Category Archives: Medical Ethics

Everyone is beautiful

By Contributor Ernesto Tinajero

So, it has started.

My son was chosen to be the Guild School poster child. We agreed because we love the Guild School and what they done for my son.

We also are trying to combat what my wife has posted about before, the incessant chatter about my son’s looks. He loves people and many times people shy away.

We know he is beautiful. Seeing the image of God in all people remind us how beautiful everyone is.

We were just told that his commercial will start to run for the next month. Watch it and tell us what you think.

National universal health care expresses faith values

By Contributor Sam Fletcher

Sam Fletcher

Parts of the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” could easily end up on the chopping block this week. With it would go the “individual mandate”, or a requirement to either be covered or pay a tax, while expanding Medicare for a portion of the population meeting a certain level of income.

While, in theory, the individual mandate would drive down general insurance costs, this is yet to be tested. It is probable that an individual mandate would simply enrich private insurance companies. Without a competing, public health service available to all, we must take on faith that profit-minded insurance companies would lower their prices for the average American.

A national public health care system, like those found in most Western and Eastern nations, would be a much better solution. An opt-in public system could compete with private companies while providing medical care and support to those in need.

Hospitals and medical care have long been basic tenants of faith praxis. Starting in ancient Greece (the home of today’s modern medicine), temples and priests provided the most advanced medical care available, with clean spaces available and libraries of case studies and medical reports available for research.

Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jews and Muslims have all founded areas where the sick may be cared for, and medical research may be advanced, since the most ancient of times. Pooling resources to care for the sick was seen as the utmost expression of charity, and is universal to all faiths.

Many of our modern hospitals in America were founded by religious denominations, many in an era before health care costs skyrocketed for the private citizen, and medical care could be more widely available.

With Jesus, the gentle healer, as an example for Christians in America, it is thoroughly unChristian and unloving to deny health care to those who simply lack the funds under our pricey and luxurious health care system. People of faith should put their money where their mouth is and demand a public health care system that does not discriminate between the rich and the poor.

White House proposal gives religious groups more say in birth control mandate

By David Gibson
Religion News Service

President Barack Obama talks with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whose department is charged with implementing new rules that mandate employers to provide contraception coverage to employees. RNS photo courtesy Pete Souza / The White House.

The Obama administration is offering to expand the number of faith-based groups that can be exempt from the controversial contraception mandate, and proposing that third-party companies administer coverage for self-insured faith-based groups at no cost.

At its heart, the newest offering from the White House would allow religious groups — dioceses, denominations and others — to decide which affiliated institutions are “religious” and therefore exempt from the new requirement that employers offer free contraception coverage as part of employee insurance plans.
The proposals are an effort by the administration to blunt criticisms of the controversial regulation, especially by the nation’s Catholic bishops, who have been at loggerheads with the White House since President Obama announced the contraception mandate in January.

Obama was sharply criticized by faith groups for not providing a sufficiently broad exemption for religious groups. On Feb. 10 he outlined an “accommodation” that tried to circumvent most of the problems by having insurance companies — rather than religious employers — provide the birth control coverage through a separate rider and at no cost to the employer.

While that move appeased some concerns, Catholic bishops and others argued that the religious exemption was still too narrow and could set a dangerous precedent by appearing to allow the government to determine what groups within a faith should be considered religious.

Others object that many religious groups self-insure in order to save money, and so having the insurer pay for contraception coverage rather than the employer made no difference because insurer and employer are one and the same.

The 32-page proposal, published late Friday (March 16) in the Federal Register, goes out of its way to state that “this religious exemption is intended solely for purposes of the contraceptive coverage requirement” and does not “set a precedent for any other purpose.”

“Whether an employer is designated as ‘religious’ for these purposes is not intended as a judgment about the mission, sincerity, or commitment of the employer, and the use of such designation is limited to defining the class that qualifies for this specific exemption,” states the proposed rule.

The other main innovation in the new proposal is to have a “third-party administrator of the group health plan or some other independent entity” assume responsibility for the contraception coverage for self-insured organizations, with various proposals for ensuring that self-insured groups with religious objections would not directly or indirectly pay for the birth control policy.

Whether any of these ideas will satisfy the die-hard critics of the contraception mandate is unclear, and perhaps unlikely.

“At the end of the day, no accounting gimmick changes the fact that the mandate forces religious organizations to pay health insurance companies for coverage to their employees with drugs and services that simply violates their religious convictions,” said Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops’ conference, told National Catholic Reporter she was “surprised that such important information would be announced late Friday of St. Patrick’s Day weekend and as we prepare for the fourth Sunday of Lent.”

Others involved in the negotiations said it would take time to review the proposals properly.

Sister Carol Keehan, the head of the Catholic Health Association, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals, said she and her members “will have to give it a careful review” before responding.

Some critics charge that the latest proposals are an effort to “kick the can down the road” so that the administration does not have to issue a final determination until after the November election. Yet the delay in finalizing the regulations could also serve to prolong the debate.

Others believe that the 90-day open comment period on the proposals, known as an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” or ANPR, could actually function as a kind of cooling-off mechanism for this issue, which has exploded into an election-year debate that poses risks and rewards for all sides.

The ANPR at several points sets out a variety of possible solutions to religious objections, and invites “input on these options, particularly how to enable religious organizations to avoid such objectionable cooperation when it comes to the funding of contraceptive coverage, as well as new ideas to inform the next stage of the rulemaking process.”

By providing new details and extending the opportunity for dialogue, the Obama administration can now begin to shift discussions to the nuts and bolts of addressing the religious freedom concerns and away from rhetorical broadsides that the White House is launching a “war on religion” and can’t be trusted.

Staff members from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops were involved in initial discussions to work out a deal, but those ground to a halt when bishops accused the White House of negotiating in bad faith, a charge the administration strongly rejects.

