This guest commentary was published on the Lead Us Not into Temptation blog site on August 3, 2009 and is used with its kind permission.
By Carol McKinley
It’s been a tough few weeks for President Obama. The urban legends he has told to garner support for the march towards socialism are finally losing their traction.
You could hear the sound of screeching brakes all over America at the collision between an elite Harvard professor and a president making a racial incident out of a police officer’s response to a 911 call – and the government takeover of health care. America is coming out of the trance.
As a warrior in the trenches, I couldn’t count the number of times prayer mercenaries have transformed a blunder into a period of grace. Catholics had better take full advantage of the reprieve. We have a lot to lose in the ethical conundrums of rationing treatment and mercy in a government-controlled HMO.
The mission of providing ethical, compassionate, quality health care to the sick and poor is about to be “reformed” into setting criteria that determine the value of the patient’s life measured against the cost of treating their illness.
The Church’s teachings
Denying medical care to the poor, elderly and catastrophically ill to benefit the government is diametrically opposed to Catholic ethics and the Catholic animus. Pope Benedict XVI expounded on “[t]he inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual” as a “constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 2273, emphasis in original) in his recently published encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:
Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good… (Section 28, emphasis in original)
In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society. If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology… (Section 51, emphasis in original)
To the tragic and widespread scourge of abortion we may well have to add in the future – indeed it is already surreptitiously present – the systematic eugenic programming of births. At the other end of the spectrum, a pro-euthanasia mindset is making inroads as an equally damaging assertion of control over life that under certain circumstances is deemed no longer worth living. Underlying these scenarios are cultural viewpoints that deny human dignity. These practices in turn foster a materialistic and mechanistic understanding of human life. Who could measure the negative effects of this kind of mentality for development?... While the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks, on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human. (Section 75)
Obama projects that giving access to our health care system to 50 million more people will cost Americans less money than it does now. In fact, at the breaking point, Obama claims his health care program will start paying for itself. Like his projections about the economy, writing off the debt of irresponsible people who caused the mortgage crisis, cash for clunkers and “racial profiling,” Obama is, once again, way off the mark.
You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that giving access to 50 million more people in an already burdened health care system and spending less means the patients currently in the system will be sacrificing their present level of care and services. There have been negative impacts on health care access, cancer survival rates, and the quality of life for the elderly, learning disabled and sick in every country where there has been a government takeover of health care. Obama can’t escape the laws of supply and demand. Supporting laws destined to place life-threatening hardships upon the disadvantaged and suffering is fundamentally immoral.
We’ve got to digest the threats to the sanctity of life and Catholic conscience protections, educate grassroots Catholics and make a lot of noise in the public square in the next several weeks. We’re going to see Obama infomercials pushing overhaul in the mainstream media in the month of August, ad nauseam. The theologically fallacious Catholics United is firing salvos. Catholic Charities USA, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Catholic Health Association are banding together to advance the taxpayer-funded abortions and euthanasia assistance crafted into the legislation.
Stand up and fight.
The threat to the elderly
Reading the proposals, there is no doubt that seniors would pay a heavy price. The White House has proposed the creation of an independent panel to recommend Medicare and Medicaid cuts. Seniors would not only be losing benefits. From all indications, it appears that they would be losing control over life-and-death decisions and care. This is inhumane.
Last week, EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo put up a must-read post on his blog, raising the same concerns many have over disturbing references in the bill:
The elderly or people with catastrophic diseases are clearly in the sights of the administration and the congressional leadership for the simple reason that they cost too much. A quarter of all Medicare payments occur in the last year of life, costing the government more than 100 billion dollars a year, according to Forbes Magazine.
“One troubling provision of the House bill compels seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years (and more often if they become sick or go into a nursing home) about alternatives for end-of-life care (House bill, p. 425-430). The sessions cover highly sensitive matters such as whether to receive antibiotics and ‘the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration.’ This mandate invites abuse, and seniors could easily be pushed to refuse care.” [interview with Betsy McCaughey, patient advocate and former lieutenant governor of New York]
This “Advance Care Planning Consultation” would encourage all of us, but especially those with severe illnesses to submit to hospices rather than pursue expensive therapies that might extend life (and cost a bundle). The bill also establishes a tracking system to insure that doctors are advocating “advance care directives” where you predetermine what type of care you would accept or refuse at the end of life. The problem with all of this is it assigns a utilitarian value to human life. If you are too old or disabled, there will be a built-in incentive to push you into hospice and palliative care rather than work to beat the disease.
This isn’t hype and hysteria from the fringe. Calm, credible people reading the bills are drawing these same conclusions across the board. Arm yourself with citations from the bill, go to senior centers in your hometown and educate them about the contents of the “reforms.” The mainstream media is not going to publish the truth, but there is nothing holding us back from doing a little “community organizing” of our own.
‘By their fruits, you will know them’
Seniors and, in fact, most people in this country, are unaware that Obama recently appointed a science czar (John Holdren) who co-authored a book entitled Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment. Among Holdren's philosophies are the following:
• Women could be forced to abort their pregnancies, whether they wanted to or not;
• The population at large could be sterilized by infertility drugs intentionally put into the nation’s drinking water or in food;
• Single mothers and teen mothers should have their babies seized from them against their will and given away to other couples to raise;
• People who “contribute to social deterioration” (i.e. undesirables) “can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility.”
