Thursday, June 13, 2019
Maine's Governor Janet Mills signed the bill that had passed in both chambers by narrow margins that legalizes assisted suicide in that state, joining California, Colorado, DC, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. This law was opposed by, among others, a coalition of disability advocacy groups in an open letter to Governor Mills that ends with the argument:
There are ways to address the reasons people have for requesting assisted suicide, but it starts with a societal commitment to treat all suicides as a tragedy, to respond to anyone’s expression of suicidal feelings with an equal level of support, affirmation of the value of their life and effort to address their concerns. A two-tiered system where most people get suicide prevention but certain people get suicide assistance is a deadly form of discrimination that should not be accepted. Assisted suicide laws exacerbate the disability stigma that prevails in our culture and undermine people’s genuine autonomy by establishing a medically administered program of suicide approval and assistance in a health care environment already riddled with pressures to cut costs of care.
The letter was signed by the following groups:
- American Association of People with Disabilities
- Assn of Programs for Rural Independent Living
- Autistic Self Advocacy Network
- Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
- National Council on Disability
- National Council on Independent Living
- National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities
- National Spinal Cord Injury Association
- Not Dead Yet
- The Arc of the United States
- United Spinal Association
Good news: The American Medical Association (AMA) upheld its long-standing opposition to assisted suicide by a vote of 392-162, holding that:
“Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Special Issue of Journal of Disability and Religion, "Navigating Impasses in Bioethics: End of Life, Disability, and Mental Illness"
The Journal of Disability and Religion has published a special issue with contributions from an interdisciplinary workshop on "Navigating Impasses in Bioethics: End of Life, Disability, and Mental Illness" that was jointly organized by the Von Hugel Institute of Critical Catholic Inquiry at Cambridge University, and the Murphy Institute of the University of St. Thomas in December 2017. As an apology for the delay in the publication, they are making the issue available on-line for free until the end of May -- a real deal, since the publication typically secured behind a fairly prohibitive pay-wall.
You can access the entire issue here.
My contribution explores "The Contradictory Expressive Functions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Physician-assisted Suicide Laws." Here's the abstract:
Certain laws, such as civil rights laws and criminal laws, are considered to have powerful expressive functions. The expressive functions may be directed at shifting social norms, or at articulating a social consensus about a particularly important norm. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is such a law, expressing the norm that “society’s accumulated myths and fears about persons with disabilities” are as debilitating as actual disabilities. This article will analyze the arguments of disability rights advocates that the expressive effect of laws legalizing physician-assisted suicide directly contradicts the norm of the ADA.
Here are links to the other excellent articles in the issue, written by scholars from many different disciplines, offering perspectives from the US, Europe, and Canada.
MAiD in Canada and the Homo Economicus View of Dignity: Inclusive Enough?, Thana C. de Campos
The Weight of Living: Autonomy, Care, and Responsibility for the Self, Patrick McKearney
“This Condition isn't Going to get any Better so I can't see why we're Prolonging it”: Risks and Benefits of using Empirical Research to Inform Normative Decisions Concerning End-of-Life Care, Elizabeth Fistein, Gemma Clarke, Anthony Holland & Stephen Barclay
Assisted Dying and Suicide Prevention, David Albert Jones
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
A truly great man passed from this life to the next two days ago -- Jean Vanier. He dedicated much of his 90 years of life to making the world a better place for people with disabilities, and, as a consequence, a better place for everyone in the world. He is probably best known for founding L'Arche, a worldwide movement dedicated to bringing men and women with disabilities into the heart of their societies, making their voices heard, and providing a true home and the opportunity to share everyone’s unique gifts to the fullest.
For the past two years, I have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors of L'Arche USA, supporting the work of L'Arche communities in the US. (In fact, I am leaving tomorrow for our bi-annual in-person board meeting, taking place in Erie, PA, where the very first L'Arche community in the US was founded in 1972.) I have truly come to appreciate the genius of Jean, and what he set in place back in 1964, when he moved into this little house in Trosley, France, with two men with developmental disabilities, Raphaël and Philippe.
In addition to his work with L’Arche, Vanier co-founded Faith and Light and inspired the creation of many other organizations. He influenced thousands of people around the world and published some 40 books, including on how people with intellectual disabilities make essential contributions to building a more humane society.
His most-widely read book is probably Becoming Human. Two more that I particularly treasure are Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Power of Weakness (with Stanley Hauerwas), and Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus Through the Gospel of John.
His sister, Thérèse Vanier, who left a distinguished career as a pioneering doctor in palliative care to join the L'Arche movement, wrote the following beautiful prayer which captures so much of what you will find in Jean's writings, and his life's work:
“May oppressed people and those who oppress them set one another free. May those who are disabled and those who think they are not, help one another. May those who need someone to listen to them move the hearts of those who are too busy. May the homeless give joy to those who, albeit unwillingly, open their door to them. May the poor melt the hearts of the rich. May those who seek the truth give life to those who are satisfied because they have already found it. May the dying who do not want to die be comforted by those who find it very hard to live. May those who are not loved be authorized to open the hearts of those who are not successful in loving. May prisoners find true freedom and free others from fear. May those who sleep on the streets share their kindness with those who do not manage to understand them. May the hungry tear the veil from the eyes of those who do not hunger for justice. May those who live without hope purify the hearts of their brothers and sisters who are afraid of living. May the weak confuse the strong. May hatred be surmounted by compassion. May violence be neutralized by men and women of peace. May it surrender to those who are totally vulnerable, so that we may be healed.”