Why I’m afraid to take my son out in public

By Contributor Dr. Lace Williams-Tinajero

Lace Williams-Tinajero

“What do you want people to say?,” a friend asked after I shared my reluctance to go places with my 2-year-old son. Her question continues to bother me and only recently have I understood the reason.

Here’s the scenario. A tumor condition, a missing portion of skull bone, multiple surgeries, etc. etc. etc, has left my son disfigured on the left side of his face. Our family faces yet another crossroad — pull the left eye and put in a prosthetic, or keep the non-functioning eye — not for any medical reason, just to make him look more ‘normal’ (whatever ‘normal’ means). More trips to specialists have been added to the schedule, this time across the country.

Lace Williams Tinajero's son, Tito/Contributed Photo

Awhile back at the grocery store a little boy got frightened when he saw my son. The mom tried to console the child hiding behind her legs, saying, “It’s OK honey, all babies look like aliens when they are little.” One time my son was at the pediatric surgery center awaiting another eye surgery (the fifth or sixth, I lose track). A mom brought her son by force up to my son, and said, “See? I told you he’s not a monster.” Regardless of going to restaurants, the post office, grocery stores, parks, the mall, wherever, we can count on the comments, the whispers, the pointing.

So I revisited my friend’s question to get a sense of why it frustrates me. I thought it was because I had no answer for it. It turns out I do know, but I keep it to myself for fear of coming across as a jerk. I’m good at ignoring and brushing off certain comments. If someone insists on information about my son’s appearance, I suck it up and fork over the details. What do I want people to say? Say nothing. Let our family enjoy eating out together without being approached and told of nurses in Africa performing surgeries on children with, “hideous, monstrous deformities.”

You may wonder what any of this has to do with religion in Spokane. Well, I’ll tell you. Our family was enjoying breakfast at a local coffee shop one Sunday morning before church. A man spotted my son, came up with a wince on his face, and said, “Ooooh, what happened?” We explained, to which the man replied, “You just need to pray for healing. Jesus can heal him. Jesus still works miracles. You need to keep praying.”

Christians who think this way ought to revisit Scripture in general, Proverbs 17:28 in particular. The verse is best translated by Eugene Peterson in The Message, “Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise; as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart.”

As Christians, it is time to rethink what constitutes a miracle. Love is evidence of the divine, not having the right answers.

BRIEF: Church to host Planned Parenthood leader

By Tracy Simmons
SpokaneFAVS.com

Karl Eastlund/Courtesy of Planned Parenthood

Karl Eastlund, president of the Great Washington and North Idaho Planned Parenthood, will speak Wednesday at Bethany Presbyterian Church about justice issues surrounding women’s reproductive health.

The discussion, which begins at 6:45 p.m., is part of the church’s monthly speaker series.

The public is invited to attend and participate in the discussion. Child care will be provided.

Church will have to step up, help the poor

By Contributor Eric Blauer

Pastor Eric Blauer

“You will have to talk to the state.”

That’s what an Iraqi woman was told Thursday afternoon after she was informed the State of Washington no longer covers eye glasses for adults on state assistance. We had spent an hour at the optometrist’s office, after being referred there by the woman’s doctor. She was assured that insurance would cover the visit. Turns out the state would only pay for determining what was wrong, not for the actual care.

This woman has been trying to get a job for the past couple of years and so far has been unsuccessful. She attends English classes at night via the public transportation system and is a mother of two teenage children. She has diabetes and a medical problem with one of her legs.

She came here from Iraq during our military’s campaign there. She had to choose between staying as a refugee in a country outside of Iraq, which wouldn’t allow her residency, or she could move to the U.S. Her journey has been tough, leaving family and friends and struggling to adjust to life in America.

She looked at me as I tried to explain she would have to pay $100 for the glasses she needed. I know she lives on less than $500 cash a month and didn’t have the money. It was an awkward moment as we stood at the counter looking at the glasses, the bill and the financial distance between. I told the lady behind the counter that our church would pay for the glasses. The church gets donations for situations like this.

I want this woman to be well, to see correctly and to be able to succeed at finding a job and providing for her family. Our nation and state are facing deep budget cuts. I pay a lot of taxes and that money pays for all kinds of stuff I would never spend it on (like wars). On Thursday I felt the impact of those budget cuts as I was looked straight into the eyes of this woman.

I know the church is going to be called upon to step into the gap that is growing between the state and the poor. That will probably please some politically right leaning types of people, until they realize that the church is us.

So in the days ahead, the question will be — what are we going to do about it?

Court says pharmacists can’t be forced to dispense morning-after pill

By Lauren Markoe
Religion News Service

Flickr photo by Sarah Korf

A federal court on Wednesday struck down a Washington state rule that requires pharmacists to dispense the morning-after pill even if it violates their religious beliefs.

Religious liberty advocates cheered the decision. They have decried the 2007 state regulation as a violation of pharmacists’ First Amendment rights, which guarantee freedom of religion.

“Today’s decision sends a very clear message: No individual can be forced out of her profession solely because of her religious beliefs,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy national litigation director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The Becket Fund was co-counsel for two pharmacists who believe that life begins at the fertilization of a human egg, and can be destroyed by the pills.

Many advocates for women’s health had applauded the state’s Board of Pharmacy rule of as a way to guarantee greater access to the drugs within the short time frame — between three and five days after intercourse — when they are effective. When taken soon after unprotected sexual intercourse, the drugs (known as Plan B and ella) are between 75 to 90 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

The decision comes in the midst of a firestorm over the Obama administration’s Jan. 20 decision to require nearly all employers to cover free birth control through their insurance plans. That decision has outraged religious conservatives who consider it a directive to ignore their religious convictions.