Wednesday, July 28, 2010

the full treatment

I don't have time to do either of these stories justice, but I call your attention to the cases of Julea Ward and Jennifer Keeton. Ward was dismissed from Eastern Michigan University for refusing to council homosexuals to the effect that their homosexuality was a positive thing, and Keeton was threatened dismissal from ASU unless she changes her belief that homosexuality is immoral. In Ward's case, a federal judge sided with the university that they can require her to violate her conscience.

Worse yet, I can't believe the amount of vitriolic hate heaped upon these two women, even by "Christians". Since when does a conscience not count? I read at
Doctors and mental health councilors are not expected, paid, or employed to act (or in this case, not act) on their religious beliefs. We pay them to perform the best medical care for our specific situation, whatever that medical care entails, and even if it does not align with whatever fantasy they happen to believe in.
to which I reply, what if the best medical care is what they believe in, not what the government or their employer mandates? What if the best counsel for homosexuality is not to endorse it but to find out why the person is that way and give them the opportunity to choose whether to try to change their behavior? To address the problems of high suicide rate, drug abuse, depression, sexually transmitted disease etc. not by talking to the person about how their lifestyle affects this.

Ultimately, all medical treatments are advised according to the beliefs of the doctor. Don't believe it? Go to four doctors with different beliefs about treating high cholesterol. One will tell you to change your diet and exercise, another will tell you to take lipitor, yet another will give you health supplements, and the fourth will tell you it's your body and there's nothing to do about it. You don't like what the doctor says, you find a different one.

Should we tell the doctor who believes in health supplements that he must prescribe lipitor or be barred from medical practice? Perhaps that's where we're headed. After all, the pharmaceutical industry has powerful lobbyists...

Monday, July 26, 2010

IQ Test

This is a busy week for me. I'm preparing to go to Boy Scout camp next week, and then to the CNMC. I've got lots of work to get done, since I'll be gone for a week, plus planning, packing for two events (I'm going straight from camp to the CNMC). So blogging will be light for the next two weeks.

So for today I have a quiz, the Catholic IQ Test. What's you score? I'd like to say I got 100%, but I only got a 96%. I hope you fare better.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Would you stop it already!?

I recently found this article at First Things about praying for Christopher Hitchens. For those not following the issue, Hitchens is one of the self-named "new atheists" who has attacked all faith, but especially Christianity with books such as "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice" and "God is not Great". He was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and is undergoing treatment. A number of Christians have advocated praying for him.

What caught my eye in the original article was a statement made by The Anchoress:
I suppose if someone asks you not to pray for him, you shouldn’t.
I disagree. If someone asks me to hit them, I don't feel obligated to oblige them. If my kids ask me to stop making them do homework, I certainly don't stop. Why? Because even if the person doesn't like it it is something they need. Let's face it, we all need prayer. So why should I stop praying for someone, even if they don't like it.

Of course, the secondary question is "should we pray for Mr. Hitchens? Certainly there are many people who have cancer, many of them Catholics. Perhaps I should pray for them instead, since I'd be helping a person stay alive whom I thought would make the world a better place, rather than helping someone who is bent on keeping souls from salvation. On the other hand, perhaps I should pray for him, since the bible teaches us to pray for our enemies. On the gripping hand (you win the geek award if you know what that refers to), Christopher Hitchens is not my enemy.

I must admit that I have not yet prayed for Mr. Hitchens, but if and when I do I will be praying not just for him to survive cancer, but to conquer his fears, his drinking problems, and whatever else, to find the peace and joy of a loving God.

And if you are deciding for whom to pray, please think of me. I promise I will never ask you to stop.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Damned if you do

I'm sure many of you have already read about the professor at the University of Illinois who was fired for teaching what the Catholic church teaches in a course titled "Introduction to Catholicism". I won't comment on the irony of this (though I really really want to). I would encourage you to read the email that got him fired. I can't find "hate speech" in it. In fact, not only does he start off by explaining:
In short, to judge an action wrong is not to condemn a person. A person and his/her acts can be distinguished for the purposes of morality.
but the whole point of the email is not bashing any person, but explaining the Catholic position on homosexual acts by in terms of the difference between utilitarianism and natural moral theory as criteria for judging the morality of an act:
If two men consent to engage in sexual acts, according to utilitarianism, such an act would be morally okay.
...Natural Moral Theory says that if we are to have healthy sexual lives, we must return to a connection between procreation and sex.
Go ahead, now, and read the email. Really, go. Read the whole thing. I'll wait right here. Please do come back, though - don't leave me hanging here.

Thanks for coming back.

One excuse many people use to attack the Catholic Church is to say that she hates gay people. That could not be further from the truth. As Catholics we are called to love all people. We are not called to approve of all actions, though. And so while we welcome someone with same sex attraction, we don't condone living "the gay lifestyle" (meaning engaging in homosexual acts). If gays want to feel "singled out" they are not. We also welcome heterosexuals, but do not condone premarital sex, adultery, abortion, missing mass on Sunday, or any other mortal sin. Do we say the Church hates Tiger Woods because it preaches against adultery?

If we actually hated gay people we would have to hate people who did all those other things, and that would include, well, pretty much all of us. The catechism of the Catholic church says:
I can't find the reference to it, but I heard or read somewhere that one of the reasons for this obligation is because it is very unlikely that anyone can completely avoid serious sin for a whole year. Sad, but true. We all sin. What we don't do is go around telling people that these things are good, not sinful, even though we do them. And we certainly don't call it "hate speech" to be told a sin is a sin.
If it's hate speech to point out that homosexual acts are immoral, it's also hate speech to say that virginity is valuable. It is hate speech to say that married couples should be faithful to each other. It is hate speech to say that Catholics are obligated to go to mass on Sundays.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Between a rock and a hard place (Part III - double trouble)

This is part 3 of a series of posts on whether abortion is justified "to save the life of the mother" (here are part I and part II). In the first two posts we covered some popular cases involving pulmonary hypertension and cancer. I introduced "double effect" in the second post. I'd like to explain that in more detail, and then get into some philosophical questions.

