Thursday, 31 May 2007

Physician Assisted Suicide

There is a recent piece on public opinion regarding physician assisted suicide which suggests that a significant portion of the American population support physicians in this role.

New York - More than two-thirds of Americans believe there are circumstances in which a patient should be allowed to die, but they are closely divided on whether it should be legal for a doctor to help terminally ill patients end their own lives by prescribing fatal drugs, a new AP-Ipsos poll finds.

The results were released Tuesday, just days before euthanasia advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian is freed from a Michigan prison after serving more than eight years for second-degree murder in the poisoning of a man with Lou Gehrig's disease.

And now California is considering a bill which permit, as in Oregon, physicians to assist in the suicide of their patients.

California's Legislature is advancing a proposal modeled after Oregon's law permitting patients diagnosed with six months or less to live to take lethal pills prescribed by their doctor.

The issue has stirred emotion from the Capitol to the pulpits, with supporters casting it as a matter of personal choice and opponents saying it is an immoral compromise of the sanctity of life and a doctors' oath to do no harm.

The two sides agree on this much: If California legalizes physician-assisted suicide, it will prompt many other states to follow suit and perhaps even prepare the way for a national law.

At the root of the efforts are misguided attempts to help the terminally ill. Under treated pain, depression, the feeling of abandonment, loss of dignity and the loss of a joyful existence lead many to consider suicide. Clearly all of these conditions are manageable and a truly compassionate response from family, friends and caregivers would be aimed at alleviating physical and psychological suffering. Physicians have a responsibility to resist attempts at legalizing suicide and work to educate the public about truly charitable care of the terminally ill.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Eugenics: Alive and Well

There was a time before Hitler and the Nazis euthanized the mentally retarded and the disabled in Germany when prominent Americans advocated draconian policies for similar unfortunates in the United States. No less the jurist than Oliver Wendell Holmes advocated forced sterilization of disabled in this country. Although eugenics was eventually turned back at the time, it seems to be making a resurgence in mainstream academic circles. An excellent editorial details the risks to the disabled in this country today.

This month marked the 80th anniversary of the disgraceful Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Bell, which upheld Virginia's involuntary sterilization laws. In his majority opinion, Holmes declared: "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind . . . Three generations of imbeciles is enough."

Though society may be inclined to regard Holmes's detestable opinion in Buck v. Bell as a relic of a time past, eerie similarities exist in contemporary remarks of the well-respected.

Justifying the sterilization of "genetically unfit" individuals, Holmes wrote that Carrie Buck was "the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring."

Some 72 years later, renowned embryologist Bob Edwards said, "Soon it will be a sin for parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of genetic disease. We are entering a world where we have to consider the quality of our children."

In recent years, Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, has said, "It does not seem quite wise to increase any further draining of limited resources by increasing the number of children with impairments."

In January, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists urged all women regardless of age to undergo prenatal screening for Down syndrome, aware of statistics that greater than 85 percent of pregnancies diagnosed with Down syndrome end in abortion.

Last fall, Britain's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists argued for "active euthanasia" of significantly disabled newborns to spare parents emotional and financial burden.

Two years earlier, the Groningen Protocol emerged in the Netherlands; it proposed selection criteria for euthanizing babies and children with disabilities.

Tell the little girls above that one of them is unworthy of life. Tell them that only those deemed "unimpaired" deserve the protection and resources of society. Go ahead. Tell them.

The depravity of men, many of whom enjoy respect of their social and academic peers, is truly unlimited when there is no recognition of the dignity each human life enjoys because of being...well, human, and created in the image of God himself.

Cross-posted at

Pediatricians Oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research

An official from the American College of Pediatricians is calling for more funding of adult stem cells and elimination of embryonic stem cell studies.

The American College of Pediatricians recommends that public officials considersupporting adult stem cells exclusively.

Michelle Cretella, MD, a fellow of the American College of Pediatricians, told that "Not only does embryonic research require taking the life of human embryos, it also prolongs needless suffering by delaying the development of more promising adult stem cell treatments and cures."

