The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


What happened in Phoenix?

posted by jmcgee

That’s the question that Fr. Kevin O’Rourke, a bioethicist and canon lawyer, attempts to discern in this article from America magazine.

It is, to my knowledge, the most comprehensive and detailed overview of the facts surrounding the controversial abortion performed last year at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix. Those who have been following the case should read it.

It seems clear: there are a lot of gray areas here. And we still don’t know the whole story.  But this helps put what happened in a fuller context.  Check it out.



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hlvanburen

posted June 21, 2010 at 12:02 am


A very interesting and detailed article. Thank you for posting the link to it. To me the moral of this story is this: anyone who seeks to make a medical or ethical judgment from afar without the benefit of first-hand knowledge (as in this case and that of Terri Schiavo), and then makes a moral pronouncement in public (such as the Bishop did in this case) has demonstrated that he/she is unfit to be in a position to make such judgments.
I believe the Bible speaks rather harshly about those who judge inappropriately, and how they may be judged in a similar manner.



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Klaire

posted June 21, 2010 at 12:37 am


Hlvanburen, according to Jimmie Aikens very detailed and extensively researched article a few weeks ago, the bishop ONLY spoke out because the info was leaked from the hospital, consequently, he HAD to speak out (in public) to prevent scandal. That’s the job of a bishop.
FYI, the bible(and our Catholicism) calls us to judge ACTIONS, just not hearts and motives. That said, maybe you should get your facts straight before you talk badly about a bishop who was only doing his job, in accordance to church teachings.
Maybe I’m missing something, but I fail to see what is new about Father O’Rourke’s article, as this is the same debate that has been going on since the story became public.
It was still a “direct” killing of a fetus, regadless of how anyone wants to dance around it. Any bishop who would have stayed silent on that, especially after the main stream media got the story, would be one more source of scandal the Catholic Church certainly doesn’t need.



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hlvanburen

posted June 21, 2010 at 1:26 am


A question for you, Klaire (and for anyone else who wishes to try to answer it). Let’s say that the Bishop was informed about the situation prior to the final decision being made, and he decided that the abortion procedure should not take place, and then both mother and unborn child at that point.
At some point in the future one of the little children remaining with their now widowed father comes to dad and asks the following question:
Daddy, why did the hospital let Mommy die?
Klaire, how would you counsel the father to answer this question?
Let’s go a bit further…let’s say one of the older children, having learned more about the Church and, in particular, the Bishop’s role in the decision surrounding the mother’s death (in our hypothetical case), asked their father, “Dad, why did the Church not let the hospital at least save Mom’s life?”
Tough questions, Klaire. How do you think a parent would answer them?



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Panthera

posted June 21, 2010 at 1:35 am


Thank you, Deacon Kandra, for posting this.
This can’t be an easy topic for you to moderate.



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hlvanburen

posted June 21, 2010 at 1:45 am


Klaire: “Hlvanburen, according to Jimmie Aikens very detailed and extensively researched article a few weeks ago, the bishop ONLY spoke out because the info was leaked from the hospital, consequently, he HAD to speak out (in public) to prevent scandal.”
Might we call that a “top kill” failure? But even that does not go to the point I was raising, Klaire. The questions asked in this article are very important, and are ones that the Bishop may or may not have taken time to answer.
– Did the bishop and his advisors clearly establish that a direct abortion had been performed?
– Did he or his advisors know the medical facts of the case or did they know about the pertinent canons of the church for penal sanctions?
As this article shows, there is a growing question over whether or not the actions of the Sister met the Canon Law requirements for automatic excommunication. Certainly if the Bishop failed to confirm that those criteria were adequately met by both her ACTIONS and INTENTIONS, then the Bishop failed to properly execute his job, and his speaking out was quite inappropriate.
Information continues to come out on this, and I am guessing that the full story has yet to be told.



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hlvanburen

posted June 21, 2010 at 1:47 am


Klaire: “FYI, the bible(and our Catholicism) calls us to judge ACTIONS, just not hearts and motives. That said, maybe you should get your facts straight before you talk badly about a bishop who was only doing his job, in accordance to church teachings.”
From the article: “Even if a direct abortion had been performed, the declaration that an automatic excommunication had been incurred is questionable. Canon 1321 states that the violation of the canon must be deliberate. Commentaries on this canon stress that the people concerned must knowingly and willingly violate the canon. Did the people involved in the Phoenix case, mother, ethics committee members, or medical personnel, act deliberately? Did they set out knowingly and willingly to violate Canon 1398? Or was their primary intention to save the woman’s life?”
According to your Canon Law, intention is every bit as important as action, Klaire. Perhaps YOU should get YOUR facts straight.



