Peter Baklinski

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Bioethicist argues PVS diagnosed patients should not be kept alive

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski
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April 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - If an American bioethicist gets her way, all patients evaluated as being in a “permanent vegetative state” (PVS) would by default have artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) withdrawn unless they have made a prior wish to be kept alive.

In the March 2012 issue of Bioethics, Dr. Catherine Constable argues that “in the absence of clear evidence that the patient would opt for this existence over death, keeping him alive by any means of assistance is ethically more problematic than allowing him to die.”

Constable’s article however, does not appear to adequately confront recent research indicating that many patients have been misdiagnosed as PVS and have in fact had functioning, fully conscious brains. They have been unable to communicate their situation to caregivers and to those who in many cases made misguided decisions to end their lives. The highly respected Discover Magazine published a dramatic report on such research last year.

The term PVS itself is also being increasingly being challenged as inappropriate for human beings who it is argued can never be considered to be “vegetative”.

In her article titled Withdrawal of Artificial Nutrition and Hydration for Patients in a Permanent Vegetative State: Changing Tack, Constable suggests that the current medical presumption that favors providing nutrition and hydration to PVS patients is a “violation of autonomy” and that it “goes against the best interests of the patient”.

Constable, who teaches at New York University School of Medicine but who studied bioethics at the Ethox Centre at Oxford University, justifies her position using the philosophical premise of Peter Singer that “[whether or not] a being is human, and alive, does not in itself tell us whether it is wrong to take that being’s life.” She drew heavily on Singer’s method for valuing persons in terms of consciousness that allows him to argue that “the most significant ethically relevant characteristic of human beings whose brains have ceased to function is not that they are members of our species, but that they have no prospect of regaining consciousness.”

“Without consciousness, continued life cannot benefit them [PVS patients],” Singer argued.

Constable runs with Singer’s line of reasoning, concluding that “a decision to preserve the life of a patient in a state of permanent unconsciousness based on respect for life itself is morally no more sound than a decision to take that life.”

For Constable, an individual’s autonomy is the highest human good, overriding any other good, including what she calls the “sanctity of life”. Since a PVS patient presumably no longer has consciousness and therefore lacks autonomy, her argument runs, then there is no moral reason that such a patient should be kept alive.

“In view of this conclusion, other considerations, such as the cost to the healthcare system (public, or any other kind) would seem poised to be deciding factors,” she argues.

Constable goes as far as making the case that those who provide a PVS patient who may not have wanted to be kept alive with ANH “have arguably committed a worse violation of autonomy by treating the patient than if we had not treated him against his wishes.”

Bringing in surveys that indicate that a majority of people would not want to continue living in a permanent vegetative state, Constable argues that in continuing to provide ANH to PVS patients “we are employing a treatment that most do not consider beneficial without consent.” For Constable, ANH is simply a “form of treatment” that is concomitant with all the “ethical ramifications” that would normally accompany any other kind of treatment.

Constable even argues against keeping PVS patients alive through ANH under the pretext of a chance of recovery for the reason that the new life gained would be “far less likely to resemble [the life that was] lost” and would likely resemble “some state of middle consciousness”. She suggests that the life of a recovered PVS patient would be “quite possibly, worse than non-existence”.

Renowned bioethics critic Wesley J. Smith called Constable’s position paper a “radical proposal” that would set the stage for what he called a “‘default for death’ policy [that] would establish the foundation for a veritable duty to die”.

Smith warned that Constable’s arguments for killing PVS patients are not limited to the PVS.

“Some bioethicists already claim that those with minimal consciousness have an interest in being made to die. And don’t forget Futile Care Theory and health care rationing bearing down on us.”

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) stated in 2007 that the withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration from PVS patients is immoral. Their statements were approved by Pope Benedict XVI.

“The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.”

The CDF clarified that even if a competent physician judges with moral certainty that a PVS patient will never recover consciousness, nonetheless, a PVS patient is “a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means.”

The late John Paul II had also taught that “the administration of water and food [to a sick person], even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act.”

“We had better push back on this agenda”, warned Smith on his blog.

“The lives of tens of thousands of people may be at stake.”

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

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By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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