Thursday, February 26, 2015

CMA commentary in Washington Times magazine

Jonathan ImbodyExcerpted from "Selling suicide," commentary by CMA VP for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody, published in The Washington Times online magazine, American CurrentSee,

Compassion & Choices, the never-say-die advocates for state-sanctioned assisted suicide, seem to have mastered the art of putting lipstick on a pig. Whether or not Americans learn to see through their euphemisms and illogic may well determine the fate of many vulnerable patients, including those in California and 20 other states where the organization now is leading a well-funded lobbying campaign to legalize assisted suicide.

Reincarnated from a previous life when known as The Hemlock Society, the more politically correctly named Compassion & Choices non-profit organization claims on its website, "For over 30 years we have reduced people’s suffering and given them some control in their final days."

That claim would come as news to the medical and pharmaceutical professions, which, unlike non-profit advocacy groups, actually are trained and authorized to prescribe and provide medications that reduce suffering. Pain medication reduces suffering; lethal pills end lives. Suicide does not control death; it merely accelerates it.

The group also claims to "increase patient control and reduce unwanted interventions at the end of life." Yet the law has long recognized patients' right to decline "unwanted interventions at the end of life." Given the pressure by insurers, unscrupulous heirs and uncompassionate caretakers on vulnerable, depressed and disabled patients to end their lives early, assisted suicide represents the real threat of an "unwanted intervention at the end of life."

[As evidenced by polling], government-leery conservatives tend to critically analyze the smooth rhetoric designed to advance state-sanctioned assisted suicide, no doubt wondering:
  • Would state governments that sanction suicide block the media, watchdog groups and the public from investigating suspected abuses? (Yes; Oregon's assisted suicide law actually stipulates that "information collected shall not be a public record and may not be made available for inspection by the public.")
  • Might activist judges liberally construe and expand the phrase "pain" to mean not only physical but also psychological pain? (Yes; European courts already have slid down that slippery slope.)
  • Could courts determine that disabled persons' inability to ingest lethal pills means that they must be allowed to request euthanasia--thus empowering doctors to actively kill their patients? (Almost certainly, under equal access principles.)

Critical thinkers who have studied history and health may also ask probing questions such as:
  • Can physicians help kill their patients and still follow the Hippocratic ethic, which protects patients by forbidding physicians to "give poison to anyone though asked to do so" and insists on, "first, do no harm"? (No.)
  • Can physicians can accurately predict a patient's life expectancy? (No.)
  • Can physicians treat most patients' pain? (Yes, and updating legislation could ensure even more aggressive pain treatment.)

Anyone with a loved one facing a difficult illness, depression or financial hardship should ask:
  • Might family members not learn of their loved one's suicide until after she's dead? (Yes--as under Oregon's law.)
  • Could legalizing suicide send suicide-vulnerable young people a deadly message? (How could it not?)
  • Would vulnerable patients be pressured into requesting assisted suicide? (Only when heirs, insurance companies and governments could save money with a quick death rather than expensive healthcare ... or when caregivers became tired or uncaring ... or when a depressed patient felt like a burden on others.)

Read rest of commentary...

  1. Check this list of states considering legalizing assisted suicide.
  2. If your state is included on this list of state legislative issues, will you join in your local state efforts to help stem the tide and defeat physician-assisted suicide? Contact to get involved.
Physician-Assisted Suicide Fact Sheet
CMDA Physician-Assisted Suicide Ethics Statement
State Legislative Issues

Hippocratic physicians face "medical martyrdom"

Excerpted from The Coming of Medical Martyrdom, commentary by Wesley J. Smith, First Things, February 20, 2015 - Despite abortion’s ubiquitous legality and the accelerating push to normalize assisted suicide, space remains for dissenting doctors to practice their art in the traditional Hippocratic manner.

But that space is diminishing. Today, “patient rights” are paramount; the competent customer is always right and, hence, held to be entitled to virtually any legal procedure from “service providers” for which payment can be made—be it abortion, assisted suicide or, someday perhaps, embryonic stem cell therapies and products made from cloned and aborted human fetuses.

Hippocratic-believing professionals ... are increasingly being pressured to practice medicine without regard to their personal faith or conscience beliefs. This moral intolerance is slowly being imbedded into law. Such laws are a prescription for medical martyrdom, by which I mean doctors being forced to choose between adhering to their faith or moral code and remaining in their profession.