Dr. Cretella said that using non-embryo sources of stem cells, including amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood, placenta and adult blood, fat and various organs, has yielded impressive results.

Adult stem cells are now routinely used in certain forms of cancer therapy,Cretella explained.

Over the last decade, these cells have been used to successfully treat spinal cord injuries, heart failure, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and dozens of other conditions in human trials."This has not been the case with any embryonic stem cell trial," the pediatricians' group's spokeswoman said. "Instead, there have been catastrophic results with these cells producing the wrong tissue, forming tumors and triggering immune rejection."

"Every dollar spent on the failed and unnecessary process of embryonic stem cell research steals resources away from the established utility and potential of adult stem cell research," Cretella concluded. "This is fiscally irresponsible and medically unconscionable."


In April, scientists in Brazil showed that adult stem cell treatments can help patients with diabetes to be insulin free.
However, leading diabetes groups in the U.S., which heavily funded lobbying efforts to get the Congress to approve a bill to force taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research, wouldn't put money behind the study.

Publishing their findings in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the scientists found that adult stem cell treatments helped 14 of 15 patients became insulin free.

Dr. Richard Burt of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, worked with the scientists.

"It's the first time in the history of Type 1 diabetes where people have gone with no treatment whatsoever ... no medications at all, with normal blood sugars," he says of the groundbreaking study.

Adult stem cell research continues to expand and continues to bring hope for cure of many chronic and deadly disease. Clearly the efforts and resources should be prioritized to adult and away from embryonic stem cell research.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Another Physician as intercessor

I had studied the Rastelli procedure during my ICU rotations as a resident, and I regret that I wasn't aware of Dr. Rastelli's great faith which has led the bishop of the diocese of Parma in Italy to lead the cause for his beatification. I will certainly keep his name among my list of intercessors.

Monday, 21 May 2007

An Invitation

For those Catholic physicians that may be popping in to read this blog, why not register and contribute? We'd love to have you join us.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Crossing the line

The secularization of the modern world has led to a false understanding of the principle of freedom. It is not being able to simply do whatever we want because we can. We need to re-learn something inherent to true freedom: knowing which line you should not cross.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

A Brave New World Is Being Created

As incredible as it seems to me, main stream medicine continues it slide into a Brave New World. From the destruction of human embryos to the killing of millions of unborn children and now to this:

Embryos are to be screened for a cosmetic defect for the first time in a British clinic.

Doctors have been given permission to create a baby free from a genetic disorder which would have caused the child to have a severe squint.

The Bridge Centre family clinic, in London, has been licensed to treat a businessman and his wife to create the baby. Both the businessman and his father suffer from the condition, which causes the eyes only to look downwards or sideways.

Slippery slope? What slippery slope.

He [Prof Gedis Grudzinskas] said: "We will increasingly see the use of embryo screening for severe cosmetic conditions."

He added that he would seek to screen for any genetic factor at all that would cause a family severe distress. [This is the escape hatch through which ANY undesired characteristic can be claim for embryonic destruction. This is the "health of the mother" provision which will provide limitless destruction.]

When asked if he would screen embryos for factors like hair colour, he said: "If there is a cosmetic aspect to an individual case I would assess it on its merits.

"[Hair colour] can be a cause of bullying which can lead to suicide. With the agreement of the HFEA, I would do it.

"If a parent suffered from asthma, and it was possible to detect the genetic factor for this, I would do it.

"It all depends on the family's distress."

Amazing and amazingly evil.

Cross posted at

Monday, 14 May 2007

The dilemma which was Gardasil

Vaccines are wonderful gifts from God to the human race. I recall my parents telling me stories of dealing with whooping cough and of knowing kids with polio complete with stories of the "iron lung". I am amazed at the recollections of my colleagues who diagnosed Haemophilus influenzae meningitis numerous times a year during their training. I have never seen a case of it because I began my training several years after an effective vaccine was introduced.

