Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eluana Englaro Case: Media Bias and Non Cooperation With the Culture of Death.

Readers of SHS have heard of the tragic case in Italy of Eluana Englaro, diagnosed for 17 years to be in a persistent vegetative state. Her father won the right in Italian court to remove her feeding tube, but has been unable, so far, to find a medical facility willing to dehydrate Eluana to death. That my have changed. Note the language in the following report, headlined "Clinic May Help Eluana End Her Life":

A clinic in Udine on Thursday said it may be ready to help a woman trapped in a vegetative state for 17 years end her life in accordance with a landmark right-to-die ruling. Beppino Englaro, who has fought for more than a decade for a dignified end to his daughter's life, has yet to find a clinic prepared to carry out November's court ruling. The Quiete Clinic, which receives partial public funding, said it would make a final decision by the end of next week on whether it can accommodate 38-year-old Eluana Englaro. ''I think it's right for Udine to offer a just and civil solution to this matter,'' Udine Mayor Furio Honsell told ANSA. Eluana's lawyer, Franca Alessio, said the family had been in touch with the clinic, but added that they were also investigating other possibilities.
Media just can't use accurate language on these issues, it seems. Eluana isn't trying to end her own life. If she is PVS, she is unaware of what is happening. Moreover, before the media call dehydration a "dignified death," they should talk to Terri Schiavo's brother Bobby Schindler--who, as his sister's death was imminent, told the world that Terri's tissues had become so dry blood was pooling in her eyes.

If the culture of death cannot be defeated legally, it must be resisted with total non cooperation. We see that happening in Washington State, for example, with medical facilities there beginning to declare "assisted suicide free zones."

That issue was also well discussed in the Italian situation--with promoters of the culture of death threatening a truly draconian action (which I put in italics):
[Italian Health Minister Maurizio] Sacconi on Thursday warned national health service clinics that they have a duty to keep patients fed and hydrated, adding that it was the State's responsibility to guarantee basic levels of assistance as laid out in the Italian Constitution. This will remain the case until parliament passes a general law on end-of-life issues, he added. Sacconi stressed that while the court ruling permitted the removal of Eluana's tube, it did not ''place any specific obligation on national health service clinics'' to do so. However, the Cassation Court's deputy prosecutor general, Marcello Matera, has argued in the past that it would be ''theoretically possible'' to ask the police to see that the court sentence is carried out in the event that a clinic does not come forward.
We will have that same fight here over conscience clauses, and it is going to be gargantuan. Remember this: Once it is in the driver's seat, the culture of death brooks no dissent. And those of us who oppose the COD have to be just as determined--within the confines of law and/or principles of peaceable resistance--to refuse any and all cooperation.



At January 22, 2009 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

It seems to me that we passed that point in the Cruzan case. As I recall the details of the situation, the hospital had indeed been unwilling to remove her tube feeding. When it was eventually court ordered, the medical facility believed it was obligated to give in and did so reluctantly. (I haven't checked this out, but I would imagine the court order was addressed to the medical facility.) Police were present on the scene, as they were years later in Terri's case, to see that it was done. I have even read quotations from one of the policemen who was on the spot and very conflicted about it.

In Terri's case, you probably remember that one small window of a few hours in which the judicial order accidentally lapsed and the state troopers were going to come and take custody of her. The sheriff's men, considering themselves still somehow bound by the court order, told them they couldn't, and the staties backed down.

The hospice in Terri's case clearly considered itself more or less mechanically bound to carry out the court's orders, and my impression is that this is how hospitals have regarded themselves ever since Cruzan's death.

I've been interested in the legal situation Eluana is in and have _guessed_ that the courts have made no specific court order to any clinic, which is why no specific clinic can be said to be defying them. The deputy prosecutor seems to be envisaging an issuance of a court order to a health care facility and its enforcement.

At January 22, 2009 , Blogger HistoryWriter said...

This is the sort of thing that happens when right-to-lifers carry their misguided philosophy to its logical conclusion. The woman has been totally "out" for the past 17 years, yet they advocate keeping food flowing into one tube and waste flowing out of another to "keep her alive" as if they were playing a game of some kind.

At January 22, 2009 , Blogger SAFEpres said...

HW-you are apparently quite ignorant of history, becuase otherwise you would know that disability activists have been protesting the removal of feeding tubes from profoundly disabled people in the absence of a living will for years. From a civil rights standpoint, this has nothing to do with pro life or pro choice. It has to do with equality for the handicapped and their inclusion in the sphere of individuals that our society protects from starvation and dehydration.

At January 22, 2009 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

No History Writer: It is seeing people like Eluana as fully equal members of the human community. Just as I would not deprive you of food and water, I would not wish that to happen to her.

