Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Abortion ideology trumps aid for victims of human trafficking

Abortion ideology trumps aid for victims of human trafficking
CMA Op-ed published December 7, 2011 in National Right to Life News Today
by Jonathan Imbody, Vice President for Government Relations, Christian Medical Association; Director, Freedom2Care

Question #1: Where does a performance rating of just 69 out of 100 merit an award of more than $2.5 million?

Answer: Only in Washington, D.C.

Question #2: When does a tiny organization without even a qualified financial officer receive a federal grant that will nearly triple its operating budget?

Answer: When the organization submits to the Obama administration’s political ideology and a more qualified grant applicant does not.

Question #3: According to the Obama administration, what one medical “service” trumps all others when caring for human trafficking victims?

Answer: Abortion.

A grueling December 1 hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee revealed the disturbing answers to these questions, in the process infuriating Republican committee members and others concerned with aiding victims of human trafficking.

By the end of an over three-hour long grilling of U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials, one message had become clear about the Obama administration's criteria for receiving the $4.5 million in federal grants for trafficking victims services: Pro-life groups need not apply.

Withering questioning and comments by majority party committee members included expressions of disgust, dismay and even unusually salty language by a clearly frustrated committee chair, California Republican Darrell Issa. Yet HHS officials under fire stubbornly accepted no responsibility for bias or wrongdoing--either for stipulating that "strong preference" would be accorded to grant applicants willing to participate in abortion and other controversial "services" or for awarding the grants to applicants deemed by objective reviewers to be poorly qualified.

Political appointees "rigged" grant process to weed out pro-life groups

Internal HHS documents obtained by the committee revealed that two organizations awarded grants by HHS officials--Tapestri and the U.S. Committee on Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)--had submitted applications that received significantly lower scores by independent review panelists than did the application submitted by the pro-life U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The Tapestri application earned a score of just 74 out of 100; USCRI's application garnered only 69; while the USCCB application received a score of 89.

The radically pro-abortion Obama administration had set up the weighted grant process by introducing new language to a grant program introduced in the Bush administration to aid victims of human trafficking, or modern-day slavery. The funding opportunity announcement for the "competitive" grant stipulated:
    "The Director of [the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement] will give strong preference to applicants that are willing to offer all of the services and referrals delineated under the Project Objectives. Applicants that are unwilling to provide the full range of the services and referrals under the Project Objectives must indicate this in their narrative ...."
    The stipulations added that "...preference will be given to grantees under this [funding opportunity announcement] that will offer all victims referral to medical providers who can provide or refer for provision of treatment for sexually transmitted infections, family planning services and the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care..."
Translation: Participate in abortion or forget the grant.

Continue reading full commentary.

Action AlertTo help stop discrimination against those who hold pro-life and faith-based convictions, use CMA's Freedom2Care Legislative Action Center easy-to-use, pre-written email forms to urge your legislators to support the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act:

  1. H.R. 361 cosponsors: Contact your rep re: Abortion Non-Discrimination Act
  2. S. 165 cosponsors: Contact your senators re: Abortion Non-Discrimination Act

Read Abortion Non-Discrimination Act text

Watch video of CMA briefing at U.S. Capitol on conscience rights and religious liberty

CMDA Resources on Human Trafficking

Political agenda seen behind morning-after pill decision

Political agenda seen behind morning-after pill decisionArticle 1 image

Excerpted from "Left 'speechless' as Sebelius overrules FDA access to morning-after pill," The Hill, December 7, 2011--In a decision steeped in 2012 politics, President Obama's top health official on Wednesday overruled government scientists to block wider access to the so-called "morning-after pill."

The decision to leave in place a requirement that women younger than 17 get a prescription for the drug was a huge surprise to liberal groups and advocates for the Plan B contraceptive, some of whom said they were left "speechless" by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's involvement. Wednesday was the deadline for the Food and Drug Administration to make a decision about the drug, and the agency's scientists recommended broader over-the-counter access.

"It is commonly understood that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age, which I believe are relevant to making this determination as to non-prescription availability of this product for all ages," Sebelius wrote. It is highly unusual for the HHS secretary to publicly overrule the decisions made by FDA reviewers. Even major steps such as pulling drugs completely off the market have almost always come from the agency's career staff.

"We expected this kind of action from the Bush administration, so it's doubly disheartening and unacceptable that this administration chose to follow this path," NARAL Pro-Choice America said in a statement.

Republicans believe Plan B causes abortions, and have pressed hard to restrict access to the drug. If the FDA decision had gone forward, it is possible Obama could have come under criticism from the Republican field of presidential candidates for making abortion more accessible.

CMDA Senior VP Gene Rudd, MD (OB/Gyn): "'Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?' This line is from the radio drama series "The Shadow," popular in the 1930s. While I was not alive to hear the original broadcasts, I vividly recall recording of the voice of Orson Wells as he read this line. According to the drama, "The Shadow knows." Nearly 80 years later, human nature remains unchanged. Evil still lurks in the hearts of men and women, politicians and civil servants.

"You can label me skeptical about all things political. That because the political arena is fertile ground for the greatest of our temptations: money, sex and power. I do not profess to understand specific motives for specific decisions, but I am wary of the potential evil that lurks behind each decision.

"Secretary Sebelius has made a surprising decision; denying OTC Plan B sales to minors. Could there be noble motives? Of course. Siding with CMDA's position, she may be concerned about the lack of safety data for use by minors.

"However, there may be other, less noble reasons. This may be an attempt to avoid flap that could negatively impact upcoming elections. It may be that, despite its promises, Plan B has done nothing to decrease the rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. And the decision will likely result in more visits to Planned Parenthood by young women seeking prescriptions.

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?'"

Read CMDA CEO Dr. David Stevens' recent Congressional testimony on conscience rights and contraception

View video of hearing (Dr. Stevens' testimony starts around 23:30)

View CMDA member survey results

Read CMA member Glenn Verbrugge, MD, letter to editor on contraceptives mandate

Politics fueled stem cell research misappropriations

Politics fueled stem cell research misappropriationsArticle 3 image

Excerpted from "Democrats' embryonic stem cell strategy hits scientific wall," The Daily Caller, December 4, 2011--The Democrats' decade-long strategy of hyping embryo stem cell research crashed into a hard fact on Nov. 15. That's when Geron Corp., the world's leading embryo research company, announced it was closing down its much-touted stem cell program, despite the guarantee of more government aid from Democratic-affiliated sources.

The political battle waged over embryonic stem cell research burst onto the front pages in 2001, when many reporters and scientists began touting stem cells as medical miracles that would offer cures for Alzheimer's, diabetes, Parkinson’s and other diseases.

From 2000 onwards, "Democrats and liberals were hyping the research absurdly," Princeton professor Robert George, a member of President George. W. Bush's Council on Bioethics, told The Daily Caller. "There was no real prospect of therapeutic uses of [Geron's] embryonic stem cells."

