For the Least of These, For Alfie Evans

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Alfie Evans, days after his ventilator was removed

It has been some time since we at Rational Catholic have been able to use our blog. There have been babies born and other life changes for many of us since this blog first started. However, the particular case of the toddler Alfie Evans requires us to respond.

Many of us at Rational Catholic are the parents of children with disabilities. Some of us have disabilities ourselves. We pledge ourselves to the proclamation of what is true, in faith and in accord with reason. End of life issues are always difficult, even moreso when a child is the person whose death approaches. Here is our response to this incredibly painful and difficult case.

We believe that, while there has been no firm diagnosis for the specific cause for Alfie’s condition, the ballpark diagnosis of a progressive neurodegenerative condition that will be fatal is likely to be correct. We believe that Alfie has a terminal illness, even though it is not clear why this happened or the specific mechanism by which his brain is being destroyed. We believe that this is likely a condition for which, at this point, medical science has no possible treatment or cure. I would encourage people to read the expert testimony to get a more clear picture of the clinical issues in play.

However, we believe that the actions of this hospital and the judges, particularly the decisions to remove the parents’ right to determine the appropriate treatment for their child, are unconscionable and evil. There is a difference between a discussion of care that is futile, and hastening the death of a toddler for the reasoning that he is not dying quickly enough and his life has been determined to be not worth living. A failure to die on a timeline that conserves the most resources for the health care system is not an offense that should be remedied by passive euthanasia.

We believe that this child’s condition is as it has been represented: terminal. We also believe that this child has a right to every single moment in his mother’s embrace, every loving word from his father’s mouth. It beggars belief that this needs to be said, but while he approaches death he has a right to non invasive supportive care like oxygen, and to food and water. I cannot believe that it has to be stated that a dying toddler should not be starved. This is not a case where the child’s body can no longer take in nutrition, such that feeding could actually increase suffering. That scenario can and does exist, but it is not the case here.

There have been many discussions of Alfie’s state being “semi vegetative” and statements that there is virtually nothing left of his brain. However, it is a profound error to believe that a life has value only insofar as it meets certain arbitrary standards. A human person has value because of who he is, not because of what he is able to do. Age, IQ, race, gender, disabilities, location, stage of development, and so many other qualities are *accidents.*. They do not make someone a human being of value, or not. They do not make someone’s life worth living, or not. They do not change the fundamental dignity of the human person, nor do they change his vocation in life: to know God, love God, and serve God in this life and to be happy with Him forever in the next. The powers of the soul are not dependent upon the function of the brain.  Alfie has the same value as the scientist working to cure cancer, the nun praying without ceasing, the embryo in the first moments of life, the professor scribbling away at the masterpiece he will never finish, and the cashier at the gas station. Every one of those people is equally made in the image and likeness of God. This day, Alfie Evans is a better Christian than I am. He is a better Christian than you are. And the lives of the little ones such as Alfie are precious in the sight of God.

What we do for the least of these, our brothers and sisters, determines, who we are. Christ hungers in His Son, Alfie. Christ thirsts. And He does this with parents who have faced fierce and irrational hatred for their unwillingness to bend to the pagan demands that they submit to their child’s earlier death as being somehow in his best interest. Prayers for Alfie and his family, and for a society that says that death is better for a child than life.

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Under the aspect of the good

The Rational Catholic blog has recently been cited in reference to the role of Theresa Deisher’s participation in the discussions regarding the videos newly released showing profoundly disturbing conversations between high level staff at Planned Parenthood and a potential buyer of fetal tissue.

 

These videos left many of us simply without words.  To see such nonchalance in describing the deliberate killing of a child in such a manner as to leave his or her organs in the best state for purchase is beyond what I could have imagined.  I am horrified for the children who were treated as convenient vehicles for the procurement of human organs.  I am horrified for the mothers who may have chosen abortion, who now have to wonder what exactly happened to the children they chose abortion for.  I am moved with pity for the doctors, the nurses and support staff who have performed or supported these procedures.  I am angry that this is the world in which I live, and raise my children: where a human child can be seen as having less intrinsic value than his dismembered body can fetch on the open market.

