Wednesday, February 27, 2008

*Things Are Getting Interestinger And Interestinger At Immaculate Conception
Helmet tip (again) to Mr. & Mrs. NYPD

The other day I posted about a certain Father Friar Doctor Mister Daniel P. Sulmasy, who will be giving a lecture on "end of life issues" at Immaculate Conception parish in Durham, NC within the next week or so.

Long story short... what really caught my attention, is that Father Friar Doctor Mister Daniel P. Sulmasy is also a lil' sumpthin' called a "Soros Faculty Scholar". That's right... THAT George Soros. The pro-abortion/pro-euthansia/pro-physician assisted suicide George Soros.

Well, some more "interesting" information just got forwarded to me. I'll cut to the chase --

Here is a link to a professional paper that Father Friar Doctor Mister Daniel P. Sulmasy published entitled Are Feeding Tubes Morally Obligatory?. Now I'm no highly trained MD by any stretch of the imagenation, but even a caveman like me could understand this article. It seems to be pretty pro-life to me.

Now here's where things get interestinger and interestinger. This is the link to an op/ed from the North Country Gazette (New York state) that pretty much slams a number of the claims made by Father Friar Doctor Mister Daniel P. Sulmasy.

I'm going to post just a bit of the op/ed piece... it's obvious what claims are being challenged. Here's what I need from you, fellow Bloglodytes. If there are any of you out there in the medical field, I would sure appriciate your take on this quasi-back and forth. Thank in advance! (Emphasis mine) OpEd - Whose Burden Was Terri Schiavo?
By Eric Paulos
Daniel P. Sulmasy, the author of "Are Feeding Tubes Morally Obligatory? which appeared in the January 2006 online edition of St. Anthony Messenger, seems to make that classic leap that many propagandists are guilty of with respect to Terri Schiavo. He's comparing ventilators to feeding tubes and assuming the existence of a burdensome existence where no proof exists.

Is it beyond the realm of possibility that the ACLU, Compassionate Choices, or Choices in Dying have their own shills that they send into the media departments of religious communities? My money would be on Mr. Sulmasy to fill the assignment if this were so.

Sulmasy begins his argument by citing 4th Century A.D. St. Basil the Great, in the Long Rules with this quote:
"Whatever requires an undue amount of thought or trouble or involves a large expenditure of effort and causes our whole life to revolve, as it were, around solicitude for the flesh must be avoided by Christians".

Hmm. Sulmasy seems to be building his argument, and the one he has for Terri Schiavo seems to come with cement shoes.
Whose burden was Terri?

Next, Mr. Sulmasy introduces Friar Francisco de Vitoria who apparently penned this thought before his death in 1560: "I would say that if the depression of spirit is so low and there is present such consternation in the appetitive power that only with the greatest of effort and as though by means of a certain torture can the sick man take food, right away that is reckoned a certain impossibility, and therefore he is excused..." (De Temperantia, #1).

So on whose authority exactly are we going to accept the notion that Terri didn't want to eat or drink? This is exactly the same kind of foolish non-sequiteurian logic that would conclude that if you cut off all the legs of a frog, that the frog must have just lost its motivation to jump. Terri had tremendous motor physical and neurological damage that prevented her from eating, not a lost appetite due to depression! This author is manufacturing spin in its worst form! Let's see what else Sulmasy has to say...

Sulmasy now brings up a quote Pope Pius VII in 1957 on the subject of the ventilator: "But normally, one is held to use only ordinary means-according to circumstances of persons, places, times, and culture-that is to say, means that do not involve any grave burden for oneself or another. A more strict obligation would be too burdensome for most men and would render the attainment of the higher, more important good too difficult. Life, health, all temporal activities are in fact subordinated to spiritual ends. On the other hand, one is not forbidden to take more than the strictly necessary steps to preserve life and health, as long as he does not fail in some more serious duty..." (The Pope Speaks, 4:4, 1958).

Two things, Sulmasy:
One, a ventilator is not the same as a feeding tube. The gastronomy tube, in its simplicity, has a profoundly longer history than the ventilator.

Finally, Mr. Sulmasy attempts to deliver the knockout blow with this revelation from the 2004 Canadian Catholic Bioethics Conference:

"The papal speech needs to be understood in the context of the Catholic tradition. The words 'in principle' do not mean 'absolute' in the sense of 'exceptionless' but allow consideration of other duties that might apply. Therefore, what the papal statement really means is that, for permanently unresponsive patients who are not otherwise dying, tube feeding should be presumed to be ordinary and proportionate (and as such, morally obligatory) unless its use would conflict with other grave responsibilities or would be overly burdensome, costly or otherwise complicated." (The complete text of this statement has been published in the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 4 [2004], pp. 773-82.)

Pop quiz! Where does official Catholic policy originate from? Choice A: Toronto, Canada; Choice B: Vatican City, Rome. If you picked choice B, you are correct. Religious policy is handed down from the Vatican and the Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Pure religious policy, in its strictest sense, is largely respectful of papal proclamation. What happens in Toronto is all well and good, but makes for conversational curiosity only. The Roman Catholic Church does not recognize policy that is obtained by consensuses obtained during bioethics conferences in Canada.
Like I said, that was only some of the article, and from that, you can figure out what Sulmasy asserted.