University of Pennsylvania bioethics professor Art Caplan agreed. "Companies like Geron tried to attract investors by over promising."

The end of Geron's embryo stem cell work now leaves the stem cell field dominated by two other types of stem cells. Both are supported by social conservatives, and both were derided by Democrats and many reporters.

The leading stem cell technology is found in many hospitals, where doctors and surgeons use cells found in patients' own organs. Those "adult stem cells" can be stimulated to regenerate damaged hearts and other organs. It is sufficiently reliable that insurance companies green-light its use for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, lupus and many other ailments, and it is cheered by social conservatives and religious groups because it improves medical treatments without killing human embryos.

The second type is called IPS stem cell technology. It was developed by Japanese researchers in 2007, and uses a surprisingly simple cocktail of human biochemicals to make ordinary cells, such as skin cells, revert into embryo-like cells. IPS stands for "induced pluripotent stem cells." IPS cells are not used for transplants. Instead, they are grown into clumps of kidney cells, brain cells, heart cells or whatever is required. This technology promises to help bring new drugs to market in record time, at a lower cost and with fewer side effects.

CMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): "As I've watched the situation surrounding embryonic stem cells unfold, I've thought more than once of the passage, 'For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil' (1 Timothy 6:10, NIV 1984). Avarice has driven many scientists to make ludicrous promises of miracle cures just around the corner if they just had research funds. After more than a decade, these modern-day alchemists seeking patents and notoriety have not been able to turn lead into gold. The public, rightly miffed, is increasingly asking, 'Where are the cures?'

"Some scientists, like Ian Wilmut, the cloner of the sheep Dolly, are abandoning this pseudoscientific vaudeville. He is publically urging his fellow researchers to abandon embryonic stem cell research, admitting that it has little promise and leads to the development of tumors. He now advocates the direct reprogramming of somatic cells avoiding the embryonic stage altogether.1

"Other prominent advocates have quietly exited the stage, but some diehards refuse to do so. Millionaire Silicon Valley real estate developer Bob Klein funded the ballot drive in 2004 in California to create a $3 billion state slush fund to finance ESC research to 'take politics out of science and focus on cures.' He then had himself appointed chairman of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine tasked with spending the money. Six years later in 2010, after spending more than half of the borrowed money, he admitted that any cures were years if not decades away. He then proposed to ask debt-ridden California voters to approve another $3 billion bond measure in 2014 when present funding expires.2

"It is obvious that true believers in ESC research still hope to find fame and fortune. Their greed and blind faith have led to their folly. The facts are as clear as they were a decade ago. ESC research is immoral, impractical and unnecessary."

1Stem Cell Essays

2Custom Briefings

CMDA Ethics Statement - Stem Cell Research

CMDA Resources on Stem Cell Research

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Medical Society Forgoes Assisted Suicide Option

"Massachusetts Medical Society forgoes assisted suicide option," Daily Free Press, by Sydney Shea. December 5, 2011--The Massachusetts Medical Society voted last week to maintain its stance against physician-assisted suicide, according to an MMS press release. Although MMS officials recognized patient dignity in terminally ill people as a factor, more than 75 percent of the MMS’s House of Delegates voted against facilitated suicide at their assembly last week.

In September, the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act moved one step closer to a spot on the 2012 ballot when state Attorney General Martha Coakley approved a proposed ballot. The proposition would still need thousands of signatures to pass, as well as a decision from the legislature. However, MMS president Lynda Young said in the press release that medically assisted suicide for terminally ill patients does not match up with the foundation’s objectives.

The MMS’s House of Delegates has recognized a policy against physician-assisted suicide, according to the press release, since 1996. Young said the resolution also includes “support for patient dignity and the alleviation of pain and suffering at the end of life.” She said that the MMS is committed to providing “physicians treating terminally-ill patients with the ethical, medical, social and legal education, training and resources” for the dignity of patients and their families. Oregon and Washington are the only states that currently allow physician-assisted suicide, where doctors can prescribe mentally competent patients with lethal medicine.

Andrew OstenCMDA Member Andrew Osten, 2LT, MSC, USARM'12, Tufts University School of Medicine: "As I participated in the Massachusetts Medical Society discussion on physician-assisted suicide, several lessons quickly became clear. There is a long tradition in medicine – reaching back as far as we can trace our profession – which opposes physician-assisted suicide. Our current AMA Code of Ethics declares it 'fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.' Physicians old and young, from past presidents of the society to new members, stood up in force to affirm this tradition. There were a number of others who testified with heart wrenching stories of great suffering and how a death with dignity might have alleviated some of this suffering. This argument shows the great importance of words. 'Dignity' was used by some to refer to 'an innate worth of a human as created being' and by others as 'the right to choose the time and manner of one’s death.' Moreover, there were clear misunderstandings of the moral and ethical concepts at hand.

"Concerns were raised that a strong opposition to physician-assisted suicide (or deliberate intent to prescribe a lethal dose) might prevent physicians from alleviating pain at the end of life (out of concern of hastening death via a second effect). While a strong majority opposed physician-assisted suicide, all physicians present found common ground on the exhortation that when faced with incredible suffering at the end of life, we must diligently work to relieve it. As Christian physicians, we must not accept the lie that the only way to achieve such dignity in death is through suicide. We must educate ourselves on the vocabulary and the ethical concepts at hand. In the months and years ahead, we must be ready to gently educate our colleagues, patients and the public by always promoting a culture of life."

Urge to Shift Away from Embryonic Stem

"Cloning pioneer urges shift away from embryonic stem cells," North County Times, by Bradley J. Fikes. December 1, 2011--Newer and safer forms of stem cell therapy will likely overtake research into the use of human embryonic stem cells, the scientist whose team cloned Dolly the sheep told his peers at a stem cell conference in La Jolla. Direct "reprogramming" of adult cells into the type needed for therapy is gradually becoming a reality, Ian Wilmut told an audience of several hundred at the Salk Institute at the annual Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa. Such a feat was once thought impossible, but in recent years it has been demonstrated in at least two publications, he said. These reprogrammed cells appear likely to provide the anticipated benefits of embryonic stem cells without their risks, such as forming tumors. That risk will make government very reluctant to approve the use of cells derived from embryonic cells when a safer alternative is feasible, said Wilmut, whose team of researchers cloned Dolly the sheep nearly 15 years ago.

With its $3 billion stem cell program, California placed a big bet on the field known as regenerative medicine, hoping for a big payoff in improving health and boosting its large biotech industry. A major goal is to grow replacement tissues or organs for insulin-producing cells that can be transplanted into diabetics. Embryonic stem cells can grow into nearly any cell in the human body. Artificial embryonic stem cells, or so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, act in much the same way. This plastic quality attracts scientists, who foresee transforming them into nerve cells to repair brains in Parkinson's disease patients or insulin-producing cells for diabetics whose own insulin cells have been destroyed.

