Monday, May 16, 2005

Revisionist History

Did you know that 52 of the 55 signers of The Declaration of Independence were orthodox, deeply committed Christians? The other three all believed in the Bible as the divine truth, the God of scripture, and His personal intervention.
It is the same congress that formed the American Bible Society. Immediately after creating the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress voted to purchase and import 20,000 copies of scripture for the people of this nation. Patrick Henry, who is called the firebrand of the American Revolution, is still remembered for his words, "Give me liberty or give me death." But in current textbooks the context of these words is deleted. Here is what he said: "An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left us. But we shall not fight our battle alone. There is a just God that presides over the destinies of nations. The battle sir, is not of the strong alone. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death."
These sentences have been erased from our textbooks.
Was Patrick Henry a Christian? The following year, 1776, he wrote this "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here."
"It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supporters. Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that our national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
--George Washington

Was George Washington a Christian? Consider these words from his personal prayer book: "Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb and purge my heart by the Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of thy son, Jesus Christ."

Consider these words by John Adams, our second president, who also served as chairman of the American Bible Society.

In an address to military leaders he said, "We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and true religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, was the sixth U.S. President.

He was also the chairman of the American Bible Society, which he considered his highest and most important role. On July 4, 1821, President Adams said, "The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity."

Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President of the United States reaffirmed this truth when he wrote, "The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country."

In 1782, the United States Congress voted this resolution: "The congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools."

William Holmes McGuffey is the author of the McGuffey Reader, which was used for over 100 years in our public schools with over 125 million copies sold until it was stopped in 1963. President Lincoln called him the "Schoolmaster of the Nation."

Of the first 108 universities founded in America, 106 were distinctly Christian, including the first.

Harvard University, chartered in 1636. In the original Harvard Student Handbook rule number 1 was that students seeking entrance must know Latin and Greek so that they could study the scriptures:

"Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, John 17:3; and therefore to lay Jesus Christ as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Proverbs 2:3)."
For over 100 years, more than 50% of all Harvard graduates were pastors!

It is clear from history that the Bible and the Christian faith, were foundational in our educational and judicial system. However in 1947, there was a radical change of direction in the Supreme Court.
It required ignoring every precedent of Supreme Court ruling for the past 160 years. The Supreme Court ruled in a limited way to affirm a wall of separation between church and state in the public classroom. In the coming years, this led to removing prayer from public schools in 1962.
Here is the prayer that was banished:
"Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee. We beg Thy blessings upon us and our parents and our teachers and our country.
In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that Bible reading was outlawed as unconstitutional in the public school system. The court offered this justification: "If portions of the New Testament were read without explanation, they could and have been psychologically harmful to children."

Bible reading was now unconstitutional , though the Bible was quoted 94 percent of the time by those who wrote our constitution and shaped our Nation and its system of education and justice and government.

In 1965, the Courts denied as unconstitutional the rights of a student in the public school cafeteria to bow his head and pray audibly for his food.
In 1980, Stone vs. Graham outlawed the Ten Commandments in our public schools.

The Supreme Court said this: "If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments were to have any effect at all, it would be to induce school children to read them. And if they read them, meditated upon them, and perhaps venerated and observed them, this is not a permissible objective."
Is it not a permissible objective to allow our children to follow the moral principles of the Ten Commandments?

James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution of the United States, said this: "We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments."
Today we are asking God to bless America. But how can He bless a Nation that has departed so far from Him?

--Mary Jones

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

More Quotes

"Let me get this straight. The President comes to town, tries to implement what he ran on, gets re-elected rather easily, implements more of the agenda he ran on. You can't beat him on ideas, so you descend into name calling. And then you criticize him for creating the atmosphere of name calling by not abandoning what he won two elections on? And you really expect people to take you seriously?"
--Duane Patterson

"Will the last Democrat with an idea please stand up? It doesn't even have to be a good one. Just pick an idea: a chicken in every pot, an intern under every desk, whatever. But please, Democrats, do something soon to indicate some minimal brain activity before a Florida judge shows up and pulls your feeding tube."
--Michael Graham

Shades of hypocrisy: "I don't want them. I think they're bad people. ...[Janice Rogers Brown] is a woman who wants to take us back to the Civil War days." --The "Honorable" Senator Harry Reid **Accusing a black woman of such is staggeringly idiotic, even from Reid. But what should we expect from the party of KKK Byrd?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Separation of Church and State

Yesterday, much to the vexation of the ACLU and company, President George W. Bush invited a group of religious leaders to the East Room of the White House. There, he talked about the importance of prayer, and then (you'd best sit down) he prayed. Yes, on government time and on government property, he prayed.

Who does he think he is?

