

Women who are facing unplanned pregnancies are not stupid, so let’s not speak for them. Let’s listen to them and to the men and women who work with and for them.

Pro-choicers have created a narrative that says that a pregnant mother’s choice to accept help to carry her unplanned baby to term isn’t a worthy choice. This is not “pro-choice”—it’s pro-abortion.

Pro-choice activists cannot continue to berate pro-lifers for “not doing anything” when the work that pro-lifers are doing to help mothers to make an informed choice is being jeopardized by legislation and activism from the same group who claims that “choice” is everything.

Bailey Zimmitti was an intern at Family Research Council.

Terri Schiavo and the Slippery Slope of Assisted Suicide

by Worth Loving

May 23, 2019

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.” -The Hippocratic Oath

On March 31, 2005, Terri Schiavo died after nearly 14 days without food or water. Over 14 years have passed since her court-ordered death by starvation and dehydration. Even as I write this, Vincent Lambert, dubbed the “French Terri Schiavo,” is facing the same death that she faced unless the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities intervenes. Recently, a so-called “right-to-die” or “death with dignity” bill was passed by the New Jersey legislature and signed by Governor Phil Murphy. In Maryland, a similar bill passed the House of Delegates but failed in the state Senate by one vote. Last month, the Nevada legislature defeated a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide. Amid the renewed debate on such legislation, it’s important to understand the implications of such laws and how the story of Terri Schiavo relates to them.

Terri Schiavo’s Story – Timeline of Events

In the early morning of February 25, 1990, Terri Schiavo collapsed at her home in St. Petersburg, Florida. Although no diagnosis was made, her medical records indicate a deprivation of oxygen to the brain. After being placed on a ventilator for the first few weeks following her collapse, it was soon removed, and she was able to breathe on her own for the rest of her life. The collapse left Terri with limited ability to communicate or move. Due to difficulty swallowing, a feeding tube was inserted to keep her nourished and hydrated.

In June of 1990, Terri’s husband, Michael, was granted healthcare power of attorney status because Terri had not designated a healthcare power of attorney in the event she could not speak for herself. She also began physical therapy at a rehabilitation facility in Florida where she would say words like “No,” “Stop,” and “Mommy.” In July of 1991, Terri’s physical therapy sessions were mysteriously stopped. This was the last documented therapy that Terri ever received.

In 1998, the fight for Terri’s life began. With the help of right-to-die attorney George Felos, Michael Schiavo filed a petition to withdraw life support. Judge George W. Greer heard Michael Schiavo’s petition in January of 2000. In his testimony, Michael Schiavo stated that Terri had told him in the 1980s that she would not want life support. Convinced by the testimony, Judge Greer ordered that Terri’s feeding tube be removed. On February 11, 2000, Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, appealed the order to the Second District Court of Appeals, which agreed with Judge Greer’s ruling. Both the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their case.

On April 21, 2001, Judge Greer’s order was carried out and Terri’s feeding tube was removed. But after over 60 hours without food and water, a judge issued an injunction, allowing the feeding tube to be reinserted. Judge Frank Quesada ordered that Terri’s case be reheard based on new evidence. In October, Judge Greer denied a Motion for Relief from Judgment filed by Terri’s parents based on new evidence and testimony that Terri’s neurological condition had improved. After Terri’s parents appealed the ruling, Judge Greer was forced to hold a medical evidentiary hearing.

In October 2002, Judge Greer held the medical evidentiary trial. Florida law defined a persistent vegetative state as the “total absence of awareness and ability to communicate.” However, Terri did not meet this definition as she was able to, albeit on a very basic level, respond to her surroundings and communicate with her family. Judge Greer ignored this evidence and ordered her feeding tube removed once again, at the mandate of the Second District Court of Appeals.

Terri’s story gained nationwide attention in October 2003 after Judge Greer had ordered her feeding tube to be removed. At least 180,000 people had signed a petition to Governor Jeb Bush, requesting that he invoke Florida’s Adult Protection Custody statutes based on allegations of neglect. Five days later, Governor Bush called a special session of the Florida legislature. Both the Florida House and Senate passed Terri’s Law, granting Bush the authority to order Terri’s feeding tube to be reinserted.

