Denise J. Hunnell, MD

Do no harm?: Medical journals show increasing support for euthanasia

Denise J. Hunnell, MD
By Denise Hunnell MD
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August 24, 2012 (Zenit.org) – Primum non nocere. First do no harm. This edict has been part of medical ethics since the time of the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, in the fifth century B.C. It is found in the Hippocratic Corpus, a collection of medical writing attributed to Hippocrates. The original Hippocratic oath includes:

I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

For millennia the physician has been charged with being an advocate for the patient. Part of the impetus for the original Hippocratic oath was to ensure that doctors would not be paid by an enemy to give poison instead of medicine. Patients should be able to come to their doctor when they are sick and weakened, and have no fear that their vulnerability will be exploited.

Unfortunately, the sacred trust of the doctor-patient relationship is being strained by a new ethical model. Physicians are being urged to place the “greater good” above the needs of their individual patients. A disregard for the sanctity of human life as well as a utilitarian philosophy that judges the value of a patient to society is becoming more mainstream in the medical profession. This is evidenced by the increasing number of articles in respected medical journals that call for approval of assisted suicide and euthanasia, euphemistically called “assisted dying.”

The British Medical Journal (BMJ), a publication distributed to the members of the British Medical Association, devoted much of its June 14, 2012, issue to endorsing voluntary euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. Raymond Tallis, emeritus professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Manchester, argues in this issue that respect for patient desires and autonomy renders irrelevant any opinion on the matter by the Royal College of Physicians or the British Medical Association. Therefore, all opposition to euthanasia is merely inappropriate paternalism and should be dropped.

In this same issue, Tess McPherson relates the difficult last days of her mother, Ann McPherson, and uses this painful experience as a call for legalized physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. Rather than seeking better pain control, she argues that death is the best option for those suffering at the end of their lives.

Finally, Fiona Goodlee, editor in chief of the BMJ, rounds out the arguments by declaring that legalization of assisted dying is not a medical decision, but rather a societal question. She argues that the role of the physician is compatible with providing euthanasia or assisted suicide and if society wants it, they should get it.

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Amid these scholarly endorsements of euthanasia come the claims of British physician Patrick Pullicino that the National Health Service (NHS) is effectively killing 130,000 patients every year when doctors place these patients on the Liverpool Care Protocol (LCP) and deny them nutrition and hydration. According to the Daily Mail:

Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’.

He cited ‘pressure on beds and difficulty with nursing confused or difficult-to-manage elderly patients’ as factors.

Professor Pullicino revealed he had personally intervened to take a patient off the LCP who went on to be successfully treated.

The medical literature from the United States also shows an increasing acceptance of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. The July 12, 2012, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) included an article by Dr. Lisa Soleymani Lehmann and Julian Prokopetz that suggested physician opposition to assisted dying was an unreasonable barrier to patients seeking lethal medications. They recommended that all patients who met the legal criteria for assisted suicide as outlined in the state laws of Oregon, Washington, and Montana should be able to obtain the drugs necessary for suicide without a physician’s prescription or approval.

Perhaps the most chilling example is the enthusiastic endorsement in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) for the book Death, Dying, and Organ Transplantation: Reconstructing Medical Ethics at the End of Life, by Drs. Franklin Miller and Robert Truog. This book seeks to do away with two core principles of medical care. The first is that a physician cannot intentionally cause the death of his patient. The second is that donors of vital organs for transplantation must be dead before the organs are harvested.

Catholic health care ethics, in accordance with natural law, holds that when the burden of life-sustaining extraordinary care such as a ventilator is greater than the benefit it provides, such care can be withdrawn. This is not seen as causing the death of the patient, but rather allowing the patient to die from his underlying illness. Miller and Truog disagree and assert that such an act directly causes the death of the patient. They then begin their descent down the slippery slope by claiming that if causing death by withdrawing life-sustaining care is acceptable, then active voluntary euthanasia by lethal injection should also be acceptable. Further, if voluntary euthanasia by injection is acceptable, then voluntary euthanasia by removal of vital organs to be used for transplantation should be equally acceptable. This radical argument could be disregarded as fringe thinking had it not been so prominently and positively recommended in JAMA.

It is reasonable to say that the notion that physicians should not kill their patients is still widespread among medical professionals. Indeed, several of the aforementioned authors take their colleagues to task for opposing euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. The growing numbers of prestigious medical journals that are routinely publishing support for all forms of “assisted dying” are, however, a clear indication that this approach to end of life “care” is making significant inroads in mainstream medical ethics. The foundational principles of health care that date back to Hippocrates are in jeopardy.

