Cruel to Abandon Dying to Suicide While Preventing Others

by Wesley J. Smith

The dueling headlines above in today’s San Francisco Chronicle illustrate how our society is increasingly willing to abandon people diagnosed with terminal illnesses to suicide (“right to die” law, e.g. assisted suicide), while trying to prevent others, in the case of the lower headlines about a texting hotline to keep people from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

I was on a radio show the other day, and the host said that was logical. We didn’t have the time to explore the question fully. So, here are a few points I would have made to demonstrate it is not logical, but invidiously discriminatory: 

  • Dying isn’t dead, it’s a stage of living, difficult yes, but so are other times of our lives.
  • Sometimes people diagnosed with terminal illnesses don’t die as expected, and if we abandon them to suicide, we will never know who they are. The humorist Art Buchwald was one such person. He went into hospice for kidney failure, expecting to be dead within six months. But when he didn’t die as expected, he left hospice and wrote his last book before finally succumbing.
  • Patients who are terminally ill and want to commit suicide are often relieved later that they changed their minds or didn’t succeed at self-destruction–just like other once suicidal people. Studies show this repeatedly and I have met such individuals.
  • When society supports the terminally ill in committing suicide–by legalizing access to lethal means and by not engaging in prevention in the same way we do other categories of suicidal people–it sends an insidious and hurtful message that the lives of the dying are less important, and that their families and the rest of us are better if they do die sooner rather than later. I know, I hear from such wounded people on an ongoing basis.
  • Facilitating the suicides of patients in hospice completely subverts that hospice philosophy as established by the great medical humanitarian, Dame Cecily Saunders.
  • Once society generally accepts suicide as an answer for one aspect of human suffering–experiencing a terminal illness–it will sooner or later expand access to being qualified to be made dead, e.g., people with disabilities, the elderly, the mentally ill, as has happened in Netherlands and Belgium.

I get that people think they are being compassionate in supporting the legalization of assisted suicide. But they are not. 

Unintentionally, they are abandoning the dying to their worst fears about being burdens, being less loved, and losing dignity.  

More bluntly, they are telling the dying that their lives are not really worth living. 


Two Opposing Views of the Islamist Threat

by Daniel Pipes

“Hugh Fitzgerald” posted a 3,300-word piece at responding to a news item about Thomas Strothotte, president of Kühne Logistics University in Hamburg, Germany, advocating that all school children learn Arabic until 12 or 13 years of age; Fitzgerald called this a sign of “civilizational surrender.”

But I went to the source of the news item in Die Welt and tweeted the news item in exactly the opposite way, noting that 94 percent of respondents answered negatively to a straw poll asking, “Should the Arabic language become a compulsory subject in Germany?” (“Sollte Arabisch in Deutschland zum Pflichtfach werden?”)

Text of Die Welt's straw poll about compulsory Arabic classes.

That the mildly-conservative Welt-reading public with near-unanimity rejected Strothotte’s suggestion seems to me far more newsworthy than the original suggestion.  

More neatly than anything else I can think of, this contrast between Fitzgerald’s and my reporting points to the divergence between two fundamentally different ways of seeing the West’s evolution vis-à-vis Islamism: one focuses on the statements and actions of a diminishing elite appeasement faction; the other follows the increasingly strong negative response by the population at large. 

Yes, Islamism is making advances. But anti-Islamism is growing more rapidly and so, I predict the latter will prevail.

Would Secularists Rather See Hospitals Closed Than Catholic?

by Wesley J. Smith

U.S. News and World Report is onto a story that I think is going to be huge over the next decade; the question of medical conscience.

With assisted suicide on the march and the pro-choice movement becoming more openly pro-abortion, Catholic hospitals and Hippocratic physicians are under pressure to buckle to secular sensibilities on issues such as euthanasia, abortion, sterilization and contraception.

As I have discussed, the ACLU is suing Catholic hospitals in California and elsewhere to force them to violate Catholic moral teaching.

If those suits win, it could result in hospitals closing. From the story:

When faced with violating their core beliefs, Catholic hospitals may feel they have no choice but to shutter their facilities. This occurred in Illinois, where Catholic charities shut down their adoption services rather than follow the state’s requirement to allow children to be placed with same-sex couples.

Laycock says he isn’t aware of hospitals or medical facilities closing because of these laws but says he thinks that could be on the horizon.

“It’s a harsh result from the religious perspective,” Laycock says. “The other result would be a harsh result for the patient. There is not a good answer here.”

Is that what secularists really want: Less healthcare availability in the name of forcing religious communities to buckle to their ideology?

Because if a hospital is truly Catholic in its mission, that is precisely what they will get.

