Friday, 31 May 2013

Must-read pro-life news-stories, Fri 31 May

Top story:

Ireland's dangerous abortion bill will be used as model for Catholic world
The Irish government's legislative proposals on abortion will be used by the international pro-abortion lobby, worldwide, as a "model" for majority Catholic countries. It's essential that pro-life citizens, politicians and church leaders worldwide study this Bill - not least SPUC's full analysis of it http://www.spuc.org.uk/documents/papers/2013/ireland20130524 . > Blogpost with executive summary

Other stories:

Abortion
Euthanasia
Population
Sexual ethics
General
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Professor Jones's LCP submission is a matter of great concern

Prof. David Jones (left) with Abp. Vincent Nichols
Professor David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Centre for Bioethics, is reported by The Tablet (16 May 2013) to be offering the reassuring news that his preliminary investigation into the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) finds that it:
“has not yet been demonstrated that the LCP is 'structurally unsound' or 'inherently unethical'.”
However, Professor Jones's reassurance (which appears in his submission to an enquiry, chaired by Baroness Julia Neuberger) merits, I believe, serious criticism - particularly since his submission could be presented as being on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. His submission is headed Submission to the Review of the Liverpool Care Pathway [LCP] on behalf of the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. In a footnote Professor Jones adds:
"This submission was prepared in an individual capacity at the request of the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales".
Firstly, it seems to be nowhere mentioned in his submission that Professor Jones has been intimately involved in the ongoing formulation and promotion of the Liverpool Care Pathway, not only sitting on the National Reference Group of the LCP (see his Anscombe biography or the LCP Reference Group itself) but also giving talks promoting the LCP, at least once with the founder of the Pathway, Professor Ellershaw. Does this not represent a conflict of interests which could be embarrassing for the Catholic bishops of England and Wales?

Secondly, I ask the question: were all the bishops of England and Wales consulted about this submission, over which there is growing concern, not least from senior Catholic doctors? In this connection, I have been informed by one such doctor that none of the senior Catholic medics who are opposed to (or highly critical of) the LCP itself, as well as its implementation, were consulted by Professor Jones when making his submission on behalf of the Catholic bishops.

Thirdly, Professor Jones’s submission suffers from a number of defects. Having failed to mention the role of financial incentives in the implementation of the Pathway in his (recently revised) Comment on the LCP (posted "with the approval of the governors of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre" on the Centre's website), Professor Jones now acknowledges there is a problem. However, he does so in order apparently to minimise it, merely asking:
“Is there evidence (from minutes of meetings, emails, witnessed conversations etc.) that commissioners, managers or doctors believe that the LCP hastens death and saves money for that reason?”
... As if evidence for such could easily be found (the financial incentives were unmentioned by Professor Jones and by the key promoters of the LCP until a determined journalist at the Daily Telegraph made some Freedom of Information requests)... As if financial incentives don’t corrupt in multiform and latent ways, especially in end-of-life care in a country such as the UK. We do know, however, that in certain areas, targets have been set* specifically to increase the numbers of people in their hospital dying on the Pathway. Nothing of this appears in Professor Jones’s submission on behalf of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales. (*A lethal power? New Law Journal 23rd November 2012 Dr Jacqueline Laing, BA, LLB (ANU) DPhil (Oxon), barrister, High Court of Australia, senior lecturer in law, London Metropolitan University.)

Fourthly, Professor Jones tells us all disagreements about the LCP are 'empirical', yet he has neither medical qualifications nor expertise in the analysis of empirical data. On the crucial issue of diagnosis of impending death he quotes and gives central importance to an unblinded study in which the raters were also the carers. Indeed, the LCP is predicated on prognosis yet there is no reliable scientific evidence to show that it is possible to predict reliably the timing of death within a period of hours or days. As Professor Pullicino, pointed out in his lecture to the Royal Society of Medicine (June 2012) Can we predict impending death? The scientific evidence:
“The LCP does not attempt to use any published prognostication index to determine who goes onto it” and that 'being within the last hours of days of life' is really a prediction not a prognostication.” 
There is no recognition that the LCP is not evidence-based, as judged by authoritative Cochrane Reviews.

Fifthly, the submission dismisses cavalierly the media coverage which seeks to give voice to the huge number of complaints about the Pathway. Here Professor Jones reveals the partial nature of the submission. He focuses attention on a tiny number of sloppy articles (as there inevitably are for any news story) amidst a mini-mountain of witness statements and evidence regarding the flaws in the LCP and its implementation. Incredibly, no mention is made of the many misleading statements made by supporters of the LCP.

