Saturday, 22 October 2011

Governments have an obligation to uphold the right to life of unborn children

The San Jose Articles were launched on 6th October 2011 at the UN in New York. The articles are a declaration on the rights of the unborn child and they are designed as a challenge to claims by UN officials that there exists in international law a right to abortion.

The declaration is the latest in a series of initiatives by various organizations over recent years – including the Amnesty for Babies’ initiatives and others – which insist that international human rights agreements uphold the right to life of unborn children.

The signatories include Professor Robert George of Princeton, former US Ambassador Grover Joseph Rees, Professor John Finnis of Oxford, Professor John Haldane of the University of St. Andrews, Francisco Tatad, the former majority leader of the Philippine Senate, Javier Borrego, former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights, and Professor Carter Snead of UNESCO’s international committee on bioethics.

As Professor George pointed out, they can be used to oppose the work of UN officials “who say falsely that governments are required by international law to repeal domestic laws protecting human beings in the embryonic and fetal stages of development against the violence of abortion”.

Like the Amnesty for Babies’ launch at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2006, the San Jose Articles were launched in the presence of representatives of the Holy See. The Holy See’s presence at such events witnesses to the fundamental importance of the Catholic Church – with its unequivocal defence of the value and inviolability of human life – for the pro-life movement worldwide.

History will judge the strength or otherwise of this or of that initiative. For example, the San Jose Articles can be used, with its list of distinguished signatories, to oppose the work of UN compliance committees which are seeking to put pressure on developing countries to legalize abortion by falsely representing the meaning of international agreements.

Equally, the World scientists' and physicians' declaration on human rights for nascent human beings, launched in October 2008, can be used to develop support for ethical scientific research which respects, in the words of the declaration “the inherent rights of human embryos and foetuses during our quest for beneficial knowledge, just as we respect the inviolable and inalienable rights of children and adults."

And the Amnesty for Babies petition, launched in June 2006, provides legislators with the opportunity of signing a petition to members of the United Nations general assembly. The petition calls on nations to ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child before as well as after birth; and to adopt all measures necessary to protect adequately human life and dignity in the application of life sciences.

On the other hand, reasonable disappointment has been expressed that, after three years, more scientists and physicians have not been found to support the world scientists’ and physicians’ declaration, and that, after five years, more legislators have not been found to support the unequivocal defence of the right to life expressed by the legislators’ Amnesty for Babies’ petition.

Equally, reasonable disappointment has been expressed by pro-life observers, myself included, that the San Jose articles contain a conclusion which needs to be stronger. In Article 8, it’s not sufficient to declare that laws “may and should [my emphasis] invoke treaty provisions guaranteeing the right to life as encompassing a state responsibility to protect the unborn child from abortion”.

Analogy helps in such cases. It would have been wholly inadequate for the world to have told South Africa 30 years ago that “it may and should end apartheid”. It was rightly warned by world’s nations that it must do so. "Should" is ambiguous, expressing either an obligation or an aspiration.

Proponents of the culture of death are not so inhibited. In September 2010 at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ban Ki Moon the UN Secretary General, and Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, launched a report “on discrimination against women, in law and practice, and how the issue is addressed throughout the United Nations human rights system”. In that report they called for the policing of nations worldwide to “address the refusal of physicians to perform legal abortions”.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the professional body in the UK governing pharmacists, rules that health professionals, with a conscientious objection to, say, abortifacient products, must refer patients seeking them to health professionals with no such objection.

The truth is that the obligation is exactly the other way round: the right to life must be upheld and abortions must not be facilitated. If we fail to insist on that obligation the pro-life movement will, ultimately, completely succumb to the superior force (force majeure) being used against us.

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Friday, 21 October 2011

Archbishop Nichols’s address to the RCOG was shameful

George Pinker, anti-life doctor
Last week Vincent Nichols, Catholic archbishop of Westminster, delivered the Inaugural Annual Sir George Pinker Memorial Address. The address was co-hosted by Wellbeing of Women and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). The RCOG is the professional body which (among other things) represents abortionists. Wellbeing of Women is the RCOG’s partner charity which (among other things) has funded research into “fetal screening techniques”, the use of ultrasound “to detect fetal abnormalities in early pregnancy" and “pre-natal screening being extended to Downs Syndrome”.

