December 8, 2013
On November 21, 2013, the well respected Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project, published a very troubling survey entitled: Views on End-Of-Life Medical Treatments. http://www.pewforum.org/
What’s troubling about it isn’t their statistical figures, which are probably pretty accurate, as much as it is a question of what will special interest groups such as pro euthanasia and assisted suicide lobbies do with this statistical depiction of America’s lenient moral and ethical perspective on the value of human life?
The article starts off with a general and rather positive sounding one-line summation of their findings: “Growing minority of Americans say doctors should do everything possible to keep patients alive.”
However, a thorough study of the survey reveals that just the reverse might be taking place.
The Pew Research center chooses its own subjects to survey. Why did they decided to undertake this survey? What do they hope that people or groups will do with their findings?
Be assured that pro Death and Dying lobbies are well pleased with the results of
Surveys are just statistics, numbers. Numbers by themselves don’t kill. It’s what people with agendas do with the numbers, how they turn numbers into tools of manipulative lobbying, that’s of concern.
Were the questions designed to elicit one’s actual knowledge of the medical care at end-of-life or were they manipulative questions designed to stir up emotions producing pre-determined answers? Did Pew, itself, have an agenda?
It’s also the questions that were not asked that could have produced a more in-depth depiction of the level of America’s awareness of medical treatments and procedures for the elderly, ill and disabled and why they chose the answers that they did.
The Survey, apparently of self proclaimed Christians, states that, considered as a whole, a large majority (66%) of American residents believe that suicide, assisted suicide or even euthanasia - especially for others - is not wrong in all instances.
This knowledge plays right into the hands of the pro-death and dying lobby, especially if statistics is now all that counts in determining ethics and morals.
One of the not too subtle messages within this survey is that people do have a sense of compassion for the ill, disabled and elderly, or those in pain, either mental or physical. However, this compassion is more like the quick fix, the moral and ethical leniency for the rest of us who must deal with those in pain.
Science and medicine fixes everything these days, the unwanted pregnancy, the barren womb, the slow or reluctant student, the social misfit, the melting ice caps and so on. Who needs ethics and morals?
Science views the human being not as an individual with goals, desires and intelligence. To the scientist, we are merely one subcategory of the animal kingdom, viewed as a group. Satisfy the majority within that group, getting it working harmoniously with other groups and then deal with those who are the “growing minority.”
Is the future of the ill and disabled, elderly or young, just to be considered as an economic burden? In the Affordable Care future are our lives to be judged by bureaucratic committee consensus?
A bare majority of Americans, 57%, said that parents of infants born with life-threatening defects should receive “as much treatment as possible.” Thirty-eight percent said that parents have the right to refuse treatment for their disabled new-born.
Obviously the latter group of respondents see these children as unnecessary economic burdens for a lifetime. Little to no money has been spent on them so far so taking their lives from them is seen, in the context of a utilitarian society, as a good for society.
Time, money, dedication to another in need has always been a definition of Christians, caring for and loving the other person as we love ourselves. But it was never before considered a utilitarian excuse for relieving that other person of their life to satisfy the needs of another.
Now, that growing minority mentioned above, viewed from a historical perspective is actually a decline of the universal understanding from another period, say, even as late as the 1960’s.
The survey, according to the official summary of the data, was administered via landline and cell phone from March 21 to April 9, 2013, to a “representative sampling” of 1,994 adults.”
Who were the individuals in this representative sampling?
Were they answering important life supporting medical practices based solely on their own emotions and experiences with ill and elderly relatives or friends or on full knowledge of current medical practices at the end of life spectrum?
Most revealing was Pews’ finding that Catholics, including both “white” (67%) and “Hispanic Catholics” (56%) especially when combined, represent the largest majority of those who now believe that prematurely ending one’s life in certain circumstances is morally permitted.
Mainline Protestants were lumped together coming in with a 71% rating.
Question: Why did they separate Anglo Catholics from Latino Catholics? Catholic means universal. The teachings of the Catholic Church are universal, i.e., the same across the world.
Are White, Anglo-Saxon Catholics being catechized differently than Latino Catholics?
Are any Catholics being catechized, taught from the pulpit, regarding the religious, moral and ethical perspectives of these very important issues of life and death?
A look into background information on the survey reports that respondents were also asked if they are : “strong” Catholics/Methodists/Baptists, etc, or “not so strong.”
That suggests that many of the so-called Catholic respondents might have been poorly or never catechized, meaning that they are nominal Catholics, knowing little to nothing about their faith teachings.
It could also mean that even though they consider themselves to be strong Catholics one has to wonder if they ever even heard a sermon on the basic teachings of the faith during a Sunday Mass?
