The Capitol of the State of Texas
WHY CAN’T PRO-LIFE ORGANIZATIONS
PRESENT A UNITED FRONT IN OPPOSITION TO SOME END-OF-LIFE LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS?
The question is not a rhetorical question. It is a question some people who are pro-life keep asking, especially when they recall the bitter disagreement between different pro-life people in Texas during the 2013 fight over Senate Bill 303 which was ultimately defeated in the Texas Legislature. Some pro-life people fought for the passage of the bill, including the Texas Catholic Conference speaking for the Catholic bishops of Texas, while other pro-life people fought to defeat the bill and were ultimately successful.
Unlike end-of-life issues, most pro-life people are united when it comes to issues affecting human life at its beginnings. Abortion, abortifacient drugs, fetal experimentation, gender manipulation, etc are generally subjects that cause no great disagreement among pro-life people.
What is it about end-of-life issues that causes such division among pro-life individuals? There are philosophical reasons. The campaigns waged during the 20th Century by the right-to-die, death-with-dignity, assisted-suicide organizations have borne fruit in the 21st Century.
But now in addition to the philosophical issues that divided pro-life people in the past, there are now economic factors that weigh in on the thinking of everyone, including pro-life people. Where money is concerned its influence and importance should not be discounted.
The end of human life has become big business. It is true that Planned Parenthood has made abortion a multi-million dollar business that pays its staff and administrators well, but the care and treatment of human beings at the end of their lives has become a business vastly larger than abortion
The big business of providing for the end of life care for people has metamorphosed for example into nursing homes, hospices, hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, medical specialties, pharmaceutical mega-firms, and organ transplantation. The latter, for example, has become a $1,000,000,000.00 business in the United States every year.
As a result of all of this, end-of-life issues take on aspects that touch upon the wealth of organizations, corporations and individuals. It is difficult to be objective in applying the magisterial teaching of the Church to end-of-life issues when money and wealth, become important hidden factors in the discussion.
Doctors and their medical associations, hospitals and their hospital associations all have their friends and supporters among the pro-life population. A real crisis of conscience can occur when a normally convinced pro-life person is faced with a burning end-of-life issue that has direct negative implications for doctors or hospitals or pharmaceutical corporations.
Some pro-life people for instance speak of their obligation to work to protect the freedom of conscience of doctors to decide when to end treatment of seriously ill patients. The magisterium of the Church on the other hand has always placed more importance on safeguarding the right of the patients to make end-of-life decisions affecting themselves.
Recently the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association have published articles on the dilemma faced by physicians when confronted by patient demands that they do not agree with. It is not a problem for which easy answers can be found.
The basic problem facing pro-life people is the question: are there immutable, unchanging moral principles that guide a person of faith in addressing end-of-life problems. For this writer there is no question but that there are such principles and they have been clearly enunciated by the Magisterium of the Church.
The problem of pro-life people reaching agreement on end-of-life legislation, such as the advance-directives bills considered by the Texas Legislature, is not unlike the problem of the cardinals in the Synod of Bishops just held in 2014 that will be continued in 2015.
The Cardinals seem to be divided into two groups. There are those who believe that pastoral praxis must always be subservient to doctrine and there are those who believe that doctrine must develop through pastoral praxis. Does the horse go before the cart or does the horse push the cart?
In all human activity where there is controversy over what must be done with respect to a particular societal problem, a thorough examination of individual conscience must be made by all the participants in the controversy to discover where their interests truly lie.