Respect Life

Oregon data reveals risks of assisted suicide

Date posted: February 18, 2016

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

The state of Oregon is out with its most recent statistical report about how the assisted suicide law is working. The data (and it can’t be considered complete data because assisted suicide deaths are not reported as such under the law) is most revealing…and frightening. First off, there has been a marked spike in the reported number of patients requesting assisted suicide. From the time the law was enacted through 2013, the number of lethal prescriptions written increased about 12% each year. But in 2014 and 2015, the number of prescriptions written jumped by more than 24%. That is likely the result of branding and marketing by the suicide advocates, who used the face of Brittany Maynard to promote their cause.

But contrary to that campaign, the Oregon data reveals that the typical assisted suicide patient is elderly, alone, dependent on others, and dependent on government health insurance. The top three reasons for requesting lethal drugs under the law are not reasons of physical pain or suffering; they are 1) decreasing ability to participate in enjoyable activities; 2) loss of autonomy; and loss of dignity.

My colleague Ed Mechmann in the Archdiocese of New York does a great job of breaking down the numbers — and the dangers — in his column here.

The full 2015 Oregon report is available here.

Mercy is where love meets suffering

Date posted: January 4, 2016

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

The definition of “mercy” and the mission of Calvary Hospital in the Bronx were the inspiration for my Christmas column this year. I realize it is a bit tardy for the Christmas Season, but I believe the column is worthwhile reading for anytime during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Take a look here, as published in The Tablet, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

Deadly drugs

Date posted: December 1, 2015

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

On Sunday I happened to catch CBS’ “60 Minutes” new episode about the death penalty. It highlighted the case of an Arizona prisoner who was sentenced to die by lethal injection. The state had tried a new combination of drugs for this execution, and instead of death within a few minutes, as expected, it took two hours and 15 injections of drugs to kill the man, who lay gasping and gulping on the gurney. According to the correspondent on 60 Minutes, things went “horribly awry.”Pills

The episode focused on the increasing difficulty states are having in finding execution drugs. Apparently many drug companies have banned the use of their drugs for capital punishment, leaving states to try new drugs, or cocktails of drugs, that will work, and will work in a way that is not considered barbaric or “cruel and unusual.”

So here’s my question:  Since it doesn’t appear that states are having any trouble finding the lethal drugs to use in assisted suicides, why can’t they just use those for executions? Assisted suicide advocates repeatedly remind us that when terminally ill patients self-administer their pills, they simply close their eyes and die a “peaceful” and “humane” death. Now that five states have legalized the practice, with California being the latest and the largest — and even more states considering legalization — the drugs can’t be that hard to come by, can they?

Additional questions:

  • Could it be that the lethal drugs used in assisted suicides don’t always lead to “peaceful” deaths? I mean, how would we know, really?
  • Do you think that pharmaceutical companies will ever ban the use of their drugs for assisted suicides the way they’ve banned them for executions? Ha! That would be political correctness gone horribly awry!

Note: This blog post is purposefully facetious and intended to make a point: Human life is sacred. It is always sacred, no matter whether the life is a convicted killer sitting on death row or a terminally ill cancer patient in his own bedroom. States should not be in the business of killing them or assisting in their deaths in any way.

Planned Parenthood and the invisible children

Date posted: August 11, 2015

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

By now you have probably seen, or at least heard about, the videotapes on which Planned Parenthood officials speak bluntly about trafficking in the organs and tissues of aborted babies. unbornHere’s my take, as published in The Tablet, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

Assisted suicide is an invitation to abuse

Date posted: May 6, 2015

needleby Kathleen M. Gallagher

Legislation to legalize physician-assisted suicide has been introduced in New York State, and organizations like Final Exit Network are all in. They say that absolutely no abuses have taken place in states where doctor-assisted suicide is legal.