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Panthera

posted June 21, 2010 at 2:06 am


Perhaps the most valuable lesson to be taken from this article is the concept of per se nota.
Without dragging Aquinas into this (he would undoubtedly has kept his mouth shut until he had the necessary information to form an opinion), I think it is unfortunate that so many involved have interpreted ‘per se nota’ to mean:
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Then again, given the battles we have had recently over “we hold these truths to be self-evident”, I suppose it’s not even worth trying to discuss.
The poor woman. I hope the strain imposed upon her by this has not impeded her recovery. I have the energy to cope with 12 puppies at one time. Four children…I’d be in the madhouse before noon.



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Klaire

posted June 21, 2010 at 9:46 am


Hlvanburen you ask the obvious questions most secular people ask. From a “human” level, I would ask the same questions, but Catholicism demands more from us. One thing we can agree upon is that NO ONE ever said this was an “easy” decision, however any Catholic with a properly formed (properly formed being educated on the what and why’s of church teachings), knows that despite sad or difficult situations, no one but God can “decide” when a life will end for any reason. This just happened to be that .01% where the mother’s life truly was at risk.
If you take all of the emotion out of it (as in the potentially motherless children, dead mother), the situation becomes one of the many reasons I love Catholicism so much; the decision is CRYSTAL CLEAR. It’s situations like this hlvanburen where the “rules” kick in. Most faithful Catholics don’t need “rules”, because anyone really in love with Jesus easily lives the day to day teachings as easily as a loving husband and wife live with respect and love; the thought of hurting for the sake of “self” would be unthinkable.
This case is an example of where we are called to take that love to the highest level, perhaps even to martyrdom.
You ask what I would tell the children? Assuming the mother (and baby) died, I would tell them that for reasons we can’t understand right now, God needed your mother and sibling for a “bigger plan.” What that is we can’t now know, but we can trust that “God’s ways are not our ways” and someday we will learn why God “needed” to do what he did. I would also tell them that martyrdom is “instant” sainthood, and even though they lost their earthly mother, they now have a real saint/mother in heaven praying for them (probably the baby too but no one knows for sure where unbaptised babies go; however we trust in God’s mercy, knowing that it can’t be hell).
I would also teach them (age appropriate), about the cross, how the world benefits greatly from redemptive suffering (as in the salvation of souls) in addition to the suffering of Jesus. If they were my relatives with whom I had lifelong contact, I would continue to teach them about their “saintly mother” and the power of the cross, and the importance of doing God’s will, regardless of how difficult it may be at times.
As they got older, I would use Pope John Paul II as an example, who lost not only his mother at an early age, but his brother and father, leaving him for the most part, “familyless.” I’m sure when he was a child, the same secular crowd ( Dcn. Greg pointed out just yesterday in his homily that crowds are “usually wrong”), asked the obvious secular response to his cross, “How could a GOOD GOD do that?”
Well, with PJP II, we now know God had his reasons, as the man not only became a Pope and touched the entire world, he changed it! He also was my greatest teacher on the transformative power of the cross, along with Father John Corapi who wrote in his doctoral thesis on suffering that” the pinnacle of all human possibilities is at the foot of the cross.”
Hlvanburen by being “one of the crowd” who is quick to cry out against dogmatic church teaching, we not only strip the cross of its power, we say no to God’s will. Little does the crowd against the cross understand, or care, what it may be thwarting, as their decision is purely emotionally based. The truth is, as JPII teaches in Memory and Identity, “Suffering consumes evil”, and that’s from a man who knew deep and profound suffering, even as a child.
Lastly, even if after all of the canon law experts and theologians sort this situation out, it may well be decided that the abortion was “indirect”, albeit I think that would be highly unlikely, but will go with the church, if and when they ever rule differently in “direct” abortion specifically for pulmonary hypertension. I know that I could have never done it or supported it for any of my family members, as “when in doubt, err on the side of caution”, however I think it’s even a stretch to raise the “doubt” in this case. Bottom line, my best guess is God was either calling a martyr /saint or a great witness to a miracle, perhaps for some future situation of her children, the world in general, or even one unknown hospital worker.
If this women is truly a devout Catholic, which sounds like she might well me, chances are better than not that the greatest consequence of it all will be her having to live with the decision of the “ethics committee” (despite a life threatening situation), always wondering what would have happened had she trusted totally in Jesus. After all, the “worst case scenario in secular terms, death” would have made her an instant saint; the ultimate “meaning of life.”



