The Death Penalty — A Play on Words

According to a May 2 Washington Post report authored by Rob Stein, there’s something fuzzy in the thinking of the policy makers at the American Board of Anesthesiology. The organization is going to censure any member who agrees to participate in the execution of a prisoner whose sentence involves a lethal injection.

In the actual statement made by the group, we find the following:

ABA certification includes more than passing examinations; it also includes maintaining high professional and ethical standards. Specifically, it is the ABA’s Professional Standing Policy that diplomates should use their clinical skills and judgment for promoting an individual’s health and welfare. To do otherwise would undermine a basic ethical foundation of medicine which is – first do no harm.

If diplomates of the ABA participate in an execution by lethal injection, they may be subject to disciplinary action, including revocation of their ABA diplomate status.

Think about this. Members of the human family who are not convicted of a crime by judge and jury, but who are nonetheless killed due to their so-called condition, routinely become recipients of either anesthesia or massive doses of painkillers to help them out of their lives. If a physician prescribes a lethal overdose while aiding and abetting an assisted suicide or directly killing a sick patient, the ABA has nothing to say. Or if an expectant mother is going to abort her baby and requires some type of anesthesia, the group again remains silent. Why is it then that murdering the innocent by acts of abortion and euthanasia are approved and apparently defined as doing no harm while a convicted criminal is found deserving of mercy? Hard to figure, isn’t it?

But the fact that the ABA is silent on crimes against the innocent human person really is not all that surprising. For as Matt Abbott recently revealed in a column for RenewAmerica.com, “quiet euthanasia” is happening all over the nation. Ron Panzer, founder of Hospice Patients Alliance, is quoted as follows:

Evil has a way of mixing in truth with untruth, partial truth rather than whole truth, or using something appropriate at one time but misusing it at another time. In the “active phase of dying” — the very, very end — a person does not eat or drink naturally, for he or she is truly dying: The individual’s organs and bodily systems are shutting down. At that time, it would be inappropriate to provide food — he or she would choke on it or it would be aspirated into the lungs — and a good amount of fluid would easily go right into the lungs.

But if one deprives a patient of food and fluid before he or she is at the very, very end, the patient is dying not of their terminal illness, but of dehydration. There is not enough fluid in the circulatory system and it collapses, causing death. It “looks” peaceful if the patient is sedated, which is often the case nowadays.

Regarding sedation, Panzer warns that “a natural death includes total sedation only if the patient is ‘terminally agitated’ uncontrollably, dangerously psychotic or delusional, or in severe pain where strong pain medications alone do not adequately manage that pain. To sedate without real agitation is a choice to kill. To dehydrate before the patient cannot take fluids is a choice to kill.”

Panzer says that death through The Third Way [dehydrating a patient] is “the most censored story in the United States and perhaps the entire world.”

True enough. What makes these scenarios even more appalling is that in order to cover their tracks, evoke greater sympathy from the public and persist in the lying that usually accompanies such things as terminally sedating an inconvenient patient or starving that patient to death, the proponents will stop at nothing. A good example is the current threat that is being leveled at the family of Terri Schindler Schiavo who was starved to death five years ago even though she was never terminally ill.

When I learned of this most recent verbal assault on Terri’s surviving family, I was appalled and at the same time convinced that, once again, the death peddlers will go to any extreme necessary to persist in their efforts to get rid of those whom they view as unwanted. In this case, the source of the negativity is Terri’s former husband, Michael Schiavo, the man who orchestrated the killing of his own wife five years ago.

The news item suggests that the Schindler family is actually profiteering from their sacrificial work through the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation. This charity was established to assist families wishing to avoid the very kind of suffering for their loved one that the Schindlers attempted to thwart in the case of their beloved Terri. And it gets worse:

Schiavo’s widower, Michael Schiavo, says the family should be ashamed of what they are doing. He adds if Terri ever knew this was happening she’d be horrified. Michael Schiavo is talking about the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation. While Terri Schiavo’s brother Bobby says the organization is set up to help families in similar situations, Michael Schiavo says he doesn’t believe it. Instead Schiavo says they are using their deceased sister’s name to make money.

