Saturday, 11 August 2012

Tens of thousands hear that every life is more precious than gold

Between 19 May and 21 July, Reverend Arthur Woood, a member of the SPUC Evangelicals committee, led a nationwide campaign to take the pro-life message to the heart of the Olympic games. SPUC supporters handed out a specially-designed leaflet and held specially-designed placards at the Olympic torch relay in 12 cities in England, Scotland and Wales. Arthur has kindly sent me the following report:

Plymouth, 19 May:
The ones who seemed to be most curious were teenagers, particularly girls. We had some great conversations and I am sure that many of these young people were positively impacted by the information we gave them. Some even wanted to have their photographs taken holding the placards. We did come across a few people who didn’t like what we were doing, but the vast majority who spoke to us were supportive, some even thanking us for standing up for unborn children.

Swansea, 25 May:
Some of us, unknowingly, ended up distributing leaflets outside a small hospital that regularly performs abortions.  It was at this location that one lady with a child began to shout, scream and swear at one of the ladies in the team and tore the bundle of leaflets from her hand and threw them in the road. This reminded us very clearly of the spiritual battle we are in. Remarkably a policeman helped to pick up the leaflets. We managed to give out in the region of 1,500 leaflets over the two hours or so. At our debriefing at the end, everyone who took part said how much they had enjoyed the day and how much they felt motivated by being involved.

Chester, 29 May:
We managed to distribute in the region of 3,500. The whole day went without hitch and without opposition. Two young people were so moved by what they read in the leaflets that they offered to help us to distribute them.

Stoke, 30 May:
What really stood out to me was the way people readily took the leaflets, with just a small percentage refusing them. Joshua the young Baptist minister decided to venture into the park and remarkably distributed about 1,000 leaflets on his own in the two hours or so that we he was there. In all we managed to give out about 4,000 leaflets and had some very positive conversations.

Aberdeen, 11 June:
We had many positive conversations. In all we managed to hand out in the region of 2500 leaflets which, in view of the restrictions, was excellent. A young lady swore at us, spat at us and shouted at us. She told us that she had had an abortion, and said that she was "pro-choice" and "pro-death". We met her again later and to our amazement were able to have a friendly chat with her. She was hurting badly from her abortion experience and we have felt compelled to pray for her ever since we met her.

Dundee, 12 June:
We would like to give our thanks to Marysia and the rest of the Dundee team for their stalwart efforts which resulted in the distribution of about 2,300 leaflets despite all the restrictions and the rain. It was very encouraging to have two young ladies in our team who were a great help to us.

Dundee

Manchester, 23 June:
Aileen had a brilliant conversation with a young couple who claimed to be pagans, but are strongly against abortion. Aileen recalls that: 'The young lady recounted how she had accompanied a friend to an abortion clinic, and whilst sitting in the waiting room, had become more and more sickened by the numerous women who were there seeking a second or third abortion. For this reason she told me, she was happy to accept the leaflet. On asking the whereabouts of the place, it turned out to be the Hazel Grove clinic, where there is a Saturday morning vigil and where there will be a 40 Days for Life campaign in September.'

Birmingham, 30 June:
Many in the team were young people, students etc. We had very few negative responses to what we were doing in fact many people thanked us. A high proportion of the people who were offered leaflets took one, some stopping to discuss the issue of abortion. A senior police officer went to nearly everyone carrying a placard asking them if they were OK and sharing with some of them that he admired them for what they were doing and agreed with the stance we were making.

Peterborough, 3 July:
The carnival atmosphere was electrifying and great to be a part of. In all in a matter of about just one and a half hours we distributed in the region of 2,300 leaflets. Here as with many other cities the benefits of having a local SPUC branch was obvious. A ready-made team of enthusiastic and passionate pro-lifers made it a joy to work with them.

Peterborough

Cambridge, 7 July:
Quite a few people thanked us for what we were doing. One of the ladies in our team had a conversation with an elderly lady who said that she had had an abortion many years previously. She said that she regretted what she had done and still carried around the burden of it every day. This gave our lady team member the opportunity to speak words of comfort and counsel into this woman’s life, which was much appreciated by her.

Southampton, 14 July:
As the crowds left the evening venue we found ourselves faced with thousands of people pouring out through the only exit, and we were able to give out leaflets at an incredible rate.

Southampton

Walthamstow, 21 July:
A man who came up to me with his wife, asked me what we were doing, read the leaflet and then asked me if I would pray for them that they would have a child. This I did at their request right there in the street. In all we distributed about 1800 leaflets which was quite good considering that we were limited to handing them out some hours before the torch arrived.

Final comments
What an amazing opportunity the 70 day journey of the Olympic Torch across the UK gave us to get the pro-life message out to hundreds of thousands of people in a very short time. In all, 140,000 Olympic leaflets were ordered by individuals and SPUC branches to distribute during the 70 days. Of those, approximately 30,000 were distributed directly into the hands of the public by the 12 torch-relay teams in the 12 cities we visited. This shows that, although the visual presence of a team at each city was what the public and media saw, behind the scenes pro-lifers were faithfully supporting the campaign by sacrificing their time to distribute leaflets in their own communities. We do believe that God will bring much fruit from this campaign. I think the one thing that encouraged us more than any other was to see so many supporters really fired up by simply going into the midst of crowds of people and being able to communicate the pro-life message in such a clear and challenging way.