Canada is heading in [this] direction regarding euthanasia. Quebec legalized doctor-administered death last year and allows no conscience exemptions along the lines of Victoria’s abortion law. Meanwhile, the Canadian Supreme Court just made access to euthanasia a Charter right for those with a diagnosable medical condition that causes “irremediable suffering,” including “psychological” pain.

Recognizing that some doctors will have moral qualms about “terminating life,” the Court gave Parliament twelve months to pass enabling legislation, stating that “the rights of patients and physicians will need to be reconciled” by law or left “in the hands of physicians’ colleges.” That doesn’t bode well for medical conscience rights.

If these trends continue, twenty years from now, those who feel called to a career in health care will face an agonizing dilemma: either participate in acts of killing or stay out of medicine. Those who stay true to their consciences will be forced into the painful sacrifice of embracing martyrdom for their faith.


Jonathan ImbodyExecutive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada Larry Worthen, MA (Th.), LLB: “Comments by Wesley Smith regarding conscience rights for healthcare professionals in Canada should sound an alarm for our friends in the United States about the dangers of complacency. Advocates for a rationalistic and exclusively secular approach to healthcare are gaining ground and are shamelessly flexing their muscles behind the scenes with the provincial colleges that regulate the practice of healthcare in Canada.

“Buoyed by a recent unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada which struck down sections of the Criminal Code dealing with assisted suicide and euthanasia, they are setting about the work of forcing physicians to refer for, and in some cases provide, procedures that go against the conscience of the physician. This has already resulted in physicians questioning whether they should move from their jurisdiction or dramatically alter their practice.

“However, all is not lost. In the recent case, the Supreme Court cited a previous decision that acknowledged that a physician could not be forced to participate in a procedure that went against the physician's conscience. CMDS Canada is currently using this argument in lobbying efforts with the two provincial colleges that have proposed policies that encroach on the freedom of conscience.

“If those lobbying efforts fail, then we will be forced to commence legal action to vindicate our rights to freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We ask our friends in the United States for your prayer support in this challenging time.”


Use our easy, pre-written forms at our Freedom2Care legislative action website to contact your senators and protect freedom of faith and conscience in healthcare - S 50.

Freedom2Care - Visit CMDA's one-stop source for news, commentary and resources on freedom of faith, conscience and speech.
View Canada CMDS's video interviews with doctors on this issue (navigate to right-hand column on home page).

CMA commentary in Baltimore Sun

Jonathan ImbodyExcerpted from "Assisted suicide is not 'death with dignity'," commentary by CMA VP for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody, published by the Baltimore Sun, February 21, 2015 - An advocate for a Maryland "death with dignity" bill complains, "Why is it that I can put my dying pet to sleep to end its suffering, then have to sit with my dying spouse at a hospice?" ("Md. needs a death with dignity law," Feb. 18).

The comments suggest exactly why assisted suicide is far from "death with dignity."

Unlike animal pets, human beings possess the ability to transcend their physical bodies to achieve dignity and purpose.

The fact that a caretaker expresses regret at "having to sit with my dying spouse at hospice" unwittingly illustrates the pressures that can be brought to bear on the vulnerable, the disabled and the dying to end their lives prematurely.

The unpleasant truth is that when sick, elderly or disabled individuals are experiencing challenges that render them weak, depressed and extremely vulnerable, their caretakers will all too often prefer emotional relief to persevering in care-giving; insurers and governments will save money with a quicker end to life; overeager heirs may want to cut care short to preserve their inheritance; and coldly pragmatic health workers may want to clear the bed that patients nearing the end of life "uselessly" occupy.

As former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop observed, the "right to die" becomes the duty to die. We should instead focus on palliative care, assisting families with vulnerable patients and upholding the true human dignity that transcends our frail bodies.

  1. Check this list of states considering legalizing assisted suicide.
  2. If your state is included on this list of state legislative issues, will you join in your local state efforts to help stem the tide and defeat physician-assisted suicide? Contact to get involved.

Physician-Assisted Suicide Fact Sheet
CMDA Physician-Assisted Suicide Ethics Statement
State Legislative Issues

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Illinois approves child use of medical marijuana

Excerpted from Child use of medical marijuana ahead in Ill.,” Baptist Press. January 13, 2015 — Children in Illinois will be eligible for medical marijuana prescriptions, according to rules announced by state health officials in late December. The rules by the Illinois Department of Public Health amend the medical marijuana pilot program approved by lawmakers in June. A handful of parents subsequently spearheaded a campaign to open the program to children under age 18, especially those who suffer from epileptic seizures.