We Catholics certainly hear a great deal from the pulpit about the Second Commandment Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself when it comes to collection plate time. But what do we hear about the 5th Commandment, thou shalt not kill?
Or, add the 7th Commandment thou shalt not steal to the 5th Commandment. Taking bread and water, the essentials of life, away from people is robbing them of life which is what is being sanctioned by this survey.
A pro death group in California called the Coalition for Compassionate Care is aggressively promoting their specialty form of DNR called a POLST - physician orders for life-sustaining treatment. The instructions accompanying this form states that medical personnel have the authority to fill out one of these forms for a patient (without that patient’s knowledge or consent) if the medical personnel believes it is in the patient’s best interest.
The form should really be titled physician orders for life-stopping treatment. www.coalitionccc.org
There was a time in the total Catholic population when, according to the Baltimore Catechism’s, 1969 revised edition, 5th commandment, Thou Shalt not kill , the practice of suicide was considered wrong, period. (St.Joseph Baltimore Catechism, 1964) WE had never even heard of assisted suicide then.
Now, the Catholic Digest online for instance suggests that though suicide is still wrong, “Pity not condemnation is the response of the church.” We, the faithful, were in denial regarding the pain and suffering…. that produced the action.” www.catholicdigest.com.
Well, we now are considering the pain a patient is undergoing, according to the Pew Survey, and we find that “suffering great pain with no hope of improvement, is the leading morally acceptable excuse for a right to “ending one’s life” (White Catholics-67%. Hispanic Catholics-56%), followed by: allowing people with an incurable disease to die, (White Catholic-52%, Hispanics-46%), living has become a burden, (47% & 33%), living is a heavy burden on the patient’s family, (40% & 23%).
Maybe the problem lies in the fact that few people understand the potential consequences to themselves and others in their answers? Maybe they don’t realize that their answers may be used to create legislation mandating a little euthanasia, just like happened with abortion?
Belgium and Holland have aggressive euthanasia programs. Those who watch the euthanasia movement fear that the United States is headed for a Belgium type euthanasia program. http://www.sacbee.com/2013/12/08/5982252/euthanasia-in-belgium-safeguards.html
Let’s go back to the one-line summation for a moment focusing on the use of the term “growing minority” who believe that doctors should do everything possible to keep patients alive.”
What would the medical profession be doing if not keeping patients alive? In Belgium and Holland they are directly killing patients with or without consent. Do we want that”
What is involved with “allowing patients to die? How ill do they have to be before they can be put to death or put themselves to death? A week, 6 months, a year?
What if you have an incurable condition, say, diabetes, but you aren’t near death, you are otherwise healthy and in control of your diabetes?
What do you tell all the cancer patients who are in pain but fighting hard to overcome their cancer? Do you tell them their right to stay alive is too burdensome for society?
Do you treat them medically at all? Do you take away all medication, food and water and allow them to starve and dehydrate to death? Is that what Americans want for their loved ones? It is not a pain free way to die.
Are we not understanding that medical suicide is as wrong as the suicide of a teenager who walks in front of a train, as they seem to be doing in the San Francisco Bay Area? A healthy, seemingly vibrant teenager’s suicide fills the evening news, but the medical suicide of a 90 year old, otherwise healthy person, goes unnoticed.
What we have, it seems, is a growing majority of people, especially Catholics, who have become tragically confused about a central tenet of their Christian faith.
Or, put another way, a small minority of Catholics and Protestants are either returning to the teachings of their faith or never left it, in regard to respect for human life. This survey doesn’t give us a clue about this group.
The fear of pain and suffering is a powerful tool in the hands of the death and dying lobby, legislation for the so-called right to chose suicide or assisted suicide for ones self or loved one regardless of the age of the one suffering, has been tried in California a couple of times. It has failed, but with a survey such as this, one can expect another attempt in the near future.
The presumed burdensome situation of caring for an ill or disabled adult or child, the unknowable length of time that could be taken out of one’s own life to care for that person, can be a highly motivating factor, for some. The term Palliative care is actually a process not a medical treatment. It is defined as natural death by the death and dying people. But, in fact, it is removal of all medical interventions including artificially supplied nutrition and hydration i.e. tube feeding. This takes about two weeks for a patient to die and it is painful. To relieve the pain about which we are encouraged to be so sensitized requires continual and frequent doses of morphine either in larger and larger doses, or in more frequent intervals. This suppresses any desire for food and liquids and, can, with pulmonary compromised patients cause stoppage of breathing. They die not from natural causes of their illness or disability, but from dehydration and starvation.
Does today’s “Throw-away Society” include throwing away the more medically expensive members of our society?