Just to recap, despite claims in the media and government that abortion has to have a special exception in law "to save the life of the mother" this is simply not true. The goal of medicine is to save lives, and in the case of a pregnant woman there are two lives at stake. In performing an abortion the doctor is destroying one life to make treatment simpler - the abortion is not part of the treatment of the condition.

At the end of the previous post I talked about uterine cancer, where there are cases where the mother and child cannot both be saved. Pro-abortion propaganda would have you believe that Catholics and other pro-lifers would leave the mother to die, but that simply is not true. The fact is, the pro-life position is just that - pro-life. Do everything possible to save both lives, but if that can't be done, at least try to save one. The only thing that's not acceptable is intentionally killing.

Ectopic pregnancy is one of those conditions under which the mother and child cannot both survive. In an ectopic pregnancy, instead of the embryo implanting in the uterine wall it implants in the fallopian tube. As the child grows the tube is stretched to the point at which it ruptures. If untreated the mother and child will both die. The treatments are to remove the affected part of the fallopian tube, or to abort the baby chemically or surgically. Any of these three methods will save the life of the mother. The removal of the affected part of the fallopian tube is morally acceptable, the abortion is not.

What's the difference, you may ask, if all three procedures have the same results (a live mother and a dead child)? The difference is in actions and intent. To put it simply, it's the difference between someone dying in an automobile accident and running someone down with your car. The outcome is the same, but your actions and intentions were different. The "technical term" is "double effect".

The double effect principle was proposed by Thomas Aquinas, in dealing with self defense. Suppose someone is attacking you, and in trying to stop them you kill them. Is it wrong to kill an attacker in order to save your life? Aquinas says that it is not, and worked out the moral principles of why it is not. The principle is called "double effect" because Aquinas notes that a single action can have more than one consequence. One consequence can be good while the other is bad. In that case, how do you decide whether the act itself is good or bad?

One way would be to balance "how good" with "how bad". Stealing a loaf of bread to keep your child from starving? OK. Killing someone to get their money? Not OK. But what if the effects are similar (life and death, for instance)?

Aquinas determined four conditions for determining under what circumstances this is justified, and his logic has withstood almost 800 years of critique. Those condition are described as follows (paraphrased from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy):
  1. [the nature of the act] The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent.
  2. [the right intention] The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary.
  3. [the means to an end] The good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed.
  4. [proportionality] The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect
In the case of fallopian tube removal in an ectopic pregnancy, the conditions of "double effect" are met as follows:
  1. The removal of the fallopian tube is morally indifferent. There is nothing inherently good or bad about a surgical procedure.
  2. The bad effect (the death of the child) is not the intention of the surgery. If the mother could be saved without the child dying that action would be taken.
  3. The mother's life is saved by the removal of the tube, not because of the child's death.
  4. Saving the mother's like is sufficiently good to allow for the bad effect.
In the case of abortion for an ectopic pregnancy, conditions 1 and 2 are not met:
  1. Intentionally killing an innocent human being is morally evil.
  2. The death of the child is the intention of the procedure.
Let's look at some examples of double effect that may make it even clearer. There's a well known (in some circles) ethical dilemma involving a train. In this scenario there are five children playing on the tracks, and a train is coming. The trains brakes have failed, and it cannot be stopped. The children are unaware of the train, and will be killed by it if nothing is done. You cannot get them off the track in time. Fortunately you are near the tracks and there is a switch near you that will put that train onto a side track. Unfortunately there is one child playing on that track. If you throw the switch the child on the side track will be killed. Do you throw the switch? By the principle of double effect, you should, because even though a child will be killed, you are not trying to kill him, you are trying to save the other five. But is this just a case of "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few"?

Consider the case of terrorists holding five children hostages. They say they will kill the hostages unless you kill someone (presumably an innocent victim). Should you do it? The outcome is he same, one life to save five, yet it is not moral to do so. Or consider a doctor with five patients, who all need organ transplants. The doctor knows a nurse who would be a tissue match. Should the doctor kill the nurse and cut him up to supply organs for the other five?

Let's say you are pro-life, and you know an abortionist kills 10 children a day. Should you murder the abortionist to save the children? Despite the claims of pro-abortion propaganda, such an act would be contrary to pro-life principles, on the following grounds, as per the double effect:
  1. Murder is an evil act.
  2. It is possible to obtain the good effect (saving the children) by another means (such as protests, education, voting, etc.).
  3. It would be using a bad act (murder) as the means to a good end (saving children).
I hope these posts have helped clear up some of the misinformation regarding Catholic and pro-life principles and abortion "to save the life of the mother". To sum up
  • Abortion by itself never saves a life, it destroys one.
  • Abortion is never necessary for other medical treatments to take place.
  • Pro-lifers do not advocate "letting the mother die", but rather trying to save both patients, mother and child.
  • In cases where a doctor cannot save both patients, abortion is still not the answer. Other medical procedures are always an option even if they have the double effect of killing the child so the mother can live.
  • The double effect principle helps us rationally choose between good and evil acts.
  • The pro-life position does not condone violence against anyone. To do so would be contrary to the very principles that make abortion wrong.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Between a rock and a hard place (Part II - cancer)

This is part two of a series about whether there are any case where abortion needs to be performed to save the life of the mother. In the first post on this topic we covered the case of Sr. Margaret McBride who approved of an abortion to save the life of a woman with pulmonary hypertension. As we saw, the abortion wasn't necessary.

