By Nancy Valko
As a nurse threatened with termination for refusing to participate in an unethical health care decision years ago, I have a special interest in conscience rights for health care professionals.
Over the past several decades, new threats to conscience rights have widened from refusing to participate in abortions to other deliberate death decisions like withdrawal of feedings from people with serious brain injuries, VSED (voluntary stopping of eating and drinking), terminal sedation and physician-assisted suicide.Read more
By Nancy Valko
A few weeks ago, a 95-year-old friend with chronic congestive heart failure was recovering from a hip fracture and blood clot when she developed a very serious pneumonia. I was with her in the ER when the doctor asked her son and me about how aggressive to be if her heart or breathing worsened. I said, “Ask her!” and the doc was stunned when she vehemently said “Yes!”, even after he explained the potential problems with cardiopulmonary resuscitation and ventilators. My friend has a durable power of attorney naming her daughter as her health decision maker, but the doctor wrongly assumed my friend was unconscious and that we were her decision makers.
My friend astonished the doctors by recovering with antibiotics and temporary BiPap (a face mask machine to support her breathing). After a stint in rehab, my friend was able to go home last week.
It was because of mistaken but potentially fatal situations like this that I wrote my 2015 blog “Living with ‘Living Wills” about the history, uses, problems and pitfalls with living wills and other end-of-life documents known as advance directives.Read more
There are many pro-lifers in the ranks of healthcare professionals, which makes sense given their profession is about saving lives and that is based on science, which tells us that life begins at conception. However, those pro-life professionals are increasingly being forced to take part in medical procedures that violate their consciences.
By Michael Cook, BioEdge
A modern successor to the Hippocratic Oath for physicians around the world has been approved by the World Medical Association. This is the first revision in a decade and reflects changes in the climate of medical ethics.
First of all, the “Declaration of Geneva” is to be called, not an “oath”, but a “pledge”. The most striking change is the emphasis on patient autonomy. A clause has been inserted into the 2017 version which says, “I will respect the autonomy and dignity of my patient.”
By Nancy Valko
Whether we are renewing our driver’s licenses, reading the news or watching TV, it’s almost impossible to miss the campaign to persuade us to sign an organ donation card.
But do we really know what we are signing?Read more
By Nancy Valko
In August, I wrote a blog “Physician-assisted Suicide and the Palliative Care Physician” about Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter, a palliative care doctor in California who approved of doctor-prescribed suicide, would want it for herself but had still had serious some qualms about actually writing for the lethal overdose herself.
In the end, Dr. Zitter decides that assisted suicide can be rendered “safe” by being rare and practiced by specially trained medical practitioners as “just one tool in the toolbox of caring for the dying-a tool of last resort.”
Thus, Dr. Zitter, perhaps unknowingly, gives support to the Compassion and Choices goal of “normalizing” and “integrating” doctor-prescribed suicide into standard medical practice. Note their own description of their activities:
“We help clients with advance directives, local service referrals and pain and symptom management. We offer information on self-determined dyingwhen appropriate and provide emotional support through a difficult time. We employ educational training programs, media outreach and online and print publications to change healthcare practice, inform policy-makers, influence public opinion and empower individuals. Compassion & Choices devotes itself to creative legal and legislative initiatives to secure comprehensive and compassionate options at the end of life.” (Emphasis added)
Now in her new article “De-Medicalizing Death”, Dr. Zitter is excited about a new University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Health Centers’ program where “only” 25% of patients went on to commit doctor-prescribed suicide after an “intake process…conducted by trained psychotherapists (psychologists and clinical social workers) instead of physicians”.Read more
By Nancy Valko
I am on the road this week speaking to groups and doing radio interviews. So here is an article published in Voices magazine (a Catholic women’s’ magazine) in 2003 with an update in 2005. In the intervening years, the problems have grown worse but I originally wrote this article when almost no one had heard of futility policies. Here is the article.
When I first saw “Jack” last September (2002), he was lying unconscious in an ICU with a ventilator to help him breathe. It had been two weeks since a truck struck the 60 year-old and his injuries were devastating — including broken bones, blunt-force trauma and a severe head injury.Read more
By Nancy Valko
2012, New York Times: “Instead of attempting to legalize physician-assisted suicide, we should focus our energies on what really matters: improving care for the dying — ensuring that all patients can openly talk with their physicians and families about their wishes and have access to high-quality palliative or hospice care before they suffer needless medical procedures. The appeal of physician-assisted suicide is based on a fantasy. The real goal should be a good death for all dying patients.” (Emphasis added)
2016, Journal of the American Medical Association: “CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are increasingly being legalized, remain relatively rare, and primarily involve patients with cancer. Existing data do not indicate widespread abuse of these practices." (Emphasis added)
The writer of these conflicting views on assisted suicide is Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., PhD., a very influential doctor who is Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the architects of Obamacare. He is considered an expert on medical ethics who speaks and writes prolifically for both medical journals and general media outlets.Read more
A pair of philosophers, writing in a bioethics journal, are advancing the argument that if we’re going to say that infanticide—the killing of innocent newborns—is wrong, then all the arguments against apply equally to abortion.Read more
By Domenico Bettinelli, MCFL Director of Community Engagement
CRISPR is an acronym for a new medical technology that allows scientists to edit human DNA before birth, with the potential to cure untold numbers of genetic abnormalities that lead to ailments and disease. The process itself is not objectionable in theory because it involves operating on the unborn child without harming them. (For a more extensive exploration of the power and promise of CRISPR, see this article from our member magazine last year.)
However, while the eventual therapeutic application of the technology is not a concern for pro-lifers at this time, the research in developing it could be.
Scientists have now, for the first time in the US, edited the DNA of actual embryonic unborn children using CRISPR, but the unborn children were aborted after they were done.
The research — which has yet to be published — was led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University. It involved editing a “large number” of viable embryos and effectively correcting disease-causing genes, according to MIT Technology Review. (It’s unclear exactly how many embryos were edited, or which genes.) The embryos were developed for only a few days and were not implanted. Without implantation, embryos cannot develop into babies.
This is unacceptable. We cannot let the ends justify the means. We cannot and should not accept the creation and death of one set of human beings in order to develop medical treatments for others. The linked article debates the ethical concerns of editing human DNA for how it can affect humanity in the future, but the present concern is how the use and disposal of human beings in research is affecting our humanity now.