The Rights of the Terminally Ill

NOTE: The Corona virus crisis is forcing us to make many changes making the familiar all that much more important. We shall therefore continue posting as we normally do.

One in 6 hospital patients are now being cared for in a Catholic hospital.  For people who believe in assisted end of life, that has huge consequences. Catholic hospital see assisting end of life as intrinsically evil, and insist their physicians abide by their principles, which means that should a doctor sympathize with a patient as happened between Neil Mahoney and   Dr, Barbara Morris in Colorado, the doctor gets fired.

Eight states currently have assisted dying laws (Oregon, California, Washington, Montana, Colorado, Vermont, Maine and New Jersey) and they are being considered in some 20 additional states. That’s a lot of people who wish for a say so as to how they die, when and how much pain they can endure.

I believe in assisted end of life. My own understanding says that to lie in a bed under palliative care sedated to deal with pain impedes and not eases the process of dying. That is not what I want, and neither do I want the principles of another religion to be imposed upon me.  What happened in the case of Neil Mahoney was that without a doctor’s prescription the medication he needed to end his life could not be filled. He eventually did find a pharmacist who believes in dying with dignity and who was able to help him.  But the issue remains, should the religious beliefs of a hospital dictate how I or anyone with another spiritual view should die?

Remembering Those Who Suffer

 In Maduro’s Venezuela one out of every three is malnourished and hungry, among those who may be considered more middle class it’s one in five. In Northern Syria, there are over 900,000 people caught in the war there, and 13 million Syrians have already been displaced. The near one million refugees have no place to go, no one to turn to. It’s been so cold, several children have frozen to death. In Kashmir, the government continues its limited Internet access and other restrictions against the mainly Muslim state, not to speak of the recent riots in New Delhi which is causing many to flee because Muslims are no longer wanted in those areas. In China the  Muslim Uighurs are being put in so called reeducation camps for the slightest action, such as growing a beard. In Yemen war rages, in Libya, anarchy continues, in several countries, refugees keep coming and find no refuge, no let up to their angst and difficulties, no escape from poverty, sometimes no way to survive.  I could go on about the suffering of the world, and yes these are man-made problems, and because they are man-made they are even harder to resolve, because the human imperfections that caused them still exist. There may be very little we can do, but we can remember these lives, learn from their courage, their fortitude, be inspired by how they endure and handle their suffering, be humbled by their strength and bravery and most of all remember them because their problems dwarf ours no matter how serious ours may be.

Death Row Convictions Errors

Since 1973 there have been 167 death row inmates who were exonerated, mainly through the efforts of the ACLU and the work of the Innocence Project.  It begs the question of how many others there have been or exist who are innocent and not aggressively defended. The renewed interest is due to the case of Ledell Lee who was actually executed in Arkansas in 2017. Arkansas was about to run out of one of the drugs used to execute prisoners and executed 8 people in11 days, Ledell Lee being one. Now evidence exists and is mounting that he was innocent. In Texas, the case of Cameron Todd Willingham became famous after his 2004 execution and subsequent evidence that he had been innocent. Executing an innocent man has to be one of the ugliest truth about our criminal justice system and  the fact there can no longer be certainty that a convicted man on death row is guilty puts our criminal justice system on trial. Those who were or are innocent were convicted in a court of law where investigators, police, attorneys, juries and judges all agreed they were guilty. And further someone like Ledell Lee was failed by  appeals, pleas for clemency, or whatever means someone may have tried to help him. Since these institutions acted out in the name of the public, therefore indirectly in our name, shouldn’t we ask if we are complicit no matter how oblique or opaque that complicity may be? And if that’s so then we each must also ask ourselves, what are we going to do about it?

Problem Tech Companies

Slate magazine sent a ballot to a host of people like journalists, scholars or advocates asking them for who they thought were the tech companies they were concerned about. They did not define what was meant by concern or what was meant by tech companies. Then they tallied the results and published a list of what those they asked considered the 30 technology companies they were most concerned about.  Let’s note that the companies were not listed by size or name recognition, but by how much concern those polled experience towards them. As is perhaps expected the top three companies on that list of 30 are Amazon as number one, Facebook as number 2 and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, as number three. Exxon Mobile is number 10, Huawei is 11, Tesla 14 and Disney number 15. But there are surprises too, AirbnB as number 24  or Megvii at number 25, a company  working with facial recognition which I for one had not heard of. The popular 23andMe is number 18.  Elon Musk SpaceX is number 17 and Verizon number 16.  Many of the companies are not household names, but as a whole they reflect our general concern for AI, for surveillance, for the loss of privacy, for how big they can be, how pervasive their reach  is or for not being sufficiently interested in climate change. For me, though, the list is a rather good microcosm for companies which may not as a rule concern themselves with the public good.