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Friday, 10 August 2012

Another interesting letter on the Liverpool Care Pathway

Further to my blog-post yesterday on letters about the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) in the 3 August edition of The Catholic Herald, this weekend's edition (10 August) contains a letter (full text below) from a doctor who argues that:
"patients might well have had weeks or even many months more of life had they been properly supported rather than put on the LCP."
Letters, The Catholic Herald, 10 August 2012

From Dr R J Clearkin

SIR – Quentin de la Bédoyère (Science and Faith, July 27) mis-states the concerns that many physicians have with the Liverpool Care Pathway. It might be helpful to consider a few of these concerns.

The question has never been whether the LCP offers a “peaceful” death. After all, euthanised patients can die peacefully. The issue has always been whether patients are dying prematurely by being put on the LCP. While the LCP claims it is for those in the “last few hours or days of life”, it is essential to realise that there is no accurate way of determining this, so that for most patients it is at best a guess with large margins of error. This is particularly true for the two thirds of patients who do not die of cancer. Such patients might well have had weeks or even many months more of life had they been properly supported rather than put on the LCP. The article makes reassuring noises about audits but fails to explain that the audits are conducted by the very body which developed and still fervently promotes the LCP. Unsurprisingly, these audits fail to critically address such vital areas as patient selection and use of the LCP in non-cancer patients. As other interested parties cannot access the raw data they are unable to audit the LCP themselves. Sadly, conflicts of interest are repeatedly encountered with the LCP and obstruct the close and necessary examination of a “pathway” which is literally a matter of life and death for tens of thousands of patients.

Count de la Bédoyère incorrectly claims that the LCP relies on the “principle of double effect”. But it has long been recognised that agents like morphine, employed correctly, do not shorten life. The same cannot be said of deliberate dehydration, which is almost always a means of accelerating death. Furthermore, many, even most, patients are not made aware of either their diagnosis or their selection for the LCP.

As for “spiritual care”, this, for most patients, is conspicuous by its absence.

Yours faithfully,
R J CLEARKIN
Market Harborough, Leicestershire

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Thursday, 9 August 2012

Read these important arguments about the Liverpool Care Pathway

This past weekend's Catholic Herald contains two letters about the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP). You can read more about concerns about the LCP elsewhere on my blog (13 Dec. 2011; 2 Dec. 2011; 26 Mar. 2011; 3 Sep. 2009; 13 Aug. 2009). The first letter is from Professor Patrick Pullicino, who is professor of clinical neurosciences at the University of Kent. The second letter is from Dr Gillian Craig, a campaigner and author against euthanasia. I reproduce both letters in full at the end below.

Interestingly, Professor Pullicino argues:
"[T]he diagnosis of being “within the last hours or days of life”, which is necessary for a person to be put on the LCP, has no scientific basis. This diagnosis is, in fact, a prediction and as such is likely to be in serious error about 50 per cent of the time."
Dr Craig warns that:
"[T]here is a very real danger that some who appear to be dying but have a treatable disorder will be put on the LCP with fatal results."
Letters, The Catholic Herald, 3 August 2012

The Liverpool Care Pathway is becoming a deadly machine

From Professor Patrick Pullicino

SIR – One worrying statistic about the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) that is not well known is that in both the First National Audit (2006/7) and the Second National Audit (2008/9) the mean time to death on the LCP was 33 hours. The fact that two large national audits two years apart came up with an identical mean time to death shows that effectively the LCP is a machine. Unless the LCP is quickly discontinued death occurs in less than two days, whether someone has terminal cancer or a potentially reversible condition such as pneumonia.

What is not mentioned in the Science and Faith column (July 27) is that the diagnosis of being “within the last hours or days of life”, which is necessary for a person to be put on the LCP, has no scientific basis. This diagnosis is, in fact, a prediction and as such is likely to be in serious error about 50 per cent of the time.

Although it is possible to discontinue the LCP if the patient improves, it becomes more difficult to detect changes in the underlying illness as a patient becomes more drowsy on the LCP.

Yours faithfully,
PATRICK PULLICINO
By email

From Dr Gillian Craig

SIR – It is right to warn people about the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP). Those who have produced warning cards have done the public a service. Your report (July 27) was helpful, as was that of Quentin de la Bédoyère (Science and Faith, July 27).

If all doctors were trained in the care of the elderly and had all the time in the world to discuss end-of-life care with patients and relatives there would be less cause for anxiety about the LCP. But given the current pressure on hospital beds and the number of frail, elderly people needing attention, there is a very real danger that some who appear to be dying but have a treatable disorder will be put on the LCP with fatal results.