This has serious implications for patients. No longer can a patient assume that his physician has his best medical interests at heart. Now physicians are being urged to consider the cost to society of a patient’s care and judge whether a patient is worthy of such expense. Instead of seeking to provide comfort and authentic compassion at the end of life, there is increased support for hastening death as an expedient solution to suffering.

It is now incumbent upon every patient to explore the ethical principles of his doctor. Does he uphold the sanctity of life from conception to natural death? Does he understand that treatments can be deemed burdensome, but human life is never burdensome? Does he view nutrition and hydration as ordinary care as long as a patient can derive a benefit from it? Does he reject all justifications for intentionally causing the death of his patients?

If your physician does not answer unequivocally “yes” to each of these questions, can you really trust him with your life?

Denise Hunnell, MD, is a Fellow of HLI America, an initiative of Human Life International. She writes for HLI’s Truth and Charity Forum. This article appeared on Zenit.org and is reprinted with permission.

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Ben Johnson and Andy Parrish

Did Minnesota’s Planned Parenthood lie about illegal organ harvesting?

Ben Johnson and Andy Parrish
By Ben Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Somebody in the abortion industry is breaking a Minnesota law that bans the sale or donation of aborted babies' body parts.

That's the conclusion of numerous elected officials, who are renewing calls to investigate Planned Parenthood in the wake of undercover videos about the harvesting and sale of fetal organs and tissue.

Dozens of Republican state legislators asked Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to investigate the abortion provider after the Center for Medical Progress released videos detailing the little-known practice. The sale or donation of fetal organs or tissue is illegal under state law.

The local Planned Parenthood affiliate - Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) - said that it had never been involved in fetal tissue donation.

However, in the latest video released by CMP, the head of a biological company says it has an abortion facility operating in Minnesota.

Perrin Larton, the Procurement Manager for Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR), says she procures fetal organs and tissue from abortion facilities "in San Diego, in Oregon, in Minnesota, and soon we will be starting in New Jersey and Philadelphia."

At the heart of the issue is a Minnesota state law that requires abortion facilities to dispose of aborted babies' bodies "by cremation, interment by burial, or in a manner directed by the commissioner of health." To do otherwise is a misdemeanor.

Thus, ABR's research would be illegal in any case.

As it turns out, ABR has been registered as a non-profit in the state of Minnesota since April 2009. Its location is listed as 1010 N. Dale St. in St. Paul.

A former ABR employee, Deborah Heap Tierney, listed her occupation on LinkedIn as "procurement specialist" at the company, in Minnesota, from February 2009 - two months before ABR's business filing as a nonprofit - to November 2009.

Investigators want to know: If organ donation was illegal, what was she procuring, and who acted as ABR's supplier?

"Why is the nation's largest and oldest fetal procurement company in Minnesota in the first place, let alone four miles from Planned Parenthood Minnesota?" said State Representative Mary Franson, R-08B, in a statement sent exclusively to LifeSiteNews. "Minnesota law requires a dignified and sanitary disposal of fetal remains. Sales or donation of fetal remains is not permitted."

"Advanced Bioscience Resources admits in a recent video that they procure fetal tissue in Minnesota. That alone is illegal and criminal," State Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-39B, told LifeSiteNews. "I am calling on Ramsey County Prosecutor John J. Choi to investigate these claims and if true to pursue criminal charges against them."

But what about Planned Parenthood? Did it tell the truth when it denied ever having participated in ABR's organ harvesting business?

State Rep. Matt Dean, R-38B, sent a letter on July 24 to Sarah Stoesz, the president and CEO of PPMNS, to find out. He asked for the affiliate's "official policy on the donation of fetal tissue."

Echoing Cecile Richards, Stoesz replied on August 3, "I want to be absolutely clear." Although Planned Parenthood "believes strongly in the value of fetal tissue research...PPMNS does not participate, and has never participated, in any type of tissue donation program that would involve providing fetal remains (with reimbursement of expenses or otherwise) to any commercial vendor or to any other entity for the purpose of medical research."

When asked for official policy, she responded, "PPMNS does not and never has donated tissue of any kind and, accordingly, does not have a policy dedicated to this issue."

She then said that one of its policies requires that state law be followed on the disposal of aborted babies' remains, and the policy was adopted in 2011. She sent a copy of their policy, which was signed by Stoesz and two other PPMNS officials on July 27 - three days after Dean's letter.

