Saturday, August 29, 2009

Terri Schiavo’s Father – In Memoriam

I only met Bob Schindler Sr. twice. He could not have been nicer.

The first time was at a conference where I turned up determined to help out against the unspeakable evil of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

I was there because, like many of us, I had watched Bob’s beloved daughter, Terri, starved and dehydrated to death at the behest of a black-robed executioner, Florida’s Judge Greer.

After checking in, I walked around the hotel to see if there was anyone I knew. Of course, I recognized Bob Sr. as he left the building for a few minutes of quiet outside. I was compelled to follow him, and, in some small, very innocuous way, to express my condolences.

His face was weary, lined, tired. His shoulders slouched.

A heartbroken man.

I offered my deep condolences, and the reassurance that Terri didn’t die in vain.

He was most gracious and appreciative.

As I left him, I could not help but wonder whether my empathy was a curse or blessing.

Terri was murdered. Legally.

What else is there to say??

The next time I saw Bob was at another convention. As these things go, he, along with Mary, his devoted wife, was minding a table in memory of Terri.

As before, I expressed my feelings. Again, a warm graciousness, appreciation, and caring.

I’ve since come to know Bobby and Suzanne, two of the most ardent defenders of humanity that you will ever find.

I am blessed with two beautiful children, and three grandchildren. Often as I play with them, laugh at their wonderment in the world, and shake my head indulgently at childhood, I can’t but help think of Terri and the dreams destroyed.

Mr. Schindler, thank you for defending your family to the last moment.

Never, ever, think you were ineffective.

While the hooded black capes crumble to dust, your Terri, and your fatherly love for her, will not crumble.

Indeed, they will go from strength to strength, because, in the end, earthly death has no sting, paltry earthly graves no victory.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Life Not Worth Living? The Obama Administration Thinks So – at Least for Veterans

We have a rule in our family: Whenever we see members of the US military, we stop, shake their hand, and thank them for their service. As a naturalized citizen, I add my own piece: The United States has offered me immense opportunity that even as a (then) privileged white South African, I could never have had, and that it is the service of our military that has kept me safe and free to pursue the American Dream.

However, it’s getting difficult to keep thinking that our government actually appreciates our veterans just like my family does, after reading the Veteran’s Administration’s (VA) end-of-life booklet, “Your life, Your Choices.”

The document, written by the Clinton Administration, was later withdrawn by the Bush Administration, but it’s been in play since being reintroduced by the Obama Administration this past February.

With some parts of the media beginning to sniff around the document, the Obama Administration, trying to head off another PR disaster, today hastily added a note to the booklet’s webpage (the page has since disappeared altogether):

The document is currently undergoing revision for release in VA. The revised version will be available soon.

Nonsense. The administration got caught on the wrong foot, when somebody noticed what it really thinks of the value of Vet’s lives - as policy, in black and white, for everyone to see.

It’s a disturbing document, because woven among many paragraphs that are informative and clear, is the rather ominous notion: Veteran’s lives might, at some point, no be worth living.

Yes, you read that correctly.

A powerful branch of the Obama Administration, the VA, is now clearly in the business of helping citizens decide whether they should live or die.

Lest I be accused of “fishy thinking,” let’s go to the actual document, p. 21, where your government asks our sick veterans:

What makes your life worth living?

Think I’m stretching things? Read on.

After asking this question, What makes your life worth living?, the document tries to “help” Vets answer it. To do this, the VA thoughtfully provides a series of sub questions to be answered on a scale from

Difficult, but acceptable, to

Worth Living, just barely, to

Not worth living.

Here’s a sample of the sub questions to be answered through the scale above:

d. I am in severe pain most of the time.

p. My situation causes severe emotional burden for my family (such as feeling worried or stressed all the time).

q. I am a severe financial burden on my family.

I am not making this up.

Go just two pages later to the section entitled “Hope of Recovery” (p. 23). Here the quality of life issue is raised again in terms of chances for recovery from a serious illness.

(Sidebar: It doesn’t say a terminal illness, just that you won’t get back to where you were before your turn for the worse):

Imagine that you are seriously ill. The doctors are recommending treatment for your illness, but the treatments have very severe side effects, such as severe pain, nausea, vomiting, or weakness that could last for 2-3 months.

