From the Les Femmes newsletter, The Truth, Vol. 20 #2, Summer 2015
by Mary Ann Kreitzer
In 1973, prior to Roe v. Wade, only 17 states allowed abortion (except for life of the mother) and one, New York, had voted to repeal its law.[i] Only a veto by Nelson Rockefeller allowed the killing to continue in the Empire State.[ii] On January 22, 1973, however, all of that changed. Seven men on the Supreme Court imposed abortion-on-demand for the entire country, in effect, legislating under what conditions the states could “limit” the act. The companion ruling Doe v. Bolton, answered that question defining “health” so broadly that no abortion up to birth could be refused if a doctor were willing to do it.[iii] And, in fact, over the years it became obvious that many abortionists, like George Tiller, Kermit Gosnell, and Leroy Carhart would kill babies even days before birth inventing the particularly gruesome Partial Birth Abortion (PBA) method to ensure that potentially viable infants could be murdered in the birth canal by stabbing them in the upper neck and sucking out their brains avoiding the “complication” of a live birth. PBA not only ensured delivery of a dead baby, but provided an “intact specimen” for fetal wholesalers like Opening Lines which began trafficking in baby body parts in 1989.[iv]
With abortion’s devaluation of human life, pro-lifers predicted that euthanasia was sure to follow. If a child with unlimited potential could be cavalierly killed at the request of the mother, how much easier it would be to kill those with little, if any, potential. Killing them would cure their physical pain and the family’s emotional stress and financial hardship.
“Pro-choicers" ridiculed the prediction that abortion would lead to killing vulnerable individuals already born. I debated pro-abortion feminists many times after Roe. They all studied the same playbook. Many times I heard, "Just because you raise the speed limit to 50 miles an hour doesn't mean you'll raise it to 70;" a silly non sequitur with regard to devaluing human life. But as Dr. John Willke, a pro-life pioneer often warned, once you put a “price tag" on life, a "sale" is inevitable. And so, after killing millions of babies since 1973, the death peddlers are moving those with limited potential to the "clearance rack," especially the vulnerable elderly and handicapped. Like Medusa, the euthanasia monster has many heads: killing those labeled vegetables , physician assisted suicide, killing and harvesting organs from brain dead donors, and, finally, those directed to the third path, essentially palliative care transformed from preserving and protecting life to health care rationing and neglect based on cost/benefit analysis.
Most people are aware of the high profile cases involving those diagnosed as PVS (persistent vegetative state). Nancy Cruzan[v], Hugh Finn,[vi] and Terri Schiavo[vii] all garnered national, and even international, attention as spouses or family members killed them by dehydrating and starving them to death. Despite heroic attempts by many, including unrelated care givers, to save their lives; judges and courts condemned them to death when parents or spouses claimed they, “wouldn’t want to be kept alive like that,” i.e. in persistent vegetative state. Even providing substantial evidence illustrating their conscious, albeit limited, brain function couldn’t save them from the death courts. At the time, these cases were used to promote the Living Will, a document which can be a death warrant for the vulnerable by advance refusal of all care including hydration and nutrition administered by IV or PEG tube. The dangers of the document are multiple from lack of informed consent on the part of patients to medical staff misinterpreting a patient’s wishes. In many cases, individuals who could survive an accident, heart attack, or stroke are never given the chance because they signed a living will advance directive.
The recent case of Brittany Maynard put physician assisted suicide (PAS) on the front burner.[viii] The 29-year-old brain cancer patient was a boon to groups promoting euthanasia. The Hemlock Society which morphed into Compassion and Choices (C & C) managed the publicity around Brittany’s death taking full advantage of the beautiful young woman and her family showing images from her wedding and honeymoon laughing and smiling. They videotaped heart-wrenching interviews with Brittany before she died and have continued exploiting her in the months since she swallowed the lethal dose.[ix] Beautiful bride Brittany became their poster girl for legalizing assisted suicide in all fifty states. When Brittany expressed doubt about killing herself on November 1st, she quickly changed her mind again. Can anyone doubt that C & C pushed her to die on schedule?
