The Point - February 2015
In this issue:
- Measles outbreak raising national concerns
- The death of physician-assisted suicide in Colorado
- Illinois approves child use of medical marijuana
Excerpted from "CDC ‘very concerned’ about potential for large measles outbreak," Face the Nation. February 1, 2015 — Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said his agency is "very concerned" about the possibility of a large measles outbreak in the U.S. because of the growing number of people who have not been vaccinated against the disease.
"What we've seen is, as over the last few years, a small but growing number of people have not been vaccinated. That number is building up among young adults in society, and that makes us vulnerable," Frieden said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "We have to make sure that measles doesn't get a foothold in the U.S. It's been actually eliminated from this country for 15 years. All of our cases result, ultimately, from individuals who have traveled and brought it back here."
There are at least 102 reported cases of measles in 14 states, according to CDC statistics. Frieden said there will likely be more cases going forward, and the CDC is taking "aggressive public health action" to identify contacts and isolate those infected in order to stop the spread.
But, he said, the disease is preventable and the best way to do that is with the vaccine, which he said is "safe and effective." There is a 92 percent vaccination rate in the United States, but the number of unvaccinated children is higher in certain states. In California, where an outbreak of the disease has been linked to Disney theme parks in the southern part of the state, 8 percent of kindergarteners fail to get the required immunizations against measles, mumps and rubella. In Pennsylvania, that number rises to 15 percent of kindergarteners.
CMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): “I didn’t see a single case of measles during my training. You probably didn’t either. Parents didn’t need to be convinced to immunize their children in those days because they probably had measles as a child or knew of children in their community who had complications or died before the vaccine was available. As a young missionary in Kenya, I took care of a entire isolation ward full of children with severe measles complications. (We had a total of 427 admissions in 1984). Children had pneumonia, encephalitis and died because the immunization rates in our service area were under 20 percent. The problem was so severe that despite working long days and every third night, I started a community health program that, among many other initiatives, sent staff on motorcycles to vaccinate children under trees, in school rooms, churches and in the marketplace. Volunteers were trained to teach and motivate their neighbors on this issue. Five years later, we had dropped our measles admissions by 95 percent, and measles was almost completely wiped out in seven years. My passion for immunization is not academic. I saw it save many lives.
“But how do we balance parental rights and the need to have children immunized? CMDA has an eloquent and practical ethics statement available on this topic. Read it and add it to your files. You will be better equipped to educate others about this issue in the news.”
Excerpted from “Colorado lawmakers vote down assisted suicide bill,” Reuters. February 7, 2015 — After 10 hours of emotional testimony and debate, Colorado lawmakers late on Friday voted down a proposed assisted-suicide law that would have allowed terminally-ill patients to end their lives with prescription drugs.
By an 8-to-5 bipartisan vote, the so-called "Death with Dignity" bill was rejected by the Public Health and Human Services Committee in the state's House of Representatives. The measure was sponsored by two Democratic lawmakers.
The Colorado proposal would have required two physicians to verify that the patient is terminal, had made both verbal and written statements of their intentions, and was able to self-administer the lethal medications. Hundreds packed the committee room in Denver, as lawmakers heard testimony from both advocates and opponents of the measure. A poll conducted last month by Colorado pollster Talmey-Drake Research showed 68 percent of state residents surveyed favored the bill.
Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Natalie Decker: “The bill Colorado legislators rejected sought to override a historic governmental commitment that has existed since the beginning of time: preserve and protect human life. Alliance Defending Freedom highlighted in testimony the numerous problems with the proposed law. The bill lacked safeguards to prevent abuse and mistakes which would have resulted in people being killed without their consent. Indeed, there could never be adequate safeguards.
“Despite assertions to the contrary, the bill did not require lethal drugs to be ‘self-administered,’ nor did it even define what that term meant. In fact, the bill provided no oversight of lethal drugs once dispensed, nor did it require consent, legal capacity to consent or the presence of any witnesses (not even the attending physician) during the administration of the lethal drugs. In addition, the bill defined ‘terminal’ illness or disease broadly and arbitrarily. Understandably, some of the bill’s proponents presented emotional, heartrending stories to which any compassionate person can relate. Those cases are very rare, however, particularly given the high quality of healthcare and technology in our nation.
“Many Coloradans from diverse backgrounds and perspectives told their legislators why they opposed physician-assisted suicide. Their testimony was based on a sound and rational analysis of the facts and the law.