I would be willing to endure severe side effects if the chance that I would regain my current health was:

high (over 80%) [Yes, Not sure, No]

moderate (50%) [Yes, Not sure, No]

low (20%) [Yes, Not sure, No]

very low (less than 2%) [Yes, Not sure, No]

There's plenty more of the same in its 54 pages.

It's not unreasonable, based on the document, to observe at least some of the Obama Administration's thinking:

1. Life is not always worth living.

2. We can help you decide if life is not worth living.

3. Your life might not be worth living because your being alive may be a burden to others.

4. Your life might not be worth living because some treatments are painful, have side effects, and might only provide a small chance of “getting healthier.”

There have been other governments who have defined groups of their citizenry as having lives not worth living.

Is the current administration populated by a bunch of Nazis? No, the only people who were Nazis were the Nazis.

However, there’s no question that our government, at least as far as its war heroes go, officially acknowledges that under a whole bunch of circumstances, some citizens’ lives might not be worthy of living.

I wonder which group will be next?

Because, for governments unchecked, there’ll always be a next group, trust me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Caution: House Healthcare Bill 3200 Means What It Says

President Obama, ever-present in every form of media imaginable, continues to struggle mightily to articulate what exactly he means by healthcare reform.

I’m not impressed, because I don’t think the President knows what he means - the messages are just too garbled.

Ditto his cabinet and top party officials, who routinely issue statements that are quite contradictory, both to each other, and to the President, and are then followed by the usual retractions, clarifications, or by attacking the messenger.

This message mess is understandable, because the President has delegated what his reform means to the lawmakers who have drafted several sets of legislation both in the US Senate and the House.

The proposal drawing the most interest has been H.R. 3200, which aims to:

To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.

Unlike my President and many lawmakers, I’ve read the bill. It’s not that difficult to understand, and no, you really don’t need to be a lawyer to understand it. It’s boring reading, but hardly incomprehensible.

Many of us don’t like what we see.

But proponents keep insisting that what the bill actually says is, well, not what it says, and that many of us who know exactly what it says (and implies) are perpetuating “myths” or “misinformation.”

Really? Let’s look at just one example:

Proponents of H. R. 3200 insist that the now-notorious Section 1228 of the bill, beginning on p. 424, describing ‘advance care planning consultation,’ is not mandatory. It’s simply, so they say, that the bill provides for people to discuss their end-of-life preferences with their doctor, and that this consult will now be paid for by the government.

I searched the bill. The word “voluntary” appears 7 times.

Now, that leads me to think that the word “voluntary” is written those 7 times because the bill means for those particular parts of the bill to be, well, not mandatory. Ergo, voluntary.

However, there’s absolutely no “voluntary” mention in the section related to ‘advance care planning consultation.’

In fact, at the very least, even if we can explain away the rest of the “voluntary’ canard in the bill, read this, from page 428 (italics mine):

(B) An advance care planning consultation with respect to an individual may be conducted more frequently than provided under paragraph (1) if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual, including diagnosis of a chronic, progressive, life-limiting disease, a life-threatening or terminal diagnosis or life-threatening injury, or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility (as defined by the Secretary), or a hospice program.

See any mention of ‘voluntary’ in Section B?

Yes, folks, even if you can somehow dodge the end-of-life consultation while you’re at home, once you’re admitted to a medical facility that is reimbursed by Medicare, you’re going to get it whether you like it or not.

Is it really too much of a stretch to think that if something, in proposed legislation, is meant to be voluntary, that the legislation so stipulates, and that where something is not voluntary, that the word “voluntary” (or the clear implication of voluntariness) is absent?

If you think it is, indeed too much of a stretch, go read the bill.

Show me where it stipulates, in black and white, that the ‘advance care planning consultation’ is voluntary.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Palin’s "Death Panels" Are Already Here

Former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin made some comments on Friday that seem to have gotten the pro-death healthcare reform side in a bit of a dither.

Here’s what Palin said:

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Apparently the pro-healthcare reform lobby took exception to Palin’s assertion of a “death panel.”

Now, I’m not sure what else you call proposals for government apparatchiks to monitor and control the treatments doctors hand out, and who may well refuse to allow doctors to use some treatments, thereby resulting in the death of some of their patients.