 

These videos depict evil, and evil almost always comes through good people who are acting with varying degrees of good intentions.  People don’t do things thinking that they are evil.  All things are done under the aspect of the good, in pursuit of the good, although what we perceive as good and what is actually good are not always the same.  This is what has happened when good doctors who have seen great suffering decide to provide as a service the deliberate destruction of human life at the request of the parents of the child to be disposed of.  It also happens when good people who oppose abortion are willing to find any possible, plausible sounding reasoning to use to make other people more pro-life, never mind the collateral damage caused.  We stand firmly in favor of good science and good ethics, and believe that both science and ethics lead to a pro-life and pro-vaccine position.

 

A pro-life position is pro-science position.  There can be absolutely no question that a human zygote, embryo or fetus is an individual member of the human species.  Toddler, teenager, senior… these are all positions on the continuum of personal development.  That spectrum doesn’t begin until conception, but it doesn’t begin after that point either, at an arbitrary number of weeks or faculty gained.  Any qualification concerning who counts as a human person beyond simple belonging to the human species is ultimately not a scientific one, and is often an utilitarian tool used to decide who has earned existence and who can be treated as less than human.  Artificial lines such as race, sex, infirmity, disability, sexual orientation and age have all been used as justifications to abuse and disenfranchise human persons throughout history.  And they have all been evil.  The doctors performing these abortions, by their own descriptions of how they perform these procedures, are well aware of what… of who they are crushing and turning into breech positions.

 

To be pro-life and to be pro-science is to be pro-vaccine.  Science tells us that vaccines work.  A pro-life conviction tells us that we have an obligation to ourselves to treat our bodies well (including preventing preventable diseases) and that the weakest among us have a particular claim to our defense.  This is particularly true in the case of vaccines, when so many of them protect the weak, including those babies who have not yet reached birth.

 

To the pro-vaccine community, I urge you to take seriously the concerns of those who are so deeply outraged by the treatment of fetal remains.  Immunization is an universal good, but it is something that requires that we all be able to walk together towards control or eradication of these diseases.  It is legitimate to be concerned about whether a child before birth can be so worthless as to be killed but their organs to have sufficient value for a doctor to crush their small bodies in the manner best for the purchaser of their tissue.  To belittle these concerns undercuts everything you work for, and it makes it difficult for people with pro-life convictions to trust in the ethics of the medical community at large.

 

To the pro-life community, I ask you to not allow your righteous anger, sadness and frustration to be placed on anything other than where it rightly belongs: the deliberate destruction of human life and the sale of bodies of children who have been killed.  Focusing on other issues will only make these legitimate evils seem like one in a laundry list of complaints by members of a minority position, and we lose all claim to respect when in our zeal to fight against abortion we are willing to endanger the lives of the innocent by taking as important a tool as immunization (acknowledging the moral issues with some vaccines) and lumping it in with the absolutely horrifying evils we have seen discussed in these videos.  

 

The actions described in these videos have no place in a just society.  They have no place in a compassionate society.  We can and must do better than this.

 

Of Catholics, Conscience and California

Recently the Facebook Page “Californians for Vaccine Choice” published a letter written by Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of Children of God for Life, to California State Senator Joel Anderson.  Having been subject to a major measles outbreak just a few short months ago, the California legislature has been examining ways to prevent further outbreaks from occurring in the future, culminating with Senate Bill 277.  In her letter, Ms. Vinnedge talks about, among other things, the right of conscience and the lack of alternative vaccines carrying no taint of remote cooperation with evil for Californians who would otherwise immunize their children.