In this enlightened era when progressive, free-thinking liberals insist on the removal of all religious references and symbols (Crosses, Ten Commandment monuments, etc.) from federal, state and local public places, the President of the United States impudently promoted the merits of prayer and encouraged all Americans to do the same.

But wait, it gets worse.

"We pray to give thanks for our freedom," the President said. "Freedom is our birthright because the Creator wrote it into our common human nature. No government can ever take a gift from God away." He then asserted that giving thanks to God is writ through and through upon American history, from Plymouth Rock to the Revolution and to this day. He reminded us that in our nation's supreme founding document, the Declaration of Independence, "... our Founders... declared it a self-evident truth that our right to liberty comes from God." Then, he concluded, "We pray to acknowledge our dependence on the Almighty [and] we who ask for God's help for ourselves, [since we] have a particular obligation to care for the least of our brothers and sisters within our midst."

How can he, and other elected leaders, get away with such a blatant breach of the "wall of separation" between church and state? Because, in short, there is no such doctrine supported in our Constitution or its superior guidance, our Declaration of Independence. In fact, the First Continental Congress called for national prayer.

President Bush's adversaries, those aforementioned "enlightened liberals," know that if they take him on, they will lose in both the national courts and the court of public opinion. After all, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of state legislatures to open their sessions with prayer (Marsh v Chambers, 1983), and liberals understand the extension of this ruling. They also understand that a vast majority of Americans honor God through prayer on a regular basis (though, unfortunately, many of them don't vote because they have little faith in our politicians).

Thus, liberals choose much smaller targets, like the celebrated removal of a Ten Commandments monument from state grounds in Alabama, or removal of a memorial Cross from a city park above San Diego. They carefully choose targets in those venues where they have stacked the federal Circuit Courts with judicial activists who do their bidding -- and that means most venues.

Nonetheless, inquiring minds want to know, doesn't the Constitution ensure a "wall of separation" between church and state?


Thomas Jefferson penned the words "wall of separation" in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. The Baptists objected to Connecticut's establishment of Congregationalism as their state church (because they aspired to be the state church) and wrote Jefferson for help. Jefferson assuaged their concerns that the national government would not anoint the Episcopal Church as the "national church" (thank goodness), but he concluded that the Constitution (specifically the Tenth Amendment's federalism provision) established a "wall of separation" prohibiting the national government from interfering with the matters of state governments.

There is ample evidence that Jefferson did not intend for that metaphor to become an iron curtain between church and state. Though he favored a secularist state, he knew that the Constitution offered no such proscription on religious observance and practice in the public square. Those who insist that that was Jefferson's original intent, and that of our Constitution, are either historically nescient or they harbor a disingenuous motive to serve a secularist constituent agenda.

American University professor Daniel Dreisbach and University of Chicago law professor Philip Hamburger argue, correctly, that the "wall of separation" has its ironic and erroneous origin in 1947. It was then that Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black (whose anti-Catholicism was nourished during his days in the KKK) ruled in Everson v. Board of Education that the First Amendment created a "high and impregnable" wall between religion and government. That decision forbade New Jersey from spending public funds for religious education -- and you know the rest of the story.

Clearly, the Everson decision launched a new era of constitutional interpretation that defied all precedent. Black was guilty of doing precisely what liberal judicial activists do today -- interpreting the Constitution to comport with their constituent agendas, or, as Jefferson predicted, "The Constitution [will become] a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please."

Indeed, it has become just that.

As for that utterly phony "wall of separation," Princeton scholar Stanley Katz says that correcting the "Jeffersonian myth" will have a "profound impact on the current law and politics of church and state." Joining the debate, Justice Clarence Thomas argues, "This doctrine, born of bigotry, should be buried now."

However, this issue is not merely about public prayer. It is about the rule of law and the future of our constitutional republic. That is precisely why Senate Democrats are so insistent on blocking the President's judicial nominations. As noted in this column last week, they know that the real locus of central-government power resides on the federal bench, not in the legislature; this is the true nature of the current filibuster debate.

As for the President's call to prayer this week, he is fully aware of his nation's heritage -- and fully in tune with its heart. He understands this admonition from Founder George Washington: "It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favors."

Unfortunately, if Congress is not able to seat President Bush's constitutional-constructionist nominees on the circuit courts, then they will not be able to seat his constructionist nominees on the Supreme Court. In other words, the next president may not be able to offer prayer in public.