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Panthera

posted June 21, 2010 at 12:09 pm


Klaire,
I understand your position.
Martin Luther took exactly the same position, reputedly saying, “hier stehe ich und kann nicht anders” (here, I stand – I can do not otherwise).
As have done many noble Catholics through the years.
I also understand that, for the Catholic head of the Catholic Ethics Commission in that Catholic hospital, as well as for the Catholic doctors and Catholic nurses, they also saw no choice in the matter – as good Catholics.
The question is, how do we, as Christians, live with one another in a world in which, far too often, such situations arise which force us to make yes or no decisions with which we, as Christians, can find no universal agreement?
I don’t agree with you, as you know. That hasn’t and won’t change.
This is, however, the first time I have been able to comprehend the reasoning behind your position.
I’m glad you took the time to write as comprehensively as you did.



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Rick

posted June 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm


I don’t think that a bishop has the authority to over-rule medical staff in a hospital. What the bishop has the power to do is say that a Catholic hospital is not operating in accord with Catholic moral teaching. I’m pretty sure he cannot simply shoot down a doctor’s orders as suggested in hlvanburen’s scenario.
If I understood the article correctly, the Ethics Committee did not describe the incident in a manner that described it as an indirect abortion. The author of the article suggests an alternative description that makes the action sound like the death of the baby was an unintended but predictable consequence of the surgery.
Bishops aren’t expected to be infallible in making decisions about faith and morals–that’s why there are appeal processes with the Holy See. There was no need for him to slow down–what he needed to do was make it clear that Catholic teaching had not changed. People may have been thinking that it was sometimes permissible to have a direct abortion.



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Panthera

posted June 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm


Rick,
I have to disagree with you regarding the tempo of the Bishop’s actions.
First, he besmirched the good reputation of the hospital, the ethics commission of the hospital, the name of Sr. McBride, the poor woman who was placed in such a horrible situation, her four children, her husband – and all the medical staff involved.
Second, it has been well established he had no legal access to the information upon which he based his decision. While this may not have a direct bearing on the stricture against running out and telling everybody just who confessed to what…it certainly does nothing to reassure anyone. Don’t, please discount this – this was the second reaction from several of my more thoughtful American friends who are practising Catholics.
Third, excommunication is supposed to bring one to repentance, not be used as an instrument to make an example. This, regardless of our otherwise contrary positions as devout Christians, though members of different faiths, stands clear. I can cite the Church’s rule book on it for you, if you like.
What the Bishop did was an injustice at best, abuse of authority most likely.
It did not cause me to feel more inclined to place the decision on what women may and may not do with their own bodies with you.
Rather the opposite, to be honest.
Pan … calm down. The events recounted in the article happened last fall. The bishop only responded when the media found out a few weeks ago, and asked for his reaction. Furthermore — and this is not insignificant — his initial statement on this matter NEVER MENTIONED ANYONE BY NAME, let alone Sr. McBride, when it alluded to excommunication. From the evidence at hand, he didn’t “besmirch” anyone, or seek to make an example of anyone, or even seek to make this event public. Dcn. G.



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Panthera

posted June 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm


Deacon Kandra,
I appreciate your response. Yes, such actions do upset me. Greatly.
I firmly believe it would have been better for him to have sought counsel instead of prematurely making the matter (or causing the matter to be made) public.



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Rick

posted June 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm


I don’t see where I even discussed “the tempo of the Bishop’s actions.” I said that he does not have the authority to overrule a doctor’s medical decision and that his role is to protect Catholic identity. I also mentioned that bishops make mistakes–that’s why there is an appeals process
True, the Bishop did not have access to specific medical records, but he did meet individually with Sister after the general situation started to become public. At that meeting Sister described the rationale for the decision. The Bishop made the decision that by her actions Sister excommunicated herself based on the information and explanations that she herself gave. The article that Deacon linked to, states that there may have been an explanation that better meet the bishop’s need to assure that the decision was consistent with Catholic morality.