This correlates with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent, breathtaking admission that Roe was to rid us of undesirables, i.e. “growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”
The president has surrounded himself with radical pro-abortionists, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who will have a heavy hand of influence in shaping and executing policies. Catholics, other Christians and other decent people can’t ignore the dangers of giving such people power over life, death and health. Educate your priests and those in your parish. With enlightenment on Obama’s trajectory, the health care bill will take on a new patina.
The Massachusetts experience
Catholics should be outraged that the poor are being used and exploited by the White House to swindle them out of benefits and life itself. Catholics United, Catholic Charities and other social pirates who are propagating the myth that this type of health care “reform” is about service to the poor should be vigorously castigated. The poor already have health coverage in combined federal- and state- subsidized programs. (For example, in Massachusetts, there is MassHealth – Medicaid and SCHIP.)
In Massachusetts, where health care “reform” was instituted in 2007, benefits have been siphoned off from the indigent and transferred to households earning $77,400 for a family of five. For a family of eight, the household income can be up to $111,080. But families earning $30,000, previously eligible for free health care, are burdened with premiums and co-payments costing nearly $10,000 for the least expensive plan.
In fact, in early July, Boston Medical Center (formerly known as Boston City Hospital, serving the poorest of the poor in Boston) filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
The suit says the hospital will lose more than $100 million next year because the state has lowered Medicaid reimbursement rates and stopped paying Boston Medical “reasonable costs” for treating other poor patients.
“We filed this suit more in sorrow than in anger,” said Elaine Ullian, the hospital’s chief executive. “We believe in health care reform to the bottom of our toes, but it was never, ever supposed to be financed on the backs of the poor, and that’s what has happened in Massachusetts.”
The central charge in the suit is that the state has siphoned money away from Boston Medical to help pay the considerable cost of insuring all but a small percentage of residents…
According to the suit, Massachusetts is now reimbursing Boston Medical only 64 cents for every dollar it spends treating the poor. About 10 percent of the hospital’s patients are uninsured – down from about 20 percent before the law’s passage in 2006. But many more are on Medicaid or Commonwealth Care, the state-subsidized insurance program for low-income residents.
Astoundingly, with all the rancor and rhetoric from Democrats about the compassionate immigration policies absent in the Republican agenda, when the cost of operating “health care reform” produced an ever-growing deficit, 30,000 legal immigrants were the first people thrown under the bus by the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts legislature: 30,000 of them received letters of health care termination.
The cost of providing health care to the 30,000 immigrants is approximately $130 million a year. A vote on July 29 restored $40 million of the budget, leaving uncertainty about the effect of eliminating $90 million in coverage for permanent residents who have had green cards for less than five years.
Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s former senior adviser, provided an informed analysis of the siphoning off of funds from the poor:
Mr. Obama’s problem is that nine out of 10 Americans would likely get worse health care if ObamaCare goes through. Of those who do not have insurance – and who therefore might be better off – approximately one-fifth are illegal aliens, nearly three-fifths make $50,000 or more a year and can afford insurance, and just under a third are probably eligible for Medicaid or other government programs already.
For the slice of the uninsured that is left – perhaps about 2% of all American citizens –Team Obama would dismantle the world’s greatest health-care system.
Don’t wait for clerical leadership
There are valuable lessons to be learned from the Catholic trenches in Boston in terms of what lies ahead nationally. In late February of this year, the Caritas Christi health care delivery network sought and was awarded a contract that includes providing abortions, family planning services and other moral evils to the uncatechized, the unsuspecting poor and women emotionally distraught due to an unplanned pregnancy.
With the advice and public consent of Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Caritas gave the Commonwealth written assurances that Catholic medical staff would inform women of health care options, including abortions. They appointed NARAL members to serve as advisors and agreed to give them access to monitor Catholic health care workers to ensure compliance.
Caritas set up a corporation, sought out and signed contracts with abortionists, set up a 24-hour family planning/abortion hotline number and hired employees to direct women to the abortionists with whom it contracted and took a 49-percent interest in the operation. A handful of Catholics relentlessly exposed the arrangement and, with some assistance from American Life League, we were able to get Cardinal O'Malley to retreat from ownership in the operation. However, the arrangement marched forward with all the abortion contracts, the 24-hour hotline, written assurances and NARAL oversight of Caritas employees intact.
It should be noted that Cardinal O’Malley tried to generate support for the arrangement by purporting that Catholic theology permitted entering into a contract that binds a Catholic in the performance of moral evils; in effect, he claimed that even though we realize the sinful nature of performing those moral evils, so long as we recruit others to perform the evils, it does not violate Catholic ethics. Theologically, spiritually and ethically, nothing could be more unsound. Knowing something is wrong and sinful, and then baiting somebody else into doing it who doesn’t know, compounds the sin. The Caritas arrangement is as ethical as hiring Kevorkian to kill your elderly parents when they become a personal and financial burden.
The cardinal outsourced his conscience to the National Catholic Bioethics Center, which reportedly gave him a formal opinion stating the current arrangement is ethically sound. Repeated requests to the cardinal to release the opinion of the NCBC have been rebuffed.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear about those who give scandal by becoming their “neighbor’s tempter” (Sections 2284–2287). Leading others to do evil “takes on a particular gravity” for those in authority who cause it:
Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!” (Section 2287)
The fight for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the next generation of Catholics is in the hands of lay leaders. Every one of us must raise our voices in the public square.
Carol McKinley is a pro-life activist, a paralegal working in the affordable housing industry and the creator of the Lead Us Not into Temptation blog site. Her activism was inspired by a desire to preserve her three children’s faith from the influence of Planned Parenthood’s ever-growing sexual promiscuity and abortion agenda in both public and Catholic academia. She resides in the challenging city of Boston.