According to a letter Michael Schiavo’s attorneys sent to the foundation, Schiavo believes that he owns the name of his wife and that nobody can use her name without his permission!

Hold on! Wesley J. Smith immediately came to the defense of the Schindlers and exposed the hypocrisy when he wrote,

What Michael Schiavo “believes” is irrelevant and beside the point. Had the reporters wanted to find out the kind of help the foundation offers others, producers could have called me or a myriad of others active in this field, who are quite aware of the selfless giving and effort each surviving member of Terri’s family offers to others. Indeed, I have personal knowledge of case after case in which the Schindlers worked selflessly—and without financial compensation of any kind—to assist family members save their cognitively disabled loved ones from suffering the same dehydration fate as Terri. The Lauren Richardson food and fluids dispute and the Andrea Clarke futile care case are just two that come to mind.

And as for profiteering—Bobby Schindler’s salary is $37,500 annually, and all speaking fees he receives go to the foundation. His sister Suzanne makes less and is 14 months in arrears in receiving her compensation. It is also worth noting that, after receiving complaints, the IRS investigated the foundation and gave it a clean bill of health in 2008.

… I stand wholeheartedly and unreservedly with the Schindler family and against the continual calumny mounted against them.

The calumny to which Smith refers is standard fare among the pro-death forces. The thing people like Michael Schiavo do not want the public to recall is that he personally not only approved the starvation of his wife but barred her parents and siblings from visiting her during the final agonizing days of her life.

The language of death makes the current policy statement of the ABA hypocritical. Such posturing further exposes the duplicity of the entire movement to end the lives of the vulnerable in our midst.
If you think I am overstating the obvious, give a few seconds of thought to the comment Wesley J. Smith made five years ago when writing about Terri’s plight:

More than ten years ago, transplant-medicine ethicists Robert M. Arnold and Stuart J. Youngner painted a disturbing picture of the kind of society that the bioethics movement is leading us toward: literally a culture in which organ procurement is a routine part of end-of-life care and “planned deaths.” The ethicists predicted that in the not-too-distant future:

Machine-dependent patients could give consent for organ removal before they are dead. For example, a ventilator-dependent ALS [Lou Gehrig’s disease] patient could request that life support be removed at 5:00 p.m., but that at 9:00 a.m. the same day he be taken to the operating room, put under general anesthesia and his kidneys, liver and pancreas removed … The patient’s heart would not be removed and would continue to beat throughout surgery, perfusing the other organs with warm, oxygen-and-nutrient-rich blood until they were removed. The heart would stop and the patient would be pronounced dead only after the ventilator was removed at 5:00 p.m., according to plan, and long before the patient could die from renal, hepatic or pancreatic failure.

Know this: There is a direct line from the Terri Schiavo dehydration to the potential for this stunning human strip-mining scenario’s becoming a reality.

As I pointed out at the beginning of this commentary, the words “death penalty” can mean many things. Consequently, taking organs from granny or starving an elderly relative to death is not perceived to be as distasteful as lethally injecting a mass murderer.

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  • Warren Jewell

    And, so, the impending health-care rationing could entail the rationing out of the dying person’s organs before he actually dies.

    And, I can see not wanting to execute without irrefutable evidence of convicted capital guilt. But, how can any justify killing any innocent person, in any way?

    God have mercy on this wayward culture, this pathetic arrogance of supposed ‘professionals in health care’. Yet, they can always find a supposed ‘ethicist’ to back up their strides into evil. And, how many then stride off very nearly into hell before ever near their own deaths?

  • http://schefter.org PrairieHawk

    I have grave reservations about organ donation and it’s for this very reason; that human beings become warehouses for spare parts and respect for our individual dignity is diminished. Then it’s only a short step toward “turning people off” to get their organs.

    I know that many, many people have had their lives extended through the selfless gift of organs; that’s a lot of extra years with children, grandchildren, spouses, and friends. This is a good thing. But it is also a good thing that society have an honest and realistic attitude toward death. We are all under penalty of death, and the sooner each person realizes that and comes to terms with it, the happier he will be. I’m not being morbid; it’s just a fact.

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