Category Archives: medical ethics

Why believers make better doctors

In our pluralistic society, the notion of choosing a business or professional based upon faith is considered discriminatory. We hear a lot about businesses refusing to provide particular services based upon moral principles, but not about customers, unless it suits the Left’s agenda. “I will “I will gladly be your doctor but I will not prescribe contraceptives” becomes “He refused to give me health care!” On the other hand, a doctor pressuring a woman to *use* birth control is perfectly fine, and if she refuses to go to that doctor, she’s the one who’s considered extremist.

As I’ve written many times, and is one of the founding principles of this blog, it is very difficult to find doctors who support patients’ moral choices: not to profit from or participate in fetal tissue or embryonic stem cell research, not to use artificial birth control, etc. People who don’t include morality in their medical decisions–and those who do but take a very broad interpretation of “remote material cooperation”–seem to not understand why this is important to some of us patients. I’m sure many people would rightly object to eating at a restaurant with a sign saying “whites only.” They would understand why supporting a business owned by a KKK owner is objectionable. However, they don’t understand why we wouldn’t want to support a medical business that engages in practices we find morally repugnant: this is both because they think it’s wrong to *consider* those actions wrong and because they refuse to acknowledge that medicine is a “business.”

So that brings me to why, even if we’re not talking about moral issues, I find it’s important to generally choose, when possible, doctors who are people of faith. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re Catholics, or even Christians, but they have to believe in some sort of “higher power.” I believe it’s a saying, but I’ve often found that doctors who don’t believe in God think they are God.

If a doctor thinks that religion is stupid and irrational, what does he think about patients who are believers? If he doesn’t trust your discernment about spiritual and moral matters, will he trust your discernment about your own health and healthcare decisions?

If she doesn’t believe in God, when difficult moral issues do arise (e.g. end of life issues), will she be more willing to take the easy way out?

I’ve encountered many doctors over the years who have mocked me for praying, flat-out side, “There are no such things as miracles,” etc. A year after my 1996 aortic root replacement, some of the tissue around the stitches of my artificial valve started to leak. During my echo, the tech got really quiet. He got up and got the cardiologist, who redid the echo himself, very slowly. You know something was seriously wrong. He came in afterwards and gave us the report. He ordered me to bed rest for a year. A year later, they were worse. A year after that, I expected them to be even worse. This time, he came in with his jaw metaphorically on the floor, saying, “They healed!!” Ever since then, every doctor I’ve told that story to has had one of two reactions: 1. “Wow, a miracle!” or 2. “That doesn’t happen. He’s probably an idiot and misread the echoes.” Yeah, that’s why he did it personally, slowly, right away, to double-check the technician’s initial finding.

For a few years in Northern Virginia, I went to one of the highest-rated cardiologists in that region, and he said that prayer and “faith,” generically, is a huge part of his practice, that he finds patients who pray and meditate perform far better than those who don’t.

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What if you could go back in time and kill Hitler?

A powerful speech.  Even if you don’t usually watch videos online, you really should listen to this one.  It speaks for itself, especially regarding judging others.  It’s a talk by genetics pioneer, Down syndrome researcher and outspoken pro-life leader Dr. Jerome Lejeune, whose Cause is being initiated, telling a powerful story about the dangers of judging based upon appearances, and the problem of eugenics:

Is there a “Flash of Light” at Conception

Way back in 2011, and in various discussions over the years, in a post on _Roe v. Wade_ I referred to a lecture I heard ca. 2004 from Dr. John Bruchalski of the Tepeyac Clinic.  Dr. Bruchalski is a former abortionist and used to work at the “Fertility” Clinic that pioneered In Vitro Fertilization in the US.  Already a leading embryologist when he “reverted” to Catholic faith, Bruchalski became one of the top NFP-only physicians in the country, founding the aforementioned Clinic with the assistance of the Diocese of Arlington in 1994.  On a side note, we need more clinics like Tepeyac, not less, to provide real health care options for women, but if the enemies of Life in Washington get their way, we won’t have any.
The post has, over the years, received 3 separate comments, one approving, one supportive but skeptical (the individual claims to have emailed Dr. Bruchalski and been told it was not true), and a third just this past few days claiming that a Google search provided no verification of my claim.
Now, part of the problem may be the claim of some “New Age” people that there’s a “flash of light” in the “astral plane.”  This is not what I’m talking about.  Nor am I asserting that the “flash of light” is the creation of a soul, just the sign that “pregnancy has begun.”  One of the arguments for procedures like IVF, Embryonic Stem Cell Research and “Plan B contraceptives” is the euphemistic position that “abortion is the the termination of a ‘pregnancy,’ and ‘pregnancy’ begins with implantation.” This is easily morphed into “conception requires implantation,” which is of course defeated by the very fact of these procedures which involve the conception of a unique human being who may or may not be “implanted,” but may rather end up lingering in a state of “frozen animation.”
The importance of the “flash of light” is that it’s an electrical signal.  Dr. Bruchalski’s claim was that the electrical signal is neurological and tells the mother’s body “You’re pregnant,” because a signal is sent to the mother’s brain to begin the process of implantation.  This refutes the claim that “implantation” begins “pregnancy,” because “pregnancy” begins as soon as the embryo signals, “Hi, Mom, I’m here.  Prepare a place for me.”
Nevertheless, anyone who paid attention in elementary school chemistry should know that a “flash of light” is one of the signs of a chemical reaction, so it shouldn’t seaem too far-fetched for someone who “believes in science not God” to accept that there’s a “flash of light” at conception, which is fundamentally a series of complex chemical reactions.
Since the most recent commentor claimed there is no video showing this “flash of light,” I did a basic search and found a hit right off the bat which shows it:

