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Cardinal: ‘Don’t kill your granny’
Cardinal O’Brien: slogan is a ‘new battle cry’ Medics warn public of backdoor euthanasia
CARDINAL KEITH O’Brien has called for opponents of assisted suicide to fight under the slogan “Don’t kill your granny” ahead of renewed attempts to legalise euthanasia in Britain.
His comments followed a warning from medical professionals that a new system of end-of-life care which was being introduced across the country amounted to “backdoor euthanasia”.
At a homily for an anniversary Mass for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, Britain’s only active cardinal warned about the “threats to life” near its beginning and end.
He said the public “must be increasingly alert and alive to the threats to life, particularly of the elderly and the critically ill, some near the point of death”.
He said: “Across the Parliaments of the United Kingdom determined attempts are being made to legalise euthanasia.” Citing the 2005 bill in the Scottish Parliament and the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill in the House of Lords the following year, he said: “We can be sure that further attempts to legalise euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide will be made in our Parliaments. The threat of legally assisted suicide in Scotland is doubly concerning: not only would it endanger Scottish patients, but it would also lead to euthanasia tourism, as it is called, as already happens in Switzerland.”
He said that a draft form of a bill legalising euthanasia in Scotland would be ready by Christmas. “We will then have a real struggle to ensure that our society and our politicians continue to support life and dismiss [MSP] Margo Macdonald’s misguided efforts. The opinion polls show a worrying level of public support for euthanasia and we must take this as our cue to convince our fellow citizens that every life is precious right to its natural end.
“A new battle lies open before us... Every move to legalise as
sisted suicide and euthanasia in the United Kingdom must be opposed. I know that my own Catholic community is not alone in this forthcoming battle.
“And in that new battle, perhaps we need a simple battle cry or rallying call. It might be ‘Care not killing’ or ‘Life not death’. Am I being simplistic when I suggest another: ‘Don’t kill your granny!’ This latter cry sums up so much of what is happening at this present time with regard to the ongoing destruction of family life: Don’t have babies! Kill off those who are old, useless and less able!
“Just where would we be in society today if in our family life we did not have husbands and wives, children and elderly, infants in the womb needing care and protection, the elders in our family circles being lovingly looked after in their old age, either at home, in hospital or in hospice.”
Cardinal O’Brien’s words came two days after a letter to the Daily Telegraph in which medical experts warned that Britain was facing a “national crisis in care” and that large numbers were being killed by having fluids and drugs removed.
P H Millar, emeritus professor of geriatrics at London University and Dr Anthony Cole, chairman of the Medical Ethics Alliance, were among those who put their name to the letter, which said medical professionals were encouraging a “tick box” culture in which healthcare staff stopped questioning whether a patient was really dying or not. They called it “disturbing” that 16.5 per cent of the deaths of Britons came about after terminal sedation.
The letter criticised the Liverpool Care Pathway, the name of the system now used across the country to advise staff on how to deal with the dying.
It said: “We would like to draw attention to the new ‘gold standard’ treatment of those categorised as ‘dying’. Forecasting death is an inexact science.
“Just as, in the financial world, so-called algorithmic banking has
Cardinal Keith O’Brien delivers his homily at the Mass in honour of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
caused problems by blindly following a computer model, so a similar tick-box approach to the management of death is causing a national crisis in care. The Government is rolling out a new treatment pattern of palliative care into hospitals, nursing and residential homes.
“It is based on experience in a Liverpool hospice. If you tick all the right boxes in the Liverpool
Care Pathway, the inevitable outcome of the consequent treatment is death.
“As a result, a nationwide wave of discontent is building up as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients. Syringe drivers are being used to give continuous terminal sedation, without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong.”
The Care Pathway was origi
nally developed for use in a Liverpool hospice, but since it was backed by the drugs rationing watchdog NICE in 2004 it has spread to 300 hospitals and 560 care homes. Doctors using the Pathway system are accused of withdrawing fluids and drugs from patients if they are deemed close to death, who are then put on continuous sedation so they die free of pain. Critics say sedation
Photo: Paul McSherry
can often mask signs of improvement and that a tenth of the terminally ill patients left to die could have lived longer. More than 80,000 people are annually put in “deep sedation”, where they slip into a drug-induced coma before dying.