--The Federalist Patriot

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Neurologist and Terri Schiavo

Over the past several weeks, it has come to my attention that significant debate has developed regarding the Terri Schiavo case. I have read various e-mail messages between Cathy Beal, Father Cekada, Father Dardis, Bishop Sanborn, and two letters appearing in the St. Gertrude the Great Church bulletin.
Let me begin by stating that I do not feel I have either the theological expertise (mine is limited to a minor in theology at Xavier University, a Jesuit college in Cincinnati) or moral authority to adequately address the theological aspects of this case. However, I do feel that my background as a neurologist with additional specialized “fellowship” training in both neurological critical care (the subspecialty of neurology which deals with patients in comas and other critical neurological illnesses) and stroke, at the Cleveland Clinic and University of Cincinnati respectively, put me in a position to contribute some thoughts on the medical
aspects of her case. Since completing medical school, I have over 15 years of experience training, practicing, and doing research in these areas. I have also had the opportunity as the result of my trainingand expertise in these areas to testify as an expert witness in such matters in medical malpractice and pharmacological product liability lawsuits. I state the above not to be prideful, but to give you some tangible appreciation of the fact that, simply speaking, there are few people in the country with any better training background or practical expertise to understand in detail the scientific and medical aspects of the care of patients like Terri Schiavo, whom I deal with on literally an almost daily basis.

I have reviewed the CT scan images of Terri Schiavo’s brain, watched the video of her taken by her family members, and also reviewed some summary comments/ excerpts regarding testimony given in deposition transcripts in her medical malpractice case. These again are all things I do on a very frequent basis. They are, to be frank, part of how I make my living. Having clarified the context in which I share my thoughts with you, I offer the following thoughts on this matter:

1) Terri Schiavo was NOT in a persistent vegetative state. The video taken of her clearly and unequivocally demonstrates that, at least at times, she is in a minimally conscious state and capable of interacting in a rudimentary way with her family and environment, which by definition excludes her from being medically classified as comatose or in a persistent vegetative state.

2) The parts of Terri Schiavo’s brain which would allow her to perceive pain, her thalami, were clearly intact and visible on her CT scan images shown by her husband, Michael Schiavo, on national television (which I rarely watch, and by the way, I have never voluntarily watched “Oprah”)

3) The parts of Terri Schiavo’s brain which would allow her to perform complex cognitive function, or which would enable her to speak or understand speech, were clearly damaged.

4) The parts of Terri Schiavo’s brain which would allow her to swallow on her own were intact and, in fact, she did not suffer from medically significant dysphagia (swallowing difficulty). If she had, she would have been dead long ago from a condition known as aspiration pneumonia, an infection in the lungs which is the result of inhaling one’s own saliva.

5) The parts of Terri Schiavo’s brain which would allow her to move her arms and hands to feed or hydrate herself were clearly damaged.

6) The parts of Terri Schiavo’s brain which would allow her to experience discomfort and/or pain due to hunger were undamaged.

7) Other tests were available to better clarify the full extent of Terri Schiavo’s awareness or lack thereof, such as MRI scanning of her brain ( a more detailed picture of the brain than a CT (CAT) scan, EEG (a brainwave test), and evoked potential studies, which could decipher the extent to which she could hear or see. These studies were refused by her husband, Michael Schiavo.

8) Terri Schiavo did not receive or require intravenous hydration or nutrition (so-called “TPN” or total parenteral nutrition.

9) Oral or stomach tube feeding via an “NG” (nasogastric tube) (a tube put down one’s throat to the stomach) or (more commonly) via a “G-tube” are routinely used to feed stroke victims, both temporarily and indefinitely in patients with stroke or other brain injuries who cannot feed themselves, whether due to swallowing problems (which occur at least temporarily in most stroke victims). Such feeding and hydration are by modern medical standards considered as ordinary and unburdensome as eating and drinking on one’s own. Such feedings are, in fact, less expensive than what an average American spends on food and water, and are easily administered a few times a day by a family member, requiring much less effort than cooking three meals a day. Terri Schiavo’s husband, parents, or siblings could easily administer such
feedings. They are by no logical measure extraordinary or unduly burdensome by any reasonable standard (moral, medical, or economic).

10) Terri Schiavo could have been cared for at home with some home health care assistance at modest to at most moderate expense which would not by any common sense standard be deemed economically burdensome.

11) Terri Schiavo’s stomach and intestines were fully functional and capable of digesting food, even normal food if it was placed in her G-tube.

12) Terri Schiavo could have received sequential neurostimulation therapy to her throat muscles, which may have further improved her swallowing function to the point that she may have been able to chew or swallow at least some types of normal food and/or liquid if placed in her mouth. This and other similar available measures were denied to her by her husband.

13) Terri Schiavo’s brain, while severely damaged, had not “failed.” When someone’s brain “fails” i.e. is irreparably and totally damaged, they are, by definition, dead. While we can keep people alive when other vital organs such as the liver, kidneys, lungs, and even heart fail (via dialysis, organ transplantation, etc.), not even 2005 era medicine can keep one alive if one’s brain has failed, because all other organs shut down within 5 days when this occurs, even when every maximal effort possible is made.