Michael Schiavo’s right-to-die attorney George Felos immediately challenged the constitutionality of the law. Judge Baird of the Sixth Circuit ruled Terri’s Law unconstitutional on May 5, 2004. His ruling was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Terri’s feeding tube was removed for the third and final time on March 18, 2005 at the order of Judge Greer. In a rare weekend session, Congress passed the Relief of the Parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo Act, which allowed Terri’s parents to have a federal court review their case. Robert and Mary Schindler’s subsequent request was denied by both U.S. District Court Judge James Whittemore and the U.S. Supreme Court.

At 9:05 a.m. on March 31, 2005, Terri Schiavo died from severe dehydration. But Terri’s story did not end there—it was only the beginning. Her death ignited a powerful movement to save thousands of other Americans like her.

Death Without Dignity

The so-called “right-to-die” or “death with dignity” movement has established a powerful influence, particularly in the medical community. They have been able to successfully reclassify a feeding tube as “medical treatment,” making it somehow acceptable to starve and dehydrate an innocent human being to death even though we all need food and water to survive. But perhaps even more disturbing is how they have convinced the general public that some people’s lives are not worth living because of their age, illness, or disability.  

The effectiveness of the death with dignity movement, coupled with changes in public policy, now puts the lives of many people like Terri in the hands of doctors, medical boards, and ethics committees. In other words, families are being completely removed from the decision-making process of what care their family member should receive.

Contrary to the picture painted by Michael Schiavo’s attorney, right-to-die advocates, and the mainstream media, Terri Schiavo’s death was anything but “peaceful and painless.” After nearly two weeks without food or water, Terri’s lips were extremely cracked and blistered. Her skin began turning different shades of yellow and blue. Her breathing became shallow and rapid, and her moaning indicated the excruciating pain she was experiencing. Her face became extremely thin and bony, with her teeth protruding forward. Blood began to pool in her deeply sunken eyes.

This is the way Terri Schiavo died. Anyone who calls this type of death “peaceful and painless” is either ignorant or lying. There is a reason the court ordered no cameras or video in Terri’s room—they wanted to hide the truth and conceal a murder.

The Spread of Assisted Suicide and Its Slippery Slope

Laws decriminalizing assisted suicide are gaining traction. Currently, seven states plus the District of Columbia allow physician-assisted suicide. In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that nothing in state law prevented a physician from helping a terminally ill, fully aware patient commit suicide. Twenty states are debating such legislation this year alone. And while right-do-die advocates argue that these laws allow people to die with dignity, the case of Terri Schiavo proves otherwise.

Assisted suicide laws put the United States on a very slippery slope, a slope that will ultimately lead to more cases like Terri Schiavo. Most “death with dignity” laws require a doctor’s prognosis of six months or less to live in order to administer drugs that will end the patient’s life. And although doctors have far more knowledge than the average person, a prognosis is still an educated guess. That person could live weeks, months, or even years after their predicted death date. In short, assisted suicide laws could kill people who have a lot of life left to live.

Furthermore, assisted suicide opens the door to euthanasia. Assisted suicide always requires the patient’s consent and participation to hasten death, whether by taking lethal drugs or other means. Euthanasia, on the other hand, does not require the patient’s participation but can be administered completely by a doctor. Even more disturbing, not all euthanasia is voluntary. Some patients are euthanized without the consent of themselves or their family.

For example, last month, Fairview Hospital in Edina, Minnesota had threatened to remove oxygen from Catie Cassidy, a 64-year-old lung cancer patient who would have suffocated to death without oxygen. In video documented by the Life Legal and Defense Foundation, Cassidy clearly states that she wants to live. Thankfully, the Life Legal and Defense Foundation won her case and she continues to receive oxygen. But Catie Cassidy’s story represents what will happen when patient consent is disregarded and families are excluded from end-of-life decisions. As the government takes over more and more of the health care sector, they will naturally be more involved in the decision-making process. What is stopping governments from passing laws to weed out the disabled, elderly, or terminally ill—people who some would say cannot contribute anything to society?