The use and value of embryonic stem cells is an intensely controversial issue. Many people object to their use because human embryos, which they consider human individuals, are killed to get the cells. Critics also point to the success of adult cells in approved therapies, while no therapy with embryonic stem cells has yet been approved. Only one treatment with embryonic stem cells is in clinical testing in people. And that company, Geron Corp., recently ended its involvement in what was described as a business decision.

David Prentice, PhDSenior Fellow for Life Sciences, Center for Human Life and Bioethics, and CMDA Member David A. Prentice, PhD: "Ian Wilmut, Dolly’s 'daddy' (the cloner of Dolly the sheep), is making an assessment of the science in the field, not the ethics. But isn’t it interesting that the ethical science is also the successful science? Embryonic stem cells (ES cells) carry not only ethical baggage, relying on the destruction of young human life, but also have significant practical problems such as a tendency to tumor formation, which Wilmut points out. The newer induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) avoid the ethical problems by genetically transforming a normal cell into one that behaves like an ES cell, without using embryos, eggs or cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer). But, as Wilmut also notes, iPS cells have similar practical disadvantages regarding their tendency to form tumors, since iPS cell behavior mirrors that of ES cells.

"Wilmut, the cloning pioneer who previously moved away from cloning because the science was unworkable and impractical, is now advising researchers to move away from ES cells as well. When even a leading embryo researcher turns away from embryonic stem cells, you know the handwriting is on the wall. The 'direct reprogramming' technique that he mentions directly converts one normal cell type into another normal cell type, without going through any stem cell intermediate. While this newer technique for cell generation is a ways off from any clinical trial, there has been a recent torrent of published studies, including 10 papers in the last six months showing how to turn normal skin (including from human patients) into functional nerve cells. And of course, adult stem cells continue to successfully treat thousands of patients for dozens of conditions right now."

Discrimination Over Hospital Abortion Policy

"New Jersey nurses charge religious discrimination over hospital abortion policy," The Washington Post, by Rob Stein. November 27, 2011--A dozen nurses in New Jersey have rekindled the contentious debate over when healthcare workers can refuse to play a role in caring for women getting abortions. In a lawsuit filed in federal court Oct. 31, 12 nurses charge that the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey violated state and federal laws by abruptly announcing in September that nurses would have to help with abortion patients before and after the procedure, reversing a long-standing policy exempting employees who refuse based on religious or moral objections.

For decades, most states, including New Jersey, have had laws protecting nurses and other healthcare workers who have moral objections to participating in abortions. In addition, federal laws, such as the Church Amendment, require healthcare facilities that receive taxpayer money to permit workers to refuse on ethical grounds. On Nov. 3, U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares granted a request for a temporary restraining order barring the hospital from requiring the nurses to undergo training to care for abortion patients, pending a Dec. 5 hearing on the case, which involves 12 of the 16 nurses who work in the hospital’s same-day surgery unit. Matt Bowman, an attorney representing the nurses, said he had received an email from a lawyer for the hospital arguing that no laws had been broken, because the nurses are required to care for abortion patients only before and after the procedure. Bowman argued that requiring the nurses to get involved before and after an abortion violated their right to refuse based on their conscientious objections.

The hospital argued that “the routine, peripheral care that plaintiffs are now expected to provide. . . cannot reasonably be construed as assisting in the performance of abortions” and that state and federal laws do not apply. The hospital also denied having threatened to dismiss any of the nurses. Officials had offered to accommodate the nurses’ objections by transferring them elsewhere, according to the brief. In February, President Obama rescinded most of a controversial federal regulation put in place by President George W. Bush to protect healthcare workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds. The rule was widely interpreted as shielding workers who object to a range of medical services, such as playing any role whatsoever in abortions, providing birth control pills or even performing in vitro fertilization for lesbians or single women. Bowman would not say whether he planned to file a complaint, but he said the original Bush regulation might have helped protect the nurses. “The more regulations that exist to enforce federal law protecting conscience rights, the better,” Bowman said.

Matt BowmanLegal Counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund Matt Bowman: "The UMDNJ case of forcing nurses to assist abortions is just one of many cases that the Alliance Defense Fund has handled around the country involving medical professionals being coerced to violate their religious beliefs. These cases represent a broader movement to disqualify anyone adhering to Hippocratic principles from medicine. The abortion providers at UMDNJ contend, contrary to federal and state law, that they can completely ban pro-life nurses from any medical department where they might encounter an abortion, including outpatient, OB/Gyn, emergency care and others. UMDNJ further claims that laws broadly protecting health professionals from performing or assisting abortions mean almost nothing, because abortionists have the right to define 'assist' and 'abortion' so narrowly and arbitrarily that pro-life professionals can be forced to participate in almost every aspect of an abortion case.

"Abortionists can also declare even elective abortions to be 'emergencies' in order to trump conscience laws. ADF is committed to defend medical professionals across the country from being coerced to choose between their faith and their profession. If you as a healthcare professional have been coerced to choose between your faith and profession, call 1-800-TELL-ADF or go to"

Action Items
After seeking legal counsel, you can also report your incident of discrimination to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services through CMA's Freedom2Care website

Conformity for Diversity’s Sake

Excerpt from opinion piece "Conformity for diversity’s sake," Washington Post by George F. Will. November 2, 2011--Illustrating an intellectual confusion common on campuses, Vanderbilt University says: To ensure “diversity of thought and opinion” we require certain student groups, including five religious ones, to conform to the university’s policy that forbids the groups from protecting their characteristics that contribute to diversity. Last year, after a Christian fraternity allegedly expelled a gay undergraduate because of his sexual practices, Vanderbilt redoubled its efforts to make the more than 300 student organizations comply with its “long-standing nondiscrimination policy.” That policy, says a university official, does not allow the Christian Legal Society “to preclude someone from a leadership position based on religious belief.” So an organization formed to express religious beliefs, including the belief that homosexual activity is biblically forbidden, is itself effectively forbidden.

As professor Michael McConnell of Stanford Law School says, “Not everything the government chooses to call discrimination is invidious; some of it is constitutionally protected First Amendment activity.” Whereas it is wrong for government to prefer one religion over another, when private persons and religious groups do so, this is the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion. So, McConnell says, “Preventing private groups from discriminating on the basis of shared beliefs is not only not a compelling governmental interest; it is not even a legitimate governmental interest.”

The question, at Vanderbilt and elsewhere, should not be whether a particular viewpoint is right but whether an expressive association has a right to espouse it. Unfortunately, in the name of tolerance, what is tolerable is being defined ever more narrowly. Although Vanderbilt is a private institution, its policy is congruent with “progressive” public policy, under which society shall be made to progress up from a multiplicity of viewpoints to a government-supervised harmony. Vanderbilt’s policy, formulated in the name of enlarging rights, is another skirmish in the progressives’ struggle to deny more and more social entities the right to deviate from government-promoted homogeneity of belief. Such compulsory conformity is, of course, enforced in the name of diversity.