There is now a vaccine on the market called Gardasil which protects against human papillomavirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer, and suddenly I find myself questioning moral and ethical decisions related to this vaccine. I do not have an issue with the vaccine per se since its use may be lifesaving for some women. The issue I have stems from Merck pharmaceuticals (the manufacturer) and its advertising methods and lobbying efforts. This vaccine was being advertised in numerous magazines (including some full page ads) and on television before I had been detailed about the vaccine by Merck. I received telephone calls from parents requesting the vaccine before I had even considered using the vaccine. Then I heard of Merck lobbying state governments in Virginia and Texas into mandating Gardasil use for school aged girls, and I had still never been detailed by the company. The doctors who would be administering the vaccine were skipped over, and the vaccine was directly marketed to consumers and the government.

The vaccine is recommended for girls and women ages 9 to 26. This means I am going to have to counsel pre-teen girls that they are getting a vaccine which protects against a virus that is transmitted through sexual intercourse. Did Merck consider this while they were lobbying the governors of Texas and Virginia to mandate this vaccine's use? Did they consider the parents who might just not be ready to open that discussion with their pre-teen daughters?

Ultimately I believe Gardasil is a good thing. Unfortunately its manufacturers crossed the fine line between altruism in medicine and profit. Thankfully, the company has finally detailed me on the use of Gardasil and given me the opportunity to voice my concerns. They assure me the lobbying efforts have stopped, but trust has been compromised between me and my colleagues and the company which provides the vaccine. When push comes to shove, I will and must put the concerns and needs of my patients and their families above the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies.

New Member

Catholic Physicians Blog welcomes William who blogs at We look forward to your posts!

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Culture of Life Survey

I have received this survey three times now - this last time by the Catholic Medical Association, and I thought I would pass it on to this blog. This link is to the 'White Paper' which explains what the underwriters are trying to ascertain.

Here is a quote:

"K&B Underwriters hypothesize that physicians and healthcare entities which focus on best practices in a Culture of Life framework for their patients from conception through natural death have lower incidents of litigation and cause fewer health problems that unnecessarily burden the healthcare industry and insurance companies."

I invite you to take the survey.

DISCLOSURE: dadwithnoisykids has no affiliation with this company, nor does he own any stock or any other interest in the company. He DOES have an interest in seeing lower malpractice insurance rates.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

The New Eugenics Movement

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has issued recommendations regarding the prenatal testing of women in the first trimester for Down's Syndrome in utero. The press release can be viewed here. It reads in part:

All pregnant women, regardless of their age, should be offered screening for Down syndrome, according to a new Practice Bulletin issued today by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Previously, women were automatically offered genetic counseling and diagnostic testing for Down syndrome by amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS) if they were 35 years and older.

The new ACOG guidelines recommend that all pregnant women consider less invasive screening options for assessing their risk for Down syndrome, a common disorder that is caused by an extra chromosome and can result in congenital heart defects and mental retardation. Screening for Down syndrome should occur before the 20th week of pregnancy.

Obviously such tests can be helpful in the identification of children which will require special care immediately or soon after birth. But such tests also provide for the occasion of many abortions in the search for "perfect" children. A very high percentage of mothers who find that their child has Down's Syndrome will abort the child.

George Will, a well known commentator weighs in:

Nothing—nothing—in the professional qualifications of obstetricians and gynecologists gives them standing to adopt policies that predictably will have, and seem intended to have, the effect of increasing abortions in the service of an especially repulsive manifestation of today's entitlement mentality—every parent's "right" to a perfect baby. Happily, that mentality is not yet universal: 214 American families are looking for Down syndrome children to adopt.

And a neonatologist, the father of a Down's child has some comments:

The obsession with “perfection” in pregnancies is, in my view, a result of many factors. To be fair to obstetrical providers, some of it has to do with legal considerations. More important, however, is that we have lost the ability to see the value in imperfection. Only perfection matters. Most of us deny our own imperfections (we are human) and cannot appreciate that a child, no matter how “different”, is a gift. In an age in which many children are raised by day cares, nannies or public schools, children have become a possession, albeit an important one, but a possession nonetheless. Why shouldn’t “it” be perfect?

