Life with dignity

You have a “right to die,” a euphemism that means others have a right to kill you,
but do you have a right to live and receive care?
and participate in experimental treatments, when no other options exist?

Great Ormond Street Hospital answers, no.

Little Charlie Gard has no idea that he is the center of the latest battle between the insidious culture of death and the culture of life. He has no idea how many people know his name and are praying for him and his parents. He has no idea that his plight has inspired and moved the Pope and the president of the United States. While I am united with Charlie Gard, his family, and supporters in prayer, I recognize a greater need to pray for the hospital administrators and doctors who would deny care and treatment for a terminally ill baby and hasten his death, and for the judges and politicians who support the attitudes and practices promoted by the culture of death.

“death with dignity” is a misleading phrase that promoters of the culture of death hide behind. The term delineates how far they are willing to accompany someone who is suffering (not far enough). In fact, not only have we have lost all our dignity when we purposefully kill someone, but the person we kill loses his or her dignity as well. The sentence issued: your life is not worth living. At issue is how do we help those who are suffering (for any reason) live not only with dignity, but also with hope. Hope that both their lives and their suffering have meaning.

The photos of Charlie Gard with his ventilator remind me of photos of another baby, a little girl whose name the Pope and President Trump will never know. Baby May Faith passed from this life earlier this year, just shy of her first birthday. She spent her entire life at the hospital. She had problems with her organs, was in need of various surgeries. She eventually got well enough for a tracheotomy, but then her health declined, and the next surgery was postponed. Her mother’s greatest hope and dream—to bring baby May Faith home—was not realized. I journeyed with the parents in prayer, watching and waiting with them, hoping with them with every smile their daughter smiled at them, and grieving with them when her body seemed to boycott for no reason. As with all situations, I ask “what is God up to?” (Because I know God is always up to something!)

What is the meaning of these children’s lives?

These children have the power to draw forth from us faith, hope, and love. What gifts! What gifts are their lives, and how they have the ability to enlarge our hearts.

The parents were already devout Catholics. With the birth of their sixth child, I saw, as did everyone, Baby May Faith’s parents achieve greater levels of faith and hope, as well as surrender to God. My friend and I were astonished by how the parents cooperated with God’s grace, which sustained them each day. We heard first hand from the parents how God blessed them daily during their trial. The gift of a sick child burst open their hearts, which they readily shared with the prayer circle via e-mail updates. To accompany the family during the trial of a sick infant was a great privilege for me. No doubt the life of this little girl, the faith of the parents affected the medical staff at the hospital, as well.

Removing Baby May Faith’s breathing tube was not up for discussion, even though miracles were required for this child to go home, let alone survive childhood. To be drawn to kill these innocent children under the guise of “compassion” is to be misguided and misled by the evil one deep into the culture of death. What darkness people must live in when they conclude that they only way to “help” someone is to end their life.

Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. — Matthew 25:40

The case of Charlie Gard highlights how the culture of death is spreading, and that should concern everyone. To give hospital administrators the power to deny treatment and care for the terminally ill has led to denial of care for those who are merely sick. In the name of “patient rights,” patients are losing their rights to treatment.

My own mother, in her very early 70s, went to the emergency room for stomach pain and was diagnosed with an infection and given antibiotics. While there someone (not her doctor or even a nurse caring for her) randomly came in her room and asked if she wanted a DNR. That means “do not resuscitate.” It is hospital protocol to ask these questions of patients, even when they are not terminally ill. My mom did not fully understand the implications, and thanks be to God, someone explained to her what it meant, and they cancelled the DNR and removed the “go ahead and kill me” bracelet from her wrist. So if my mom had suffered a heart attack while in the hospital being treated for an infection, she would have been denied care and might have died. And if that DNR order had not been removed, if my mother had suffered a heart attack a week later, she would not have received treatment, and probably would have died.

The Dutch continue to expand the list of people whom doctors can kill. In the case of one woman with dementia, her husband and doctor decided themselves it was time for this woman to die. She was too much trouble. The woman may have had dementia, but she knew what her doctor was about to do and resisted. In that moment it was not her wish to die. She fully understood, and they had to restrain her, give her a sedative, so they could administer a lethal injection. She was denied both life and her dignity. She made the mistake of signing a paper that the doctors could kill her.

The next step for “death with dignity” advocates is to reclassify food and hydration as “extraordinary means.” For now, Oregon voted down a bill that would allow doctors to starve to death patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

You may not know this… I did not, until it happened to my grandmother. But an elderly woman with a UTI can exhibit signs of dementia. My 89-year-old grandmother, who is mostly lucid, although slow and confused at times. was acting stranger and more despondent than usual. This was going on for a few weeks, and then it was discovered that she had a UTI. As soon as she got on antibiotics, she reverted back to her normal condition.

Do advocates of euthanasia believe governments should end the death penalty?

Just this week, the governor of Virginia (who claims to oppose the death penalty) refused to pardon a man convicted of killing a security guard and sheriff’s deputy. Although he was found to be mentally ill and unable to distinguish between his delusions and reality, his life was not spared. Rather, he was administered a three-drug cocktail which may or may not prevent the condemned person from experiencing pain.