The National Council for Palliative Care and Help the Hospices replied in a joint statement: “The Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP)
does not ‘sentence people to death’, it is instead a nationally recognised evidence-based tool intended to help clinicians give appropriate and high-quality care to people who have reached the last few hours or days of life. Its purpose is to promote the comfort of dying people and to address the needs of their informal carers.
“It should not be substituted for a clinician’s professional judgment in the individual circumstances of each case. It is only one of a range of tools available to support good end-of-life care, and does not encourage ‘tick box medicine’ which can never be justified. Like all tools, it should be used by people who are skilled and competent.”
A spokeswoman for Marie Curie, the cancer charity which developed the Pathway in 1997, said they were “dismayed” by the letter, which “encourages fear among patients on the Pathway”.
She added: “It’s about letting people live before they die. Next week we’re publishing the second national audit into the LCP, and we’re quite sure we’ll be able to demonstrate people are much safer on the LCP. What the initial letter has done is provide a lot of fear with inaccurate claims.”
A poll of 4,000 doctors by Clive Seale from the Centre for Health Sciences at London’s Queen Mary University, and published in the journal Palliative Medicine,found that only 34 per cent would support a change in the law proposed by former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt last week.
Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship said: “This should send a very strong signal to Parliament that there should be no change in the law. Surveys of doctors always show that those closest to the care of the elderly are the most likely to oppose euthanasia.
“We need to increase the skills base of doctors in dealing with dying patients so we can give the best care to those with terminal illnesses.”
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Boston cardinal defends public funeral for Edward Kennedy
BOSTON CARDINAL Seán O’Malley has acknowledged the controversy over Edward Kennedy having a Catholic funeral, but said that marginalisation of people over even an issue as important as abortion is the wrong path. Writing on the diocesan website last week, the cardinal, one of two to participate at the late senator’s funeral mass last month, said:
“Given the profound effect
of Catholic social teaching on so many of the programmes and policies espoused by Sen Kennedy and the millions who benefited from them, there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn.”
Nevertheless, Cardinal O’Malley said, he strongly disagreed with those who said the Church should not have permitted Kennedy a public Catholic funeral.
He noted that the details of the Senator’s correspondence
with Pope Benedict XVI in his last weeks revealed an acknowledgement of “failing to always be a faithful Catholic, and his request for prayers as he faced the end of his life”.
“The Holy Father’s expression of gratitude for the senator’s pledge of prayer for the Church, his commendation of the senator and his family to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and his imparting the apostolic blessing, spoke of His Holiness’s role as the vicar
of Christ, the good shepherd who leaves none of the flock behind.”
Cardinal O’Malley added: “At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another. These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church. If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalisation and failure.”
Queen Mary’s final letter put on display
Pope enjoys biopic of St Augustine
ALETTER writtenby Mary Queen of Scots six hours before her death, revealing her belief that she was a Catholic martyr, is to go on display in Edinburgh.
The 422-year-old document will be the centrepiece in a showcase of literary treasures unveiled to mark the official launch of the National Library of Scotland’s
new £2.4 million visitor centre. Mary Queen of Scots penned the now priceless manuscript at 2 am on February 8 1587, ahead of her execution at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire. Written in French, the letter is addressed to Henri III, King of France, and shows Mary’s belief that she died a religious martyr and not for purely political reasons, as the English government alleged. Also on display are a complete Gutenberg Bible, and the manuscript autobiography of David Hume.
THEPOPE is said to have enjoyed a new film on the life of St Augustine of Hippo. The message of Augustine endured, he said, and was hopeful, because it comes from truth and leads to charity.
After the screening on September 2 the Holy Father thanked the filmmakers and said
he felt the film to be “a spiritual journey in a spiritual continent”, far distant from us yet at the same time near, because the “human drama” remained the same.
“This is the great hope that remains at the end: we alone cannot seek out
Truth, but Truth, which is a Person,
seeks out us,”
the Pope added.
St Augustine is directed by Canadian Christian Duguay (left).
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