“The poll referenced by Mr. Coffman was commissioned by Compassion & Choices (formerly known as the Hemlock Society), the organization promoting the bill. The questions C&C asked were based on false premises, which resulted in skewed responses. It is highly unlikely that anyone asked directly if doctors should be permitted to kill their patients would respond ‘yes.’ Indeed, that is why the Legislature voted ‘no.’
“It is a hallmark of our society to expect healthcare professionals, as well as the legal system, to protect its more vulnerable members—the elderly, the infirm, infants and the disabled. The Colorado Legislature rightly rejected the idea that our state and its healthcare professionals should be agents of death instead of protectors of life.”
Editor’s Note: CMDA staff and CMDA Colorado State Representative Dr. James Small participated in the coalition Coloradans Against Physician Assisted Suicide which developed educational tools and strategies as well as obtaining testimonies at the hearing.
Late Breaking News: SB 202 (to legalize assisted suicide in Montana) was tabled in Montana. CMDA State Representative Dr. David Hafer and his wife Bobbie have labored continuously and provided leadership in opposing PAS for the last six years after a Montana judge ruled PAS was legal. CMDA members who gave testimony at the hearing this week were Dr. David and Bobbie Hafer, Drs. Chris and Jennifer Gilbert and Dr. Annie Bukacek. In addition, CMDA members Dr. Samuel Reck, Dr. Dennis Dietrich and Dr. Rick Blevins provided written testimony.
We praise God for His faithfulness in defeating physician-assisted suicide in Colorado. Unfortunately, more than 25 states in the U.S. are now considering legislation to legalize this dangerous practice. We need your help. If your state is included on this list of state legislative issues, will you join in your local state efforts to help stem the tide and defeat physician-assisted suicide? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Excerpted from “Child use of medical marijuana ahead in Ill.,” Baptist Press. January 13, 2015 — Children in Illinois will be eligible for medical marijuana prescriptions, according to rules announced by state health officials in late December. The rules by the Illinois Department of Public Health amend the medical marijuana pilot program approved by lawmakers in June. A handful of parents subsequently spearheaded a campaign to open the program to children under age 18, especially those who suffer from epileptic seizures.
Under the new rules, which went into effect on New Year's Day, children diagnosed with a qualifying debilitating condition will be able to obtain marijuana-infused products but not raw marijuana for smoking. To obtain the treatment, children need a signature from their own physician, an additional doctor's review and authorization and parental permission.
Supporters see the Illinois action as a step toward allowing children the potential benefits of medicinal marijuana. A hybrid marijuana strain called Charlotte's Web has a growing following of parents who believe it's an effective treatment for children suffering from severe seizures. Two U.S. drug companies have launched studies into the effects of CBD on childhood seizures but results will not be available for years. In the meantime, skeptics question whether the treatment is truly helpful.
CMDA’s National Director of Campus & Community Ministries Dr. J. Scott Ries, MD: “It didn’t take long. The marijuana joy-ride train that seems to be traversing the nation stopped at a station in Illinois. With that state’s legislature legalizing the use of so-called ‘medical marijuana’ for children, it begs the question of what’s next.
“To be sure, there is hardly a more difficult scenario for a family and their physician than to see a child suffering from painful and tragic disorders that are difficult to control. I have sat beside parents as they bear the intensely painful burden of their child’s last moments on earth. I have held seizing children as yet another episode of their refractory seizures takes hold. However, this move opens a Pandora’s box of ethical and clinical concerns related to using marijuana products in children.
“Though it may be that newer genetically modified marijuana plant derivatives may have a lower THC component, low-THC is not no-THC. The truth is we simply do not know the ramifications of allowing children access to marijuana—be they short-term or long-term consequences.
“We do know that: the younger a person is exposed to marijuana, the greater their likelihood of addiction; the majority of the limited studies available on ‘medical marijuana’ are limited to animal models, not human subjects; and safer, better studied options are available for the scenarios for which marijuana has been legalized in Illinois.
“It seems political agenda and emotional response have trumped scientific rationale and a cautious primum non nocere. At best, what we can say pertaining to the use of marijuana in our children is we simply don’t know its consequence. At worst, it hails of even more problems to come.
“As I mentioned in a previous commentary, we would do well as Christian healthcare professionals to remember Paul’s counsel that while everything may be legal, everything is not necessarily good. ‘We are free to do all things, but there are things which it is not wise to do. We are free to do all things, but not all things are for the common good’ (1 Corinthians 10:23, BBE).”
Editor's Note: Though proponents claim that medical marijuana (ie. cannabinoid) has less addictive THC, "low THC is not the same as "no THC."