Gov. Mark Dayton accused Republicans of "full-time grandstanding," saying, "As far as I'm concerned there's no basis for an investigation at taxpayer expense into a private nonprofit organization that has stated they don't engage in those practices here in Minnesota."

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith - who was part of the Planned Parenthood affiliate's leadership - agrees. Smith is a former vice president for external affairs at PPMNS.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-31A today told LifeSiteNews through a spokesperson that the state's Democratic leadership has turned a blind eye to a burgeoning scandal, and justice must be enforced at once.

"Speaker Daudt is outraged by the developments with Planned Parenthood," Susan Closmore, state House Republican communications director, told LifeSiteNews. "Speaker Daudt has called on Governor Mark Dayton to investigate this issue."

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Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

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Vatican: It’s ‘impossible’ for transsexuals to serve as godparents

Sofia Vazquez-Mellado
By Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

MADRID, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews)- After Alex Salinas, a woman living as a man in San Fernando, Spain, claimed her parish priest had allowed her to be the “godfather” for the baptism of her two nephews, local bishop of Cadiz and Ceuta, Don Rafael Zornoza took the matter up with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The response, which strongly affirms Church teaching on the nature of gender, was published yesterday on the diocese’s website.

“On this particular case I inform you of the impossibility of admission,” read the response. “Transsexual behavior publicly reveals an opposition to the moral demand of resolving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sex. It is therefore evident that said person does not comply with the requirement of leading a life of faith and to the function of godparent (CIC, can 874 §1,3).”

“This is not seen as discrimination, but merely as the recognition of an objective lack of requirements that by their nature are necessary to take on the ecclesiastic responsibility of being a godparent,” it concluded.

The prelate explained how Pope Francis has confirmed this doctrine on several occasions and quoted his last encyclical Laudato Si: “Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.”

Bishop Zornoza also quoted Benedict XVI on the “ecology of man,” as “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.”

“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father,” continued Zornoza quoting Francis. “Thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology.”

The bishop went on to explain that if parents are unable to find a suitable person to qualify as godparent, the priest can baptize the child without godparents, “which are not necessary to celebrate this sacrament.”

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“Words have been attributed [to me] which I have not pronounced,” he noted, referring to the media falsely reporting his approval of Salinas as godfather. He explained he had reached out to the Congregation “due to the complexity and the media relevance this matter has reached, and keeping in mind the possible pastoral consequences of any decision on the matter.”

Local media reported that the baptism, scheduled for this September, has been cancelled, and that Salinas’ sisters will not baptize their children until the bishop changes his mind.

Salinas, who had declared herself to be a “firm believer,” has now claimed to be an “apostate” due to the Church’s rejection, reported Spain’s EFE.

In a petition started by change.org, Salinas wrote she didn’t understand why “the Catholic Church denies me the possibility of being a godfather” if Spanish authorities have already changed her name from Alexandra to Alexander in her official IDs.

The petition falsely celebrated a “victory” after Salinas claimed she was being allowed as godfather.

Mainstream media, which initially reported Salina’s “celebration,” have not yet reported on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s response.

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Forced abortions at Canadian clinics central to cover-up of 12-yr-old’s abuse: pro-life leaders

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By Pete Baklinski

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A renowned Canadian judge is calling for an investigation into why two Canadian abortion centers failed to report an underaged girl who was forced by her stepfather to undergo two abortions after being repeatedly raped by him, one at the former Morgentaler Clinic in Newfoundland and the other at a Winnipeg, Manitoba hospital.

Retired Manitoba justice Ted Hughes told CBC News that the province of Manitoba should investigate how a 12-year-old girl with a previous record of abortion could be given another abortion and not have providers bring the child to the attention of welfare officials.

"I'm surprised that child-and-family-services, the ministry, isn't taking an aggressive stand. I would have expected that, because, unquestionably this child was in need of protection," said Hughes, who received national attention last year when he made 62 recommendations for improving the child welfare system after investigating the 2005 murder of 5-year-old Phoenix Sinclair.

"Do I think this should be looked into? I certainly do,” he said.

After making these concerns public yesterday, Manitoba's Office of the Children's Advocate stated on the same day that it has launched an investigation, but that its findings will not be made public.

Pro-life leaders say the girl’s experience at the hands of abortionists is an indictment of the entire industry.

“Abortion centers are not health care centers. They are businesses, and their product is dead babies, professionally emptied uteruses. So they have a vested financial interest in not asking any questions,” said Jonathan Van Maren, communications director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, to LifeSiteNews.