Amazingly, for all the stuff that’s on YouTube, it’s very hard to find a an actual video of conception, even animal conception.  Most of the videos I found were CGI simulations.  Strangely, the ones that aren’t all seem to cut off right after the sperm penetrates the egg, but before the nuclei combine, and videos on “embryo” development begin when the “fertilized egg splits.”  I find it more interesting that there is no video showing the moment in between.
This non-faked video of a completely artificial fertilization (Lord, have mercy) where the sperm is injected directly into the egg shows various color changes before the sperm is even injected:

Further, since the skeptics were questioning the claim that it happens at all, and since people these days seem to care more about animal conceptions than human, here is an article about an NiH study regarding the chemical reactions that cause the “flash of light”:
<blockquote>The zinc discharge follows the egg cell’s steady accumulation of zinc atoms in the developmental stages before fertilization. The researchers documented the discharge by bathing the eggs in a solution that gives off light when exposed to zinc. They referred to the zinc discharge and accompanying light flash as zinc sparks.</blockquote>
Another side note: your great grandchildren’s tax dollars at work, “discovering” something in 2011 that was already known about.
It never ceases to amaze me how people who claim to be about “science” are woefully ignorant of even the most basic scientific facts.

 

ACLU Suing Catholic Hospital

Doctor tries to “force his opinion” regarding abortion on patient. Patient complains. ACLU sues Catholic hospital. Sounds predictable, right?

Not this time.

This time, they’re suing on behalf of the *doctor*.

You see, if a patient goes to a doctor or pharmacy, even one that’s openly Catholic, and demands contraception or abortion, then it’s “The doctor/hospital doesn’t have the right to force their moral views on the patient.”

However, if a patient goes to a Catholic facility expecting it will follow Catholic moral teachings, then it’s “the patient doesn’t have the right to force her moral views on the doctor”

If you want to put your own blood pressure at risk, you can see the typical hate-filled account and commentary at “Reproductive Health Reality Check” (aka, “Reproductive Poisoning Delusion Check”).

What makes this case hit close to home, and the exact kind of situation this blog was created for, is that the patient in question was suspected of having Marfan syndrome. And much like the cases of so many people who’ve been advised to abort their babies for eugenicist purposes only to find out later the babies didn’t have the genetic disorder in question, the woman doesn’t even have Marfan.

So much for “pro-choice.” If a person with same sex attraction disorder wants therapy for that problem, New Jersey’s “Catholic” “Republican” governor has made it a crime to provide that person with such therapy. Now, the ACLU is trying to say that it’s illegal for those of us who put our moral views first in making medical decisions to seek out providers who agree with us.

The unnamed woman had an unspecified “family history” and was sent to the cardiologist by her Ob/Gyn because she got pregnant. If she had been going for an evaluation for school sports, we know darn well she’d be told, “there’s very little risk, go for it,” even though if you go by the pre-1990s statistics, sports are far more dangerous than childbirth (given the mortality rate for untreated women is much higher). If a person *were* diagnosed with Marfan, and chose to play sports anyway, that would be considered “courageous,” but a woman who chooses life is considered “foolish” and “throwing her life away for a blob of tissue” (better than throwing her life away for a blob of rubber).

At least one of the articles thankfully specifies “severe cases may be fatal,” but a “severe case of Marfan syndrome” would have been obvious before she was pregnant, especially if she had a family history and knew to look out for it. Media are about as accurate in reporting on Marfan syndrome as they are about reporting on Catholicism, and the reports on this case illustrate both areas of gaping ignorance. Typically, “Marfan syndrome” is referred to as synonymous with “aortic root aneurysm,” and while that, in conjunction with ectopia lentis, has become the distinguishing characteristic from other connective tissue disorders, if she truly had a “severe case,” with a family history, other signs would have manifested themselves. If she did not have any existing aortic enlargement, there would have been no more risk from childbirth than any other strenuous activity she’d likely engage in.