Sixthly, as Professor Pullicino, Dr Philip Howard and Dr Anthony Cole have noted:
“He supports the idea of withdrawal of fluid and sedative management in "dying" patients, without showing he understands how this conflicts with the physiology of thirst and the respiratory and central nervous system depressant effects of opiates and benzodiazepines”.
They add:
"He fails to highlight the pivotal place of the diagnosis that a patient is 'dying' in the LCP. He accepts the term 'dying patient' with only superficial discussion. He mentions that if the diagnosis of 'dying' is wrong, then reduction of fluids could be fatal. He does not see the potential for this to bring about a 'self-fulfilling prophecy' in someone diagnosed as 'dying' in the LCP, although he says that there is some concern for those 'who live longer than expected'.
"He is very critical of the views of Catholic physicians who have reported on the LCP and fails to do justice to what they put forward.”
It seems to me to be a matter of great concern that an individual's partial views should form an official response by the Catholic bishops. It will now appear that the official Catholic line on the LCP is one of support, together with a dismissive attitude toward critics.

We do not need an evangelist for the LCP. We need submissions which deal objectively with the scientific and ethical issues.

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Thursday, 30 May 2013

US Catholic archdiocese helps fund contraception and abortion insurance plan


It's perplexing, to say the least, to find leaders of the Catholic Church who are so signally failing to engage in the battle against the culture of death - to the point of co-operating with that culture.

For those who would criticize Michael Voris, of Church Militant, for raising such matters so forcibly, I would make the following points:
  • What Voris is saying has already been covered fully by the New York Times. The damage is done. The scandal is out there. Michael Voris is now challenging the Church to address the scandal and put things right.
  • Pope John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae(number 95):
    "We need to begin with the renewal of a culture of life within Christian communities themselves. Too often it happens that believers, even those who take an active part in the life of the Church, end up by separating their Christian faith from its ethical requirements concerning life, and thus fall into moral subjectivism and certain objectionable ways of acting. With great openness and courage, we need to question how widespread is the culture of life today among individual Christians, families, groups and communities in our Dioceses. With equal clarity and determination we must identify the steps we are called to take in order to serve life in all its truth."
    Michael Voris is doing precisely what Pope John Paul II called for in Evangelium Vitae.
  • Thirdly, Michael Voris finds support for his outspokenness, I believe, in the words of Cardinal Raymond Burke, addressing the World Prayer Congress for Life in Rome in November 2010:
    "Lying or failing to tell the truth, however, is never a sign of charity. A unity which is not founded on the truth of the moral law is not the unity of the Church. The Church’s unity is founded on speaking the truth with love. The person who experiences scandal at public actions of Catholics, which are gravely contrary to the moral law, not only does not destroy unity but invites the Church to repair what is clearly a serious breach in Her life. Were he not to experience scandal at the public support of attacks on human life and the family, his conscience would be uninformed or dulled about the most sacred realities.”

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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Horror of suicide is being utilised by pro-abortion and same-sex marriage lobbies

Today I am pleased to publish a reflection by Anthony McCarthy on the desecration of the human body, promoted by those who are lobbying in support of legalised abortion - not least at present in Ireland - and those who are lobbying in support of same-sex marriage of same-sex marriage, not least in Britain. (As the vote in the House of Lords looms on 3 June, please contact Katherine Hampton katherinehampton@spuc.org.uk in SPUC's political department to find out what you can do.)
Our society is one where people are taught to believe that a person’s body is what the person chooses to make of it. It is "self-owned": it has no inherent meaning, no in-built complementarity, no ‘givenness’. Only what we choose to value has value – there is nothing valuable in itself.

In 1791 the French revolutionaries expunged from the penal code prohibitions on suicide and sodomy, regarding these prohibitions as based on mere superstition. The use and abuse of the human body, its desecration, ceased to be seen as absolutely morally wrong. That which isn’t sacred (consecrated) could hardly be desecrated. And the very idea of the sacred was one that the promoters of ‘liberte’ were out to expunge.

Yet there remains, in the minds of many, a particular horror about suicide. Even that great philosopher of pessimism Arthur Schopenhauer, whose world view would seem to encourage "self-slaughter", was against it. GK Chesterton captures the horror we feel about suicide - as opposed to our admiration for those like Christian martyrs who accept their deaths but do not intend them:
“The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world.”
This most desperate of acts is, of course, a matter of great sorrow for those left behind grieving, whether the suicide was freely chosen or, as so often, the result of a painfully clouded mind. Against this background, it is disturbing to see how, increasingly, groups with their own agendas are utilising the horror decent people feel about suicide in order to forward those agendas.