Next I'd like to consider the case of women who are diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy. Again, certainly there is an increased risk (especially for the baby) in some forms of cancer treatment, but is abortion ever necessary?

One way to side step the issue is to wait until the child is old enough and deliver it. This is typically about 32 weeks or later. If the cancer is detected later in the pregnancy, or it is not a particularly aggressive form of cancer, this is a viable alternative to abortion. But what if the cancer needs to be treated before the baby can be delivered safely?

The major methods for cancer treatment are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Depending on where the cancer is located, radiation may not be recommended. However, radiation is usually used as a follow up, after surgery and chemotherapy, and it can be used after delivery. Surgery does not carry any significantly greater risk during pregnancy.

Which leaves chemotherapy. Women are routines told they have to have an abortion before chemotherapy begins. This is simply nit true.

According to Pregnancy and Cancer patient guidelines at the M D Anderson Cancer Center:
First trimester – The fetal effects of chemotherapy drugs during the first trimester of pregnancy are unclear. In certain circumstances it may be necessary to start chemotherapy as soon as the diagnosis of cancer is made. An example would be acute leukemia. Even if the diagnosis is in the first trimester and the use of chemotherapy becomes necessary most of a baby’s major organ systems are already formed by 8 weeks of pregnancy.
Second and third trimesters - Many chemotherapy drugs can be used during the second and third trimester of pregnancy without harming the fetus, since major organ formation has been completed.
The Journal of Clinical Oncology published the results of a study "Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer During Pregnancy: An 18-Year Experience From Five London Teaching Hospitals":
All but one of the women were treated after the first trimester. One spontaneous abortion occurred in the woman treated during her first trimester; otherwise, there were no serious adverse consequences for the mothers or neonates.
CONCLUSION: These data provide evidence that in terms of peripartum complications and immediate fetal outcome, chemotherapy can be safely administered to women during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Note that in 18 years of treating cancer, only one woman lost her baby. Had they aborted, all of them would have lost their babies. The National Institute of Heath published "Children exposed to chemotherapy in utero":
...fetuses exposed to chemotherapy in utero in the second and third trimesters can be carried to term, be born without evidence of congenital abnormalities, and develop normally.
Of course there are cases where the baby can't be saved. For instance, there are cases where the uterus is cancerous, and needs to be surgically removed. This is truly the case where the the mother and child cannot both be saved. In treating the disease, the child will not survive. But note that these are not abortions. Killing and removing the baby does nothing for the mother. Removing the uterus is what saves her. Removing the uterus will result in the death of the child, but it is not the death of the child that is the object of the operation. This is called "double effect", and the legality of abortion would not affect these procedures from being performed. Such procedures are considered moral and are not prohibited by the Catholic church. I'll get into the double effect in the next post, talking about ectopic pregnancy, but I wanted to mention it here because in the case of some cancers it is applicable.

Now, cancer and heart disease aren't the only two conditions which can happen during pregnancy, they are merely the "popular" ones used to justify abortion to "save" the mother. The fact is, as several doctors have stated, there is no medical condition that requires abortion.

You can find part III here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Between a rock and a hard place

Margo's comments on my post "Whenever you find yourself" got me to thinking. How can someone consider themselves pro-life and say on a poll that they think abortion should be legal in some circumstances? Believe it or not I can see it. In fact I've been there.

It happens because of false choices and false information. For instance, what if the mother's life was in danger and the choice was either abort the baby to save her life, or both would die. This is a false choice, because it doesn't actually happen. Certainly women are faced with medical problems during pregnancy, but do any of them require abortion? Let's look at some cases.

Consider St. Margaret McBride, who was excommunicated for approving of an abortion at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. A number of articles, in places from NPR to the National Catholic Distorter Reporter trounced on the issue of the big mean Catholic church condemning a woman to death. But these stories (and others) overlook the facts of the case. First, off, the mean old Catholic church did not excommunicate Sr. McBride, she did so herself, when she participated in the abortion decision. But was it moral? Wikipedia, of all places, quotes:
In explanation of how McBride excommunicated herself through her actions, Father John Ehrich, medical ethics director for the diocese, issued a statement that stated "The unborn child can never be thought of as a pathology or an illness. That is, the child is not that which threatens the life of the mother, rather it is the pathology or illness (cancer, premature rupture of membranes, hypertension, preeclampsia, etc.) which threatens the mother's life." Since "no physician can predict what will happen with 100 percent accuracy," Ehrich wrote, "What we should not do ... is lower risks associated with pregnancy by aborting children."
And that's really what this case is about. The mother's life was not in immediate danger in this case, she merely had an "increased risk of complications" as the pregnancy continued. Additionally, her life was not being threatened by the child, but by the disease. From what I have read there was no attempt to treat the disease before recommending abortion. From LifeSite News:
...Dr. Paul A. Byrne, Director of Neonatology and Pediatrics at St. Charles Mercy Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, disputes the claim that an abortion is ever a procedure necessary to save the life of the mother, or carries less risk than birth.
In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Dr. Byrne said, “I don’t know of any [situation where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother].
“I know that a lot of people talk about these things, but I don’t know of any. The principle always is preserve and protect the life of the mother and the baby.”
Byrne has the distinction of being a pioneer in the field of neonatology, beginning his work in the field in 1963 and becoming a board-certified neonatologist in 1975. He invented one of the first oxygen masks for babies, an incubator monitor, and a blood-pressure tester for premature babies, which he and a colleague adapted from the finger blood pressure checkers used for astronauts.
Byrne emphasized that he was not commentating on what the woman’s particular treatment should have been under the circumstances, given that she is not his patient.
“But given just pulmonary hypertension, the answer is no” to abortion, said Byrne.
Byrne emphasized that the unborn child at 11 weeks gestation would have a negligible impact on the woman’s cardiovascular system. He said that pregnancy in the first and second trimesters would not expose a woman with even severe pulmonary hypertension – which puts stress on the heart and the lungs – to any serious danger.
A pregnant mother’s cardiovascular system does have “major increases,” but they only happen “in the last three months of pregnancy,” Byrne explained.
The point of fetal viability is estimated at anywhere between 21 - 24 weeks, at which point he speculated the baby could have been artificially be delivered and had a good shot at surviving. In the meantime the mother’s pulmonary hypertension could be treated, even by such simple things as eliminating salt from her diet, exercising, or losing weight.
...“The only reason to kill the baby at 11 weeks is because it is smaller,” which makes the abortion easier to perform, he said, not because the mother’s life is in immediate danger.
Without being involved in the pro-life movement, just from reading news sources like the Huffington Post, ABC News, NPR, or as noted, even NCR, I would get false information about the events (c'mon, the Nation Catholic Reporter doesn't even know how excommunication works!) as well as false information about the decision made. I could easily reach the opinion that abortion should be kept legal for cases like this.