H. David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics) ImageCMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): "It is difficult to comment on an article by George Will because he covers this topic so thoroughly and well. I doubt any information or opinion I could contribute would add to your knowledge or your concern.

"Instead, I challenge you to do the most important thing: ACT! Immediately pick up your dictaphone or grab your computer keyboard and contact Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos of Vanderbilt University to register your angst. You can contact him directly at to let your voice be heard.

"Relate that this is a first amendment issue of religious freedom and that Vanderbilt can't claim to be protecting against discrimination while actually initiating a policy of discrimination. Use an argument or illustration from George Will's article. Your letter doesn't need to be long. Just put some teeth in it. Tell them that you will not be able to recommend the school’s training programs or refer patients to the institution if the university continues its policy of discriminating against religious groups.

"You can make a difference. A university in Ohio tried to institute this same sort of discrimination and there was such an uproar from the public, organizations, donors and legislators that the school backed down. Time is running out to approach Vanderbilt’s leadership on this issue, so it is important they hear from you now. I urge you to make this a priority. If not, there will be no InterVarsity, Campus Crusade or CMDA fellowship for our children or grandchildren on any secular university campus in the country.

"I hate to think that you and I would let that happen on our watch."

Congressional Letter to Chancellor Zeppos

Thursday, December 1, 2011

From Kenya, with love Article

Article 3 image
"From Kenya, with love," The Salem News. Janice and Dino Crognale say they knew, even as youngsters, that they were meant to go into missionary work. The couple has followed that calling and will soon return to the Kenyan hospital where they've trained doctors and treated patients with a host of ailments they had never encountered in the U.S., except in medical textbooks. Janice and Dino Crognale met in high school while working at the Papa Gino's in Salem, Massachusetts. They went to medical school at the University of Massachusetts, got married and started a family along the way, and worked for close to 10 years at family practices — she practiced in Hamilton-Wenham, and he worked in Danvers. All the while, their hearts were calling them overseas. In 2006, they traveled to Africa with a patient of Janice's who was a Ugandan native. While they were there, they toured Tenwek Hospital.

"Early on in life, we both felt called to be missionaries. It was just a matter of working out what that means," Dino said. "I think we were both exposed to missionaries through the church (growing up), and we thought that's what God wanted us to do." For two years, they worked in the hospital's emergency room and trained Kenyan doctors. The Crognales have learned to adapt and think creatively, treating patients with malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV and its complications — all without many of the resources, supplies and lab tests Western doctors call for without a second thought. "We (worked to) teach people to improve their own wellness, without a lot of resources," he said. “The most rewarding thing is being able to impact patients who otherwise may not have access to doctors," Dino answered. "For me, one of the most exciting parts is training these young men and women (Kenyan doctors) to go out to these further communities that I'll never see, to continue care and to share the love of Christ with the people there."

Daniel Tolan, MDAssociate Director of CMDA's Center for Medical Missions Daniel Tolan, MD: "Fourteen years of medical missions in Kenya, Africa, taught me many lessons. One of the most significant was the importance of training Kenyans at all levels of healthcare. In the early 1990s, the hospital board of directors set the future of Tenwek Hospital to be a teaching institution. Janice and Dino Crognale speak of the teaching programs now in place at Tenwek in the linked article recently published in the Salem News. It is a joy when I return to Tenwek to see more than 80 persons being trained at any one time.

"The early days of training were hard and at times we had difficulty deciding what motivated us – a selfish desire for additional help to carry the heavy load or a more noble desire to empower the national people. Maybe God used a bit of both to accomplish His plans!

"Today there are numerous opportunities for teaching positions, in both the traditional missionary hospitals, and in government operated hospitals and medical schools. Family Practice training programs are developing all over the continent and CMDA has open doors to all of these. CMDA’s Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons is a very active and growing program training surgeons all across Africa. The greatest need is for committed people like you who have not only skills and knowledge but the heart of servant-hood to be passed along as well. If you are interested in learning more about teaching positions please contact CMDA’s Center for Medical Missions at".

Opportunities to Serve
Center for Medical Missions
Global Health Outreach
Medical Education International
Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons

Human stem cell trial discontinued

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"First test of human embryonic stem cell therapy in people discontinued," The Washington Post. November 14, 2011--The company conducting the first government-approved tests in people of a therapy developed using human embryonic stem cells abruptly announced Monday that it was halting the study, stunning advocates of the highly contentious field. Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., said the move, which stops one of the most controversial and closely watched medical experiments in the history of biomedical research, was the result of a business decision to focus exclusively on developing cancer therapies. Another company continues to test a second embryonic stem cell therapy in people. But Geron’s announcement marked a major setback and disappointment, researchers and advocates said. “While stem cells are proving invaluable for research, translating the promising science into new therapies is a slow, painstaking process with many setbacks,” said George Q. Daley, a leading stem cell researcher at Harvard Medical School. “A safe first trial would have paved the way for many others to follow.” Human embryonic stem cell research has been the focus of intense excitement and acrimonious public debate, but it has so far shown promise only in animal and laboratory studies. The Geron study was the first government-sanctioned attempt to test a therapy using the cells in people.

The field is fraught with political, moral and ethical controversies. Days-old embryos have been destroyed to obtain the cells, which critics consider immoral. After many delays, the Food and Drug Administration last year approved two experiments testing therapies created from embryonic stem cells in humans, including a study testing Geron’s experimental treatment on 10 patients partially paralyzed by spinal cord injuries. Both studies were designed primarily to determine whether the approach is safe. The studies have been seen by supporters and opponents of embryonic stem cell research as potentially pivotal to the future of the research. Some worried that not enough basic studies and tests had been done in animals before injecting cells into recently paralyzed patients. Others wondered whether patients who are struggling to come to terms with a devastating injury can make the risky decision to volunteer for the study within two weeks of such a trauma, one of the terms of participation.

Opponents of the research pointed to the announcement Monday as evidence of doubts about the research. The decision “may also indicate that it is not as promising as previously described, both in terms of commercial development as well as safety and efficacy,” said David Prentice of the Family Research Council. Proponents dismissed such arguments.

David Prentice, PhDSenior Fellow for Life Sciences, Center for Human Life and Bioethics David Prentice, PhD: "It's highly unusual for a trial to be abruptly canceled in the absence either of serious adverse events or of overwhelming positive results. The economic excuse rings hollow, especially after a promised $25 million from California, the $750,000 from the federal government through Obamacare and repeated hype to investors.

"It is very likely that Geron's ethically-questionable embryonic stem cell trial is just not nearly as promising as the pro-ESC lobby has portrayed, not only in terms of commercial viability but perhaps also in terms of safety. What little we’ve been told is that there were 'no serious adverse events' and that patients showed no improvement. While it may be too early (only one year since the first patient was injected) to see tumor formation, the early indications may have been enough for Geron to decide to get out of the embryonic stem cell field now.