But, as much as I think Palin’s comments are right on the money, let’s remember that we already have such death panels operating in hospitals all over the country.

And we’ve had them for quite a while.

Exhibit A: Texas.

When former President George W. Bush was Governor of Texas, he signed into law the Texas Advance Directives Act of 1999, the provisions of which allow exactly what Palin suggested – a panel that decides if some patients should die.

Here’s what the law allows: Any hospital can, legally, give notice that it is stopping all patient treatment 10 days after the decision has been conveyed to the patient’s loved ones.

The reason for stopping treatment? The hospital has decided that any more care is considered futile. That is, any more care is essentially useless and wasteful, because the patient will never get better.

This decision is made exclusively by the hospital panel. Loved ones have no say in how this is decided.

Not a word.

This decision can be made even if the family is able and willing to pay for all care themselves, and the law overrides any advance directives the patient may have had, saying, for example, that all treatment should be continued until death.

Utilitarian? As Palin might say, you betcha!!

The logic’s pretty simple, actually:

You’re not getting healthier; it’s a waste of money to spend any more treatment on you. We will use those expensive treatments on people who will have a better chance of getting better.

In other words, hurry up and die.

That’s what happened in the fight to keep treatment going to poor Emilio Gonzales in 2007, and to many others like him across the country.

In the interests of fairness, of course, loved ones, once informed of the hospital’s decision, may then “appeal.” That means hiring lawyers to get a court injunction to delay the end of treatment.

Yes, folks, in Texas you will need to hire a lawyer to prevent the hospital from killing your loved one.

If this isn’t a version of a “death panel,” I don’t know what is.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

President Obama’s Medicare Welcomes the Grim Reaper, Part II

The healthcare debate is gathering momentum because people are beginning to understand what the government is intending.

What the government is intending, of course, is controlling who lives and who dies, who gets treatment and who doesn’t.

I’ve already addressed this intention via the President’s repeated public statements, and how certain phrases are repeated, mantra-like, so that they will become embedded in the public mind.

That’s why the President is constantly in media-blitz mode, repeating the same themes time after time. He does that because he wants you to believe certain things and not believe other things. He’s intent on bending public opinion to his will.

My favorite propaganda theme? Well, the President has a way of explaining things about healthcare in terms of “making people healthier.” Over and over again, in print, all over television, town hall meetings, and YouTube chats, the drumbeat is healthier is the administration's goal.

However, as far as I can tell, nobody has ever challenged the President with this question, so let me try:

President Obama, you repeatedly emphasize how your heathcare proposals will “make people healthier.” What does that mean for people who have no hope of becoming healthier? What of people with chronic conditions, disabilities, and the elderly?

I’m not holding my breath for an answer.

So, we need to look for clues. Let’s say among people on Medicare (the elderly, people with disabilities, and those with chronic health conditions).

Let’s go to HR 3200, the 1,017 behemoth healthcare bill that many of our public representatives arrogantly admit to not reading.

Despite what some of our representatives say, the language of the bill is quite plain. The clues are there, but you must read carefully not only for what is said, but for what is not said.

Exhibit 1: Advocates insist that the bill says absolutely nothing about end-of-life counseling being “mandatory.” Well, the bill first describes what this ‘advance care planning consultation’ will look like, and then says this:

the term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) [doctor, nurse, or nurse practitioner] regarding advance care planning, if . . . the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years . . . An advance care planning consultation with respect to an individual may be conducted more frequently . . . if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual, including diagnosis of a chronic, progressive, life-limiting disease, a life-threatening or terminal diagnosis or life-threatening injury, or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility (as defined by the Secretary), hospice program.

So, if you’re “healthy,” such a consultation will be every 5 years. If you get less healthy, you might have more consultations as your state of health declines.

Here’s the deception that the pro-death lobby doesn’t want you to understand: If this bill becomes law, there is no way that it will not be a mandatory requirement.


Because nowhere in the bill does it say that the “consultation” is OPTIONAL.

Now, if a law says something is not optional, then there’s only one other way to interpret its legal intent: Yes, mandatory.

Wouldn’t surprise me at some point, if this becomes law, and people finally wake up, they might hear the administration say the following:

Well, we never said it would be mandatory, I think we can all agree on that. We just made sure that it wasn’t optional.


Doublespeak is not new, but it’s still chilling.