Since July, videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s harvesting of aborted babies’ body parts are flooding the internet, but what receives little, if any, negative publicity is killing already born patients to harvest their vital organs. The false definition of brain death was invented in the 1960s to euthanize comatose patients by neglect and to enable organ harvesting from the still living. True death: no heartbeat, no circulation, no respiration, and a cold cadaver make vital organs useless because they are “so damaged that organs cannot be transplanted….[W]ithin 4-5 minutes, the heart and liver are corrupted to such a degree that they are not suitable for transplantation.”[x] Tissue (skin, bone, cornea, veins, etc.) can be transplanted after true death, but to procure major organs a false definition of death had to be developed, hence brain death.
That this is a false definition is obvious from the many patients who have “miraculously” come back to life while being prepped for organ donation. One example is Zack Dunlap, a 21-year-old who experienced a “catastrophic” brain injury when his ATV flipped over. Thirty-six hours after the accident doctors showed his parents a brain scan with no blood circulation and told them Zack was brain dead. Since Zack had signed an organ donor card, medical staff prepped him for harvesting. Fortunately for Zack, “he jerked his foot when a nurse ran a sharp object up the bottom of his foot….soon even the doctors agreed that he was showing purposeful movement and the organ removal was cancelled.”[xi] Four months after the accident, this young man, declared brain dead, was fully recovered. Zack is just one of many cases illustrating the dangerous delusion that brain death is true death. Zack did not “come back to life” and his survival was no “miracle!” He was NEVER dead.
In another case, baby Nickolas Coke was born without a brain at all, just a brain stem. The little boy lived to be three years old.[xii] How can brain death be true death if a child can live for years without a brain? And how can “brain dead” mothers give birth to babies months after they are declared dead? A cadaver won’t breathe even if you attach it to a ventilator. The only person who benefits from ventilation is a living patient. Brain death is nothing but a tactic for procuring vital organs and killing the unwanted.
In one truly bizarre case, a little girl named Jahi McMath was declared brain dead by an Oakland, CA coroner on May 13, 2013 after a tonsillectomy went tragically wrong. The child is still alive today in another state, off the ventilator, responding to verbal commands to move her hands and feet.[xiii] Her parents would like to go back to California but can’t because Jahi is legally dead there despite being very much alive. A particularly tragic aspect of Jahi’s case is that doctors took unethical actions that almost assuredly made the little girl’s condition worse. They did three separate “apnea tests” where they removed the ventilator for ten minutes at a time to see if she would breathe on her own. This test causes a buildup of carbon dioxide, formation of acids in the blood, and brain swelling. What they did was to suffocate this child three separate times for a total of thirty minutes.[xiv] (Note this test is NOT the apnea test done for sleep studies.) Unfortunately, this test is typical in cases where organ donation is desired and makes it almost a impossible for the patient to fully recover.
But an arm of the death industry receiving glowing publicity, one with the capacity to impact millions of Americans, especially aging Baby Boomers, is palliative care. We’re not talking about your grandfather’s palliative care which aimed to protect and preserve his life and provide healing treatment as long as it was beneficial to him. The new palliative care focuses, not on grandad’s well being, but a cost/benefit analysis of whether his quality of life justifies the cost of treatment.
The right to die folks began hijacking palliative care decades ago even while the abortion debate took center stage. They were bold enough by 1983 for Daniel Callahan, then head of the Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank, to say, “Denial of nutrition, may, in the long run, become the only effective way to make certain that a large number of biologically tenacious patients actually die.” (my emphasis) Callahan long connected to the death peddlers was an early supporter of abortion. His attitude undergirds the “third path” approach to the end of life promoted by today’s palliative care movement. It means neither natural death nor assisted suicide/euthanasia, but something in between, i.e. death by neglect or use narcotics induced terminal sedation. The new palliative care promoters, unlike the more militant arm of the death industry pushing PAS, use a “more nuanced” approach. It encourage a number of benighn sounding but dangerous initiatives: “1) Everyone should have an advance directive to protect himself from unnecessary medical treatment at the end of life, 2) Withholding or withdrawing food and water is a natural—and even pleasant—way to die and a perfectly ethical means of controlling the time of death, and 3) The principle of double effect in the use of pain treatment justifies terminal (palliative) sedation.” [xv]
It is sobering to reflect that palliative care staff actively participated in the murder of Terri Schiavo and were actually praised for their part in her neglect by some end-of-life professionals. Janet Jones, CEO of Alive Hospice[xvi] in Tennessee, opined that religious leaders support the removal of “artificial” means of nutrition and that it isn’t euthanasia, a statement patently untrue at least in Catholic teaching. Inserting a feeding tube is, in fact, a simple procedure often done for the convenience of care-givers because spoon feeding takes too long. Many patients at home use feeding tubes and canned nutrient (similar to Ensure) a process easier than bottle feeding a baby. But, after being convinced that feeding tubes are extraordinary and intrusive, many patients sign Living Wills and other advance directives allowing medical staff to starve and dehydrate them all in the name of “death with dignity.” Others deny their loved ones food and water after unrelenting pressure from the palliative care team calling it the loving option. (N.B. According to Church teaching, unless death from natural causes is imminent, i.e., within 72 hours, and as long as it benefits the patient, ordinary care including nutrition and hydration, even if artificially administered, should continue.)