On Friday, the girl’s 35-year-old stepfather was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sexual assault that began in 2011 when the girl was 11 and continued for over two years, during which the girl became pregnant twice. The stepfather traveled across country for the first forced abortion at the former Morgentaler Clinic in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He then took the girl closer to home for the second forced abortion at the Health Sciences Centre in the Women's Hospital in Winnipeg.

"He arranged abortions for both pregnancies, including cover stories," said Justice Christopher Martin at the sentencing, describing the man’s crimes as "shockingly calculated and cruel” and “among the worst nightmare scenarios.”

The man was arrested in 2012 after sexually assaulting his step-daughter’s best friend and the girl’s mom after breaking into their home. He cannot be identified to protect the victims.

The young girl, who is now 15, called both abortions "murder" in a victim-impact statement.

While legal and human rights experts are busy pointing fingers at who might be ultimately responsible for failing to help this girl as a victim of sexual assault, hardly anyone wants to point a finger at the abortion industry itself.

But Canadian pro-life leaders say the blame for this girl’s ongoing abuse rests primarily with the abortion establishment.

“By providing this abortion service for this young victim without asking any questions and without bringing in social services, these abortion providers were essentially protecting this incestuous stepfather and child rapist and setting up a situation that allowed him to continue abusing this poor little girl. They were protecting the perpetrator, not the victim,” Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition told LifeSiteNews.

Douglas said that what this girl experienced in the hands of abortion providers proves that the abortion industry does not really care about women.

“It says they don’t care anymore for this young girl than they do for the little victims that were in her womb. They don’t care about the girl, they don’t care about the baby. All they do is provide death,” she said.

Natalie Sonnen, Executive Director of LifeCanada, said that legalized abortion in Canada has created a situation that “favours the abuser, without doubt.”

“Thousands of women and girls are susceptible to coercion by these men who get away with their crimes and are propped up by the industry. It is an absolute tragedy that these girls or women can be forcibly aborted and then sent back into the abusive relationship again. We have known for years that coerced abortion is a huge problem that our society refuses to address, for fear of offending the sacrosanct abortion establishment,” she told LifeSiteNews.

Various attempts have been made by pro-life politicians to introduce bills that would offer women some protection from coerced abortion, but with no success.

In 2008, Alberta Conservative MP Ken Epp saw his bill titled The Unborn Victims of Violent Crime reach second reading before it was squelched by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who was keeping his promise to steer clear of the abortion issue. The bill would have allowed for separate punishments for killing an unborn child in a violent attack on a pregnant mother.

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In 2010, Tory MP Rod Bruinooge introduced a private member’s bill in 2010 called Roxanne’s Law that would have made it an offense to coerce a woman to seek an abortion. The bill was named after Roxanne Fernando, a Winnipeg woman beaten to death by her boyfriend in 2007, after refusing to get an abortion. Again, following Harper’s lead, the bill was only supported by half of the Conservative caucus and a handful of Liberals and failed to pass first reading.

Jonathan Van Maren, communications director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, criticized politicians and the abortion industry for opposing the above bills that could have helped the young girl if they had been passed.

“The term ‘pro-choice’ rings hollow for many women and girls who are coerced into having an abortion, or feel that they are pressured into having an abortion against their will. Yet, the abortion industry and most of our politicians opposed Roxanne's Law, which would have made it illegal to do so.”

Van Maren said that far from securing women’s freedom, abortion-on-demand has reached a point where it is now being used as a “tool of oppression, not only for the pre-born child who is, as this poor girl tragically recognized, murdered, but also for those women and girls who bear the scars of their lost children and the trauma of being forced into this so-called government funded service against their will.”

Mike Schouten, Campaign Director for WeNeedALaw.ca, said that Canada’s continual resistance to regulating abortion has manifested itself in what he called a “real life tragedy.”

“While it is understandable that we focus on the rapist and the callousness of his crimes we also do well to collectively ask ourselves how we have come to live in a society that cares so little about the health and well-being of women, and in this case a young girl,” he told LifeSiteNews.

"This tragedy is a direct result of individualizing abortion to the point where the maximum amount of energy is put into protecting the so called ‘right to choose’ and little or no effort into actually caring for the health of this young girl."

"This sad story is another indication that a time of reckoning is coming whereby Canadians come to understand that abortion does not liberate a woman. Rather, it brings a host of new problems, and in this tragic case allowed for the continued abuse of a vulnerable young girl,” he said.

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