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cathyf

posted June 21, 2010 at 3:03 pm


Klaire, I disagree with you quite strenuously. To be a martyr is great virtue; to make someone else a martyr is almost always a monstrous evil. Any argument which concludes that we get suffering because God wants us to suffer is simply unacceptable. The correct answer to the question “why did God allow this situation to occur?” is “we don’t know.”
To those who ask “what would you say to the 4 children to explain their mother’s death?” in the hypothetical case where they did not do the abortion and both died, I would reply with something like this: “The doctors did everything they could to save both your mom and your brother/sister, but it was a terrible sickness and we lost them both.” In the actual case, the justification that the doctors and administrators are claiming can be stated as “The doctors did everything they could to save both your mom and your brother/sister, but it was a terrible sickness and we lost your brother/sister.”
What is in fact fundamentally in dispute is that exact question: did they do everything within their power to save both lives, and lost one despite their best efforts? Or did they give up and kill one to save the other before they had done everything within their power to save both?
I think that the usage of the terms “direct” and “indirect” are extremely unfortunate (and I suspect that they are somehow a mistranslation, or at least an inadequate translation.) The normal English meanings of those words would make doctors guilty of murder whenever they undertake some risky treatment that turns out badly. For example, they do open heart surgery, and the patient has a stroke and dies, and the stroke is “directly” caused by the action of the heart-lung machine on the patient’s blood. Or it makes dead people alive — for example a woman who dies of ovarian cancer rarely dies “directly” of the cancer, but usually “indirectly” of bowel obstructions caused by the tumors pressing against the intestines, or even more “indirectly” by the adhesions that come from the continuous bleeding of the tumors into the abdomen and from the surgeries to diagnose and treat the cancer. Such things happen all of the time in medicine. If I understand the arguments correctly, this word is used more in the sense of intentionality — what outcomes were the actions “directed towards”?



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Louise

posted June 21, 2010 at 4:26 pm


An eleven week old fetus does not have the right to condemn a woman to death. Women are not incubators whose lives are less important than that of the developing zygote, embryo or fetus inside her. She is a human being who was born, grew up and is now responsible for the lives of others- of her children that are in this world. The situation documents sheer madness. Tell me where Jesus said that we should kill a woman and her fetus rather than save her life. Men don’t even get excommunicated for mass murder but a woman is excommunicated for having a life saving abortion and the woman who recognized it was the right thing to do is excommunicated. It is shameful to even contemplate killing this woman AND the life inside her rather than doing all possible to save her life. This situation makes one think of the Taliban, of stonings, of condemnation, of witch burnings. It does not sound like that of the first world and it does not come out of caring, it comes out of judgement over women and doing anything possible to keep them as incubators. The only good thing about this story is that it will make women look more closely at where they are going to go to the hospital if they don’t want to be sentenced to death for being pregnant.



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Mary

posted June 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm


The bishop did what a bishop is supposed to do – be concerned about the souls involved. To be Catholic isn’t easy. Sister did not lose her life but a baby did. Instead of thinking about what’s right and wrong with the church and bishops and abuse of authority – we should all ponder the difficulty of all of this as well as the fact that we obviously no longer give God the benefit of the doubt – did we give Him a chance to “act” in this case? I don’t know because I don’t know the details. I think one of the details I’d like to know was – was the woman in an emergency situation or was her situation a “predictable” problem with future consequences. The answer to this question would put the others in a framework of how to think about it. No matter what, the Sister can become unex-communicated and the Bishop has done what he believed was the right thing to do – something that we should at least honor and give him some respect. And a baby died in what is probably for the family a very difficult and emotional way.



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Chris Sullivan

posted June 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm


Mary,
According to NPR:

Last November, a 27-year-old woman was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. She was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, and she was gravely ill. According to a hospital document, she had “right heart failure,” and her doctors told her that if she continued with the pregnancy, her risk of mortality was “close to 100 percent.”
The patient, who was too ill to be moved to the operating room much less another hospital

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126985072
That sure sounds to me like the mother was in an emergency situation.
An operation to remove a baby due to a threat to the mothers life is not an abortion (we do that all the time at birth any c-sections). An abortion is direct and deliberate killing of a baby (as defined by Pope John Paul II in evengelium vitae — this operation did not meat John Paul II’s definition).
Such operations have been licit in Catholic moral theology at least since Pope Pius XII taught that such operations were licit even if the death of the baby was a foreseen but unintended consequence.
God Bless



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aquamarine

posted June 21, 2010 at 6:20 pm


Mary, what’s the time limit on giving God the benefit of the doubt? When do we start running the clock? Next time someone’s in the throes of cardiac arrest, do we all stand back until enough time to give God the benefit of the doubt is up? If they die, it’s the will of God, even if we could prevent that from happening?
God gave us intelligence and he gave us free will. He is not the big puppet master in the sky. We aren’t meant to sit back passively and do nothing. We are meant to struggle with difficult situations, and not one single one of us knows how God will judge each individual in the end.