Westminster archdiocese’s website says that (my emphases in bold):
“The objectives of the Annual Address are to celebrate and remember the enormous contribution Sir George Pinker made to the medical profession ... Sir George Pinker, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, died in 2007 at the age of 83. He enjoyed a long and highly distinguished career...”
The archbishop's address started with:
"I never had the privilege of meeting Sir George Pinker ... I was particularly struck by [Roger Marwood's] description of what [Marwood] had learned from [Pinker] as a doctor: ‘I learnt from him always to keep the patient at the centre of any clinical situation – especially when teaching. He gave his patients his absolute individual attention and treated all women with the same dignity and respect whatever their circumstances...’ That moral principle – that all women – indeed every human being - should be treated with the same dignity and respect whatever their circumstances - is the basis of what I want to speak about this evening ... [T]he extraordinary advances in your own specialism, which George Pinker did so much to promote and sustain, have helped dramatically to reduce the risks [of maternal mortality or morbidity] in this and other developed countries."
Yet Sir George Pinker supported both abortion and IVF. His obituaries in 2007 make clear his support for IVF; for example in The Telegraph:
"In 1978 he gave his full backing to the world's first test-tube baby, Louise Brown. On Woman's Hour he said he thought there were no ethical problems and offered his whole-hearted support to the technique".
In 1990, Sir George, then the RCOG's president, wrote to an MP to support recommendations (subsequently passed) that abortion be allowed up to birth. Sir George also believed that:
"family planning is a human right and social need, and that it is unethical to deny any couple contraceptive advice"
"sterilisation ... unethical surely not."
The latter half of the archbishop's address said (among other things):
"[T]he Church starts from some very clear and unambiguous principles, founded on the utmost respect for human life from the time of its conception. Such a principle unfolds into all sorts of areas and in ways with which some of you will not agree ... I very much welcome the fact that, as your President told me, the College fully accommodates [the right of conscience] ...The prestige and leverage of this Royal College puts it in a unique and crucial position in driving forward efforts among professional associations around the world in saving and improving the lives of so many mothers and babies."
Firstly, the archbishop's reference to "some of you" is most curious. Members of the RCOG who concur with Catholic teaching must be as rare as hen's teeth. The RCOG's policy is that:
"abortion and contraception are an integral part of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services."
Secondly, the RCOG does not "fully accommodate[ the right of conscience]". The RCOG's policy is that:
"Practitioners cannot claim exemption from giving advice or performing the preparatory steps to arrange an abortion where the request meets the legal requirements. Such steps include referral to another doctor, as appropriate."
Some quick, basic research by the archbishop's staff would have provided all this information about Sir George and the RCOG.

The RCOG can have no "prestige" in Catholic eyes: it presides over the killing of 200,000 unborn children every year. The archbishop's address was shameful.

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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Support big day of pro-life outreach in east London this Saturday

Meet at Stratford tube station, 11am
This Saturday SPUC together with 40 Days for Life, and various local churches and mosques, will gather in Stratford, east London for what 40 Days for Life are calling “the biggest day of pro-life outreach in decades.” The day is being organised by Daniel Blackman, a research officer for SPUC and member of the 40 Days for Life London organising team.

This day of pro-life outreach with 40 Days for Life coincides with a larger campaign by SPUC to have a newly-opened BPAS abortion facility shut down before it starts doing abortions. Shockingly, BPAS has been opened on the ground floor of a residential block of flats. Having spoken to the residents several times, it is appalling that it appears that One Housing, the responsible housing association, did not inform or consult their own tenants. Newham Council only sent one standard letter briefly mentioning a proposed “clinic”.

Major concerns surround the location: the seemingly secretive way BPAS has been allowed to open, issues surrounding “clinical waste”, and of course the killing of unborn children in an area that already has the highest abortion rate in Britain. Stratford will be one of the key areas hosting the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, events celebrating life, whilst BPAS in the same area will be aiming to extinguish life.

The day starts at 11am, with pro-lifers meeting outside the main entrance of Stratford tube station. They will then head over to the BPAS centre, where Alan Craig, former Christian Peoples Alliance leader and ex-Newham councillor, will say a few words to help launch the day. Fr. Mark Swires of the Catholic diocese of Brentwood will lead the group in prayer. Also, many Muslims from east London are expected, following efforts by Dr. Majid Katme of SPUC Muslims, who has written to dozens of mosques and Islamic centres calling on Muslims to take a stand for the unborn. The day ends at 2.30pm.