Chicago’s Gift

by Jay Nordlinger

The University of Chicago dropped a very pleasant bombshell this week: a letter to incoming freshmen, advising that the university honors freedom of expression, and that it will not put up with any of the “trigger warning” or “safe space” nonsense.

Come again? Yes, indeed. A very pleasant bombshell.

In a Q&A podcast, I discuss it with Charles Lipson, a professor of political science at Chicago (and a prolific, versatile writer). He was born and raised in little Marks, Mississippi. We discuss that, too. He went on to study at Yale and Harvard.

It so happens, he is a strong, authoritative advocate of free trade — an idea that has come under special attack in recent times. We end our podcast with a discussion of this.

A professor well worth getting to know. I myself can’t attend the University of Chicago, though I wish I could. It is some consolation to be able to talk with Professor Lipson.

“Trump and His Enemies”

by Ramesh Ponnuru

William Voegeli is always worth reading. Quoting his latest essay doesn’t do it justice, but I particularly liked his comment about the New York Times’s editorial on the Orlando nightclub massacre: “Evidently, an Eighth Avenue blamestorming session was convened to alleviate liberal cognitive dissonance. The result was this postulate: if a) Islamophobia is evil, and b) homophobia is evil, but c) Islam is homophobic, then d) it’s all the Republicans’ fault.”

Republicans and War

by Ramesh Ponnuru

A crystalizing anecdote from Peggy Noonan:

About 18 months ago I asked a potential Republican presidential candidate, in conversation, if he hated war. He got the dart-eyed look politicians get when they sense a trick question. This startled me. How do you not know the answer? After a few seconds I said, “This is not a trick question.” I explained I was thinking of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said, “I hate war,” roughly five years before prosecuting one with unambivalent vigor.

The potential candidate then stuttered that of course he doesn’t like war, but sometimes it’s necessary. Well, yes, sometimes it is. But why would you fear stating that war is hell, and hell ain’t where we want to be?

No, Cutting Family-Planning-Program Funding Didn’t Increase Texas’s Maternal-Mortality Rate

by Michael J. New

A recent article in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology has received a good deal of media coverage over the past month, as it reports a consistent increase in the U.S. maternal mortality rate since 2000. However, most of the attention from outlets such as the Huffington Post and ABC News has been focused particularly on the data from Texas, where the maternal death rate nearly doubled between 2010 and 2011 and has remained high since.

The article’s authors seem genuinely puzzled as to the cause of this sharp increase: “In the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a two-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely.” Indeed, if the Texas figures are correct, the maternal death rate in Texas is comparable to that of Washington, D.C. – a city with a higher poverty rate than Texas and with considerably worse public-health metrics.

Unsurprisingly, much of the media is attempting to argue that this increased maternal death rate is the result of the Texas state legislature’s 2011 cuts to the state family-planning program, but these claims are highly misleading. For one thing, there has been no increase in the unintended-pregnancy rate in Texas, and the state’s abortion and birth rates have both decreased since 2011. In fact, the unintended-pregnancy rate cited by the media comes from one contraception program run by the Texas Women’s Health Program, which reported a slight increase of 37 Medicaid births in a subset of Texas counties between 2011 and 2012.

In addition, data from the Texas Department of State Health paints a different picture than the one laid out in the Obstetrics and Gynecology article. State health data indicate that there was a consistent but gradual increase in the maternal death rate between 2000 to 2010, but the number of maternal deaths was the same in 2009 as it was in 2011.

Even if we take the original article’s data at face value, the cuts in the state family planning program do not coincide with the sharp increase in the maternal mortality rate. The article asserts that the maternal mortality rate sharply increased in 2011, but the family-planning-program cuts didn’t begin to take effect until 2012, well after the reported increase. In fact, a 2016 article in the New England Journal of Medicine found that contraceptive claims in Texas didn’t begin to decline until 2013.

The Texas legislature has appointed a commission to investigate this increase in maternal deaths. Hopefully the commission will be more diligent than the mainstream media, which seems uninterested in real analysis but all too happy to quote Planned Parenthood statistics and place all the blame on the legislature for its cuts to the Texas Family Planning Program.

Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson: James Buckley

by Peter Robinson

James Buckley discusses his life and upbringing as well as the genesis of Firing Line and the success of his brother Bill. James describes Bill as a fresh spirit who wanted to meet all types of people and listen to different viewpoints. Bill loved a good debate.

James notes that his parents were literate and that education and speaking well were important. They trained their children to work hard, be genteel, and listen to the other side.

James notes that we make progress in society, such as during the Reagan years, if someone can demonstrate the causes and effects of socialist-type policies so that people are more apt to understand, embrace, and thrive in the free market.

James ends by saying that although we may become pessimistic about the American experiment, hope is always around the corner because virtue and good sense reside in the people.