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Panthera

posted June 21, 2010 at 6:53 pm


I second Cathyf in the question: What is the proper definition of direct and indirect within this context?
So a request: Would you be so kind as to provide us with a definition of direct and indirect, that we might all have a basis upon which to proceed? Thank you.



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Chris Sullivan

posted June 21, 2010 at 7:09 pm


John Paul II defined direct abortion thus (Evangelium Vitae) :-

I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

A direct abortion is where one wills to kill the baby.
Pope Pius XII clarified the distinction between direct and indirect:-

Deliberately we have always used the expression ‘direct attempt on the life of an innocent person,’ ‘direct killing.’ Because if, for example, the saving of the life of the future mother, independently of her pregnant condition, should urgently require a surgical act or other therapeutic treatment which would have as an accessory consequence, in no way desired or intended, but inevitable, the death of the fetus, such an act could no longer be called a direct attempt on an innocent life. Under these conditions the operation can be lawful, like other similar medical interventions—granted always that a good of high worth is concerned, such as life, and that it is not possible to postpone the operation until after the birth of the child, nor to have recourse to other efficacious remedies. Allocution to Large Families, Nov. 26, 1951. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 43 (1951), p. 855.

God Bless



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pagansister

posted June 21, 2010 at 9:13 pm


Am so glad to see the article with more explanation on the subject of Sr. McBride’s decision. It backs up my feeling that she did the right thing. According to the NPR story relayed to us above,(by Chris S) the woman was indeed in much distress….and there needed to be an immediate reaction to save her. That is what emergency rooms are for folks, to hopefully save lives.



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cathyf

posted June 21, 2010 at 11:06 pm


I’m actually wondering what happens when we think about a situation which is similar, but the other way around. When a person has a fatal head injury that leaves the brain stem functioning, they can linger for hours. (Lincoln lasted for a 1/2 day after being shot in the head in ford’s Theatre.) In modern times, these are the people who could become organ donors — their bodies are kept functional for awhile on life support, then the machines are shut off after they are ruled brain dead, and perhaps after their organs have been harvested. If this happens to a pregnant woman, she can be maintained on life support in this state of brain death for some time, until such time as it becomes more dangerous for the baby to remain in the womb than to be born, and then the baby is born, and then the plug is pulled.
But consider what would have happened with a brain-dead pregnant woman in earlier times. No life support, not the technology to do a c-section — at least not a c-section that the mother would survive. So imagine this hypothetical: it’s 1850, and an 8.5-month pregnant woman has just been savagely beaten by her drunken husband. She lies in the hospital, cerebral fluid leaking out of her head, and the doctors know that while she is still breathing, it’s only for a few hours and that she is surely beyond any hope of recovery. The baby seems to be unharmed, and is old enough that he/she should be ok if they can just get him/her out before mom stops breathing — and cuts off the supply of oxygen to baby. So the doctors do a primitive version of a c-section — which they are perfectly competent to do as long as the mother doesn’t need to survive the surgery! The baby’s life is saved, and mama’s death is hastened by a few hours at most.
So, is that an analogous situation? It seems to me that this is not a “direct” murder of the mom, but her death is and unfortunate result of surgery to save the baby’s life…



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Panthera

posted June 22, 2010 at 12:05 am


Chris Sullivan,
Thank you.
I recall learning Pope Pius’ XII definition in comparative religion at school, and had assumed – based on the arguments I have read over the last months here, that it had, at some point, been totally overturned and replaced with something else, entirely.
Cathyf, I am greatly in your debt. If I have neither the ability nor the standing here to ask the questions you ask (I’m more of a force de frappe kind of debater as opposed to your harmless little points of order) at least I can and do learn from your perspectives.
I think I’ll step aside from this discussion at this point. It has become obvious to me that I am rather enjoying doing battle over a situation which is, for the two women involved, a tragedy.



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hlvanburen

posted June 22, 2010 at 1:02 am


“Sister did not lose her life but a baby did. Instead of thinking about what’s right and wrong with the church and bishops and abuse of authority – we should all ponder the difficulty of all of this as well as the fact that we obviously no longer give God the benefit of the doubt – did we give Him a chance to “act” in this case?”
Let’s look at this a bit differently. Let’s, for a second, assume that God gave humans the intelligence and resourcefulness to be able to study medicine and build facilities so that in 2009 God, through the gift of intellect and science, enabled the doctors to save one life that day instead of having to watch two die.