Contact Daniel Blackman for more details about the day and the campaign: or 07738 714201.

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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Today's must-read pro-life news-stories, Wed 19 Oct

Chinese woman six months pregnant dies from forced abortion
Organisations opposing the Chinese one-child policy have obtained information that on 12 October, 2011, a woman died during a forced abortion.  She was six months pregnant at the time. Jihong Ma from Lijing County in Shandong Province was seized by Family Planning Officials for a forced abortion, having violated the One Child Policy. [ICN, 18 October

Researchers say false miscarriage diagnoses are resulting in abortions
A study led by Professor Tom Bourne from Imperial College London has found that hundreds of pregnancies may be lost every year due to ‘inadequate’ miscarriage guidelines. The research has led to claims that up to 400 'healthy'* fetuses may be aborted every 12 months. Professor Bourne said "We hope our work means that the guidelines to define miscarriage are made as watertight as we would expect for defining death at any other stage of life" and called for the guidelines to be reviewed so that "inadvertent termination of wanted pregnancies cannot happen". [, 14 October *John Smeaton, SPUC’s chief executive, commented: “Tragically, all too often, the adjective “healthy” is used in such contexts to refer to a baby who does not appear to have a disability – with the implication that it would be OK to abort disabled babies. This eugenic attitude is the foundation of the culture of death and must be opposed whenever it emerges.”

NHS records show patients left to die by secret use of do not resuscitate orders
Do not resuscitate orders are frequently being applied without the knowledge of the patient or their relatives. Spot checks of one hundred hospitals undertaken by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), earlier this year found that the orders were frequently issued without informing either patients or relatives. Under medical guidelines, the orders should only be issued after senior staff have discussed the matter with the patient's family. [Telegraph, 15 October

Other stories:

Sexual ethics
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Parents, the primary educators, "are the most dangerous people of all"

Last week I wrote about my address to the ninth annual session of the Rhodes Forum: "Dialogue of Civilizations". I am very pleased to share with readers a talk given by Dr Thomas Ward (pictured) at the same conference. Dr Ward is a retired general practitioner, is the founder and former president of The National Association for Catholic Families (NACF) and a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. He is married to Dr Mary Ward who are proud parents and grandparents.

Towards a new Civilisation of Life: Parents the Primary Educators and Protectors of their children

Madam Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen our Forum’s invitation to analyse the viability of global civilisation is timely. The word viability is from the French vie, life and able capable of – so capable of life. Of course, a viable civilisation depends upon the viability of its basic units, its families. My topic is the viability of the current paradigm of Western √©lites for the families of the world.

Alexandra Kollontai, (1872 –1952) the first Soviet People’s Commissar for Social Welfare wrote in 1920:
Communist society will take upon itself all the duties involved in the education of the child  Kommunistka (1920) Communism and the Family.
In 1922 Lenin called a meeting of Marxist intellectuals to study why the Bolshevik Revolution had not spread to the West. According to the major conservative thinker Ralph de Toledano “this meeting was perhaps more harmful to Western civilization than the Bolshevik Revolution itself'”. The two key strategic objectives decided upon at the meeting were:

• Judeo-Christian belief was to be erased by the use of sexual instinct.
• The family and its rights over education were to be eradicated.

These intellectuals moved to Frankfurt becoming known as the 'Frankfurt School' and then to the United States where they used Ameriacn commercial, academic and media resources to spread their silent world revolution.

This silent revolution in the West has never stopped. For example Saul Alinsky who died in 1972 was an American transitional Marxist. He supported the Frankfurt School’s “long march through the institutions ”, churches, trade unions and existing political parties. He dedicated his creed in Rules for Radicals to Lucifer, whom he called the "first radical". His two best known disciples are Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. In 2010 our U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron, claimed Alinsky as the inspiration for his Government’s present agenda for Britain. This agenda was promoted in my own parish a few weeks ago.

