Monday, May 18, 2015
With Minnesota's Governor threatening to veto the bipartisan education funding bill later today, sending the legislature into a special session this summer, I'm happy to report that something positive came out of this past session. On Monday, Governor Dayton signed the Prenatal Trisomy Diagnosis Awareness Act. It passed unanimously in the House and 58-1 in the Senate. That doesn't happen much anymore!
Effective August 1st, health care practitioners in Minnesota who perform genetic tests on pregnant women for Patua syndrome (trisomy 13), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18), or Downs syndrome (trisomy 21), will have to provide specific information if the results are positive. The information has to include "up-to-date and evidence-based information about the trisomy conditions that has been reviewed by medical experts and national trisomy organizations", including expected "physical, developmental, educational, and psychosocial outcomes", life expectancy, and contact information for nonprofit organizations that provide information and support services for trisomy conditions.
You'd think such information should be routinely given, but 20 years ago when I received a diagnosis of Trisomy 21 for my son, it certainly was not part of anything I got from our genetic counselor or doctor; anectodal evidence suggests things aren't much different now.
According to my friends (and a former student) at the Minnesota Catholic Conference, some of the key factors in getting passed were the diverse coalition of supporters, bipartisan authorship, pepole with disabilities serving as the principal public advocates, and message discipline (this is an information bill--and who is against more information? Well, based on the sole vote against this, apparently Senator Katie Sieben.)
Though similar bills have been passed in six other states [Massachusetts (2012), Kentucky (2013), Pennsylvania (2014), Maryland (2014), Louisiana (2014) Delaware (2014), and Ohio (2014)] Minnesota's is the first to include Trisomy 13 and 18. Anyone who wants information on this bill or the background of its passage, feel free to contact Jason Adkins, Executive Director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Update to my recent post mentioning the prosecution of a the right-to-die group Final Exit Network Inc. here in Minnesota: they were convicted today assisting in the suicide of a woman who took her life in 2007 after years of suffering with chronic pain; it's the first time they've been found guilty of this charge. They do, of course, intend to appeal for violation of the First Amendment.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
There has been a lot of quiet activity around the country around assisted suicide legislation. In Minnesota this past year, the "Minnesota Compassionate Care Act" was introduced (SF 1880) and given its first hearing in a committee; it is supposed to be the subject of "listening sessions" around the state over the summer. Similar legislation is being considered (and mostly rejected, so far) in many other states. Here's a helpful roundup of initiatives (complete with color-coded map) from "Death with Dignity National Center."
For a vivid description of some of the legislative tactics involved in past attempts to pass such legislation (California in 1999), see this Weekly Standard account of the reaction to an opposition coalition composed of "Disability-rights activists in wheel-chairs marched in solidarity with white medical professionals, alongside African-American clergy and advocates for the poor, next to Latino migrant farm workers and Catholics praying the rosary."
This Monday, a trial began in Dakota County, MN, on charges against Final Exit Network Inc, a Georgia nonprofit that provides assistance to people wanting to commit suicide, and its medical director. According to this newspaper story about the trial:
When an applicant meets the Final Exit Network’s criteria — which includes being mentally competent and suffering from “intolerable medical circumstances” like cancer or Lou Gehrig’s disease — the network assigns volunteer “Exit Guides” who provide information on ending one’s own life.
The network’s preferred method is helium asphyxiation using a plastic bag as a mask. Often, two Final Exit Network members are present and remove items the person used to take their life.
The article also reports that, so far, attempts to prosecute Final Exit Network activists in Georgia and Arizona have failed; their director's medical license was revoked in Maryland last year, for allegedly assisting in six suicides.
If you need any inspiration for speaking up against laws that would legalize the work of groups like Final Exit Network, take a look at this testimony by Stephen Mendelsohn in opposition to the Connecticut bill, and this page from my favorite disability activitist group, Not Dead Yet. I love the beginning of Mendelsohn's testimony:
Movements are known by their mottoes. The civil rights movement sang "We Shall Overcome." In the disability community, we have our own motto: "Nothing About Us Without Us." We. Us. Interdependence. Community.
The "right-to-die" movement, led by Compassion & Choices, has its motto. It can be seen on their green stickers, multiple Facebook pages, billboards and earlier this year in the Connecticut Capitol concourse: "My Life. My Death. My Choice." Me. Myself. I. The difference is revealing.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
If you're going to be in NYC on May 13, you might want to check out this exhibit of photography by Letizia Morinia, a 23 year old woman who, in the words of the promotional material, "happens to have Down Syndrome." It's sponsored by Communion & Liberation's Crossroads Cultural Center.