Under the new rules, which went into effect on New Year's Day, children diagnosed with a qualifying debilitating condition will be able to obtain marijuana-infused products but not raw marijuana for smoking. To obtain the treatment, children need a signature from their own physician, an additional doctor's review and authorization and parental permission.

Supporters see the Illinois action as a step toward allowing children the potential benefits of medicinal marijuana. A hybrid marijuana strain called Charlotte's Web has a growing following of parents who believe it's an effective treatment for children suffering from severe seizures. Two U.S. drug companies have launched studies into the effects of CBD on childhood seizures but results will not be available for years. In the meantime, skeptics question whether the treatment is truly helpful.


Dr. J. Scott RiesCMDA’s National Director of Campus & Community Ministries Dr. J. Scott Ries, MD: “It didn’t take long. The marijuana joy-ride train that seems to be traversing the nation stopped at a station in Illinois. With that state’s legislature legalizing the use of so-called ‘medical marijuana’ for children, it begs the question of what’s next.

“To be sure, there is hardly a more difficult scenario for a family and their physician than to see a child suffering from painful and tragic disorders that are difficult to control. I have sat beside parents as they bear the intensely painful burden of their child’s last moments on earth. I have held seizing children as yet another episode of their refractory seizures takes hold. However, this move opens a Pandora’s box of ethical and clinical concerns related to using marijuana products in children.

“Though it may be that newer genetically modified marijuana plant derivatives may have a lower THC component, low-THC is not no-THC. The truth is we simply do not know the ramifications of allowing children access to marijuana—be they short-term or long-term consequences.

“We do know that: the younger a person is exposed to marijuana, the greater their likelihood of addiction; the majority of the limited studies available on ‘medical marijuana’ are limited to animal models, not human subjects; and safer, better studied options are available for the scenarios for which marijuana has been legalized in Illinois.

“It seems political agenda and emotional response have trumped scientific rationale and a cautious primum non nocere. At best, what we can say pertaining to the use of marijuana in our children is we simply don’t know its consequence. At worst, it hails of even more problems to come.

“As I mentioned in a previous commentary, we would do well as Christian healthcare professionals to remember Paul’s counsel that while everything may be legal, everything is not necessarily good. ‘We are free to do all things, but there are things which it is not wise to do. We are free to do all things, but not all things are for the common good’ (1 Corinthians 10:23, BBE).”

Editor's Note: Though proponents claim that medical marijuana (ie. cannabinoid) has less addictive THC, "low THC is not the same as "no THC."


A five-part series on marijuana from Dr. Walt Larimore
The Effects of Marijuana by Donal O'Mathuna
University of Notre Dame Myths and Current Research

The death of physician-assisted suicide in Colorado

Excerpted from Colorado lawmakers vote down assisted suicide bill,” Reuters. February 7, 2015 — After 10 hours of emotional testimony and debate, Colorado lawmakers late on Friday voted down a proposed assisted-suicide law that would have allowed terminally-ill patients to end their lives with prescription drugs.

By an 8-to-5 bipartisan vote, the so-called "Death with Dignity" bill was rejected by the Public Health and Human Services Committee in the state's House of Representatives. The measure was sponsored by two Democratic lawmakers.

The Colorado proposal would have required two physicians to verify that the patient is terminal, had made both verbal and written statements of their intentions, and was able to self-administer the lethal medications. Hundreds packed the committee room in Denver, as lawmakers heard testimony from both advocates and opponents of the measure. A poll conducted last month by Colorado pollster Talmey-Drake Research showed 68 percent of state residents surveyed favored the bill.


Natalie DeckerAlliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Natalie Decker: “The bill Colorado legislators rejected sought to override a historic governmental commitment that has existed since the beginning of time: preserve and protect human life. Alliance Defending Freedom highlighted in testimony the numerous problems with the proposed law. The bill lacked safeguards to prevent abuse and mistakes which would have resulted in people being killed without their consent. Indeed, there could never be adequate safeguards.

“Despite assertions to the contrary, the bill did not require lethal drugs to be ‘self-administered,’ nor did it even define what that term meant. In fact, the bill provided no oversight of lethal drugs once dispensed, nor did it require consent, legal capacity to consent or the presence of any witnesses (not even the attending physician) during the administration of the lethal drugs. In addition, the bill defined ‘terminal’ illness or disease broadly and arbitrarily. Understandably, some of the bill’s proponents presented emotional, heartrending stories to which any compassionate person can relate. Those cases are very rare, however, particularly given the high quality of healthcare and technology in our nation.