Dr Brock Chisholm (1896 –1971) the first Director of the World Health Organisation in 1948 wrote:
Children have to be freed from.. .. religious and other cultural “prejudices” forced upon them by parents and religious authorities…
He went on to explain how:
…sex education should be introduced in the 4th grade, (i.e. for nine to ten year olds) eliminating “the ways of elders” if necessary by force. (ref: Valerie Riches, Sex & Social Engineering, 1986) 
A Family Planning Association spokeswoman:
Parents – they’re the most dangerous people of all - (The Times, 5 April 1974, ref: Valerie Riches, Sex & Social Engineering, 1986) 
Lady Helen Brook, (1907-1998) who was the successor to Marie Stopes and the first to make contraceptives generally available to the young in the United Kingdom, wrote in 1980:
It is now the privilege of the Parental State to take major decisions - objective, unemotional, the State weighs up what is best for the child.... (The Times, 16 February 1980)
The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the world's largest abortion provider, say in their document 'FAQs on young people, their sexuality and their rights'
Parents ……do not have ‘rights’ over their children
And in their Youth Manifesto for the 21st Century they say
All young people (from the age of ten)* must have information and education on sexuality and the best possible sexual and reproductive health services (including contraceptives).

All young people must be able to choose from a full range of contraceptives including the latest advances in contraception.
In Germany in 2006, in the case Konrad v.Germany the European Court of Human Rights ruled that German Christians did not have the right to home school because it believed that it would set up “parallel societies”.

Again in Germany, in 2009 ten Christian parents who refused to allow their ten year old children to attend compulsory sex classes have now completed a second prison term (forty-three days) during which the State exercised even greater control over their children.

In Spain there are currently:

• 50, 000 parents formally complained to the government asking for the option to remove their children from classes promoting blasphemy against Our Lord, homosexual** behaviour and Communism. The Government refused.
• 2,000 parents brought law suits to obtain this opt out. The Government refused.
• 305 parents asked the European Court of Human Rights for this opt out. The judgement is awaited.

But the corpus of law protecting your rights as parents is overwhelming, particularly in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, which starts:
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind
And later continues:
The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State. Article 16 (3)
Because Hitler had used the educational system to indoctrinate children the drafting committee added:
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. Article 16 (3)
This prior right to educate ones children with the support of society and the state is a fundamental human right which should be enshrined in every national constitution in the world.

How was this prior right removed in England?

English clerical liberalism has been an essential ally of the birth control lobby. The crucial year was 1930 when, for the first time in Christian history, the Church of England morally sanctioned contraceptives in marriage. This gave the Anglo-Saxon world, the dominant world culture, the moral justification for contraception. Contraception has been the locomotive of the sexual revolution.

The current head of the Anglican Church teaches that since non pro-creative sex is acceptable in contraception it must logically follow that homosexual acts are justifiable.

An affiliate of IPPF started the provision of contraceptives for the young. The international headquarters of IPPF are in London. Contraceptive provision and indoctrination in schools have been the locomotive of the removal of parents’ rights. This indoctrination now includes the promotion of homosexuality.

In 1974 in the U.K parental rights were removed on contraception based on advice given by an affiliate of IPPF. As direct legal consequences in 1985 parental rights to consent to general medical treatment were greatly diminished and in 2004 parental rights on abortion were removed. This May the last Catholic adoption agency was closed down by law because it refused to sanction homosexual adoptions. Currently the website of the British Foreign Office provides a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual toolkit to promote these legal changes worldwide. Such changes bring a real risk that parents throughout the world who try to protect their children from homosexual indoctrination could themselves be charged with indoctrinating the “hate crime” of homophobia. There would then be possibility of their children being put into care. The parents would have no legal recourse if the carers appointed were homosexuals.

Some of the consequence of our broken society are:

• marriages down by 50%
• the mean number of sexual partners for adults is nine
• 45% of children illegitimate
• 40% of children aged fifteen or younger having sexual intercourse
• the subjective well being of our young people is the worst of the thirty-four states of the OECD
• Family breakdown costs £20 billion yearly.

