University of Wisconsin Hospitals Macabre Moniker

May 22, 2009 09:00 AM

Over the years there have been a number of universities in the United States that have distinguished themselves either because of something unique that places them in the limelight and defines their appeal for years to come, or a consistently outstanding football team.  Something like that is happening right now at the University of Wisconsin Hospital, Madison, but I really doubt that the university will look back on this with pride in the coming years.

In February of 2009, the university’s hospital board voted in favor of a plan to create a facility, Madison Surgery Center, where second trimester abortions would be performed. News reports explained

The surgery center is owned by UW Hospital, the university's doctor group and Meriter Hospital. Boards of those organizations recently approved the plan, despite protests and petitions from opponents. Friday's vote by the surgery center board was 6-0.

Organizations like Pro-Life Wisconsin put a great deal of pressure on the university and used their public relations prowess to bring attention to this disturbing turn of events.  In fact, on April 23, PLW noted that MSC had not yet begun to perform abortions.  On a special web site created about the opposition to the UW plan, activists are invited to do the following:


  1. Sign [a] letter refusing treatment at the MSC;
  2. If you are an employee of UW or Meriter Hospital, download a letter refusing to participate;
  3. Sign [a] petition opposing Madison Surgery Center late-term abortion center;
  4. Find contact information to call, e-mail, or write in opposition to the Madison Surgery Center's late-term abortion center. Contact Meriter Hospital, UW Hospital, the UW Medical Foundation, and the Madison Surgery Center;
  5. Join us in prayer outside the Madison Surgery Center! Pro-Life Wisconsin's Dane County affiliate, along with Madison's Vigil for Life, prays outside the Madison Surgery Center on a regular basis. Trust us – this makes doctors, nurses, patients and patients' families uncomfortable; they do not want to identify themselves with a medical facility that performs abortions.
  6. Commit to support this highly effective campaign!

Clearly, the campaign is paying off. However, it is not clear that the University of Wisconsin and its allies are backing down, at least not yet.

But something else occurred at the UW Hospital that has gone practically unnoticed by the wider community, and it is as troubling and depraved as the idea of approving late term abortions.  According to recent reports,

an advocacy group is alleging that doctors at UW Hospital broke the law by withholding treatment from two developmentally disabled patients with apparent cases of pneumonia.

The guardian of one patient, who survived, at first went along with and then later disagreed with the decision to withhold care, the lawsuit by Disability Rights Wisconsin alleges. The parents of the other patient, who died, pushed for the withdrawal of treatment, according to the group’s complaint filed Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court.

But a spokeswoman for UW Hospital said the hospital acted in the best interests of both patients and tried to follow the wishes of their families….

The “treatment” being discussed in these cases, by the way, is food and water!  In other words, the patient was not dying from a condition, but would, and in one case did, die of starvation.  What sort of medical care is that?

As the disability rights group Not Dead Yet has pointed out, with this case and another in Pennsylvania of the same type, one has to wonder just how many such cases occur in hospitals around the nation but never come to the attention of advocates who might be able to help the helpless patient survive!  

So what is going on at the University of Wisconsin-Madison?  Is this a coincidence and nothing more than a fluke that the same university appears dedicated to the principle that vulnerable human beings, whether born or preborn, are frequently better off dead? 

Clearly, the mentality that fosters a culture of death has taken hold at the university and, just like cancer, has spread from the expectant mothers in their care to the needy patients in their care who are helpless, and in some cases, have no one to defend their human dignity and their human rights.

The common denominator that links the disability rights case to the late term abortion facility is obvious.  Disregard for the human person takes on all sorts of identities and excuses depending on who is setting the policies.  If it is acceptable to kill the preborn, why not the already born who are in need of special care?  As one medical ethicist put it, “How much power do families and guardians have to make medical decisions for vulnerable patients such as children and the developmentally disabled?”

The answer is that if the vulnerable individual is a resident of his mother’s womb, then that mother has total power to choose life or death for the child according to the law.  And very soon the law that sanctions death at the beginning of life could well sanction it at any point during another’s life, depending on whether or not the patient can speak up and defend himself.  Such acts of course, will not, be defined as murder, but rather simply as exercises of a right to choose what is best for everyone involved.

As Pope John Paul II warned in Evangelium Vitae, #12,

…while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today's social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable "culture of death". This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favored tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of "conspiracy against life" is unleashed.

The University of Wisconsin Hospital: this week’s winner as the best example of the “Conspiracy Against Life.” It is a macabre moniker, but an honest one.

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