Monday, January 21, 2019
Supreme Court review of Indiana law prohibiting abortion based on race, sex, or diagnosis of disability
In case you missed it in the haze of the New Year celebrations, here's an excellent analysis (by Notre Dame's Carter Snead and Mary O'Callaghan) of the case argued before the Supreme Court on Jan. 2, challenging Indiana's law prohibiting abortions based on a child's "race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or diagnosis or potential diagnosis of . . . Down syndrome or any other disability." (See 7th Circuit opinion in Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky v. Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health striking down the law here.) Snead and O'Callaghan point out that the 7th Circuit's denial of the petition for an en banc rehearing of the case includes a strong dissent by Judge Easterbrook, who argues: "Using abortion to promote eugenic goals is morally and prudentially debatable on grounds different from those that underlay the statutes Casey considered."
Snead and O'Callaghan argue:
Friday, October 26, 2018
We are looking for a new Program Manager for the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Law, Thought, and Public Policy, which I co-direct. The Institute is an interdisciplinary venture the University of St. Thomas the Center for Catholic Studies and the School of Law, working to engage the church, the academic community, and the public in rigorous discussions that bring historical and contemporary Catholic perspectives to bear on debates in law and public policy. From Augustine and Aquinas to Galileo and Thomas More, on to Montesquieu, Mother Teresa, Saint John Paul II and Pope Francis, the vibrant programs of the Murphy Institute plumb the interdisciplinary riches of the Catholic intellectual tradition and draw upon other academic disciplines and faith traditions to engage the church and community, facilitate scholarship, provide public policy analysis, and support student scholars.
A link to the job posting is HERE.
Friday, August 31, 2018
August 30, 2018
His Holiness, Pope Francis
You have said that you seek “a more incisive female presence in the Church,” and that “women are capable of seeing things with a different angle from [men], with a different eye. Women are able to pose questions that we men are not able to understand.”
We write to you, Holy Father, to pose questions that need answers.
........ read the rest and add your name here.
I'm proud to be one of the original signatories. Last time I checked, the count was over 12,000 (in less than one day!)
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
The Center for Public Justice (CPJ), just released a powerful report: “Time to Flourish: Protecting Families’ Time for Work and Caregiving”, as part of CPJ initiative called Families Valued "that advances workplace practices and public policies that honor both work and family care". CPJ is "an independent, nonpartisan organization devoted to public policy research and civic education with a distinct theological lens. Working outside the familiar categories of right and left, conservative and liberal, the Center for Public Justice seeks to help citizens and public officeholders respond to God’s call to do justice."
The report is an elegant brief for the need to address the deplorable lack of support for family life in this country. It draws on a wide spectrum of Christian theological sources, but offering concrete, contemporary examples of the problems, as well as practical suggestions for policy changes. An Op Ed in today's Christianity Today by one of the co-authors expresses the hope that the some recent indications of bipartisan support expressed at a recent Senate subcommittee hearing on paid family leave (including a proposal championed by Ivanka Trump) might lead to some changes. Hear, hear!
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
This morning, Riverside Superior Court Judge Ottolia, overturned the California End of Life Option Act, a law allowing physician-assisted suicide. Judge Otollia “ruled that the state legislature should not have approved the assisted-suicide law during that special session because the subject of the law fell outside the grounds of the special session.” Judge Ottolia also stated that the End of Life Option Act does not fall under the category of healthcare options. The ruling will certainly be appealed and challenged, probably overruled, but it is heartening to see some recognition of the fallacy of considering assisted suicide "health care."
Even more heartening is the fact that proposals to legalize physician assisted suicide in both Massachusetts and Delaware failed this past spring, despite intense targeting by Compassion in Choices. Hard-fought victories by the opponents in both cases, but victories none the less.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Melissa Moschella, Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics at Columbia University, wrote an excellent analysis of the competing interests of the doctors, the courts, and the parents of 11-month old Charlie Gard, who was born with a rare genetic disease known as mitochondrial depletion syndrome. The hospital in England where Charlie is being treated wants to withdraw his life support, while his parents want to take up the offer of an American specialist at Columbia University in New York to try some experimental treatment. The High Court in Britain first refused the parents permission to do so, and is now reconsidering the matter. More recently, Melissa offered some interesting thoughts about the propriety of having Charlie's court-appointed guardian ad litem being represented in court by a lawyer who is actively involved in an organization closely aligned with Dignity in Dying, an advocacy group for assisted suicide.
Friday, June 16, 2017
I'm not sure what the most effective response to the dearth of civil, respectful political debate in our country is, but I certainly don't think the answer is to quelch all dialogue. But that seems to be exactly what the Republican leadership in the Senate is doing with its response to the House's American Health Care Act. As this Washington Post article reports, Senator McConnell has invoked the fast-track procedure that will bring the bill right to the floor for a vote, without any committee hearings. The bill itself is being negotiated in private, with the expectation that it would be released within 24 hours of a vote, leaving nobody who might want to undertake a thoughtful examination of these important issues with any time to do so. I don't pretend to understand all the details of the complexities of the ACA or its reform, but I am seeing desperate appeals from disability advocacy groups (like this from the National Down Syndrome Congress, and this from The Arc), describing the devastating effect the changes to Medicaid currently in the House bill, and likely to be in the Senate bill, will have on services to people with disabilities. If you don't have a family member with a disability, have you heard anything at all about this aspect of ACA reform?
This really isn't any way to run a country, is it?