Our Prime Minister speaking after the riots confirmed that our society is broken, immoral and irresponsible. He said:
If we want to have any hope of mending our broken society, family and parenting is where we’ve got to start... 
He continued:
The potential consequences of neglect and immorality on this scale have been clear for too long...Children without fathers; schools without discipline...crime without punishment; rights without responsibilities... 
So our Culture of Death is dying. We the Christians of East and West, both of the lungs of Europe, must replace it with God’s Civilization, the Civilization of Life based on love within the family. The Holy Church of God cannot accomplish its mission in society except through the family and its mission. Ladies and gentlemen, we have to go to the entire world to tell everyone that social, cultural, economic and political life must be for the family, and no longer at the cost of the family.

The first step towards this new civilization is to restore to parents their right to educate and protect their children in conformity with their moral and religious convictions. Parents are the primary educators of their children. This right is God given in the Commandment. “Honour your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). It is affirmed by Our Lord in His teaching and in his His life. “He went down with them to Nazareth, and lived there in subjection to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. And so Jesus advanced in wisdom with the years.” (Luke 2: 51-52)

This right is fundamental. It is founded upon parental transmission of life to and love for their child. The Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church teaches “Children become fruits of their love and communion, and their birth and upbringing belong, according to the Orthodox teaching, to one of the most important goals of marriage.”

This right is inalienable. It is irreplaceable. Again as the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church teaches: “The role of family in the formation of the personality is exceptional; no other social institution can replace it”.

As a family doctor and a Christian father of seven children and nine grand children I will share with you my own thoughts on family life. Your homes where your children learn to love by knowing that you love them are the cradles of the new civilization. Your example as good Christian parents provides the role model for the next generation. Children will naturally absorb sound attitudes on love, marriage and the true meaning of sexuality from good parents.

Confidently forbid any damaging sex instruction. Teach each child individually the beauty of chastity, modesty and sexuality as appropriate to his or her maturity. Only you are in the position to know what, when and how. Form associations of families. Encourage your children to intensify their Christian lives through family prayer and closeness to the Church. Such beautiful families are the Civilization of Life

In conclusion: a new Civilization of Life is dawning. The Civilization of Life is God’s civilization. It is your civilisation.

*The words "from the age of ten" do not appear in the body of the text in the linked to document. However if you hover your cursor over the words "Young people" you will see that IPPF mean "[t]hose who are aged between 10-24 years". Interestingly, just above that the same device is used to provide the definition of "youth". You will see there that "The World Health Organization refers to those in the 15-24 age range as youth". I have used a bracket in my quote because that is the effect of this device, although on the webpage the information that IPPF think that all ten year old children must have sex education and access to contraception is not immediately apparent to the reader. I wonder why?

** Why is the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality (and sexual ethics generally) important specifically for the pro-life movement? The late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, taught in no. 97 of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.

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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Vatican Radio should set the record straight about Cherie Blair

Cherie Blair, condom and pro-aborts
Vatican Radio has just broadcast (printed summary and full audio) a fawning profile of, and interview with, Cherie Blair (replete with pleasant meditative incidental music), describing her as "a devout Catholic". The interview included a discussion of how Mrs Blair met charities on a weekly basis at No.10 Downing Street when her husband Tony was prime minister. The interview made no mention of the private reception at No.10 Mrs Blair hosted in July 2003 for the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the world’s leading promoter and provider of abortion, and its “Lust for Life” fundraising campaign. The interview also failed to mention that, at the annual Labour party conference in September 2005, Mrs Blair celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Family Planning Association (fpa), the UK branch of IPPF, helping to cut a special birthday cake (and pictured here jokingly offering a condom to the camera-man.) Both IPPF and FPA endorsed the failed campaign to remove the Holy See from the United Nations.

The interview focused on Mrs Blair's work on women's issues; yet made no mention that she is notorious for claiming that her career success would not have been possible if not for contraception. In December 2009 she claimed that:
"Controlling our fertility has been one of the key reasons why women have been able to progress".
On her website, in the section "About this site", Mrs Blair writes:
"This website is dedicated to the issues that concern me, to helping improve the position of women throughout the world by sharing information and by safeguarding and promoting human rights. At the heart of the website is the Women of the World section."
On a page in the Women of the World section, Mrs Blair says:
"The [United Nations] Convention [on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) ... is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women".
"Reproductive rights" is a term commonly used to include abortion on demand.