I have pro-abort friends who scoff at stories like this saying that they refuse to read news from places like LifeSite News because of their pro-life bias. But in refusing to read multiple sources they are accepting the pro-abortion bias of the one source they do read. And while I will gladly read Scientific American for new discoveries, or CNN for headline stories, I'm certainly not going to trust them for information about ethics and morality.

And in this case the LifeSite News article is spot on. If you read the original statement from the hospital (which I read at the time but can't seem to find online now) it states that the mother would have a serious risk of complications if the pregnancy were carried to term, not that the mother was in immediate danger. All the statements about "certain death" were added by reporters or other health agencies. I can accept that the mother had less risk after the abortion, but abortion wasn't the only option.

In fact, according to the paper "Perinatal management and pregnancy outcome in pregnant women with pulmonary hypertension complicating cardiac disease" from the National Institute of Health (hardy a pro-life source of information), the mortality rate for pregnant women who carry to term with this condition is 2%, even in severe cases. The mortality rate for children of women who undergo abortion is close to 100%. What was the less risky decision, considering both patients?

I have several other cases and an interesting question, but since this post is getting long I'm going to split it up into several parts. Part II is posted here. Part III is here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Bill of Lefts

This from the people who brought you the phrase "they cling to guns and religion". If you follow such things, various people have noticed that Obama and Pelosi have changed the language of the land - "freedom of religion" has become "freedom to worship". A friend tells me "it doesn't matter, it means the same thing". In light of this I thought I would enumerate the freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights, as apparently put forth by the current administration. Remember, it means the same thing.
  • The freedom to worship (or not)
  • The freedom to speak
  • The freedom to print
  • The freedom to meet people
  • The freedom to sign petitions
  • The freedom to hold a gun
  • You don't need to know the rest
  • The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution will be granted to czars or the courts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Whenever you find yourself...

Mark Twain is credited as saying "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."

These days it's so hard to know whether you are on the side of the majority. A while back I showed one of my pro abortion friends this poll. I smugly said something about more Americans being pro-life than pro-choice. She looked at the same article and came to the conclusion that a vast majority are pro-choice. How can this be?

I challenged her by showing her the following diagram from the article:

whereas she responded with the diagram below it

Interesting. 51% of people consider themselves pro-life, but 53% think abortion should be legal under some circumstances. That means some people who consider themselves to be pro-life think that abortion should be legal under some circumstances (perhaps "to save the life of the mother" - we don't know since the poll didn't get into specifics).

So my friend considers herself to be in the majority because only 22% think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances,  and I consider myself to be in the majority because 51% consider themselves pro-life, and also because 76% of Americans think abortion should be illegal, and that our current laws (which permit abortion at any time up to and sometimes even after birth for any reason) are too permissive. I guess we should both pause and reflect...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Spiritual Implications of AZ's immigration law

Several years ago I joined a group interested in immigrants' rights. After all, the bishops teach us we should "welcome the stranger."  I'll admit, my activities were limited to reading an occasional email or article from the group and little else. However, Arizona's immigration law has opened the floodgates of news. Every day I read more and more articles like this one from American Catholic. The article (and many more like it) make it sound like a mortal sin to support any sort of immigration law.
Jesus ranked welcoming the stranger with feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prison. He said that those who don't do that "will go off to eternal punishment" (Mt 25:46).
To read some of these articles all we have to do is give these people free health care and rewrite all the signs in Spanish and we can all live happily as brothers and sisters. Other articles argue that the economy would collapse. But are the only sides to the issue "friendliness" vs. economics? What about the spiritual side of the equation?

I recently listened to a podcast titled "The Spiritual Implications of Illegal Immigration" by Jesse Romero. Mr. Romero is an immigrant himself, and has may immigrant relatives, both legal and illegal. He speaks from the heart about the spiritual dangers of allowing illegal immigration.

It is typically the case, according to Mr. Romero, that the illegal immigrant is a poor young father from a rural community. He scrimps and saves to raise the money to be smuggled over the border into America. There he lives, cut off from his wife and children. He does not speak the language, so there are no opportunities for him to enter American society. Instead, he lives in an isolated world, usually sharing an apartment with other illegal immigrants.

Between the low wages he is paid and the need to send money home to Mexico, he must find work every day as a day laborer. If he is not lucky enough to find work that day, he must work as a homosexual prostitute at night in order to be able to eat.

Alone and lonely, he eventually finds a woman, abandons his faith, and lives in sin. Meanwhile, his wife is left without a husband, and eventually without money, because he stops sending it to her. His children grow up without the love an guidance of a father. They turn to gangs and drugs to find protection and income. A family of souls has been destroyed.