Make your own call, folks. But I sure would like your thoughts.


Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

He sounds very like the sort of "enlightened" pro-death modern(ist) priest who should be expected to introduce pagan rituals into the liturgy.

Does he own a weed-eater? I have my doubts.

8:15 PM  
Blogger charles said...

Fr. Sulmasy sounds like he might be a "Cafeteria Catholic". I also don't think he should talk to Bill O'Reilly as he seems to "spin" things. The Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province (at Immaculate Conception) have NEVER had an orthodox speaker come to ICC : it has always been some dissenter (such as Teresa Berger, a female theologian banned by the Vatican from teaching on church property in Europe). Always listen to what a person has to say...but you MUST watch what they do. Being tied in with population control freak George Soros must put one to thinking.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Mamamull said...

We have a daughter in heaven, Claire. She lived only seven years, but I wish it had been 70. She was as close as it gets to God's grace walking on earth.

She could walk and talk - she was even potty trained - but she didn't have a complete esophagus when she was born. She was g-tube - or feeding tube dependent.

If you can pour cream into coffee - you can feed someone with a feeding tube. It only takes dinner-plate cleanliness - no sterile procedure unless you are totally neurotic.

A stoma is made - an opening into the stomach and in a way a g-tube is kind of like a pierced earring. There is a little water balloon that is on the inside of the stomach just below skin level. It is filled after the tube is put through the little hole/stoma. Saline or tap water can be used.

The outside the tube has a retaining ring that keeps the tube from disappearing into the stomach.

Newer feeding tubes are called skin level or buttons. The actual outer tube part is connected to a little button that could be equated to the decorative part of an earring. A turkey baster or syringe that is similar to a turkey baster is inserted into an extender tube that is connected to the button.

One feeds from the front - the feeding is still communal. One doesn't have to worry about how meds taste either. A big plus with kids. Babies can be fed while they sleep - novel concept, eh?

Most people fear g-tubes because they fear what they don't understand.

Claire's g-tube didn't cause her death. It was a complication of her asthma.

Pray for us, Claire Bear. Pray for the world that lets handicapped people be killed by dehydration and starvation but not animals.


11:35 PM  
Blogger Wayne said...


My son also has a G-tube/MicKey Button and it is one of the only reasons he is alive today (he also has a trach tube which holds open his developing trachea). Obviously, doing this rather uninvasive procedure on children like mine and your Claire Bear would not be considered 'extraordinary care,' but on people who have come to the end of their lives naturally and who in all other ways are dying, it wouldn't make sense for the procedure to take place. Food, at this stage, wouldn't save their lives. This is the only case in which g-tubes should not be administered. Allowing someone to die who simply doesn't want to eat would be considered assisted suicide would it not? Refusing this procedure to someone who is not otherwise dying would be considered euthanasia, right?

11:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


You know that I usually come down on your side on things, but I think we need to clarify some stuff here. I went to hear Dr. Br. Sulmasy (he isn't a priest but a brother) speak at Duke the night before he was to speak at Immaculate Conception. Let me be clear: he was not invited to speak at IC; he was invited to Duke to give a medical talk and IC got an added bonus. I seriously doubt that he would have met their usual standards of heresy otherwise. I wish I could have gone to hear him there, but what I heard at Duke was perfectly orthodox. I've also read one of his books and he's on the money 98% of the time. Is he conservative? Not really--I think he defies labels because of what he does, being a doctor and a friar all in one.

Now, about feeding tubes. I think we all--you, me, your readers, and Dr. Sulmasy--know that a feeding tube ain't the same thing as a ventilator. What Dr. Sulmasy was trying to say in his original article--which is one of the very few good things I've ever read out of St. Anthony Messenger--is that there are times when a feeding tube is ordinary care and there are times when it isn't, just as there are times (albeit fewer) when a ventilator is also ordinary. It just isn't as simple as the author of the North Country Gazette piece wants it to be. In Terri Schiavo's case, the tube was ordinary because it enabled her to live without undue burden. In, let's say, a person with Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS), a feeding tube is just going to prolong the inevitable and increase suffering until the poor person can't breathe, either. In such a case, it might be considered extraordinary.

The issue isn't from where Dr. Sulmasy quoted (who cares that whether it was Toronto or Wilmington, NC), but that it did do a service in clarifying what Pope John Paul II said. For what it's worth, the Toronto statement was published in the most orthodox Catholic bioethics journal around. I subscribe to it.

Go back and reread what Sulmasy actually said rather than what the columnist spun it to say (the North State Gazette is here guilty of much more spin than Sulmasy):

"Such persons, if treated with a feeding tube and intensive nursing care, can sometimes live for months or years. When they die, it is typically due to complications of feeding-tube treatment, such as pneumonia caused by food placed in the stomach going up the esophagus (foodpipe) and down into the lungs."

He never argues that Schiavo should have had her tube pulled. He only states that in *other* diseases, tubes may be extraordinary and jusitifiably removed. There's a big difference.

4:28 PM  

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