"Indeed, they are dropping not only the current trial, but all of their embryonic stem cell work. In the meantime while the media continue to push the dubious 'potential' of embryonic stem cells, most people (including most physicians) have still not heard about the peer-reviewed results documenting not only safety but also effectiveness of adult stem cells. The published efficacy shows benefit to patients for conditions such as spinal cord injury, acute and chronic heart conditions, multiple sclerosis and dozens of others. This was the message delivered repeatedly by doctors discussing their own trials at a recent international conference on adult stem cells. The real promise for patients is with ethical and successful adult stem cells."

Targeting Down Syndrome by Regulation?

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Excerpt from "Targeting Down Syndrome by Regulation," The Witherspoon Institute. September 6, 2011--Last month, my daughter Juliet began second grade, where her mother and I expect her to maintain her B+ average on spelling tests and straight A’s in Chinese. In addition to being a loving daughter and big sister, Juliet also is endowed with Down syndrome. At the start of the month, the Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that future births of children like Juliet should be prevented. Down syndrome is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability and, as such, will be targeted in the new HHS regulation’s free nationwide prenatal testing program.

Discussions of HHS’s new regulation have focused on the required availability of free contraceptive services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The regulation is the result of HHS’s adopting, in its entirety, the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report on Clinical Preventive Services for Women. Buried in the IOM report is the recommendation for no-cost well-woman visits; these visits include prenatal care—and thus prenatal testing for “genetic or developmental conditions.” The regulation was issued as part of the PPACA’s coverage of preventive services. This prompts the question, how does prenatal testing prevent Down syndrome?

The IOM report defines preventive services “to be measures . . . shown to improve wellbeing, and/or decrease the likelihood or delay the onset of targeted disease or condition.” Down syndrome occurs at conception. Prenatal testing simply identifies whether a pregnancy is positive for Down syndrome—a prenatal diagnosis after which most women choose to terminate their pregnancy. A prenatal test does not decrease the likelihood of Down syndrome in a person; it does allow for a decreased likelihood of a person with Down syndrome surviving beyond the womb. If this is how HHS is justifying prenatal testing for Down syndrome as preventive care, then HHS has ushered in a program meant to target future Down syndrome children. The targeted elimination of people with Down syndrome is, in fact, the goal of other countries that have adopted nationwide prenatal testing programs—a goal some other countries are now realizing. Indeed, according to the Copenhagen Post, Denmark “could be a country without a single citizen with Down’s syndrome in the not too distant future,” due to its nationwide prenatal screening program, in place since 2004.

Robert Resta, a Genetic Counselor, notes in August’s American Journal of Medical Genetics that “there is very little empirical evidence that prenatal knowledge improves medical, developmental, emotional, or adaptational outcomes.” Further, studies have found that prenatal testing increases the mother’s anxiety, regardless of the test results; that women often do not make informed decisions about accepting prenatal testing or decisions made after a diagnosis and that, when abortion is the chosen response, a significant number of women experience post-traumatic stress.

Prenatal testing for Down syndrome should not be labeled as preventive medicine—an inaccurate and misleading description of a procedure that may prevent Down syndrome births, but certainly does not prevent Down syndrome. A regulation should not be allowed to target a portion of our society for elimination without public debate by accountable elected officials. If the regulation is to remain in place, then additional funding should be provided for all the information required to respect a woman’s choice following a prenatal diagnosis. The President and the Congress should see that the new HHS requirements for preventive care expressly exclude coverage of prenatal testing for Down syndrome unless and until there is public debate and balanced funding for the needed resources.

H. Patrick Stern, MD ImageDevelopmental and Behavioral Pediatrician, H. Patrick Stern, MD: "Juliet and her parents speak loudly of the very meaningful quality of life and blessing in the lives of other people which children with Down syndrome create. Children with Down syndrome can become a star on TV as Chris Burke did who played Corky in 'Life Goes On'. The pioneer research demonstrating the effectiveness of early intervention programs for children was conducted on children with Down syndrome. Every special needs child now benefits from early intervention.

"The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Row vs Wade changed the practice of medicine in our country. Now a million children, most of whom have no abnormality, are aborted each year. Euthanasia has become a treatment option in adults, too. The Hippocratic Oath trusts a physician 'to be careful to cause no intentional harm' and 'will not help a woman obtain an abortion.' The right of conscience, which allows physicians to not be involved in practicing medicine if it violates their moral standards, is being challenged at this time in our country.

"When any life is devalued, particularly when it is a vulnerable child or elderly adult, every life is devalued. The Hippocratic Oath states that a physician 'should maintain the utmost respect for human life, carefully guarding the role as healer.' Our profession should maintain these standards even if laws and public opinion wants us to change these historical values. Physicians should not become enablers."

CMDA Ethics Statement - Abortion
CMDA Ethics Statement - Right of Conscience

Thursday, November 17, 2011

CMA briefs congressional staff in religious liberty forum

CMA Vice President for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody recently briefed congressional staff on conscience rights at a religious liberty forum held in the U.S. Capitol. The seminar, "Free to Serve: Safeguarding the Religious Freedom of Institutions and Professionals," also included panelists Mark Rienzi, Catholic University law school; Richard Doerlinger, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Susan Post, Exec. Dir., Esperanza Health Clinic in Philadelphia, Penn.

Imbody highlighted the tie between conscience rights and patient access to health care, noting that faith-based professionals and institutions often purposely locate in medically underserved areas and serve patients in medically underserved populations. Faith-based health care is the only option for many patients nationwide.

Imbody presented results of CMA's national polling, showing public support for conscience rights and laws. He also highlighted the comments of several CMDA members, including the following:
  • Dr. "H": "I entered OB/Gyn residency at a university hospital. Within a month, I left due to pressure from faculty and upper residents, solely due to conscientious objection. I chose not to participate in tubal ligation and contraceptive prescription. I … was blackballed from education. The program director basically stated that I could do these procedures, or leave."
  • Dr. Rebecca Lavy: (On faculty at teaching hospital in Dallas.) "In certain cases, faculty were required to prescribe post-coital use of oral contraceptives. I refused to prescribe it and was told, 'This may be an employment issue.' The obvious, not-so-subtle implication was that I would be fired if I refused. I didn’t agree with simply calling someone else in (one of the residents) to prescribe the medication. If prescribing them is ethically wrong, asking someone else to do it for me is equally wrong."
  • Trevor Kitchens: "I am a first-year medical student in the beginning stages of deciding which specialty I would like to pursue. I am currently very interested in OB/Gyn, but I am afraid of the relationship between this field and abortion. I am 100 percent against abortion, and there is no way I would perform one. My fear is that taking this stand would cost me my residence position. Now, if that is what it comes down to, I will be glad to take the stand for Jesus Christ and give up my position. However, I would really like to be able to avoid this situation and complete my residency so that I could go on and serve the Lord in that field."