For women it's even worse. The price for crossing the border always involves prostituting herself. If she is lucky, after the border crossing she winds up like the men, alone and helpless in a strange place. If she is not, the "coyotes" (those who smuggle the immigrants) hold her, addict her to drugs, and force her into prostitution permanently. More souls ruined.

I think we do desperately need immigration laws that are more just than the ones on the books, but we are not making things more just by failing to enforce the laws we already have. Simply giving these people a "path to citizenship" flaunts our laws, admits that we have no will to enforce law, treats people unfairly (an influx of Mexicans means restricting immigration elsewhere). But more importantly, it would still promote prostitution, drug trade and the breakup of families. Furthermore I have no confidence that our federal government (and I mean all three branches of the federal government) are interested (other than capitalizing on it for campaign purposes) in or capable of improving the situation.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What if nobody noticed?

A friend sent me this article from the BBC News. to summarize, Richard Rudd was in a motorcycle accident, and was left a quadriplegic, in what was believed to be a coma from which he would never emerge. He was kept alive by a ventilator. His family was asked to make the difficult decision of whether to continue treatments:
Richard's father - also called Richard - said at the time: "To keep somebody alive whilst they're suffering and they're not going to get better, it's playing God, if you like, because it's going against nature.

The family was clear that Richard would not want his treatment to be continued. They remembered when discussing a friend who had become paraplegic following a car accident, he said: "If ever this happens to me, I don't wanna go on. I don't wanna be like him."
...and yet in an examination, Professor David Menon discovered Richard could move his eyes from side to side voluntarily. After weeks of communicating to make sure Richard was sound of mind, he was asked directly.
"Finally I then asked him if we were happy for us to go on treating him and he said 'yes'. I asked him again and on three occasions he made it clear, just with yes/no answers, that this was a consistent response." 
Richard's dad has since changed his views:
"We all sit round and talk in the pub or at work and say 'if this happened to me, turn the machine off'," he said.
"It's all hypothetical and you don't know until it happens to yourself. As a family and friends, if that person can't decide for themselves, sometimes you feel that you can decide for them.
"Because, in theory, you think you can never live in that situation, you sometimes put that judgement onto somebody else.
"At the end of the day, you probably have no right to do that."
Those in society who push euthanasia and assisted suicide ignore the fact that even in "clear cut" situations, people can have a change of heart. Thank God for the vigilance of Professor Menon and the care of Richard's family. Imagine what would have happened has he not been able to move his eyes, or if nobody had noticed. Please join me in praying for Richard and his family.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The flesh is willing but the logic is weak

A little more than a year ago, Pope Benedict XVI made headlines when he claimed that condoms were not the answer for stopping AIDS in Africa. The volume of knee-jerk hatred issued against the church was more than I ever thought possible.

While I was not directly involved in the issue, I did experience it in microcosm. I have a friend who for months kept up a simmering battle on the position of the Catholic Church on condom distribution in Africa. Every time I would point out that his statement was supported by facts and studies, the response was "yes but I know that they are effective, so the Pope is wrong."

Not that the studies were wrong or the science behind them was wrong, but the Pope was wrong even though the scientists were right. Huh? I'd all but forgotten about the issue when I came across this article today. The author brings up a side of it I hadn't thought of, and it goes something like this.

State that the Church says condoms are morally wrong, and the response is always "regardless of what they think is morally wrong, the Church should think of people's health first." The author takes this to its logical conclusion. Regardless of how effective condoms are at stopping AIDS, they are not 100% effective. So the safest course of action for a wife whose husband had AIDS would not be to use a condom, but to find a neighbor who didn't have AIDS and have sex exclusively with that person. "But that's..." morally wrong? Why is your "morally wrong" an acceptable excuse, but mine isn't?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The True Cross

I hear this sad news today from The Pilot. Because there is no link to the article I am posting the text here so it doesn't go away:

Spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, Terrence Donilon, released the following statement Monday July 12:
Relic of the True Cross Stolen from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross
On Thursday, July 1, staff from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross learned that the relic of the true Cross was stolen from the Cathedral’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Boston Police were immediately notified and an investigation was begun to determine who might be responsible. That investigation continues.
The relic of the true Cross is an important sacramental that helps Christians contemplate the crucified Savior and the great suffering he endured for the salvation of the world. The true Cross was discovered in the fourth century, and since then its particles have been diffused to the Church throughout the world. The Cathedral’s relic of the true Cross was brought from France in the Nineteenth Century and given to Bishop Cheverus, Boston’s first Bishop.
In the Christian faith, the Cross of Christ is an expression of the triumph of Christ over the powers of darkness. Fr. Kevin O’Leary, the Rector of the Cathedral, added: “We are deeply troubled that this sacred relic was stolen, and we pray for those responsible. We ask the faithful of the Archdiocese of Boston to join the Cathedral’s parishioners in praying every day for its return.”
 In googling for information I also found this from last September:
.- The Spanish daily La Razon reported this week that a relic of the Holy Cross was stolen from the Benedictine Monastery of the Valley of the Fallen, which had been in possession of the precious relic since 1960.
So, what is the true cross, and why do people want to steal it? To put it simply, the true cross is the cross on which Jesus was crucified. In researching this I learned about the legend of St. Helena, which we will get to in a moment, but historically what appears to have happened is as follows. We have to go back to 70 AD. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. The area was laid waste, and the locations of important places were lost. The rest I got from New Advent:
Under Constantine, after peace had been vouchsafed to the Church, Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, caused excavations to be made (about A.D. 327, it is believed) in order to ascertain the location of these holy sites. That of Calvary was identified, as well as that of the Holy Sepulchre; it was in the course of these excavations that the wood of the Cross was recovered. It was recognized as authentic, and for it was built a chapel or oratory, which is mentioned by Eusebius, also by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and Silvia (Etheria). From A.D. 347, that is to say, twenty years after these excavations, the same St. Cyril, in his discourses (or catecheses) delivered in these very places (iv, 10; x, 14; xiii, 4) speaks of this sacred wood. An inscription of A.D. 359, found at Tixter, in the neighbourhood of Sétif in Mauretania, mentions in an enumeration of relics, a fragment of the True Cross (Roman Miscellanies, X, 441).
 I don't know how it was known to be authentic. The legend of St. Helena speaks about this, but it is unsubstantiated and there are several conflicting versions:
In the year 326 the mother of Constantine, Helena, then about 80 years old, having journeyed to Jerusalem, undertook to rid the Holy Sepulchre of the mound of earth heaped upon and around it, and to destroy the pagan buildings that profaned its site, Some revelations which she had received gave her confidence that she would discover the Saviour's Tomb and His Cross. The work was carried on diligently, with the co-operation of St. Macarius, bishop of the city. The Jews had hidden the Cross in a ditch or well, and covered it over with stones, so that the faithful might not come and venerate it. Only a chosen few among the Jews knew the exact spot where it had been hidden, and one of them, named Judas, touched by Divine inspiration, pointed it out to the excavators, for which act he was highly praised by St. Helena. Judas afterwards became a Christian saint, and is honoured under the name of Cyriacus. During the excavation three crosses were found, but because the titulus was detached from the Cross of Christ, there was no means of identifying it. Following an inspiration from on high, Macarius caused the three crosses to be carried, one after the other, to the bedside of a worthy woman who was at the point of death. The touch of the other two was of no avail; but on touching that upon which Christ had died the woman got suddenly well again. From a letter of St. Paulinus to Severus inserted in the Breviary of Paris it would appear that St. Helena. herself had sought by means of a miracle to discover which was the True Cross and that she caused a man already dead and buried to be carried to the spot, whereupon, by contact with the third cross, he came to life. From yet another tradition, related by St. Ambrose, it would seem that the titulus, or inscription, had remained fastened to the Cross.
Since that time, fragments of the true cross are kept in various places around the world as relics. For readers who aren't familiar with relics, they are objects associated with a holy person which are venerated (honored, not worshiped) as reminders of that person. A secular analogy would be a superbowl game ball. You might display and cherish the ball because it had been used by your favorite team in a superbowl game. Likewise we keep George Washington's false teeth and Abraham Lincoln's hair brush. Relics are important to remind us of the actual saints. The true cross, is, of course, one of the most important relics, being not only a relic of Jesus, but being associated with his suffering and death.

The Catholic Church has some rules about relics, to prevent them from becoming "trophies". Relics may not be bought or sold. Yet it happens. I hear that a relic of the true cross was on eBay. Whether or not it was authentic is another story. Once the provenance of a relic is lost it is very hard to know whether the object is genuine. In fact, not only can't a relic be sold, a relic actually cannot be owned. The holder of a relic is merely safeguarding it for others.

So why would someone want to steal it? I can only think of two reasons. One is for money. The other is out of hatred for Christ. I hope that it was for money, as there is then a chance of recovering it safely. I do hope i is recovered safely. Not because I worship it or want the Catholic Church to "control" it, but because it is important as an object of faith and devotion and as an archeological artifact. It belongs to everyone.

Fasting for Haiti

It's been six months since the earthquake rocked Haiti, all but destroying Port Au Prince and leaving millions homeless. The media is taking this opportunity to remind us that things still aren't going well. From CNS:

The more fortunate moved back into homes that survived the quake.
Even so, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA said progress is slow and estimates that more than 1 million people remain homeless in 1,342 camps around Port-au-Prince and are vulnerable to tropical rainstorms and hurricanes.

...Safety, especially for women, is a growing concern. Women are become increasingly vulnerable to sexual assault. However, the Haitian National Police — numbering 7,000 nationwide — hardly has the manpower to keep order.

...The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ debris management plan says it would take a dump truck with a 20-cubic-yard bed 1,000 days to clear the debris, if it carried 1,000 loads a day. However, with just 300 trucks scattered throughout the earthquake zone, the Georgia engineers estimate it could take 20 years to clear the rubble at the current pace.
My family and I decided at the start of Easter this year that we would continue having small, simple meals on Fridays and donate the money we weren't spending on dinner to Haiti relief. I say this not to call attention to my virtue, but to encourage other families to do the same. It is important we remember those in need regularly, not just on "anniversaries".

Some good charities who are working in Haiti include: Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Catholic Relief Services and in particular Food for the Poor, which is currently running a campaign with a sponsor matching donations dollar for dollar, up to $50,000.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Targeting CPCs

Every have one of those days where things get you mad? I'm having one. One of the major reasons is this article on Life Site News: "Federal bill Puts Crisis Pregnancy Centers in the Crosshairs." A quick read of the bill itself makes it sound innocuous enough. The bill purports to prohibit "advertising with the intent to deceptively create the impression that such person is a provider of abortion services if such person does not provide abortion services."

Makes sense, right? Advertising a service that is not being offered is deceptive advertising. So here's the big question. Why write this bill at all? False advertising is already covered under law. Shouldn't we just appeal to existing law? For that matter, if you feel deceptive advertising isn't covered by the law, why not make this bill generic. Take out the word "abortion" and the bill reads just fine.

The reason the bill was written, and the reason it mentions abortion is because it is meant to be broadly interpreted in order to put crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) out of business. We have already seen this happen at the local level, in Baltimore. Rather than passively prosecuting false advertising, the law was used to force CPCs to post large prominent disclaimers discouraging women from entering.

But maybe this law is different. Let's hear what the bill's sponsor has to say about it. Carolyn Maloney's web site has a post "Maloney Cracks Down on Deceptive Anti-abortion Centers". From the article:

“New York City has seen firsthand how crisis pregnancy centers deliberately confuse women by establishing themselves near legitimate reproductive health care centers.  These fake clinics have opened in close proximity to our Brooklyn and Bronx centers, misleading clients seeking the unbiased care that Planned Parenthood provides."