As for the Catholic hospital side, commentbox feminazis (noting that the definition of “feminazi” is “a person who uses feminism as an excuse to ensure there are as many abortions as possible”) are making all sorts of false claims about “women’s health care,” saying that Catholic hospitals don’t treat ectopic pregnancy, give “emergency contraception,” etc. Treating an ectopic pregnancy is not the same thing as an abortion; the death of the child is a matter of double effect, and in many cases the child is already dead. The Church allows for necessary medical care which may endanger the baby, so long as there is not a direct abortion. It’s why St. Gianna Molla demonstrated heroic virtue; she went above and beyond the call of duty, opting not to have life saving medical care the Church would have permitted. Similarly, while the question of contraception in the case of rape is a matter of debate in Catholic circles, most Catholic ethical guidelines state that “emergency contraception” is permissible within 24 hours of a rape, so long as conception has not yet occurred.

I have never understood, “Don’t get pregnant, or have an abortion, because your child might me killed by your medical treatment,” any more than I’ve ever understood, “Kill your child now so you don’t have to watch him or her die later.”

Also, she went to a cardiologist because she was pregnant and had a family history. This could be taken either way, but anybody with a modicum of experience knows that’s one of the first things the “experts” say about Marfan syndrome: that it can be fatal for pregnant women (I’m not sure what the statistics are, but again, best I can tell it’s no more dangerous than any other strenuous activity one engages in while trying to actually have a “life”).

I’m sure that this woman heard this “advice” already and specifically went to a Catholic hospital to avoid being pressured into an abortion.

Want to go to a doctor for advice on Natural Family Planning? That’s illegal now, because according to the reasoning of the the ACLU, the likes of Chris Christie and the Obama Administration, since contraception is legal, that makes NFP illegal. If it’s illegal to provide “gay conversion therapy” or to provide a 100% pro-life medical practice to people who want it, then should Weight Watchers be illegal? How about vaccinations, regardless of your reason for objecting? “Don’t force your religious views on your doctor.” Don’t want to benefit from embryonic stem cell research, fetal tissue research, etc.? “You can’t put your religious views ahead of your health care.” What about “alternative medicine”? How many of those people who insist on polluting their bodies with birth control pills yet won’t eat at McDonald’s or take antibiotics would like it if people suddenly started suing them and saying, “McDonald’s is legal, so you *must* eat there”?

The hypocrisy of the ACLU and the “pro-choice” euphemism is that liberty is a two-way street. Even if we take a bare modicum standard of “liberty,” setting aside Natural Law, medical ethics, etc., a free market needs to operate both ways.

Have a Heart: Blues Singer Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson, a legendary blues singer who died before his time, is another of the most credible “historical Marfan” diagnoses.

According to this site, he had long arms, legs and figures; hyperflexibility; lazy eye and “cataract”; and died a sudden death in a manner often described with aortic dissection. 

Another link

Wikipedia

On “Doing Fine,” “Being OK” and “Feeling Better.”

No, I’m not.

Never have.

Never will.

And “never will” doesn’t mean I don’t believe God may give me a miracle. He has given me many miracles, which is why I’m still alive today. However, I consider everything a miracle. I consider my aortic dissection itself a miracle.

Thank You, Father.

Forgive my ingratitude.

But as for “doing fine”? “Being OK”? “Feeling Better”?

Those are abstract concepts that have more to do with the questioner’s peace of mind than the respondant’s situation.

People want you to tell them you’re “fine” so *they* can stop worrying.

Problem is: the problems are here. Some of them have always been here.

I took a gamble. 14.5 years ago, I had a surgery that I didn’t really want to go through with. I had prayed for many years for God to miraculously intervene and prove His power before the doctors could do anything. I worried that, if I went through with the surgery, I might be denying God’s power to heal me. I just wanted to go to Heaven, though I also knew that I wasn’t spiritually ready yet, but I had to keep up appearances.

After the surgery, they told me I’d “be fine.” They told me I could stop living the way I’d always done and start exercising, and enjoying life a bit.

Actually, after the surgery, the surgeon told my parents that, now that the aorta had been grafted once, I could have a dissection at any time. I had already known this from my reading and paying attention at all those NMF conferences my parents took me to, and it was one of the reasons I didn’t want the surgery.

However, I bought the life of “You’re fine.” I got an apartment on campus for my senior year. I began walking for an hour a day. I really was enjoying it.

Then I developed some tearing around the stitches of my valve, and was back to sedentary.

Then those tears scarred over, and I sought out equilibrium. Still doctors, and my parents, encouraged me to walk, to try things, to not use the wheelchair, etc.

I met Mary.

We had kids.