    Watch video of briefing at U.S. Capitol
    Discrimination stories


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Hospital forces nurses to participate in abortions

Excerpted from "NJ nurses say suit hasn't halted abortion duties," The Washington Examiner, November 14, 2011--A group of nurses who objected to helping abortion patients on religious grounds said Monday they were still being compelled to assist with the procedures, despite having filed a federal lawsuit against the New Jersey hospital where they work. The suit was filed by 12 nurses at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey hospital in Newark. Several said despite the lawsuit, they were still being trained and scheduled to assist.

"My spiritual conviction tells me, I would not want to kill innocent babies, and not in my wildest dream, as a nurse, as a person, as a Christian, did I ever think that I would be trained to assist with this kind of procedure," Fe Esperanza Racpan-Vinoya, said at a news conference in front of the hospital.

Racpan-Vinoya and other nurses who attended the news conference — all but four in their unit have signed on to the lawsuit — said they had made their objections known to their supervisor and to hospital officials, and claim their concerns were dismissed or ignored. Hospital officials said previously they would temporarily stop requiring nurses to assist, and a federal judge issued a restraining order to that effect, but the nurses claim it's still going on. The hospital issued a statement Monday saying no nurse is compelled to participate, or even be in the room, during a procedure to which they object on cultural, religious or ethical grounds.

Matt Bowman, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a coalition of Christian lawyers and organizations that is representing the nurses, said the hospital had previously hired per-diem nurses or those who volunteered to assist with abortions to help perform them.

Bowman said the hospital notified nurses in writing in September that its new policy would require same-day surgery unit nurses to assist in abortions. The nurses filed suit on Oct. 31, claiming the hospital was compelling them to undergo training that involved assisting in abortions, and indicated they could be subject to termination if they didn't comply.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ): (pictured on right at White House with CMA VP for Govt. Affairs Jonathan Imbody; comments excerpted from press conference) "UMDNJ’s coercive anti-conscience policy is not only highly unethical but blatantly illegal. Federal and state law couldn’t be clearer on this matter.

"The 1974 Church Amendment makes absolutely clear that 'no entity (and that includes UMDNJ) which receives a grant, contract, loan or loan guarantee under the Public Health Service Act, the Community Mental Health Centers Act or the Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Act may discriminate in the employment, promotion or termination of employment of any physician or other health care personnel or discriminate in the extension of staff or other privileges to any physician or other health care personnel...because he refused to perform or assist in the performance of... abortion on the grounds that his performance or assistance in the performance of ...abortion would be contrary to his religious beliefs or moral convictions...'

"To further protect conscience rights, the U.S. Congress enacted the Hyde-Weldon conscience law in 2005 that bars funds appropriated under the entire Health and Human Services Appropriations Act to any federal agency or program or to a state or local government if they engage in discrimination by violating conscience rights.

"The relevant NJ statute states unambiguously that 'no person shall be required to perform or assist in the performance of abortion... .' New Jersey law further states that 'the refusal to perform, assist in the performance of, or provide abortion... shall not constitute grounds for civil or criminal liability, disciplinary action or discriminatory treatment.'

"In pursuit of an illegal and highly unethical policy to coerce its own nurses to participate in abortions including support activities such as pre- and post-procedure complicity in abortion, UMDNJ has not only imposed irreparable harm and suffering on its own nurses, but has willfully and recklessly put federal funding for the institution at risk.

"Because the nurses recognize the innate value and dignity and preciousness of the child in the womb and have refused to participate or be complicit in an act of violence against a vulnerable child, they are punished. Because the nurses have deep religious and moral convictions and believe women deserve better than abortion, they are punished. Because the nurses are compassionate and care deeply for every human life, regardless of age or condition of dependence, they are punished. The illegal and highly unethical policy of coercion by UMDNJ must cease immediately."

Written statements by nurses Fe Vinoya and Beryl Otieno Ngoje
Alliance Defense Fund News Release
Audio Recording of the Press Conference
Written statement by Rep. Chris Smith
Press Advisory with links to additional information and Fact sheet by ADF
Philadelphia Inquirer (Opinion): Freedom of not having a choice
National Review (Post to the Corner by Matt Bowman): NJ Hospital Should Tell the Truth about Its Abortion Policy

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

State-mandated classes versus parental rights

State-mandated classes versus parental rights
"Does Sex Ed Undermine Parental Rights?," The New York Times. October 18, 2011--IMAGINE you have a 10- or 11-year-old child, just entering a public middle school. How would you feel if, as part of a class ostensibly about the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, he and his classmates were given “risk cards” that graphically named a variety of solitary and mutual sex acts? Or if, in another lesson, he was encouraged to disregard what you told him about sex, and to rely instead on teachers and health clinic staff members? That prospect would horrify most parents. But such lessons are part of a middle-school curriculum that Dennis M. Walcott, the New York City schools chancellor, has recommended for his system’s newly mandated sex-education classes. There is a parental “opt out,” but it is very limited, covering classes on contraception and birth control.

Observers can quarrel about the extent to which what is being mandated is an effect, or a contributing cause, of the sexualization of children in our society at younger ages. But no one can plausibly claim that teaching middle-schoolers about mutual masturbation is “neutral” between competing views of morality; the idea of “value free” sex education was exploded as a myth long ago. The effect of such lessons is as much to promote a certain sexual ideology among the young as it is to protect their health. But beyond rival moral visions, the new policy raises a deeper issue: Should the government force parents — at least those not rich enough to afford private schools — to send their children to classes that may contradict their moral and religious values on matters of intimacy and personal conduct?

Liberals and conservatives alike should say no. Such policies violate parents’ rights, whether they are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or of no religion at all. To see why, we need to think carefully about the parent-child relationship that gives rise to the duties that parental rights serve and protect. Parenting, especially in moral and religious matters, is very important and highly personal: while parents enlist others’ help in this task, the task is theirs. They are ultimately responsible for their children’s intellectual and moral maturity, so within broad limits they must be free to educate their children, especially on the deepest matters, as they judge best. This is why parental rights are so important: they provide a zone of sovereignty, a moral space to fulfill their obligations according to their consciences.

True, the state needs to protect children from abuse and neglect. It is also true that the state has a legitimate interest in reducing teenage pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. But it is not abuse or neglect to protect the innocence of preteenage children or to teach one’s children more conservative, as opposed to more liberal, moral values. Nor is it wrong or unreasonable to limit the state’s control over what one’s children learn and think about sensitive issues of morality. On the contrary, that is just what is required if parents are to fulfill their duties and exercise their legitimate rights. Unless a broader parental opt out is added, New York City’s new policies will continue to usurp parents’ just (and constitutionally recognized) authority. Turning a classroom into a mandatory catechism lesson for a contested ideology is a serious violation of parental rights, and citizens of every ideological hue should stand up and oppose it.