But this post isn't about the propriety of dehydration. It is about the skewed use of words in the story and whether health care workers can be FORCED to participate in death-causing activities they deem immoral and unethical.

At January 23, 2009 , Blogger holyterror said...

The Baltimore Sun, my hometown paper, published a big oped piece today about conscience clauses. It was written, typically, in scare language that suggested that these clauses would lead to receptionists and even janitors- yes, they said janitors - refusing to allow "scared young women" to get an appointment at a reproductive health clinic. I would like to respond. Do you have any links to relevant clauses such as that signed by Pres. Bush a few weeks ago?

At January 23, 2009 , Blogger Ianthe said...

holyterror: I don't have the information you just asked for but I do have a question: The Pope sent a Cardinal to the U.S. in November to tour the Catholic Charities organizations in the dioceses here and remind them that they are supposed to be following the teachings of the Catholic Church; this was reported in a Catholic journal in California, which mentioned that the reason was the Vatican's alarm over one of those organizations having been party to an abortion in Maryland. Do you know whether that was in Baltimore, and was there to your knowledge any news coverage of it in Maryland?

At January 24, 2009 , Blogger Ianthe said...

There are huge problems when something like this gets into the press. We don't know if the reporting is accurate, whether the doctors, who use words like "coma" and "pvs" at will when medicine still doesn't fully understand the states thus described are right, what the hospital's agenda is, why the father wants life support discontinued, what is actually going on in the incapacitated person's mind and soul. All we know is what we read in the newspaper, and it is error to assume it as fact and to trust the words of doctors, who are not, as the best of them admit, "omniscient." Medicine is indeed an ever-growing science, but it is based on certain eternal values; as a growing science it is by definition always incomplete and imperfect, with human error of all kinds in the mix as well. The desperate and erroneous belief that it can be fully trusted, and the habit of taking at face value the information conveyed by the media, are yet further examples of human error. It is better, safer, and wiser to believe what one has seen with one's own eyes, and to be skeptical about what we learn of second-, or third-, etc.-, hand, and always to remember that no one knows everything.

At January 25, 2009 , Blogger Ianthe said...

Why would a reproductive health clinic employ receptionists and janitors who would refuse to allow scared young women to get an appointment there? Don't they want to stay in business, even? How incompetent could anyone be? (Maybe better not to answer that...) In today's economy, and social climate, they would have a hard time finding people who were the right fit for those jobs at that place? Does the author of that op-ed piece have brain damage? Or was just stupid to start with? It's got to be one or both of those things.

Speaking of brain damage, we don't even know how many people have taken prescribed pharmaceuticals and gotten it as a result. But we trust science.

Between what Holyterror just mentioned and what I saw in the New York Post yesterday, it looks as if, as it would make sense to consider possible, there is a deliberate effort to push a certain agenda via op-ed pages at the beginning of the new administration. Just as the pro-lifers demonstrated (and were rudely ignored; the new President could have acknowledged them graciously even if he isn't about to change his mind) right after the inauguration.

That is scary, because as I've noted here elsewhere, this new president is inexperienced and may be in over his head; he also has a tendency to focus first on details and on the little stuff (tv conversion, funding for birth control abroad) rather than the overall picture, and the same indicator that tell us that tells us also that he is naturally prone to focus on health care (albeit in the case of health care perhaps not in the most efficient and unfocused manner), and that he takes an "efficient, practical, cost-effective, penny-wise/pound-foolish" approach rather than one that is capable of profoundly understanding the issues and their moral ramifications, and on top of everything else, he is not receptive to appeals on issues that are intrinsically profound, dramatic, and emotional, but much more receptive than the average person to what people say to him, on a superficial level, and especially to whatever is in print, especially if they say what he already thinks. Letters to him can be more effective than they can with 11 out of 12 other presidents, but they are still going to have to get past his own inherent fixed mindset; they are still better than nothing, and op-ed pieces, letters to the editor, ads, news coverage, etc. will fare likewise in terms of influencing him, if newspapers will print them. (Maybe newspapers and other media, in their current financial straits, would be more likely to grit their teeth and run ads that oppose the culture of death, which could, because they provided revenue, open the door somewhat more to other coverage and even somewhat more balanced editorial policy. Maybe.)

At January 25, 2009 , Blogger Ianthe said...

oops, that should have been "although in the case of health care perhaps not in the most efficient and FOCUSED manner"; he has a lot of confusion, possibly mixed with idealism, when it comes to "health care." He does, again, feel a need to see what is said and in print before the public, and he is going to pay a lot of attention to it and react on the basis of what it tells him. He'll be the same way re judicial decisions. Lord help us. The way he reacted to a reporter's question the other day certainly is concerning.