In those early years of our marriage and parenthood, I was the healthiest I’ve ever been. I still had chest pain and stuff, but everything was remarkably stable, and I had more stamina than I had ever had previously or since.

I even made it to full time employment, and Mary got to be a stay at home mom for over a year.

I pushed myself too hard. Icarus flew too close to the sun.

At first, even before that full time job, I started having really bad headaches, with numbness in my face and legs. There are neurological problems associated with Marfan syndrome, so I went up to Hopkins to see a neurologist and a spine expert. They said my problems were not consistent with dural ectasia, and my tests did not show any evidence of it.

As time went on, and the headaches and spells became more acute, I realized they were TIAs–transitory ischemic attacks. I tried to get checked for those, and had a brain CT which showed nothing. I was told “It’s just stress. Get better sleep.” Eventually, I found out that TIAs which recur daily like I had them were more indicative of a brain aneurysm, but I also knew brain aneurysms were hard to detect. My cardiologist agreed and suggested we start medicating as if I had one.

Throughout this process, in 2006, I also developed a new aneurysm in my thoracic aorta.

When an angiogram in 2009 finally found the brain aneurysm, it also found a tortuous and redundant carotid artery and a “venous ectasia” (kind of like an aneurysm, only in a vein and not an artery). The more I researched these, I figured out my TIAs were actually caused when my BP was high, and blood was trying to force itself through the maze of my right carotid artery (like water through a hose with a kink in it).

And, after about 5 years of being relatively healthy, I had declined a bit more quickly than I’d ever anticipated.

Our prayer had always been for me to find full time work, so Mary could stay home with the kids and we could hire some kind of assistant, whether someone to assist with the housekeeping,the kids, our household management, or our medical concerns.

I worked and worked at various part time jobs to try and make ends meet. I overworked myself. I lost jobs either because of my health or working too many jobs at once or both.

We constantly struggled. We accumulated debt. We accumulated debt because I wasn’t strong enough, especially in a townhouse, to take care of the kids and the housekeeping and cooking and work all these jobs. So we ate out far too much. We accumulated debt because, while our income was sufficient to pay the monthly bills (including any eating out), life is more than monthly bills. Cars needed repaired. Medical bills needed paid. Relatives wanted us to visit. Job interviews would present themselves. Car taxes.

Then I would not get enough classes, or I’d lose a job, or whatever, and our income would drop. Each of the last 3 years, I’ve ended up without any classes in January, and the tax return money–intended to get ahead on our debts–ended up going towards living expenses.

But we kept trusting things would work out. I finally had an interview for a potential full time job. They loved me. They told me I’d start in October. We found a fantastic handicapped one story ranch to rent and moved so I’d be ready for the job. The job didn’t materialize. They froze the position.

So here we were, in a new home that solved a lot of our problems in itself, yet we had several others to deal with.

Financial security had been in our grasp, and we lost it. That was OK, we said, because my current jobs were bringing in enough money. Then I didn’t get assigned as many classes because of restructuring. So I applied for two more adjunct jobs and got them, just before Christmas, one of them on campus.

Then my aorta dissected.

So, how am I doing?
1) My aorta is stabilized, but that doesn’t mean I’m fine. It means I have to do everything I can to avoid stress and avoid raising my blood pressure so my aorta doesn’t dissect again. It means I’m going to be on heavy blood pressure medicines and pain killers. Now, instead of 8 diagnosed potential causes of sudden death, I now have 11.

2) I am giving up driving. That is going to considerably cripple my family, but we’ll get rid of our second car, which will reduce our monthly bills by over $500.

3) I am going to appreciate life a bit more and stop putting off important stuff. I’m going to stop hoping for something better and make do. I’m going to trust God to help us with the bills.

4) I’ve always needed help with the kids, but hopefully, if people don’t buy into “I’m OK,” they’ll be willing to give it. This drastic change in the situation has us considering Catholic school–if we can get some kind of charitable scholarship. Otherwise, I’m going to need volunteer help with the kids, at least a few hours a day. In the meantime, the grandparents are helping out.

5) After we find some ways to seriously cut corners, I’m going to try to keep teaching a minimum number of classes, and I’m going to start applying SSDI. In the meantime, I’m going to apply for South Carolina’s Working Disabled Medicaid program, since my dissection qualifies me for both programs.

6) Sometime in the next 3 years, I will need a replacement of my entire aorta. It may be in 6 months; it may be in 3 years; it may be next week.

7) I’m happy and content and at peace with God and my family. Other than my parental concerns about money and my children’s education and care, I have no worries.

Have a Heart: the St. Jude Valve

Donate to St. Jude’s Hospital (just specify that the donation cannot be used for research involving embryonic stem cells or fetal tissue). Founded by Maronite Catholic Danny Thomas, St. Jude developed the artificial valve that keeps me and thousands of other people alive.