How could they possibly know that? Under the law, doctors who “aid-in-dying” are required to state untruthfully on the death certificate that their patient’s cause of death was their underlying illness, and not the lethal dose of drugs they prescribed that killed them. There is absolutely no way to track abuses. This same provision is in the New York Senate proposal, by the way. More

The slippery slope is real

Date posted: March 5, 2015

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Oregon was the first state in the nation to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. Proponents of the law, which was established by a ballot measure in 1994, convinced a majority of voters that the law had certain “restrictions” and “safeguards,” including that doses of lethal drugs would be strictly limited to patients diagnosed with a terminal illness who were expected to die within 6 months.

Well here we are, more than 20 years later, and Oregon proponents are now pushing for changes to the law. They have introduced a bill, HB 3337, which expands the pool of eligible patients to those expected to die within 12 months.

I recall clearly the words of Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian, who admitted to assisting in the suicides of more than 130 people: “What difference does it make if someone is ‘terminal’? We are all terminal.”

And so we see the true aim of the proponents of euthanasia: death on demand. If assisted suicide continues to be permitted as a “personal choice,” and the movement framed as a “civil rights” battle, it will be impossible to limit it to certain populations or specific circumstances. It will be a right for the terminal and the non-terminal, for the competent and the incompetent, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, those who freely choose it and those who are pressured to accept it. And that puts all of us at risk.

The slippery slope is real.

Trafficking victims are our sisters and brothers

Date posted: February 4, 2015

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

The Vatican has designated February 8 as a first-ever “International Day of Prayer and Reflection Against Human Trafficking.” Trafficking is a world-wide problem as well as a close-to-home crime. And each of us can do something to help stop the scourge, as I note in my recent column in the North Country Catholic here. Please take some time to pray for those who are victimized.

Brittany’s Choice

Date posted: October 22, 2014

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

The issue of doctor-assisted suicide is back in the news, thanks to the headline-grabbing case of a 29-year-old terminally ill woman named Brittany Maynard. She has moved to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s assisted suicide law. Here’s my take, as published in the North Country Catholic.

Telling the truth about stem cells

Date posted: September 16, 2014

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Yesterday’s New York Times contained a terribly misleading story about stem cells called “The Trials of Stem Cell Therapy: Plenty of Hope, But Halting Progress.” Online, the story leads with a photograph of embryonic stem cells. It then begins to profile a young man who suffered a heart attack, had significant heart damage, and received a stem cell transplant. His story is obviously one of success, as the next photo we are treated to is one of him break dancing.stem cells

Not once in the first 13 paragraphs of the article does the author differentiate between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells; they are all mushed together and lauded as “stem cell therapies.” But the 14th paragraph leads with this: “Stem cells harvested from an embryo can turn into any of the body’s 200 cell types…,” and below that, a photo of developing human embryos. Readers could easily conclude that embryonic stem cells had been used to successfully treat the young man.

Turns out, nope, not so much. Only at the very end of the article do readers learn that doctors used adult stem cells from the young man’s own bone marrow to treat his heart damage. These stem cells re-built his cardiac muscle cells, leading him on the path to recovery.

The overwhelming majority of success stories with stem cell treatments come from adult stem cells, an ethical source of these cells which does not require the destruction of innocent human life. Journalists have a responsibility to clearly explain the difference between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells, and to advise the public of which therapies are actually working.

On the death of Robin Williams

Date posted: September 9, 2014

by Kathleen M. GallagherRobin_Williams

(The following Respect Life column was published in the August 27 edition of North Country Catholic.)

The recent suicide death of actor Robin WIlliams has prompted a renewed national conversation about depression, mental illness and the care and treatment of persons who suffer from these diseases.

I know something about this. My father struggled with severe depression and other anxiety disorders for much of his adult life. At times they were absolutely paralyzing for him, rendering him incapable of performing the simplest of tasks. As a child I did not understand the depth of his suffering; I selfishly focused more on the inconveniences I had to endure rather than the anguish of my father. More