Increasingly, the palliative care movement is linking up with community organizing groups and forming coalitions to encourage a quick, unnatural exit through neglect, over-medication, and the morphine drip – all designed to hasten death. The bureaucracy approves of this cost-cutting agenda. (Think of the Obamacare death panels.) And an especially effective way to ration care is to eliminate those who need it. The media is in the loop and there is absolutely nothing random about the promotion of death. In 1989 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided $26 million to study dying patients in order to change the face of dying in America. In 1994 George Soros invested $15 million to form a “Project on Death in America.”In 1996, Callahan organized a leadership conference in Arlington, VA with a multi-pronged strategy: to create conversations about death, to change language making death more friendly and natural, to normalize use of narcotics to hasten death, to get more money for palliative care and counseling groups to encourage patients to refuse care, etc. Many of those leading the new palliative care movement came out of groups originally connected to the Hemlock Society.[xvii]
To examine today’s palliative care industry is like entering the labyrinth with dozens of intersecting groups all working together and in tandem to create a new paradigm of death. One of the most active is C-TAC, the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, founded in 2011 by Bill Novelli, past AARP president and co-founded of Porter Novelli, a public relations firm (which received a $20 million HHS contract to promote Obamacare) and Myra Christopher a death-with-dignity activist. C-TAC partners with dozens of organizations, many of which are pro-abortion. While the group claims to empower patients and their families, in actuality their mission is to reframe the discussion and change the health care delivery structure based on economics. As with abortion giant Planned Parenthood, C-TAC wants their hands in the taxpayers’ pockets. One of their goals is government funding to subsidize education and training of a cadre of churches, community organizing groups, and others to hold conversations with patients moving them to accept the third path view of advanced care. They use compassionate sounding jargon to hide their true purpose, i.e., to reduce the cost of end-of-life care by denying and rationing services and hastening death.
At a private meeting in Raleigh, NC in July, Bishop Rene Gracida shared with participants the testimony of a priest from the Diocese of Corpus Christi, a personal friend, who worked on a hospital “interdisciplinary team” with palliative care physicians and aides. The priest, who wrote anonymously to protect his ability to continue ministering to vulnerable patients, described the “modus operandi” of the palliative team and hospice care givers: “In my one year of working daily on an interdisciplinary team…I soon became aware that there was a strong agenda of pushing for a quicker death. …There was always the emphasis on ‘comfort care’ and ‘letting nature take its course.’ By ‘letting nature take its course,’ what was meant was really this: 1) no more treatments to prevent infections; 2) removal of nutrition and hydration; 3) no more treatments that had the goal of finding a cure or were conducive to promoting the patient’s overall health.” This priest went on to describe “brainwashing” sessions where chaplains were told by the doctor leading the palliative care team that they “were being loving when we helped convince family members to choose the third way. We were trained to understand that 90% of medical help is given to a person in their last one or two years of life and, since this is basically wasted money, it is best to convince care givers in families that life is ‘not to be pushed for.’ If a chaplain wishes to keep his or her job, he must cooperate with the palliative team, or, PRETEND to cooperate.” He went on to say that the “primary medical treatment used by the palliative team I worked with was the administration of pain killers.” He said that chaplain friends at other hospitals reported observing the same thing once the palliative team took over. The priest concluded his testimony with practical guidelines for chaplains working on palliative and hospice teams. “1) Do not let the palliative team know that you are pushing for nutrition and hydration, and life giving treatments behind their backs, or they will make sure to keep you OUT of the ministry loop; 2) Talk to caregivers in the family when the palliative team and other medical staff are not around. Inform them of the third way agenda, and encourage them to keep their loved one on nutrition and hydration, along with life saving measures, unless death is imminent (in which case nutrition and hydration can often be…harmful to the body which can no longer process [it].)” The priest concluded his report with a chilling fact that showed exactly how successful the hospital was at pushing patients out the door. It had “on average, one to seven deaths per 24 hour period.”[xviii]