The page ends by linking to the CEDAW committee, which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the CEDAW convention. The CEDAW committee uses the CEDAW convention to bully countries into allowing abortion, even though the convention doesn't mention abortion. The CEDAW committee issued a report calling upon the UK government to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

The Vatican Radio interview was conducted "after she spoke to participants at a recent conference in Rome organized by the Women’s Studies Institute at the Pontifical Atheneum Regina Apostolorum". Both Vatican Radio and Regina Apostolorum should know better than to have given Mrs Blair a platform. In 2004 the U.S. bishops approved a policy stating, in part:
“The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
"[P]latforms which would suggest support for their actions" has been interpreted to mean "speaking invitations, as these invitations would suggest support for their actions." In February 2008 a number of prominent US Catholic leaders signed a joint letter which:
"urge[d] our fellow leaders of Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, charitable organizations, advocacy groups, media and other institutions to refrain from all activities that provide a public platform to, or imply support or even neutrality toward, political leaders and candidates who advocate positions on serious moral issues that are clearly contrary to Catholic teaching, most especially the Church’s reverence for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death."
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Monday, 17 October 2011

Melanie Phillips exposes the "terminal spin of 'assisted dying'"

Melanie Phillips, the prominent conservative columnist, has written an excellent rebuttal of pro-euthanasia propaganda from Raymond Tallis, a professor and leading figure in the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (which now trades under the pseudonym "Dignity In Dying"). In addition to Mrs Phillips' excellent points, I would emphasise that so-called "assisted dying" is also being promoted through a push to amend the law on assisted suicide, but also via the Mental Capacity Act 2005. That law allows - and in certain cases mandates - doctors to deny food, fluids and reasonable medical treatment to patients who are neither terminally-ill nor in the immediate dying process (i.e. only days to live). The Mental Capacity Act enshrined certain pro-euthanasia principles found in the 1993 Bland judgment and in subsequent similar court cases. Do read Mrs Phillips' column in full, but here are a few key extracts:
  • "[T]he word ‘dying’ has turned into what one might classify as a piece of terminal spin. It is used to avoid spelling out that what is actually being proposed by Dignity in Dying is killing -- either helping people to kill themselves, which is what assisted dying is, or causing them to be killed either by a positive action (for example, a lethal injection) or the absence of life-sustaining action (for example, depriving them of food or water)."
  • "[E]ven terminally ill people may well not be dying when they ask to die. If so, the person assisting them with this request is not helping them to die -- because they are not dying – but to kill themselves."
  • "It can never be in society’s best interests that anyone should be killed because they are ill, or that the health service should be turned into a death service."
  • "Even more alarming is his core assertion that doctors must not go against majority opinion ... [W]hatever public opinion may say doctors have an overriding duty to an ethical code that says ‘first do no harm’ ... What if public opinion were to demand, for example, that mentally handicapped people should be killed? In such circumstances, doctors’ ethics provide vital protection against tyranny for the most vulnerable."
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I applaud Bishop Davies’s courageous critique of the culture of death

A new report from the Care Quality Commission has highlighted the failure in many British hospitals to provide elderly people wtih adequate basic care. Mark Davies, Catholic bishop of Shrewsbury, has responded to the report, saying:
"the neglect of the elderly on National Health Service hospital wards may be a symptom of the 'culture of death' that has grown out the loss of respect for human life following decades of abortion and destructive experimentation on human embryos".
Bishop Davies made his remarks while speaking to the annual meeting of the Society of St Vincent de Paul this past Saturday (readers can find the full text at the end of this blogpost).

I applaud and thank Bishop Davies for his lucid and courageous critique of the current culture so prominent in UK hospitals. Sadly this culture has the backing of legislation in the form of the pro-euthanasia Mental Capacity Act 2005.

From Shrewbury diocese's press release:
"The review involved a targeted inspection programme between March and June, examining the question of whether elderly patients were treated with respect and if they were given food and drink that met their needs. It involved the largely random “spot check” inspections of 100 NHS hospitals.

According to the national report, the review found that nearly a fifth of the hospitals were failing to meet the basic legal standards and a further 35 needed to make improvements in their standard of care. Just 45 hospitals inspected were found to be “fully compliant” with their obligations toward elderly patients.

Among the problems identified was the failure to help patients to eat, and the interrupting of patients while they were eating so that their meals went unfinished.

The privacy of elderly patients was not always respected, according to the report, because of the failure, for example, to close curtains and screens properly.