In Ireland a pro-abortion Bill has been presented which, among other things, proposes that any pregnant mother threatening suicide (although the threat need not be “inevitable or immediate”!) can access an abortion, even up to birth. So, for all the Bill’s talk of "medicine" and "clinical decision making" it ultimately finds that threats of violence may dictate medical decisions.

Would a threat of suicide be enough to justify a doctor in amputating a healthy limb, for example? If we allow this, then medicine loses all internal coherence: suicidal patients can dictate what counts as medicine, just as a terrorist might. And of course, there is no evidence whatsoever that killing an unborn child can ever "treat" the mother’s suicidal state: on the contrary, there is evidence that abortion increases suicidal ideation.

Another area where threats of suicide are often cited is in regard to same-sex marriage. People who support traditional marriage are sometimes told that maintaining this fundamental good for children, parents and society somehow causes young homosexuals to kill themselves. Again, there is no evidence for this whatsoever, though suicide is sadly more common among people who experience same-sex attraction, whether they are living in "liberal" or less "liberal" societies.

In short: if we really wish to show support for same-sex attracted people, and for despairing pregnant women, perhaps we could start by challenging the desecrating ideology of ‘choice’ that does nothing to address the roots of their despair. This is, of course, an area of risk, but we should love our enemies and stand firm. Let us stand up for the truth in these matters, and offer those in distress something a bit more than "desecration on demand".
Anthony McCarthy is a biothecist and former Research Fellow of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre. He is now SPUC's senior education manager.

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Monday, 27 May 2013

Ireland's dangerous abortion bill will be used as model for Catholic world

I have no doubt that the Irish government's legislative proposals on abortion will be used by the international pro-abortion lobby, worldwide, as a "model" for majority Catholic countries. It's essential that pro-life citizens, politicians and church leaders worldwide study this Bill - not least SPUC's full analysis of it http://www.spuc.org.uk/documents/papers/2013/ireland20130524

Deceptively entitled Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 (my emphasis) the Irish Government’s legislative proposals strip the right to life from children before, and even during, birth in a broad range of circumstances.

Their Bill will compel all maternity hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, to provide abortions. It will greatly increase the small number of abortions of questionable legality which are performed annually in Ireland.

It is urgently necessary that Catholic politicians are warned that support for the legislation would be contrary to Catholic teaching. In particular Catholics supporting these legislative proposals should be warned not to receive Holy Communion. Furthermore Catholic hospitals should be forbidden by Ireland’s bishops to provide abortion, if the legislative proposals are enacted.

In brief:

The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill (2013) if passed will mark a radical change in Ireland's abortion law. In many aspects the Bill is more permissive than the British Abortion Act (1967):
  • It repeals the comprehensive protection of unborn children under the Offences Against the Person Act (1861). It strips the right to life from children before, and even during, birth in a broad range of circumstances. Threats to life need not be inevitable or immediate.
  • It permits abortion on the grounds of suicidal ideation – once again, even when a threat of suicide is neither inevitable nor immediate.
  • Its numerous inconsistencies and ill-defined terms (eg "good faith", "reasonable opinion" and "due regard") render the Bill's limited protection of children virtually unenforceable.
The Bill fails to consider developments in science and legal precedent:
  • Its arbitrary and unscientific definition of "unborn" excludes all unimplanted embryos conceived naturally or by artificial means leaving such embryos vulnerable to exploitation.
  • This definition ignores the implications of recent Irish case-law which identifies the point of genetic fusion of parental DNA (ie fertilisation, not implantation) as decisive in establishing motherhood.
The Bill violates rights guaranteed by the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, including the equal right to life and freedom of conscience:
  • It will compel medical personnel to participate in abortion in some ways, while offering no protection to other professionals.
  • It will compel maternity hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, to provide abortions.
  • It legalises abortion without the consent of a pregnant woman in undefined “emergency” situations.
This Bill is so dangerously and deeply flawed that successful amendment of it is impossible. It should therefore be withdrawn in its entirety. If passed, this Bill will hugely increase the number of abortions carried out in Ireland. It is, without doubt, a Bill proposing a clearly unjust law and it must be resisted at every level.

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