14) Terri Schiavo did not require, nor to the best of my knowledge did she ever receive intravenous nutrition (TPN), as was suggested in one of Father Cekada’s e-mail messages. Lifelong TPN, in contrast to tube feeds, is widely considered to be an extraordinary, burdensome, and expensive means of prolonging life, and are comparable to a respirator in that regard.

15) Terri Schiavo’s doctors did, in my opinion, probably commit malpractice by failing to order routine pre-procedure labs which would have disclosed severe electrolyte disturbances secondary to her bulimia.

16) Medical malpractice care awards/settlements are often grossly overinflated due to plaintiff’s attorneys hiring so-called “life care planners” who add up every conceivable convenience and treatment imaginable as “necessary” for the rest of the patient’s life. Their overestimates are typically further compounded by overestimating the patient’s life expectancy. Furthermore, all the money is paid in advance at today’s dollars, meaning the real money value of the award is much higher than the actual cost of such care in the vast majority of such cases. Terri Schiavo’s true care needs would certainly be far less than 750,000 or
1,000,000 dollars.

17) Attorneys representing patients and defendants in medical malpractice and other medicolegal matters often “shop around” for expert witnesses until they find experts who will give an opinion which suits their client’s needs. Thus, it is no surprise that George Felos, a well-connected euthanasia advocate, was able to find three physicians to testify that Mrs. Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state. In fairness, likewise it is no surprise that Terri Schiavo’s parents and siblings’ attorneys found expert witnesses who testified that she was not. One should certainly be suspect of the testimony of an expert witness who has spoken to the
Hemlock Society and concludes that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state.

18) Terri Schiavo died of dehydration, not starvation. Dehydration kills one much faster than starvation, barring the exception of extreme malnourishment, which was not the case here.

19) Terri Schiavo had an average life expectancy despite her brain injury, and would not have died were it not for her being deprived of nutrition and hydration. The proximate legal and medical cause of her death in my opinion was dehydration.

20) Laws regarding who has legal authority over health care decisions vary greatly by state. In Pennsylvania, for instance, children and siblings have as much right to make medical decisions as spouses, unless a pre-specified durable power of attorney designating one of them pre- exists the illness, or unless a living will was written by the patient. Other states require a durable power of attorney to be obtained no matter what. Ex- spouses, unless they are made durable power of attorney, have no legal right to make medical care decisions in any state.

21) Discontinuation of tube feeds or any form of food in general causes intense hunger pains for 2-3 days, which Terri Schiavo would have had the capacity to feel and suffer.

22) Death by dehydration occurs slowly, eventually causing hyperosmolarity often resulting in shriveling, cracking, and bleeding of the mucous membranes. This causes pain, nosebleeds, and as consciousness begins to wane, patients often begin aspirating blood from the nosebleeds, thickened, mucus or saliva, or both, causing aspiration pneumonitis. The aspiration along with accumulation of unsecreted organic acids results in progressive shortness of breath which further compounds the mucus membrane injury. Observing this struggling to breath and choking is often very disconcerting to family members as well as potentially painful and discomforting to the patient. This is why such patients are often administered
morphine, which both relieves pain and suppresses this so- called “air hunger.” This is also I suspect why the judge in the Terri Schiavo case barred pictures or video of her being taken while she dehydrated and starved. Much as those who are pro- abortion most detest the one thing which actually shows people what happens in the case of abortion (pictures of aborted babies), euthanasia advocates do not want people to see the visible suffering which often occurs in cases like Terri Schiavo’s.

23) Cases like Terri Schiavo’s are, thankfully, rare. This is why when they occur and ultimately result in legal battles, we hear about them on the media. Collectively, even if one were to assume each and every one of them were to result in a lifetime of tube feedings, would be far less of an economic burden on society than a new football stadium.

Cases like Terri Schiavo’s understandably evoke a wide range of emotional responses and theological arguments. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church, theologians, and bioethicists in general lag far behind in their scientific understanding of the rapid and increasingly complex advances in medical care, which often occur literally even prior to our ever having the opportunity to contemplate their moral and theological implications. It is in the spirit of attempting to help simplify and clarify some of the medical aspects of the Schiavo case that I share the above thoughts with those who are inclined to read them. Finally, I would
advise each and every person to prepare a living will as you would a normal will so that your families might be spared the pain and anguish of having to decide what care measures you would want should a grave or terminal illness occur. Had Terri Schiavo done so, her family and many others would have been spared from the bitter, divisive, and expensive series of legal battles which followed, which were the real extraordinary burden to society in her case.

James M. Gebel Jr., M.D., M.S., F.A.H.A.