Call bells were in some cases put out of patients’ reaches, or not answered soon enough, and this left some elderly patients rattling their bed rails or banging their water jugs to attract the attention of nurses. Hospital staff also spoke to some patients in a “dismissive or disrespectful way”, the CQC found.

The report said that basic care of elderly patients was “no mystery”, however, yet concluded that many hospitals were “struggling or failing” to provide such a service.

It blamed the crisis on “excessive bureaucracy” and “short staffing” in some hospitals but also found that such problems existed even on wards that were well-staffed because of the poor attitudes of some doctors and nurses.

Dame Jo Williams, the chairman of the CQC, said that “the fact that over half of hospitals were falling short to some degree in the basic care they provided to elderly people is truly alarming and deeply disappointing”."
Bishop Davies' address in full:
"This week serious concerns were expressed about the care, or disturbing lack of care, for the elderly in Britain’s hospitals. The Care Quality Commission, after visiting wards in a hundred hospitals, found repeated incidences of helpless patients having calls for assistance ignored and witnessed staff failing to help patients with their most basic need to eat, drink or even wash. It is a truly disturbing picture which has emerged not in all of our hospitals but in too many across the country to assume such indifference is now unusual. Management and nursing practice have been questioned but surely we have need today to ask more searching questions of ourselves in a country where millions of lives have been destroyed in abortion, where human life is routinely experimented upon and discarded and when today pressure grows for what is called “mercy killing” to end the lives of the terminally ill and the aged. So as a society we have need to ask: are we losing that respect and reverence for what Blessed John Paul II called, “the sacred value of human life … the incomparable value of every human person”. (Evangelium Vitae no.2) on which the very ideal of the hospital and the caring professions are founded?

As Pope John Paul foresaw in his 1995 letter, The Gospel of Life, which could almost be speaking of the alarming reports we have heard this week when he pointed to the symptoms of what he called the emerging culture of death where: “prosperous societies … see the growing number of elderly and disabled people as intolerable and too burdensome. These people are very often isolated from their families and by society, which are organised almost exclusively on the basis of productive efficiency, according to which a hopelessly impaired life no longer has any value”. (Evangelium Vitae no. 64). Could it be that we have begun to dismiss the cries of the weakest in the place where they expected to receive the greatest care because their impaired lives no longer seem to have any great value?

How different is that law found written in the human heart (Rom 2: 14-14) and revealed by our faith in Christ who “by his incarnation … united himself in some fashion with every human being” (Gaudium et Spes no.22). The faith which Pope Benedict expressed in these striking words which I often repeat to the young in the diocese: “Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution,” he declared at the beginning of his ministry as the Successor of St Peter, “each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary” (Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate 24th April 2005). How differently we begin to see in this light our own lives and the lives of those frailest and most needy in the light of being willed, loved and so needed. This was the vision which first inspired the work of the hospital and the vocation of the medical and caring professions. It is the vision of life, every human life, which led St Vincent de Paul to say: “The service of the poorest is to be preferred to all else and to be performed without delay … above all abandoned persons are given to us (not as burdens) but as lords and patrons (Letter 2546).”

This is the tireless work and witness continued by the Society of St Vincent de Paul and so many of the Church’s voluntary organisations on the streets, the hospital wards and the nursing homes across this country. In those memorable words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we go out to meet and serve Christ so often “in his most distressing disguises”. Today I wish to remind you how this witness to the value of every human life, especially the most impaired, is more vital than ever before. For whenever you set out to make your visits to those most isolated and vulnerable in our society it points to what our Holy Father Pope Benedict reminded us of on his visit to the United Kingdom, “As advances in medicine and other factors lead to increased longevity, it is important to recognise the presence of growing numbers of older people as a blessing for society …” so that in the light of the fourth commandment to honour your father and mother, “the provision of care for the elderly should be considered not so much an act of generosity as the repayment of a debt of gratitude”, which brings a reward and promises a blessing for the whole of society (Deut 5:16).

In this Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist Christ our Lord gives Himself to us “wholly and entirely” under the frail signs of bread and wine. Let us pray for those “eyes of faith” always to recognise His Real Presence here in the Mass, this Blessed Sacrament so we may never lose sight of Him in the frailest and most vulnerable of his brothers and sisters. Amen."
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