Joe McIlhaney, MDFounder and Chairman of The Medical Institute for Sexual Health Joe McIlhaney, MD: "Teaching middle-schoolers about mutual masturbation or about masturbation of any type and teaching them about a variety of other solitary and mutual sex acts is unhealthy enough. Teaching them to ignore parental teaching about sex and to trust only the school is even more unhealthy. Ignoring for a moment the sexual issue, remember that parents are with the children day after day until they leave home. It is the parents' responsibility to teach their children how to eat in a healthy way, how to drive the car without speeding or running red lights and on and on. If the schools undermine in the children’s minds the wisdom of their parents about sex, why should the children not also question their parents wisdom about a host of other warnings they have been given at home? And besides, the children do not belong to the school, they belong to the parents to raise. For these and many other reasons, invalidating parental authority in the lives of children is the worst part of the middle-school sex-ed curriculum advocated by Dennis M. Walcott, the New York City school's chancellor.

"Giving children as young as 10 and 11 'risk cards' that graphically name a variety of solitary and mutual sex acts, ostensibly to warn them about sexually transmitted disease (STI), is almost as inane and destructive. Teaching kids about mutual masturbation, masturbation of any form or of any number of other sexual acts has never been shown to decrease children’s risk of becoming infected with STIs. However, one thing we know is that even though the number of children involved in sexual behavior has somewhat stabilized, it is still too high and the incidences of sexually transmitted diseases among our children is rampant, in spite of the prevalence of sex-ed programs similar to this one advocated by Chancellor Walcott.

"One wants to ask Chancellor Walcott, given that since programs similar to the one he so dearly wants in the New York schools have been shown time and again to be such failures in preventing STIs and pregnancies, why does he persist in supporting this program and in undermining parental guidance for their children? Does he have an underlying philosophy about sex that he is attempting to force on the young people he has some control of? Is he trying to impose HIS morality, HIS sexual ideology? Though he 'waves' a limited opt out for parents as a weak argument to prove he isn't imposing his beliefs on the students, one still has to wonder about his motives.

"It seems that it would behoove parents to exercise their responsibility to their own children by vigorously opposing Chancellor Walcott’s efforts by every legal means they and their friends can muster, to not only protect the health of their children but also for their 'goodness' as well."
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CMA joins push to restore abstinence education funding
Hooked: How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children

Forced religious tolerance becomes discrimination

Forced religious tolerance becomes discrimination
"Conformity for diversity's sake," The Washington Post. November 2, 2011--Illustrating an intellectual confusion common on campuses, Vanderbilt University says: To ensure “diversity of thought and opinion” we require certain student groups, including five religious ones, to conform to the university’s policy that forbids the groups from protecting their characteristics that contribute to diversity.

Last year, after a Christian fraternity allegedly expelled a gay undergraduate because of his sexual practices, Vanderbilt redoubled its efforts to make the more than 300 student organizations comply with its “long-standing nondiscrimination policy.” That policy, says a university official, does not allow the Christian Legal Society “to preclude someone from a leadership position based on religious belief.” So an organization formed to express religious beliefs, including the belief that homosexual activity is biblically forbidden, is itself effectively forbidden.

The question, at Vanderbilt and elsewhere, should not be whether a particular viewpoint is right but whether an expressive association has a right to espouse it. Unfortunately, in the name of tolerance, what is tolerable is being defined ever more narrowly.

Although Vanderbilt is a private institution, its policy is congruent with “progressive” public policy, under which society shall be made to progress up from a multiplicity of viewpoints to a government-supervised harmony. Vanderbilt’s policy, formulated in the name of enlarging rights, is another skirmish in the progressives’ struggle to deny more and more social entities the right to deviate from government-promoted homogeneity of belief. Such compulsory conformity is, of course, enforced in the name of diversity."

David Stevens, MDCMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): "In a show of linguistic sleight of hand, Vanderbilt asserts that they are defending freedom of religion while enforcing a freedom from religion policy. That effort goes back almost a hundred years. Vanderbilt was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church to train pastors in 1875. It was initially endowed by Cornelius Vanderbilt as a gesture to bring reconciliation between the north and south after the Civil War. Forty years later, the school took the church to court and eliminated their representation from the institution's board. Hostility towards organized religion is apparently not new to the school.

"The school maintains they are simply applying a religious anti-discrimination mandate, though their very interpretation and application of that mandate discriminates against those who have religious faith. That is not a policy of religious tolerance but intolerance. Other student organizations may select their leadership based on their compatibility with their stated mission, but if religious organizations do the same, they are guilty of religious discrimination.

"The guilty ones are not the Christian groups on campus. It is the board and administration of the school who are violating the first amendment of the Bill of Rights by not allowing the free exercise of religion and freedom of association. Unless the school backs down, this issue will end up in the highest court of the land.

"I have a family member who attended Vanderbilt. I couldn't recommend it in good conscience now, anymore than I would recommend to someone they attend a school that discriminated on the basis of race, ethnic group or gender. Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination, no matter what words you wrap around it."
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Email from Vanderbilt University to campus chapter of the Christian Legal Society
Letter from the Christian Legal Society to Vanderbilt University
If you are interested in writing a letter to Vanderbilt's administration regarding this issue, click here for a template letter we have prepared for your convience that can be downloaded, signed and sent.

Doctors and prayer: kindness or coercion?

Doctors and prayer: kindness or coercion?

Excerpt from "Should Doctors Be Involved With a Patient's 'Spiritual Care?'," Medscape. October 21, 2011--Science and religion have always had a complicated relationship, so it's not surprising that, as interest in holistic care grows, physicians are trying to come to grips with whether they should play a role in patients' spiritual care. More than half of physicians believe that religion and spirituality affect patient health in some way, according to research conducted by the University of Chicago. In a survey of 2,000 physicians, 56 percent believed that religion and spirituality have much or very much influence on health, but only 6 percent believed they often changed "hard" medical outcomes. Rather, respondents suggested that religion and spirituality help patients cope, give them a positive state of mind, or provide emotional and practical support via the religious community. While doctors might believe religion and spirituality influence health, acknowledging a connection raises some fundamental and tricky questions. The American College of Physicians' ethics manual encourages physicians to explore a patient's religion and spirituality as part of an overall physical. But how are they to do that? What does it mean, and what are they to do with the information?

Research indicates that roughly 80 percent of medical schools now offer spiritual care courses or integrate spirituality into their curricula, according to Christina Puchalski, MD, an internist at George Washington University and director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health. But what's included and how it's taught differs tremendously from one institution to the next. In an effort to bring consistency to the spiritual history and assessment process, various proponents have development of myriad tools represented by apropos acronyms such as FAITH, SPIRIT and HOPE as well as the slightly less catchy FICA and FACT. Assessing a patient's spiritual health is important, because spiritual issues can not only impact a patient's health, but they can impact a patient's medical compliance and treatment choices as well, says Puchalski. However, not everybody believes spiritual care belongs in the examination room. Indeed, those who oppose the idea present a litany of arguments: Spirituality is a private matter. Over-zealous physicians might abuse their position and proselytize to their patients. Pragmatically, many note that in the real world of 15-minute office visits, taking the time to ask questions about spirituality would come at the expense of addressing clinical issues. Most worrisome says Richard Sloan, professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and author of Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine, taking a spiritual history sets a doctor up to be a spiritual guide, "which they are completely untrained and unequipped to do."