As humans, decisions such as abortion are accompanied by a significant amount of emotional baggage, namely guilt. Society, including the obstetrical community, has gone to great lengths to mitigate this distasteful feeling. We assuage these feelings by the knowledge that “we are saving the unborn child from a life of suffering and pain.” Counselors made available to families with difficult diagnoses have great expertise in the pathology that accompanies a multitude of syndromes and genetic disorders. These counseling sessions invariably include the topics of mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and quality of life. Rarely in my experience are these potential parents ever exposed to families who have recognized the gift given them in an “imperfect child”, families who have made the decision to keep their child. You mention CF, Dean, and it is a great illustration of this conundrum. Let me mention another in more detail - Down Syndrome - as another great example of a potential diagnosis in which parents are often counseled without exposure to sources who can describe what life is like with a child with Down Syndrome.

It is physicians who guide the population in issues of health. We must always seek to bring truth and goodness to those that we seek to heal. As Catholics, we are called to bring Christ with us to the office, the operating room and the laboratory. We must bring light to the darkness of utilitarian and misguided policies of those professional organizations to which we belong.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us physicians and for all mothers that they will see their children as a blessing regardless of their condition.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

New Member

Pyro, a friend from Catholic Dads Blog and a medico is now on the blogroll. Welcome Pyro. Pyro blogs at

Monday, 7 May 2007

More Embryonic Stem Cell Hype

Here is the latest in the MSM (HT in support of stem cell research. This time we are all to become teary eyed with hope for grandma with macular degeneration. The headline is: Embryonic stem cells can repair eyes, company says. The article begins:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Stem cells made from human embryos can home in on damaged eyes, hearts and arteries of mice and rats, and appear to start repairs, a U.S. company said on Monday.
Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology said it had devised a straightforward way to make blood vessel precursor cells out of the stem cells and plans to test them in humans.

"We figured out how to produce literally billions of so-called 'hemangioblasts' -- the mythical cell in the embryo that gives rise to our entire blood and immune system as well as to the blood vessels in our body," Dr. Robert Lanza, vice president of research and scientific development at ACT, said in an e-mail.

OK, so the company feels that they can make hemangioblasts, which may be helpful in some ocular (and non-ocular) disorders. The article continues:

They directed the stem cells into becoming what they believe are hemangioblasts, the blood vessel precursor cells, although other teams will have to replicate this for it to be accepted.

So now there is doubt that these are in fact the cells promoted in the early paragraphs. And it is unclear how the studies will translate into healing human disease.

The researchers killed the mice to check the cells' progress, so they do not know the long-term effects.

"The cells also showed remarkable reparative capacity in animals with heart attacks and ischemic (blocked by a blood clot) limbs. The cells reduce the mortality rate by 50 percent after a massive heart attack," Lanza said.

"If the same thing works in humans (these would be the same human cells we would probably use), you might be able to prevent patients from having legs and other limbs amputated by simply injecting some cells."

Sounds so simple. No long term animal data, not yet one human study, but we have a cure promoted. And of course no pro-embryonic stem cell article would be complete without taking a shot at conservatives and Bush in particular.

The U.S. Congress has passed several bills that would expand federal funding of
human embryonic stem cell research but President George W. Bush vetoed one and
has said he will veto any more.

How this is promoted as a breakthrough in the treatment of eye disease is beyond me. There is no mention of the many successes of adult stem cell research. The agenda is clear; promote embryonic stem cell research as miraculous even at its earliest stage and bury anything positive concerning non-embryonic stem cell successes. Amazing!

Friday, 4 May 2007

Salvifici Doloris

Here is a great Apostolic Letter for physicians to read: Salvifici Doloris . This is a brief review I wrote a while ago and put on my blog.

Sometimes it is a good idea to take a step away from our work, to call a time out, and to take some stock of what we are doing in our lives. This is true for whatever our vocation is, or whatever our profession. In my case, I recommend this letter from Pope John Paul II as a good aide for doctors to use. Reading it has reminded me of the reasons why I chose medicine as a career so many years ago. It also will, hopefully, make me treat my patients as if I were caring for Our Lord instead of Yet Another Patient with An Abscess Somewhere That Needs To Be Drained.

