Though not widely publicized, the case of 35-year-old Air Force Captain Michael Fontana brings to light the tentacle of the culture of death that is snake-like and sneaky. That tentacle is euthanasia, which has come to be known in recent times by a myriad of names, none of which is designed to expose the horror of what it actually means.
In the case of Air Force Captain Michael Fontana, a nurse formally accused of ending the lives of three patients in his care by giving them overdoses of medication, the military has acted with due diligence in formally charging the officer and is currently pursuing a rigorous investigation. Fontana, who is continuing to work in the hospital where his deeds occurred, though not allowed contact with patients or records, will be handled with a presumption of innocence until all of the evidence is gathered and a formal military trial is held. That is how the hospital's spokesperson explained it to the media a couple of days ago.
In a just society, this is the way such allegations should be handled. But the actions allegedly taken by this male nurse do not represent justice toward those entrusted to his care. On the contrary, if proven to be true, Fontana will be another example of a growing, socially acceptable, yet sordid view of those who are facing death. It could well be that each of the three victims in this case were "end-of-life terminally ill patients."
However, a condition like that does not rob a human being of his personal dignity, nor should it be reason to hasten death by a direct act of killing.
In Georgia, a similar case is being played out. The victim in the Georgia case was a 58-year-old man suffering from cancer of the throat and mouth. The accused individuals who "helped" the man kill himself are members of an alleged assisted suicide ring known as the Final Exit Network. According to news reports, the network's president, its medical director and two other members of the group facilitated the death of the cancer patient.
While some have argued that no crime was committed, in this case others have given the case an appropriate definition.
"How is this not murder?'' asked Stephen Drake of the group Not Dead Yet, an advocacy group for the disabled that opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia.
"This is predatory. These are people who get off on being there for death. They target certain types of people,'' he said. "And when we make laws, when we talk about people who want to commit suicide, we're getting into very dangerous territory.''
Though the accused have been arrested, one can be assured that this case, like others, will drag on and in the final analysis it is highly unlikely that justice will be served. For as the newspaper has already reported, "People convicted of assisting in suicide in Georgia can be sentenced to up to five years in prison."
Where the law protects assisted suicide, as in the states of Oregon and Washington, there are other problems that are faced with honesty only by those who labor night and day to defend human dignity and fend off those who would euthanize while calling it something else.
A pro-euthanasia group monitoring how the Oregon law is working, recently issued a press release in which they claimed the following:
Compassion & Choices today noted that nearly 100% of terminally ill individuals using the law in 2008 were enrolled in hospice. Hospice enrollment among those using the Act increased to 98%, with 59 of the 60 individuals enrolled. Over the prior ten years of the Act's existence, 86% of patients using the Act were enrolled in hospice, in itself a very high rate of use.
The Death with Dignity Act has contributed to the increased use of hospice, and high quality of end-of-life and palliative care in Oregon. … Nearly universal hospice enrollment among patients using the Act is a direct result of the increased communication that legal aid in dying prompts.
Please take note that the protection of a law provides a shield for the very acts that result in premature death, or death on demand, as I prefer to call it. The promoters of euthanasia, in other words, want the same legal safeguards that abortionists have!
This is perhaps why Kenneth Stevens, M.D. and William Toffler, M.D. of Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation responded to the Compassion and Choices press release as follows:
We applaud the Oregonian's recommendation that Washington voters reject I-1000, the physician-assisted suicide measure.
We must comment on two realities: first, the group controlling assisted suicide in Oregon is also the group controlling what the public is told; second, the claim that Oregon is a leader in improved end-of-life care because of assisted suicide is inaccurate.
The editorial board correctly notes "a coterie of insiders run the program, with a handful of doctors and others deciding what the public may know".
The group promoting assisted suicide, so-called "Compassion and Choices (C&C)", are like the fox in the proverbial chicken coop; in this case, the fox is reporting its version to the farmer regarding what is happening in the coop. Members of C&C authored and proclaim they are the stewards of Oregon's assisted suicide law. They call it "their law". They have arranged and participated in 3/4ths of Oregon's assisted suicide cases. Their medical director reported she'd participated in more than 100 doctor-assisted suicides as of March 2005. A physician board member reported in 2006 that he'd been involved with over forty such patients. Their executive director reported in September 2007 that he has attended more than 36 assisted suicide deaths. He has been involved in preparing the lethal solution. Yet, he is not a doctor.
In 2006, C&C's attorneys intimidated the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) to change to euphemisms in referring to Oregon's assisted suicide law. The limited DHS reports of assisted suicides is another indication of this organization's influence. Information that is damaging to the "good public image" of Oregon's assisted suicide law is hidden or glossed-over in the DHS reports. As such, we believe the initials "C&C" of this organization more properly reflect its repeated public behavior—that is, "Conspiracy & Control".
Regardless of one's perspective on assisted suicide, all citizens should be concerned about the controlling influence of this death-promoting organization. In all other areas of medicine, we are striving for increased transparency—not conspiracy and control.
What about assisted suicide causing improved end-of-life care?
There is improved end-of-life care in Oregon. In training physicians, we have sought to improve patient-physician communication, and improve patient care at many levels. We have made improvements. However, similar improvements have occurred in other states that have not legalized assisted suicide. Many states do better than Oregon in this area. The latest data ranks Oregon ninth (not first) in Medicare-age hospice-utilization; four of the top five states have criminalized assisted-suicide. The Wisconsin Pain Policies Studies Group issues grades regarding states' pain-policies.
While Oregon & Washington both have high grades on their pain-policies, an OHSU study documented that after four years of assisted suicide in Oregon there was a decline in end-of-life pain-control. This doesn't prove that the pain-control decline was due to assisted suicide. At the same time, the data doesn't support the claim that legalization of assisted suicide improved care at the end-of-life.
In summary, we should all be wary of the false "C&C" claims.
Clearly, those who have a vested interest in imposed death by demand; rather than serving the dying with love, appropriate pain management and unconditional commitment to comfort; are most successful when they are in charge and can spin the story their way. Sound familiar?
Captain Fontana, the Final Exit Network folks and the "C&C" leadership all have something in common. They firmly and perhaps sincerely believe that their agenda, rather than God's, helps more people.
Their sort of "compassion" almost always results in a planned, premature death.
For my money, I'll stick with Pope John Paul II and his profound message regarding genuine compassion.
The parable of the Good Samaritan belongs to the Gospel of suffering. For it indicates what the relationship of each of us must be towards our suffering neighbor. We are not allowed to "pass by on the other side" indifferently; we must "stop" beside him. Everyone who stops beside the suffering of another person, whatever form it may take, is a Good Samaritan. … Sometimes this compassion remains the only or principal expression of our love for and solidarity with the sufferer.