This priest’s testimony reminded me of a conversation last summer with a friend, a nursing supervisor at a northern Virginia hospital. She told me a doctor instructed her nurses to ignore the patients with DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders. She remonstrated with the doctor and then told her nurses to ignore him and treat those patients first to make sure they did not code. She keeps her own bedridden dad in her home where she transformed the downstairs into a hospital-type suite and hires help when family members can’t be there with him.The sad reality is that the culture of death has come full circle. Having gorged itself on the blood of the innocent unborn, the diabolical death industry now turns its blood lust on the vulnerable sick and elderly. Pro-lifers knew in 1973 when Roe heralded open season on babies in the womb that the “mercy killers’” day was coming. Once life at its beginning was devalued, the “useless eaters” at the end of life could expect the same “compassion.” We’re there and every person of good will needs to imitate David arming himself to fight the Goliath of death. Our five smooth stones include prayer and fasting, the sacraments, studying the lies and tactics of the death peddlers, and doing everything we can to educate those around us to fight for their loved ones and, ultimately, for themselves! The only “death with dignity” takes place in God's good time.
[i] Willke, Dr. and Mrs. J.C., Abortion Questions and Answers, Hayes Publishing Co., revised edition 1991, p.20-21.
[iii] Ibid, p. 22.
[iv] Charen, Mona, “Body Parts for Sale – Fetal Harvesting,” syndicated column, November 9, 1999, online at http://lesfemmes-thetruth.blogspot.com/2015/07/you-think-selling-baby-body-parts-is.html#more
[vi] Kreitzer, Mary Ann, “Murder in Manassas, VA? The Starving of Hugh Finn,” The Truth vol 3 #4, Fall 1998, online at http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=682
[vii] Mostert, Mary, “When Did Michael Schiavo First Start Trying to Kill Terri?” Renew America, March 23, 2005, online at http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/mostert/050323
[viii] Jalsevac, John, “Brittany Maynard, 29-year-old woman with brain cancer, has committed suicikde,” Lifesitenews Nov. 2, 2014, online at https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/brittnay-maynard-has-committed-suicide
[ix] Jorgensen, Jillian, “State Senators Look to Introduce ‘Death with Dignity’ Legislation this Month,” New York Observer, Jan. 15, 2015, online at http://observer.com/2015/01/state-senators-look-to-introduce-death-with-dignity-legislation-this-month/
[x]Byrne, Dr. Paul A., “Make and Informed Decision,” article in Life Guardian Foundation Booklet, revised third edition, Sept. 2012. Available to purchase online at http://lifeguardianfoundation.org/
[xi] Valko, Nancy, “Was Zack Dunlap’s Recovery a Miracle?” VOICES, publication of Women for Faitih and Family Vol. XXIII, No. 2, Pentecost 2008, online at https://wf-f.org/08-2-Valko.html
[xii] “Nickolas Coke, Boy Born without Brain, Dies at 3,” CBS News, Nov. 2, 2012, online at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nickolas-coke-boy-born-without-brain-dies-at-3/
[xiii]CBS Report, “Jahi McMath Family Says Video Proves She is Alive,” online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWko4T4Pits
[xiv] Byrne, Paul A., “Jahi is Alive,” article posted on Facebook and other social media, online at http://lesfemmes-thetruth.blogspot.com/2015/07/they-claim-brain-death-is-true-death.html
[xv] Wickham, Elizabeth, “Today’s ‘palliative care’ disrespects the natural law,” Celebrate Life, September/October 2012, online at http://www.clmagazine.org/article/index/id/MTA5NjE/
[xvi] Jones, Janet, “The Terri Schiavo Case in the U.S.,” Hospice Care Newsletter Vol. 6 # 4 April, 2005, online at http://hospicecare.com/newsletter2005/apr05/terri-shiavo.html
[xvii] Extensive information on the history of the transformation of palliative care is available in a detailed timeline at http://lifetree.org/timeline/index.html?id=1
[xviii] Unpublished testimony of a priest of the Diocese of Corpus Christi the truth of which was personally affirmed by Bishop Rene Gracida, July 3, 2015.