And so we see that being in the same neighborhood as a Planned Parenthood clinic is considered "deceptive advertising". Let's see what unbiased care Panned Parenthood provides. Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the US. Abortion is its single largest source of income. It does not derive any income from women who choose adoption. This sets up an inherent conflict of interest. In 2007, Planned Parenthood performed 305,310 abortions, and made just 4,912 adoption referrals. Since 2007 Planned Parenthood has not released any information on how many adoption referrals they have provided.

As for unbiased, medically accurate information, check out Live Action's web site for numerous documented examples of what Planned Parenthood provides. The fact is, if Planned Parenthood were actually interested in women getting all the information they can to make an important life or death choice, they would welcome CPCs, which have no financial interest in the decision the mother makes.

In short, this bill is nothing but an attempt by Planned Parenthood to eliminate any alternative source of information about pregnancy, which they see as potentially cutting into their lucrative abortion business.

Friday, July 9, 2010

No Americans in Space Anymore?

I've written about NASA's plight before ("Bang Zoom"). President Obama made what I consider a big mistake in effectively destroying our country's manned space program. I recently read another article on the subject "NASA = No Americans in Space Anymore?" From the article:
Constellation represents five years of R&D and a $10-billion taxpayer investment, and it has demonstrated success. However, Obama has said that Constellation should be canceled because it was "over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation."
It is true that NASA projects have often fallen behind schedule and have certainly gone over budget estimates. However, NASA is charged with exploring and studying space, which happens to be, well, out in space.
The article goes on to explain just how innovative and successful NASA is. I suggest you follow the link and read the whole article. For more examples of NASA innovation, watch the Modern Marvels episode "It Came from Outer Space".

But I digress. In the original quote I emboldened one assumption of the article which is apparently incorrect. Yes, NASA was once charged with exploring space. NASA's charter from congress reads:
Sec. 203. (a) The Administration, in order to carry out the purpose of this Act, shall--

    (1) plan, direct, and conduct aeronautical and space activities;
    (2) arrange for participation by the scientific community in planning scientific measurements and observations to be made through use of aeronautical and space vehicles, and conduct or arrange for the conduct of such measurements and observations;
    (3) provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof;
    (4) seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space; and
    (5) encourage and provide for Federal Government use of commercially provided space services and hardware, consistent with the requirements of the Federal Government. 

However, President Obama seems to have changed the mission of NASA from what congress has specified.

In the video above NASA chief Charles Bolden tells how President Obama has given NASA new tasks:
When I became the NASA administrator, or before I became the NASA administrator, [Obama] charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.
How is this legal? All issues of "is this the right thing for NASA to do?" (the answer is NO):

1) How does a president tell an administration created by congress, tasked with a mission by congress, and funded by congress to explore space that they are to focus on public relations and propaganda rather than space?
2) What happened to the "establishment clause" that the administration has trotted out to attack Christian groups and religious activities? Isn't saying "we will direct a government administration to honor Islam" a grievous violation of that clause?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr.

On July 7, 1868, Frank Bunker Gilbreth was born. He received an education through high school and at the age of 17, became a bricklayer. He later rose to become a building contractor, inventor, a management engineer, and a lecturer at Purdue University. On October 19, 1904 Frank married Lillian Evelyn Moller and they had 12 children; Anne, Mary, Ernestine, Martha, Frank Jr., William, Lillian, Frederick, Daniel, John, Robert and Jane. They lived in Montclair NJ, where Frank died of heart failure on June 14, 1924 at the age of 55.

I first learned about Frank Gilbreth as a teen, when I read the book "Cheaper by the Dozen". It is the autobiography of the Gilbreth family, as told by two of their children. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend that you do so. The story is interesting, funny, and heartwarming. In fact, there are two sequels, "Belles on Their Toes" and "Time Out for Happiness" which are also very good. If you have seen the movie "Cheaper by the Dozen" with Steve Martin, I have to tell you it's a completely different story - they just stole the name. I highly recommend you don't see that movie. The movies you want are "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Belles on Their Toes".

But that's not really what I wanted to talk to you about. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth pioneered the field of motion study engineering. It began in Frank's early days as a brick layer. In trying to learn his new job, Frank studied the other bricklayers. He got in trouble with the foreman for studying too much and not working enough. From the book:
During Dad's first week at work he made so many suggestions about how brick could be laid faster and better that the foreman threatened repeatedly to fire him.
"You're the one who came here to learn," the foreman hollered at him. "For Christ's sake don't try to learn us."
Subtle innuendos like that never worried Dad. Besides, he already knew that motion study was his element, and he had discovered something that apparently had never attracted the attention of industry before. He tried to explain it to the foreman.
"Did you ever notice that no two men use exactly the same way of laying bricks?" he asked. "That's important, and do you know why?"
"I know that if you open your mount about bricklaying again, I'll lay a brick in it."
"It's important because if one bricklayer is doing the job the right way, then all the others are doing the job the wrong way. Now, if I had your job, I'd find who's laying brick the right way, and make all the others copy him."
"If you had my job," shouted the livid-faced foreman, "the first thing you'd do is fire the red-headed unprintable son of a ruptured deleted who tried to get your job. and that's what I think you're trying to do."
He picked up a brick and waved it menacingly.
Gilbreth's studying paid off. He learned what made the fastest brick layer the fastest. But he didn't stop there. He studied the motions that bricklayers made, and found a way to reduce the number of movements to lay one brick from 18 down to six. At a time when an expert bricklayer was laying 125 bricks an hour, Gilbreth was able to lay 350 using his methods.