In fact, this is already happening. Oregon, ironically the first state to legalize assisted suicide in the U.S., passed a law last year allowing patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other mental illnesses to be starved and dehydrated to death. If the patient had not previously given directions about their healthcare (known as a “contrary advanced directive”) should they become mentally impaired, this bill now allows caretakers to deprive the patient of food and water. Countries that have had assisted suicide for years now—like Canada and the Netherlands—are now looking to expand their laws to allow for more and more assisted suicides, even for those who haven’t requested it. This is eerily reminiscent of the eugenics espoused by Charles Darwin and put into practice by Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. It is also the premise upon which Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood. America, the freest nation in the world, will cease to be free if it embraces these philosophies.  

Life is Precious at All Stages

Who are we to decide when a person should die or when a life is not worth living? Just because a person cannot care for themselves doesn’t mean they can’t contribute something to society, as Terri Schiavo’s life so clearly demonstrated. All life is precious and created in the image of God. We all have something to contribute, regardless of our age, disability, illness, or prognosis. As a nation that boasts of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” we must protect life at all stages—from conception until natural death. 

When It Comes to Transgender Pregnancy, More Common Sense Will Save Lives

by Cassidy Rich

May 20, 2019

In a recent story that made headlines, “Sam” (name changed in the media for privacy), a biological woman who identified as a transgender man, was brought to the hospital by her boyfriend because she had suffered through hours of severe abdominal pain. Her online medical records classified her as “male,” so the triage nurse who was running the tests on Sam naturally thought she was a biological man. Being obese and admitting to have not taken her blood pressure medication in a while due to losing her insurance, the triage nurse “triaged him to nonurgent assessment. Laboratory samples were drawn, including one for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) testing, and Sam awaited further evaluation.”

It wasn’t until hours later when the emergency physician came in to examine Sam that they discovered she was pregnant. Her hCG test came back positive, indicating that she was indeed with child. It wasn’t long before it was clear that Sam was in labor and needed an emergency C-section to try to save the unborn baby’s life. Sadly, Sam delivered a stillborn baby.

According to an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, Sam indicated to the hospital staff that she was transgender. The article states:

In Sam’s evaluation, the triage nurse did not fully absorb the fact that he did not fit clearly into a binary classification system with mutually exclusive male and female categories. Though she [triage nurse] had respectful intentions and nominally acknowledged the possibility of pregnancy by ordering a serum hCG test, she did not incorporate that possibility into the differential diagnosis in a way that would affect ensuing classifications and triage decision making. Despite communicating that he was transgender, Sam was not evaluated using pregnancy algorithms. Having no clear classificatory framework for making sense of a patient like Sam, the nurse deployed implicit assumptions about who can be pregnant, attributed his high blood pressure to untreated chronic hypertension, and classified his case as nonurgent.

The problem with this statement is that the authors of the article don’t say when in this entire process Sam communicated she was transgender. Instead, the authors blame the triage nurse for not taking every possible scenario into consideration. Whether or not the triage nurse should be blamed is another issue altogether. What needs to be addressed is the fact that Sam was born a female, transitioned to a male and classified herself as a man on her medical records and forms, and then was rightfully treated as a man by medical professionals because they had no reasonable way of immediately knowing that she was in fact a biological woman.

Biological men cannot get pregnant. It doesn’t make logical sense for a triage nurse to look at a medical form, see the patient classified as “male,” and think that there is a chance this patient is having abdominal pain because of a pregnancy. It seems clear from this tragic situation that when it comes to medical care for individuals who identify as transgender, we should pursue policies that eliminate confusion on what to do in medical emergencies, resulting in more innocent unborn lives being saved.

In this vein, while we continue to fight for science and biology to be the basis of medical care, maybe there should be a box to indicate biological sex, not just gender identity, to hopefully help mitigate these kinds of tragedies in the future.

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