First of all, what is a vaccine mandate?  A vaccine mandate is not the same as compulsory vaccination.  In no state in the United States is any immunization compulsory.  There are no places where a child will be forcibly vaccinated over and against parental objections or legitimate medical contraindications.  This is not an edict imposed on the masses to ensure complete compliance of the population with a Big Brotherly demand that all children submit to medical procedures deemed necessary by the state.Read More »

Gnosticism and Alternative Health Practices

There is something in human nature that always looks for more, always reaching for the next rung or the sweeter fruit, whatever that appears to be.  Instead of observing, analyzing, consulting and revisiting, we grasp for what is not given to us, and the allure of the secret knowledge remains ever persistent.  Magic trumps the mundane, and we can so invisibly slide towards preferring the devil we don’t know to the doctor or doctrine we do. Read More »

Giving Tuesday

Today, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is Giving Tuesday, a day set aside to remember with our donations the charities that can benefit so much from our support during the Christmas season.  There are many worthwhile charities that preserve the dignity of the human person at so many various stages of life.  I invite our commenters to let us know about any other charities and non profit groups they are proud to support, and I will update this post accordingly.Read More »

Does the Kenyan UNICEF Tetanus Vaccine contain HCG and make women infertile?

This week alarming reports from the bishops of Kenya and as well as a Catholic medical association about a tetanus vaccine program broke across the Christian blogosphere.  Before saying anything else, I want to be extremely clear that if a known sterility inducing vaccine was administered to women without their knowledge or consent, whether as part of a clinical trial or as a population control measure, the human rights of the Kenyan people have been violated.  Such an action would be a monstrous sin against those living in poverty.  Further it would be, in the words of Confederation of Kenya Consumers (Cofek) Programme Officer David Kedode,  “unlawful, immoral and must be condemned. ”

That said, there are some reasons that I am very skeptical that what has been claimed by the bishops in Africa has happened, or even could happen.  Looking at the claims made, only a few options seem possible.Read More »

Christian Hope and Bucket Lists

Shane and his parents, from the Prayers for Shane Facebook Page.

This morning, in the early, still hours when most of America lies sleeping, a mother gave birth to a son.  His name is Shane, and he has anencephaly.  And before he was even born he had a bucket list.

 

Anencephaly is a type of neural tube defect in which part of the brain and skull do not develop.  Children with anencephaly are born with a devastating prognosis, with most children dying at best within hours or days of birth.  This is an extremely challenging diagnosis to receive, and many parents choose abortion after finding out about their children’s severe birth defect.  That knowledge that abortion may be presented as an option or perhaps as the only option is partially responsible for why many Christian parents opt out of prenatal testing.

 

Prenatal testing as a term can mean any number of things.  It can refer to ultrasounds at various points in gestation.  It can refer to blood tests for various biomarkers or for fetal DNA.  It can refer to amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling.  These procedures run the gamut from risk free to carrying a risk of miscarriage.  They have different false positive and false negative rates, test for a variety of conditions, and in some cases (such as spina bifida) allow for treatment to occur before a child is even born.

 

Many times parents of faith reject some or all of these tests out of hand.  “I would love my child and want him or her regardless, so why would I want to have to explain to a doctor that abortion is not an option for me?”  “I would rather see a child before a diagnosis.”  “It won’t change anything, and sometimes the tests are wrong.  If the tests are wrong and I can’t change it anyways, what is the point?”

 

And yet, without prenatal diagnostics, Shane has no bucket list.  Prenatal diagnosis gave him and his parents the chance to love more fully instead of less, to love with heart and eyes wide open. The chance to run from such a hard and painful knowledge to hope.  To make a bucket list.  To celebrate life fully in the knowledge that our children are not our own, but merely entrusted to our care.

 

God gave them Shane, their irreplaceable child, in whose face they see the Risen Christ standing at the threshold.  Science gave them a diagnosis.  Faith and science informed by each other gave Shane a bucket list.   A list of memories.  A list of hope.  An authentic pro life witness in a time and place that says that some children are not worth the having, that some people are not worth the pain it will take to say goodbye.

 

Happy birthday, blessed boy.  And blessed be the parents who gave you life.  We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.

 

A later post will work through the pros/cons and some of the misconceptions of prenatal testing.  To follow along with Shane’s story and wish his parents well, please visit the Prayers for Shane Facebook page.

 

Edit:  Born on earth at 2:55am, baptized a Catholic, Shane died enrobed in love at 6:15 this morning.  Peace, hope and love to his parents.