Maybe the survey respondent doesn’t know that food and water supplied via a feeding tube is now legally considered artificial and extreme and allowed to be withdrawn?
One should recall the situation with Teri Schiavo, confined in a Hospice of the Sun Coast of Florida care facility where, though she was in a coma, possibly from a severe beating, she was not ill or near death. Her husband requested that all food and fluids be removed and she starved to death over a long and painful period. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terri_Schiavo_case
There is much to learn about what has become, according to Ron Panzer, Director of Hospice Patients Alliance, a billion dollar competitive and profitable business of death and dying. Death is being sold by many names; euthanasia, suicide, assisted suicide, palliative care, the Third Way. Many of these are derivatives of Derek Humphrey’s original Death with Dignity organization, and sold to the public by organizations such as Final Exit, Last Acts, Compassion and Caring, Hospice and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, http://www.nhpco.org/
There are many forms people are encouraged to sign which appear to give the patient the control over his or her last wishes, but, in reality are legal protections for the medical personnel administering the fatal doses.
I call upon the clergy to catechize the faithful, explain the foundation upon which rests the true care and compassion for our neighbor. Speak to us about the place of and meaning of pain and suffering in the world, in our lives. Teach us true compassion, which is the love of neighbor as thyself while there is still time. We, the faithful Christians will be happy to step forward and carry that message to our doctors, elected officials, teachers, businessmen. What does it mean to be created in the image and likeness of God? And let us begin truly recognizing and ministering to the less fortunate in the world.
Yes, words have consequences. In this case the questions to the Pew survey could have life threatening consequences.
Pew Research; Religion & Public Life Project; Views on End-of-Life Medical Treatments.
In general 57 % of all adults said that their general preference would be to tell their doctor to stop treatments so they could die. 52% said they believed in suicide if they had an incurable disease and were totally dependent on another for care. 46% said they approved of suicide if they had an incurable disease and it was hard to function in day-to-day life. 49% of all adults said that they disapproved of physician-assisted suicide.
On the Question of the Morality of ending one’s life:
White Catholics said Yes if:
67%=great deal of pain, no hope of improvement.
47%-living is a burden (to self)
40%=burden to family
56%-great deal of pain no hope of improvement
33%-Living is burden to self
23%-living is burden to family
General View - end of life
White Catholics: 80%-Some circumstances okay
18% - must do everything to preserve life.
Hispanic Catholics: 32% no hope.
66% - must do everything to preserve life.
Margaret J. Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science: learning about organization from an orderly universe, 1994 paperback edition, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
The Sin of Suicide, Catholic Education Resource Center, Fr. William Saunders.
“Each of us has been made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:27) with both a body and a soul. Therefore life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death, and no one can justify the intentional taking of an innocent human life.”
Stealth Euthanasia: Health Care Tyranny in America; Hospice, Palliative Care and Health Care Reform, Ron Panzer, Director, Hospice Patients Alliance, Rockford, Mi. www.hospicepatients.org/this-thing-called-hospice.html.
Euthanasia choice for terminally ill children a step nearer in Belgium, the Guardian, November 27, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/27/euthanasia-terminally-ill-children-belgium
Wisconsin Right to Life, Providing food and fluids. “The trend to deprive patients of food and fluids began around 1983 with numerous court cases around the country.
According to Slate http://magazine.com on May 17,2012, only 1 in 10 people called for a Pew Survey questionnaire actually answer the call. That is down from a response rate of 36% just 15 years ago. Slate asks the question: How can we trust opinion polls when so few respond? http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2012/05/survey_bias_how_can_we_trust_opinion_polls_when_so_few_people_respond_.html
Jan 5, 2006, Pew survey.
But Americans make a distinction between allowing a terminally ill person to die and taking action to end someone’s life. The public is deeply divided over legalizing physician-assisted suicide; 46% approve of laws permitting doctors to help patients to end their lives, while about as many are opposed (45%). http://www.people-press.org/2006/01/05/strong-public-support-for-right-to-die/
Pew Survey, 2013, final question. All respondents were asked to comment on what they considered to be the important elements for a “Good Quality of Life?” In order of importance: communication, feeding oneself, getting enjoyment out of life, living without severe, lasting pain, having long term memory, feeling worthwhile, able to dress oneself, short term memory.
The Cost of Dying, Bay Area Newsgroup (BANG), April 28, Section V, Choosing how you die, The Cost of Dying. http://www.mercurynews.com/cost-of-dying.
National Hospice and Palliative Care - www.nhpco.org and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine - www.aahpm.org are two entities within the same palliative care field of medicine but they appear to be competitors. The NHPCO is more the educational and public policy arm while the AAGPM is the legislative and medical professional lobby.
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