This was just the beginning. He and Lillian became engineering consultants. They developed a set of standard motions, called "therbligs" (Gilbreth backwards, with the "th" transposed). The rest of their professional lives were devoted to finding what they termed the "One Best Way" in various industries. It was Gilbreth's idea that a surgical nurse serve as "caddy" (Gilbreth's term) to a surgeon; providing surgical instruments as called for. He devised the techniques used by armies around the world to teach recruits how to rapidly disassemble and reassemble their weapons even when blindfolded or in total darkness. Above all, Frank and Lilian were scientists, who taught that our methods of doing things should be constantly examined, and improvements adopted.Gilbreth even discovered the best way to button his shirts (from the bottom up was faster than the conventional top down) and to teach his children (by painting information on the walls of their bedrooms and bathroom).

Of course, having a "One Best Way" flies in the face of "freedom." Why shouldn't I be able to decide what bricklaying method works best for me? The answer, of course, is you can decide what method to use, but if your desire is to lay brick well, you are better off using the method that is objectively the best rather than making something up yourself.

I know this was a long intro, but these are my thoughts, so I can ramble as much as I like. Anyway, I see this whole thing as a metaphor for religion. Everybody claims they want to find peace and joy in their life, and to wind up in heaven. Yet many people have no plan on how to do that. They approach it by trying to make something up that "works for them." At best they will do what their friends do, or try to emulate some popular figure (who usually turns out to be a miserable stinker in the end). Why should they think that making something up at random will work? Why should they follow the advice of someone who has no better knowledge than they do?

Science would suggest that we emulate Frank Gilbreth and take a look around us. Who's doing it better? And what logic and analysis have they applied to the problem that indicates they know what they're doing?

Scripture, natural law and logic all indicate that the Catholic Church is that "One Best Way" to get to heaven. Nobody else has the history all the way back through Abraham. Nobody else has the direct authority of Christ. Nobody else has the apostolic succession, the priesthood, the saints, the miracles, the Truth. Even disregarding biblical authority, its adherence to natural law and common sense indicates its sense. It is that "One Best Way."

Some people criticize the Church for not "keeping up with the times", but if there is a "One Best Way" it is what it is - it doesn't change with the times. For example, good nutrition is good nutrition. It doesn't change with the diet fad of the month. Every once in a while nutrition recommendations are refined a bit, but we're not going to suddenly find out we don't actually need protein. The Church is like that.

You are, of course, free to make up your own way. There is no employer forcing you to do things "the company way" as with Gilbreth. As Pope Benedict XVI says "We impose nothing, yet we propose ceaselessly." I do hope you'll do the research and find your way home to the Catholic Church. And if you do follow a different way I hope your way eventually leads you to heaven and I meet you there. For me, I'll stick with the One Best Way.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Serpetine Legislation

I am not a Californian, nor do I play one on TV. However, there are some stories that transcend time and space. Last week I noted in my post "Think Think Think" that California's government was out of control, requiring electronic license plates. I guess you can give them a little leeway, since the state is in such financial troubles. So what wonderful things is the CA senate doing to address all the serious problems in the state?

Removing the state rock! California's state rock, serpentine, is under attack. The reason is that the rock contains chrysotile, a form of asbestos. The rock is not unique to California, and is commonly used, cut and polished, in jewelry or as a decorative stone (in the United Nations building, for instance, as seen in the picture below).

Apparently, serpentine only became the state rock in 1965, in order to promote the asbestos industry in California. Of course, asbestos is now anathema, and the asbestos industry is pretty much gone. Time to move to more politically correct waters.

Now, I'm not saying asbestos is good, or that there might not be more suitable state rocks for California (perhaps pyrite?), but doesn't the senate have more pressing issues to deal with?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Independence Day

...and here is the text that started it all, in it's entirety. Have you read it lately? Ever? I don't know if I've read more than the preamble before.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Do No Harm

The following is the oath that all doctors would swear when they entered the medical profession, from the time of Hippocrates around  400 BC (emphasis mine).
  • I swear by Apollo the Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods, and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:
  • To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art–if they desire to learn it–without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken the oath according to medical law, but to no one else.
  • I will apply dietic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
  • I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.
  • I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.
  • Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.
  • What I may see or hear in the course of treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep myself holding such things shameful to be spoken about.
  • If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.
It was changed over the years to be more in line with the culture (for instance, the Greek gods had to go), but was generally the same. The parts I have emphasized are things that were removed in the next version. The Declaration of Geneva in 1948 amended the oath as follows:
  • I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity
  • I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude which is their due;
  • I will practise my profession with conscience and dignity;
  • The health and life of my patient will be my first consideration;
  • I will respect the secrets which are confided in me;
  • I will maintain by all means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
  • My colleagues will be my brothers
  • I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient;
  • I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of its conception, even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity;
  • I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.
Note that the injunction against euthanasia is gone as is that against injustice, mischief and sexual relations with patients or their families. In 2005 it was changed again. Once again I have highlighted sections that changed or were removed.
  • I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
  • I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due;
  • I will practise my profession with conscience and dignity;
  • The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
  • I will respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died;
  • I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
  • My colleagues will be my sisters and brothers;
  • I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;
  • I will maintain the utmost respect for human life;
  • I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;
  • I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.
Aside from a multitude of considerations that are not to intervene, we have some interesting changes. Confidentiality now extends beyond the patients life, women are now explicitly included in the text, and religion is no longer mentioned. It has morphed into "creed". I can't find a good reason for the change. "Creed" is a more vague term, but certainly not broader or narrower. Perhaps someone was upset by the mention of the word "religion."

The main point is that the 2200 year old, prohibitions against euthanasia and abortion have both been removed, as well as the prohibition against injustice and sexual misconduct, all in the matter of a few years.

It's all a moot point, since no oath is required of doctors today. How far we have come.