Some tricky headlines and background

  • What does The Washington Post’s Lindsey Bever mean by “allowed to die” in her headline “This terminally ill infant will be allowed to die. But first, his parents will say goodbye.”
    • Does she mean the hospital will be allowed to deny the child care and hasten his death, which is the decision upheld by the European Court of “Human Rights” by its decision not to intervene?
    • Charlie has no voice to say whether or not he does or does not want treatment; his parents are his voice and decision-makers
    • At issue is whether or not doctors and hospitals can deny care and treatment, and when courts side with the culture of death, we are all in trouble
  • And then we have Jon Sharman’s article “’Stop attacking doctors and read the full Charlie Gard court judgments,’ pediatrician tells social media users” in The Independent.
    • The doctors are entitled to their medical opinion, but we cannot ignore completely parental rights in health care decisions for their children
    • I don’t need to read the particulars of Charlie Gard’s condition, because Charlie Gard’s case is going to court not just for him, but for everyone who is ill and their caregivers seeking to get the best treatment available
    • How we treat Charlie Gard says who we are, not who he is
    • Great Ormond Hospital’s demand to its “right” to determine when Charlie Gard dies is about having power and dominion; if GOSH does not want to care for Charlie Gard, then they have a responsibility to release him to other doctors and facilities that will care for him
    • For Great Ormond Hospital to schedule Charlie’s death on its terms, is a tremendous loss of hope; for if Charlie was released and received experimental treatment available now, and that treatment extended and improved his life for even a month; for Charlie to give his parents ten more smiles that they might not have otherwise had, means that Great Ormond Hospital is wrong in its position; it is too great of a defeat for them to bear in such a public way; not to mention what doctors might learn from having had the opportunity to treat Charlie (instead of kill him) and the other children who might benefit as a result
    • That’s not to say there aren’t times when there is excessive treatment, but we aren’t talking about that in this case; excessive treatment often does more harm than good
  • How “right to die” came to America (National Center for Life and Liberty)

Intercessions

Join the Worldwide 12-hour Prayer Vigil for Charlie Gard,
Thursday, July 13, 5 a.m. London Time, midnight Eastern

We pray to the Lord:

For a growing love of each human person
from conception to natural death;

That the life of every human person,
from conception to natural death,
might be enshrined and protected in our laws;

For every little child who is ill or in pain:
that the beauty of their lives
might bring patience and hope;

For a growing love of God’s little ones,
in the womb, in the nursing home, or at death’s door:
That we might love with the love of Jesus;

For those who have grown old or weak:
that we might see God’s power in their fragility;

For those struggling with terrible diseases:
that each day might be a new revelation
of God’s love for them;

For all who are about to die:
that through our love, care, and devotion,
they might know the beauty of life,
to the moment of their final breath;

For those tempted to despair by constant pain:
that they might join their suffering
to the Cross of Christ;

For medical researchers:
that they may be inspired and strengthened
by a love for every human person,
from the first moment of conception;

For doctors:
who in their practice abort unborn children:
that God might give them the grace
to turn from sin and remember the Gospel;

For those who study medicine:
that they may be driven by a desire
to heal and protect very human person;

Lord, hear our prayer.

Sign Petition to Save Charlie Gard
(and all the other lives at stake when doctors, hospital administrators,
and courts seem to think they have the right to kill innocent people)

(more than) A few newsbits about Baby Charlie and his cause,
which is the plight of all the vulnerable sick

Catholic Health Care Directives

The truth that life is a precious gift from God has profound implications for the question of stewardship over human life. We are not the owners of our lives and, hence, do not have absolute power over life. We have a duty to preserve our life and to use it for the glory of God, but the duty to preserve life is not absolute, for we may reject life-prolonging procedures that are insufficiently beneficial or excessively burdensome. Suicide and euthanasia are never morally acceptable options.

The task of medicine is to care even when it cannot cure. Physicians and their patients must evaluate the use of the technology at their disposal. Reflection on the innate dignity of human life in all its dimensions and on the purpose of medical care is indispensable for formulating a true moral judgment about the use of technology to maintain life. The use of life-sustaining technology is judged in light of the Christian meaning of life, suffering, and death. In this way two extremes are avoided: on the one hand, an insistence on useless or burdensome technology even when a patient may legitimately wish to forgo it and, on the other hand, the withdrawal of technology with the intention of causing death.

The Declaration on Euthanasia, May 5, 1980

56. A person has a moral obligation to use ordinary or proportionate means of preserving his or her life. Proportionate means are those that in the judgment of the patient offer a reasonable hope of benefit and do not entail an excessive burden or impose excessive expense on the family or the community.

57. A person may forgo extraordinary or disproportionate means of preserving life.
Disproportionate means are those that in the patient’s judgment do not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or entail an excessive burden, or impose excessive expense on the family or the community

So many questions, some of which are

  • Who determines if your life has value?
  • Are you even capable of ascertaining the full meaning and measure of your life, including your suffering?
  • Should doctors have a right to kill you against your own wishes? Should judges absolve these doctors of murder?
  • Should doctors be allowed to deny you food and hydration and starve you to death when you are incapacitated?
  • Should hospitals be able to override the rights of parents to determine if their children will get treatment available at other medical facilities?
  • Will America lead the world in creating a culture of life? If we don’t, who will? Poland. (Not Canada, nor Belgium, nor any EU country)
  • Regarding Charlie, specifically, how long would he live if the hospital continued to provide care for him until natural death? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year?
    • By God’s will and grace, Charlie has lived six additional months; usually the disease is fatal during infancy, but some have survived into their teenage years (per article in the Evening Standard UK)
    • And he has been deprived of experimental treatment that could have changed the course of his life as well as lengthened it; and we would all have had the opportunity to be more human in caring for him; and scientists would have valuable information about their treatment and understanding of a rare disease

We love him more than life itself, and if he is still fighting, then we are still fighting. — parents of Charlie Gard

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