Still, fitting spiritual assessments into practice is a hodgepodge. "From what we've seen in our research almost nobody is using those acronyms," says Farr Curlin, MD, co-director of the Program on Medicine and Religion at the University of Chicago. "It's the rare physician who uses these pneumonic tools. Rather they try to pay attention to signs from the patient and then they try to query them to bring those issues out and connect the patient with spiritual resources in the community or their organization's pastoral care department." Carol Taylor, PhD, director of the Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University, says clinicians are caught in a theory-practice gap. "The problem is we say, 'spiritual care matters,' but we haven't gotten to the point where clinicians can identify spiritual need," she says.

David Levy,MD ImageNeurosurgeon, Author of Gray Matter and CMDA Member David I. Levy, MD: "Wherever there is power, there is potential for abuse. If approached correctly, prayer honors, gives comfort and encourages. We are spiritual beings and our awareness of this fact is heightened when we feel out of control or in danger. When a problem arises that is too big to solve with our resources; we pray.

"My desire is to recognize and honor the spiritual aspect of every patient; to give him or her peace, to comfort and to use everything in their armamentarium to help them heal. Asking if someone would like prayer should be done in a sensitive manner without making people feel uncomfortable; patients must feel free to decline without affect to their care or our relationship. Joint Commission guidelines state that a patient’s “spiritual needs should be assessed and accommodated in ways that are meaningful to them.” The only way that I will know if prayer would be meaningful is to ask – and in most cases it is very meaningful.

"Although patients trust me to do the best job possible, we both realize that ultimately I am not in control of their response to medication, the outcome of their surgery or their healing process. No matter how extensive my experience or education, if I am trusted to do something that involves risk, then I believe that an offer of prayer is honest, appropriate and authentic. Given the peace and comfort many patients receive, I believe that withholding prayer from those who would benefit is unethical and even cruel."

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CMDA Ethics Statement - Sharing Faith in Practice

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Presidential candidate's faith matters

Published in USA Today October 20, 2011
By Jonathan Imbody, CMA VP for Government Relations

USA Today imageAssailing a pastor who impoliticly contrasted GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon beliefs with orthodox Christianity, law professor Rodney Smith suggests that considering a candidate's beliefs is the equivalent of declaring "a religious test for political purposes" and that the Christian faith is merely a personal "brand" ("Column: Founders wouldn't have targeted Mormons").

The latter assertion ignores the fact that two millennia of Christian consensus, reflected both in Scripture and historical creeds, unite both Catholics and Protestants around core truths that include the Trinity, the unique deity of Christ and more. The fact that Mormon leaders do not share this orthodox Christian consensus calls for discernment rather than discrimination.
As to "declaring a religious test for political purposes," even typically pragmatic Americans consider a presidential candidate's personal faith relevant, for we recognize that a worldview can guide decisions. Americans have learned much about faith and politics by observing the policies of many faith-professing presidents from Washington to Lincoln to Bush and Obama.

Each of these presidents professed to support, along with the Founders, the rights to life and liberty in the Declaration of Independence. Yet how and whether each president implemented those truths in public policy — consider slavery and abortion, for example — has varied greatly.

What matters in politics is the same thing that matters in the Christian faith: It's not just what you say you believe, but what you prove you believe by your actions.

You can impact U.S. public policy:

  1. Join your colleagues: Sign up for federal jobs, commissions, consultation
    Consider advancing your career and your values while serving your profession and nation:
    • Launch a career in the federal government.
    • Network with colleagues and guide national policy by serving on a federal commission.
    • Provide expert counsel to Members of Congress, White House staff and agency officials.
  2. Simply sign up for CMA's Freedom2Care coalition's Federal Registry on LinkedIn (registration is free) and stay updated with notices of opportunities plus tips, updates and discussions.
  3. Track legislation, get alerts, sound off

See also CMA commentary published in The Washington Times, October 13, 2011: "In candidates, seek integration of faith, policy.

House passes bill to protect conscience, ban federal abortion funding

Excerpted from LifeNews, October 13, 2011. House OKs Legislation Stopping Abortion Funding in Obamacare: "The House approved legislation, the Protect Life Act, to stop abortion funding in Obamacare. Senate Democrats are not expected to approve the bill and, pro-abortion President Barack Obama is expected to veto the measure if it reaches his desk.
"Members voted 251-172 for the pro-life legislation, with 236 Republicans and 15 Democrats supporting the bill and 170 Democrats and two Republicans voting against it. (See how your member voted here).

"H.R. 358, Protect Life Act, makes it clear that no funds authorized or appropriated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), including tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, may be used to pay for abortion or abortion coverage. It specifies that individual people or state or local governments must purchase a separate elective abortion rider or insurance coverage that includes elective abortion but only as long as that is done with private funds and not monies authorized by Obamacare.

"The pro-life measure also ensures that state laws 'protecting conscience rights, restricting or prohibiting abortion or coverage or funding of abortion, or establishing procedural requirements on abortion' are not abrogated by Obamacare. It also makes it so any state or local governments receiving funding under Obamacare may not subject any health care entity to discrimination or require any health plan to subject any entity to discrimination on the basis that it refuses to undergo abortion training, refuses to require abortion training, refuses to perform or pay for abortions, or refuses to provide abortion referrals."

CMA imageCMA letter of support for the Protect Life Act, sent to Members of Congress: "For our members, as for many faith-based hospitals and clinics nationwide, conscience rights are essential to the practice of medicine. In a survey of 2,865 faith-based healthcare professionals, conducted by the polling companyTM, more than nine out of ten (91 percent) faith-based physicians agreed, 'I would rather stop practicing medicine altogether than be forced to violate my conscience.'
"Since faith-based physicians are among the most likely to be serving the poor and those in medically underserved areas losing these life-affirming professionals to discrimination and job loss especially imperils the poor and patients in medically underserved areas.

"We are already facing critical shortages of primary care physicians. The Obama administration's decision to rescind the only federal conscience regulation protecting life-affirming physicians and institutions from discrimination now threatens to make the situation far worse for patients across the country who depend on faith-based health care. "The administration has indicated in federal court documents its plan to act on this threat to rescind the conscience-protecting regulation no later than March 1. That makes legislation such as HR 358 all the more crucial to pass.

"Therefore, we urge that any attempts to weaken the strong conscience protections of HR 358 be vigorously opposed. Abortion advocates have a long history of using cloaked terms and overly broad definitions of “emergencies” or “medically necessary” to advance their ideological agenda.

"The result of such verbal engineering to undermine the clear intention of HR 358 would be the loss of conscience protections for healthcare professionals and the corresponding loss of healthcare access for patients."

Voice your values on conscience-protecting legislation at CMA's Freedom2Care legislative action center.