Count de la Bédoyère mentioned some dangers of the LCP towards the end of his article. These are worth repeating lest they be overlooked:
  • Some medical staff may see death as a benefit for the patient or the NHS. It was suggested that death is sometimes hastened if the bed is needed for someone else.
  • Some healthcare staff will be too busy to follow the LCP protocol correctly.
  • Once on the LCP progress checks may be overlooked until the patient is dead.
  • Some doctors may not involve a multi-disciplinary team or seek advice before putting patients on to the LCP.
  • The importance of hydration was not mentioned in the Catholic Herald articles.
When palliative care first emerged as a speciality in 1987 the only patients who received hospice care were those with pain that was difficult to control or those with significant anxiety about the prospect of dying. All the rest were managed by their GPs in the community or by hospital staff if they were admitted to hospital. Surprisingly few old people needed the services of palliative carers in those days and most died peacefully without the need for sedation or morphine. Syringe drivers were never used on geriatric wards in those days. If medication was needed it was given orally or by injection.

Palliative care is in overdrive and patients are in danger. (For discussion see the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care 2008; Vol 25: No 2.) The NHS is fast becoming a death service rather than a health service for the elderly. Attempts are being made to vet potential admissions and send the elderly home before they block a precious hospital bed. Those who are admitted and appear to be dying may be put on the LCP and die within a matter of days. People can no longer be sure that the elderly will be treated well, so great vigilance is needed. Many people suffer long-term distress after watching a loved one die on the LCP. It is surely time to review and reduce the role of palliative care in the NHS.

All these problems have followed the closure of far too many hospitals that cared for the elderly. We now have too few hospital beds to cope with the ageing population. Hospital facilities must be increased and care in the community improved as a matter of urgency, so that more people can remain at home until they die in peace.

Yours faithfully,
GILLIAN CRAIG
Northampton

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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Respond to Welsh consultation on organ donation

The Welsh government has announced plans to introduce presumed consent for organ donation. They are calling it "deemed consent", in which people living in Wales for a period of six months or more will be opted-in automatically as organ donors. This will include prisoners, tourists, and students.

A consultation on the draft bill "Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill" opened on 18 June 2012, and closes on 10 September 2012. The consultation is open to everyone.

SPUC has produced a briefing and summary assisting pro-lifers to fill in the consultation.

I blogged about the dangers of presumed consent for organ donation in January 2008 when Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister, wanted the law on organ donation to allow presumed consent, and July 2008 when the Welsh Assembly rejected presumed consent for organ donation.

These measures could impact negatively on the seriously-ill and dying and their families, who may not be aware of medical controversies surrounding the determination of death which, if known to them, might make some reluctant to donate their organs. The evidence seems mixed about whether such a change would increase the number of organs available. Some countries with presumed consent systems do worse than the UK but some do better, suggesting that other factors may be more important.

There are many serious objections to the proposals that are not addressed at all (or only inadequately) in setting out these proposals; most importantly the question of whether so-called ‘brain-death’ or ‘brain stem death’ is actual death. As David W Evans MD, FRCP has noted:
“the basis upon which a mortally sick patient is declared “deceased” – for the purpose of acquiring his or her organs for transplantation without legal difficulties – is very different from the basis upon which death is ordinarily diagnosed and certified and that highly relevant fact is not fully and generally understood.”
The proposals ignore the facts concerning this area of scientific dispute, yet this is a question with enormous ethical implications. Most organ donors are unaware that their hearts may be beating when their organs are taken, and that they may be pink, warm, able to heal wounds, fight infections, respond to stimuli, etc.

They are also unaware of common practices of paralysing and (sometimes) anaesthetising supposedly brain-dead donors before their organs are taken.

Simply signing a donor card does not in any way indicate that the prospective consenting donor understands what will be involved, and those who are merely ‘presumed to consent’ are likely to know even less.

In other medical contexts, informed consent is the gold standard. So it really must be asked why in this particular setting informed consent is being set aside.

Presumed consent effectively abolishes organ donation understood as a free gift (providing all ethical considerations are fulfilled).

The key documents are:
How to respond:
  • online: http://goo.gl/kvovB
  • email: fill in the consultation response form (above) and email it to organdonation@wales.gsi.gov.uk Please mark the subject of your email: Consultation on the Draft Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill
  • post: print out the consultation response form (above), fill it in, and post it to: Organ Donation Legislation Team, Medical Directorate, 4th Floor, Welsh Government, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NQ
  • telephone: call the following number and ask for a response form to be posted to you. Large print, Braille, and alternative language versions are available. 029 2037 0011
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US abortionist talks of the “ugly black babies” he aborts

Pro-lifers speak to Dr Virmani
Top story:

US abortionist talks of the “ugly black babies” he aborts
An American abortion doctor has been caught on video saying that he aborts "ugly black babies". Operation Save America, a pro-life group, videoed Dr Ashutosh Ron Virmani justifying abortion as a way of reducing crime and not wasting taxes. He told pro-lifers to “adopt one of those ugly black babies.”  Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-Life Union, commented that Dr Virmani's "statement supports what we already know of the billion dollar abortion industry – black babies are targeted because they are seen as poor, worthless and maybe even 'ugly'." [LifeSiteNews.com, 6 August]

Other stories:

Abortion
Euthanasia
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