“Many Coloradans from diverse backgrounds and perspectives told their legislators why they opposed physician-assisted suicide. Their testimony was based on a sound and rational analysis of the facts and the law.

“The poll referenced by Mr. Coffman was commissioned by Compassion & Choices (formerly known as the Hemlock Society), the organization promoting the bill. The questions C&C asked were based on false premises, which resulted in skewed responses. It is highly unlikely that anyone asked directly if doctors should be permitted to kill their patients would respond ‘yes.’ Indeed, that is why the Legislature voted ‘no.’

“It is a hallmark of our society to expect healthcare professionals, as well as the legal system, to protect its more vulnerable members—the elderly, the infirm, infants and the disabled. The Colorado Legislature rightly rejected the idea that our state and its healthcare professionals should be agents of death instead of protectors of life.”

Editor’s Note: CMDA staff and CMDA Colorado State Representative Dr. James Small participated in the coalition Coloradans Against Physician Assisted Suicide which developed educational tools and strategies as well as obtaining testimonies at the hearing.

Late Breaking News: SB 202 (to legalize assisted suicide in Montana) was tabled in Montana. CMDA State Representative Dr. David Hafer and his wife Bobbie have labored continuously and provided leadership in opposing PAS for the last six years after a Montana judge ruled PAS was legal. CMDA members who gave testimony at the hearing this week were Dr. David and Bobbie Hafer, Drs. Chris and Jennifer Gilbert and Dr. Annie Bukacek. In addition, CMDA members Dr. Samuel Reck, Dr. Dennis Dietrich and Dr. Rick Blevins provided written testimony.

Action Item

We praise God for His faithfulness in defeating physician-assisted suicide in Colorado. Unfortunately, more than 25 states in the U.S. are now considering legislation to legalize this dangerous practice. We need your help. If your state is included on this list of state legislative issues, will you join in your local state efforts to help stem the tide and defeat physician-assisted suicide? Contact to get involved. Resources

Physician-Assisted Suicide Fact Sheet
CMDA’s Physician-Assisted Suicide Ethics Statement
Ongoing State Legislative Issues

Measles outbreak raising national concerns

Excerpted from "CDC ‘very concerned’ about potential for large measles outbreak," Face the Nation. February 1, 2015 — Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said his agency is "very concerned" about the possibility of a large measles outbreak in the U.S. because of the growing number of people who have not been vaccinated against the disease.

"What we've seen is, as over the last few years, a small but growing number of people have not been vaccinated. That number is building up among young adults in society, and that makes us vulnerable," Frieden said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "We have to make sure that measles doesn't get a foothold in the U.S. It's been actually eliminated from this country for 15 years. All of our cases result, ultimately, from individuals who have traveled and brought it back here."

There are at least 102 reported cases of measles in 14 states, according to CDC statistics. Frieden said there will likely be more cases going forward, and the CDC is taking "aggressive public health action" to identify contacts and isolate those infected in order to stop the spread.

But, he said, the disease is preventable and the best way to do that is with the vaccine, which he said is "safe and effective." There is a 92 percent vaccination rate in the United States, but the number of unvaccinated children is higher in certain states. In California, where an outbreak of the disease has been linked to Disney theme parks in the southern part of the state, 8 percent of kindergarteners fail to get the required immunizations against measles, mumps and rubella. In Pennsylvania, that number rises to 15 percent of kindergarteners.


Dr. David StevensCMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): “I didn’t see a single case of measles during my training. You probably didn’t either. Parents didn’t need to be convinced to immunize their children in those days because they probably had measles as a child or knew of children in their community who had complications or died before the vaccine was available. As a young missionary in Kenya, I took care of a entire isolation ward full of children with severe measles complications. (We had a total of 427 admissions in 1984). Children had pneumonia, encephalitis and died because the immunization rates in our service area were under 20 percent. The problem was so severe that despite working long days and every third night, I started a community health program that, among many other initiatives, sent staff on motorcycles to vaccinate children under trees, in school rooms, churches and in the marketplace. Volunteers were trained to teach and motivate their neighbors on this issue. Five years later, we had dropped our measles admissions by 95 percent, and measles was almost completely wiped out in seven years. My passion for immunization is not academic. I saw it save many lives.

“But how do we balance parental rights and the need to have children immunized? CMDA has an eloquent and practical ethics statement available on this topic. Read it and add it to your files. You will be better equipped to educate others about this issue in the news.”

CMDA Ethics Statement on Immunization
Vaccinations Information and Recommendations
Is Vaccination Complicit with Abortion?