Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Baby Joseph - state murder or not?

Baby Joseph is a 13 month old baby who is on life support and in a vegetative state (the five main areas of his brain have been damaged by a severe degenerative neurological condition). In the hospital, his parents want to take him home to die "in their arms" but the state has issued a court order to pull out the respirator and "let nature take its course" and the pro life movement is going ballistic, comparing the case to the regrettable murder of Terry Schiavo.

However, it's not the same. Schiavo was severely handicapped but from neurologists who examined her case history and even from films on the website, not in a persistent vegetative state - she was non verbal but teased her doctor and followed with her eyes and smiled at her parents. A neurologist in Florida opined that she could have been rehabbed and he had in fact, rehabbed several cases with similar CT scan results. And Schiavo was an adult whose rights should not have been turned over to her divorced estranged husband. She breathed on her own and they enforced her starving to death by pulling her feeding tube and stationing 5 police officers on guard around the bed to prevent family from feeding her by mouth (she could eat soft foods by mouth and of course, could take liquids). That was first degree murder and sadly the whole country stood by and watched.

Baby Joseph needs a trach to be allowed to leave the hospital. The doctors say that they know a lot more about trachs and that he could die on the table and secondly, probably wonder if his parents want to see him bleeding from the trach, his insides ripping up and suctioning the trach tube every 2 hours etc. So in this case, there might be a medical reason to withdraw the respirator.

However, the pro life movement is comparing it to Schiavo and there is really no resemblance. Terry was not dying and could have been rehabbed. Baby Joseph is dying. Terry was not really vegetative but rather non verbal and severely handicapped. But Baby Joseph is vegetative.

Here are a couple of comments which were very relevant on one of the news sites:

From Doug in Canada:
It's hard not to get choked up reading about kids like this.It hits everyone hard.This is the sad part of life.But it is life in the real world. Lord knows if this was my child,I would likely be hanging on to the very last breath too. But here's the thing.First,the father wants the child to die a "natural" death.In truth,isn't it already to late for that? Were it not for medical intervention,he would probably not have survived this long.Prolonging the suffering of this child is not something they are doing for the child,the parents are doing that for themselves. Saying good-bye to your child is the worst of all horrors, and one that no one wants to face.But there are times when you have to let go.If this child cannot recover from this,the sooner the parents face that reality,the better it will be for everyone. Every life counts.But prolonging the suffering of someone incurable,is just plain cruel.And not only that,the resources that the health care system spends trying to prolong a life that seems lost already,could be far better used to save a child who can be saved. Logic and reason aside,my heart goes out to all those involved.I readily concede that it's easier to use logic and reason when you're far removed from the family,and the pain they must be in.It's not easy to use logic and reason when the issue is about your family.While I don't think prolonging this child's suffering is the right thing to do,I can't criticize this family unless I walk in their shoes.

From Rick in SJ
Playing God?? Oh you guys are having it backwards. ... It is because of medicine and modern science that this child is as old as he is now. For them to pull the plug is not playing God, for when the plug IS pulled...isn't it "the will of God" that will take him from them? If he wanted the child to live, he would have him breathing on his own and etc.You are thinking this backwards. I almost lost a son too when he was 2 months of age and had the doctors told me that he wouldn't have lived, and given the objective information (no reflexes, full vegetative state) I would have done what they asked...they are PROFESSIONALS who deal with life and death every day...there isn't emotion attached to this.

Bottom line, perhaps we should pick our battles more carefully. While this is a sad case, it may not be the one to make a media event to prove a point which may not even be relevant to the pro life cause.

Breaking news: Baby Joseph may be moved to a Detroit hospital, sources now say.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Can lying for a good purpose be justified? Hard choices

Lately the question has been raised among theologians whether it was moral for Lila Rose to go into Planned Parenthood clinics, posing as a under-aged "lady of the night" working for her p/imp in order to video employees of Planned Parenthood, supporting this type of lifestyle with birth control and abortion.

Sadly whereas the murder of millions of babies hardly raises an eyebrow anymore, the exploitation of children for se/xual purposes is considered intrinsically wrong in all circles, pro choice as well as pro life. And so Lila Rose's videos have raised public awareness of the possibility of Planned Parenthood not being a 'good for society' group. (Abby Johnson's book, UNPLANNED also has raised a lot of awareness).

However, that some good might come from LiveAction's campaign, only confirms that God can work good out of anything but does not in itself, argue for the morality of the idea of -what some are calling - "lying for Jesus".

Mark Shea brings out in his excellent blogs, "Dawn Eden is right..." and "Last Comment about Lying for Jesus" that the Catholic Catechism states that lying is always "intrinsically evil", among many other excellent points.

The American Catholic had an article by Joe Hargrave entitled "My Problem with Lila Rose" which is worth reading. He questions whether the entrapment of a couple of Planned Parenthood employees agreeing with potential customers is really proof of Planned Parenthood supporting exploitation of children.

The questions raised by these articles have been mine from the beginning. St Ignatius Loyola in his "Spiritual Exercises" states that no ends, regardless of how meritorious, justify immoral means.

Would God really require us to be immoral, even for a "good purpose"? I would say, "NO". And the fact that those videos are of questionable morality for Christians, puts the pro life movement in a shaky position. It is true, for example, that the demise of George Tiller meant a lot less full term or almost full term babies murdered but does anyone sanction that? Murder is prohibited in the Ten Commandments but so is lying. Sticking to our Christian morality sometimes presents us with very hard choices but as believers, we have to believe that Christian morality will always work out the best, regardless of less moral methodology seeming to be appropriate at times.

For example, is the classic "white lie" really appropriate...that is, is it right for husband to answer his somewhat chubby wife's question about her looking fat in a certain outfit with a lie? Or is there another way? For example, would it not be better, rather than lying about something she can see about herself, to say as my husband said when I was clinically obese - "You always look good to me regardless of what size you are!" Which ended up making me feel a lot better than a lie would have done. (Now that I am no longer clinically obese, he STILL says in answer to my comment about looking fat in a photo, with "You look good to me, now as you did, THEN!".

No one is judging any individuals here. The Mercy of God always is at work and none of us are totally right, no matter how hard we try to be. But I think Christians and pro lifers would hold a stronger position simply in combating evil with truth.

For example, I found it very effective to stand outside of a High school and hand out "informed consent" booklets about abortion. Students seeing medical information would ask "are you for or against abortion?" And evading the question (this is called "reservation" and not a sin), I would say "I am just providing the medical information to help folks make the decision which would work the best for them." Most of them took my informed consent information which in itself, will talk many out of choosing abortion. I have literally stopped ladies from going into Planned Parenthood by asking them "Did you know that abortion greatly raises the risk for breast cancer?" (this is supported in 38 worldwide studies including the clinical studies of pro choice scientist, Janet Daling).

I think ... no, rather, I feel confident, we can stop the murder of millions of babies by simply providing the public with the medical truth about the abortion procedure without wandering into morally questionable areas.