At January 25, 2009 , Blogger Ianthe said...

His need to be communicated with, and to communicate, always be talking, always have his Blackberry on, always be taking in information, reading something, etc., regardless of whether he will accept it if it doesn't agree with what he already thinks (it's the activity of communicating and taking in information that is essential to him, not the substance of it) and regardless of his lack of tendency to profundity, is at least something to work with that those who oppose the culture of death must be aware of and participate in as frequently as possible and in the most effective possible manner, using a variety of approaches. He does appreciate frequency, variety, the innovative, the cutting-edge, the radical and revolutionary, and what is "humanitarian" and "future-oriented" in concept on a broad scale; pose arguments to him in those manners and in those terms and it can make him feel that the ideas and whoever proposes them are on his wavelength. He's also automatically in tune with tv, radio, and (viz. its role in his election; it's a natural fit with him) the internet. He also feels a need to have some form of information in his hand, whether a Blackberry, a newspaper, or a letter (he even immediately started making "directives"; he just always has to be either taking information in or saying or writing something), at all times; being communicated with, being written to, etc. makes him feel comfortable. More than 11 of 12 other Presidents, he'll want to know what's in letters written to the White House, and actually hold them in his hand and read them himself; even if he disagrees with the content being given them makes him comfortable and can make him more disposed to consider their content. Bush41, who was known for his prodigious writing of personal notes, had similar general energy; here I'm describing how it works specifically in this President. At the same time he always needs to be going from one place to another and likes variety; as many different means of communication to him as possible are advantageous. In fact, having the Blackberry, talking all the time, being constantly given information and handed things to read, are what he feels he needs and what make him feel safe, secure, and nurtured, and those themes being communicated to him can get through to him. He's not automatically attuned to women, but women are especially able to get through to him in communication. There is no such thing as wasted effort when it comes to trying to communicate with Obama, whether he listens or not. The activity of communicating itself can be what helps to influence him.

At January 25, 2009 , Blogger Ianthe said...

It would be a good idea for a complete set of Wesley's books to be sent to the White House (they may already be there, I know but this is special direct to this new president) as a personal gift to Mr. Obama, who if I have his birth data right loves books, receiving gifts, possessing things, especially books, holding books in his hand, etc., and is more apt to pick up a book and read it just because it is there than most other people, or presidents, are, plus he just likes getting things that are substantial and that he can hold in his hand (someting that can be read is the icing on the cake with him). Best to send it on SHS's lunar high, of course, with words that appeal to the new President's leonine nature. Marc Rich got a pardon after Bill Clinton was given a saxophone, and one can't be sure of cause and effect, but it can only help.

If he sees a connection (and things have to be pointed out to him in an organized, structured way; he sees things in terms of order and patterns, and he does like to analyze things, but too often not on a large enough scale) between what might have happened to his grandmother and what happens to other older people, and then between that and the plight of the disabled, and then between the plight of all the vulnerable, he could do a lot of good. Life issues in general, abortion, embryos, he won't be as apt to be open to. But the index of a society is how it treats its elderly, and he does have an affinity with the concept of older being better and respect for the traditional, even along with his enthusiasm for the new, and if the way the elderly are treated in this country is improved, the rest can follow.

Also he likes the idea of "saving" and not spending as much, no matter what the issue, despite what he's talking about re the economy; he can be expansive when it comes to tax money, and others' money, but when he thinks of it in terms of just what is cheaper, he looks at it differently. I can see that he may have a natural affinity with the insurance companies and with the idea of "resources" and "security" and "everyone being covered" to begin with, and that he naturally associates these concepts with the government, and his tendency to want to save costs, not always in the most profoundly effective and beneficial manner based on comprehensive understanding, is going to be a problem; if somehow he can understand that protecting life interests costs less, financially, than the COD does, he'll be more apt to base his decisions that way. If all else fails I only hope that his wife has her head on straight about life issues, or can be persuaded about them; her, he listens to.

At January 25, 2009 , Blogger Ianthe said...

I STILL wish we'd elected a Republican, but as I can see that COD issues are going to be prominent under this president's administration, best to try to get through to him as soon as possible. Demonstrators that take the spotlight off him and onto themselves won't work (except via signs that he can read, words and chants that he can be hear, first- or second-hand, etc.); letters and every other possible form of constant communication yes. Even if he already has all of SHS's books, he should receive them again; he thinks in terms of twos and "twice", and anything that is in terms of two or twice automatically appeals to him, especially when it comes to communication and the written word, just as anything that he knows the public already is aware of carries extra weight with him.


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