Pope John Paul II makes the point that those who care for the sick are like the Good Samaritan, and the the good we do for others in our work is as if we were doing it for Him(whatsoever you do….etc.).

It is also a good idea to remember that our livelihood, for all specialties, is made possible by the sorrow and pain of others: fallout from the Fall of Adam.

Pope John Paul II published this letter in February 1984, approximately two and a half years after he was shot. My guess is that this letter was inspired by his experience as a patient.

George Weigel’s book, Witness to Hope covers this part of his pontificate very well. Pope John Paul II seemed to be very active in the decision making process of his medical care.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Catholic Bioethic Resources

The National Catholic Bioethics Center has prepared a collection of materials regarding a number of moral issues facing physicians and their patients. These materials are available for downloading here. Topics include subjects from abortion to vaccines.

Jesus, Physician and Healer

From the Angelus 2/9/1997

Sunday, 9 February 1997

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. The Gospel often speaks of the cures worked by Jesus. The sick crowded round him and sought to touch him “for power came forth from him and healed them all” (Lk 6:19). I like to remember this shortly before the fifth World Day of the Sick, which will be celebrated this coming 11 February, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

By healing the sick, Jesus shows that his gift of salvation is offered to the whole person, since he is the physician of soul and body. His compassion for those who are suffering spurs him to identify with them, as we read in the passage on the last judgement: “I was sick and you visited me” (Mt 25:36). It is this deep sharing that he asks of his disciples, when he entrusts them with the task of “healing the sick” (cf. Mt 10:8).
If we pray with faith, the Lord will not fail to work miracles of healing even today. His Providence, however, usually works through our responsible efforts and requires us to combat illness with all the resources of intellect, science and appropriate medical and social assistance.

2. Jesus’ love for the sick encourages us especially to put the resources of our heart into action. We know from experience that, when we are ill, we not only need adequate treatment, but human warmth. Unfortunately in contemporary society we often risk losing genuine contact with others. The pace of work, stress or family crisis makes it increasingly difficult for us to give one another fraternal support. It is the weakest who pay the price. Thus it can happen that the elderly who are no longer self-sufficient, defenceless children, the disabled, the severely handicapped and the terminally ill are sometimes seen as a burden and even an obstacle to be removed. On the other hand, walking at their side, dear brothers and sisters, helps build a society with a human face, enlivened by a deep sense of solidarity, where there is room and respect for all, especially the weakest.

3. Looking to Christ, physician of souls and bodies, we also meet the caring gaze of Mary, invoked by Christians as “Health of the sick”, Salus infirmorum. May the Blessed Virgin help us touch the healing hand of her divine Son, welcome the saving power of the Gospel and become ourselves a concrete witness to all who need us.
After greeting the pilgrims in various languages, the Holy Father added extemporaneously:
I wish you all a pleasant Sunday and good week, in which we will already begin Lent. The liturgy of ashes will be celebrated on Wednesday. Praised be Jesus Christ!

May Christ be our example in our efforts to heal those entrusted to our care. May we work to heal them physically and by our compassion, may those that we treat see the face of Christ in us.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Religion and Medicine

There is a recently published article in Archives of Internal Medicine (Arch Intern Med. 2007 Apr 9;167(7):649-54) which surveyed physicians and their impressions of religion and spirituality (R/S) in medicine. Some of the findings include:

63% of (physician) respondents characterize themselves as moderately (27%) or highly (36%) spiritual.

How often does illness increase patient awareness of R/S?

Often/Always 64%, Sometimes 34%

How often have your patients mentioned R/S, God, etc?

Often/Always 25%, Sometimes 51%

Overall how does R/S influence patients' health?

Much/Very Much 56%, Some 35%

Is the R/S influence positive or negative?

Positive 85%

R/S helps patients cope

Often/Always 76%

R/S gives positive hopeful state of mind

Often/Always 74%

Overall, physicians are religious and find that religion and spirituality plays and important and positive role in the health of their patients. I would recommend the article as an insight as to physician attitudes concerning spiritual matters in their own and their patients' lives.

New Member

Welcome to dadwithnoisykids, a friend from Catholic Dads' Blog. Dadwithnoisykids also blogs at