Here's a sample:
Here's the description of her work, an essay that is as beautiful as the photograph above:
What is striking about Letizia Morini’s art is the absolute value of the instant: the instant that would be inevitably fleeting if not for her camera caring enough to grab it, to “infinitize” it (in Montale’s words).
In the instant, her care, her attention move to what is small, seemingly insignificant; that which we, too busy hastily living out our “rabid days devoid of acts of love” (to quote the Italian singer/songwriter De Farbizio De Andrè), would have never deemed worthy not even of a glance. Letizia instead forces us to stop, to ‘alter time’; she uses her camera to enhance reality, to ‘reveal’ it.
Hers is a wise photography, shutter clicks never improvised but instead the fruit of a dogged passion for the thing in and of itself, a passion which becomes contagious, which by osmosis transmits itself to the eyes of the observer, wounding the heart.
Everything becomes big, absolute: A tin case of sardines is transformed into a lunar landscape; an insignificant concrete block becomes a sort of Aztec pyramid; a disarming piece of paper is a metaphor for our fragility, ruffled by uneasiness. Everything— all the possible feelings which comprise the human palette—the heart wrenching sweetness which seeps out of her portraits of children, the ferocity of a muzzle or of butchered animal carcasses, the dreamy gaze at the sky or the flowers.
Everything, Letizia tells us, is keeping a secret; everything can reveal something. Photography represents that very possibility. “You realize that in silences / things yield and almost betray / their ultimate secrets. / At times, one half expects / to discover an error in Nature, / the still point of reality, / the missing link that will not hold, / the thread we cannot untangle / in order to get at the truth.” (Eugenio Montale, The Lemon Trees).
Letizia’s pictures, however, impose a condition to those who truly want to know them: abandon. She wants to take us by the hand and help us discover that everything can be for us, forever.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
Rick's tour de force in summarizing the presentations at Friday's Scarpa Conference at Villanova conveys a sense of why we are all so grateful to Patrick Brennan for bringing us together. However, he stopped blogging too soon. The most dramatic event was the dinner afterwards, when Patrick and John Breen almost came to fisticuffs over whether Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisted, or Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, is the quintessential Catholic novel. (Susan Stabile tried to broker a compromise with Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamozov, but she didn't make much headway.)
So we're suggesting a virtual summer book club. Some of us may read, or re-read, (or watch the movie versions of) any or all of those three books over the summer, and post our thoughts. The winner (if one emerges) will get to hear Michael Scaperlanda's defense of Godfather III as the best of the Godfather movies......
Friday, March 20, 2015
Friday, February 6, 2015
The Murphy Institute has posted on line videos of two recent programs that might make great resources for anyone who might want to inject some Catholic perspectives into a class on the topics of just wage, family leave policies, or the role of amicus briefs at the Supreme Court. As an added bonus, two of the speakers are MOJ'ers.
One is a program in the Murphy Institute's "Hot Topics: Cool Talk" series: Just Wages: Catholic Social Thought and Economic Perspectives. It features MOJ'er Susan Stabile and David O. Vang, UST professor of Finance, both applying Catholic social teachings to policy questions like raising the minimum wage, and both coming up with different prudential conclusions.
The second is a panel on the Young v. UPS case recently argued in front of the Supreme Court, in which a part-time UPS driver challenged UPS's refusal to accommodate the lifting restrictions her doctor recommended during her pregnancy, claiming a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The panelists include two UST School of Law professors, MOJ'er Thomas Berg and Teresa Collett, who served as counsel on an amicus brief filed for the case in support of Peggy Young, by a large coalition of pro-life groups. The other panelists were Sara Gross-Methner, UST's General Counsel, and Melissa Raphan, Labor and Employment Department Head of the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney.
Both of these programs offer sophisticated, nuanced discussions of the issues at stake, and could be valuable supplements to courses touching on these topics.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
The University of St. Thomas is searching for a Director for its Center for Catholic Studies, which, among many other wonderful things, is the co-sponsor (along with UST Law School) of the Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy (which I co-direct). Here's the description of the enterprise of the Department & Center for Catholic Studies, from the job posting:
The Department and the Center for Catholic Studies comprise an integrated project at St. Thomas. While the Department focuses principally on degree-granting activities, the Center oversees the work of three major institutes and a quarterly journal. It also sponsors multiple lectures and faculty development programs. The director of the Center will be responsible for coordinating the work of these institutes as well as other forms of outreach within the university and the broader community. This will include work with benefactors and other development activities.
The Department offers an undergraduate major and minor as well as a graduate degree (M.A.) in Catholic Studies. In our teaching and scholarship, we are committed to the complementarity of faith and reason across all academic disciplines, to sustaining and developing the richness and breadth of the Catholic intellectual tradition, and to the general principles articulated in Ex corde ecclesiae. We seek candidates who share these commitments.
More details here.