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Rick

posted June 22, 2010 at 10:31 am


The article at this link seems to say that direct abortion is an intervention “directed at the organism of the child,” while indirect abortion is an intervention “directed at the organism of the mother.”
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01046b.htm



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wineinthewater

posted June 22, 2010 at 11:17 am


cathyf,
It isn’t an analogous situation. Your hypothetical is a pretty cut-and-dry example of the principle of double effect. The death of the mother in your example is clearly an unintended consequence of the primitive c-section. The act would be delivering the child, the death would be a consequence of that act.
In the Phoenix case, the death of the child was the means, not an unintended consequence. The act was the killing of a child, treating the mother was an intended consequence.
However, they are analogous in that they are both tragic.



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Rick

posted June 22, 2010 at 11:27 am


Here is a link to an article that more fully describes the Catholic view of abotion and that gives a fairly substantial overview of the history of the teaching. Page 27 describes arguments over “crainiotomy,” crushing the baby’s skull to save the mother’s life. The procudure was found to be illicit and not in accord with Church teaching. The situation that leads to a crainiotomy seems roughly similar to the Pheonix situation: without the death of the child (by crushing the child’s skull) the mother would die.
This article also seems to address cathyf’s hypothetical: it states that one life cannot be chosen over another. Surgery that saves the child but kills the mother should not be conducted within the moral framework of Catholic teaching.
http://www.gale.cengage.com/pdf/samples/sp640050.pdf



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Klaire

posted June 22, 2010 at 11:33 am


For the most part I digress; quit sure I’m not going to convince most of you to see this through “supernatural eyes” rather than the “human only” eyes.
Panthera wonders about “universal agreement.” At least in terms of authentic Christianity, Jesus gave us that, showed us the way, and also asked us to PICK UP OUR CROSS DAILY AND FOLLOW HIM. Dying to self is one of the greatest acts of “picking up the cross”, which to many, is inconceivable, especially in this case. The Catholic Church has the FULLNESS and is the “keeper” of sorts of all that Jesus taught. The reason there are over 40000 “protest” (Protestant) denominations is that for many, authentic Christianity (Catholicism) is simply too difficult.
Chris I don’t doubt your good intentions, but think you are greatly misguided in the understandment of “direct” and “indirect” abortions. A good example of indirect would be an ectopic pregnancy, where the Fallopian tube would have to be removed, NOT the baby. Consequently, the baby would die, “indirectly.” C-sections Chris are mostly done on babies able to survive outside of the womb. There is no way an 11 week old fetus could survive outside of the womb, even with modern technology, consequently, to remove an 11 week old is “direct” killing. Another good example would be a mother with an agressive cancer, lets say Hodgkins Lymphoma, which is very curabable with chemo, especially in the early stages. The chemo drugs would almost surely kill the fetus, consequently, this would be an “indirect” killing, a consequense of chemotherapy. Yes, in this case, the “baby” was the ‘problem’, and that’s where the debate is still coming from, although in essence, it is still “direct” killing of the baby. I would be shocked if the church ever changed its teaching on this.
For those of you who made arguments against “medical treaments” such as cardiac arrest, it’s absurd to compare that to this case, where the treatment involves a 2nd human life. When no other human life is involved, we are actually required to take good care of our bodies and accept all ETHICAL medical treatments. Even more so, many of the greatest advancements in science and medicine have been by Catholics, many of them monks and priest scientists.
Cathyf I’m not sure who you are referring to in “making someone else a martyr.” We can split hairs over this, but I feel quite sure if a women accepts the consequences, even if that consequense is likely death, over the killing of her unborn child that equates to martydom.
In fact, we have canonized saints who have done just that, one quite recently in Italy who still has living kids. Anyone who dies for their faith is a martyr, period.
IMO, our culture, one that many still claim is Christian despite vast unacceptance of the cross, has gotten so far away from authentic Christianity that the concept of being a martyr is, as “the crowds” have clearly and predictiably shown us,inconceivable.
I argue often that less than 20% of America is still Christian, simply because without a cross, and despite lip service and “feel good” services, it simply can’t be Christianity. The response to this tragic and most sad case cleary points to the fact that for the most part, we have lost the ability to see the bigger “supernatural” picture, yet amazingly, most asked think we all die and go to heaven; no cross necessary, the “trap” of the great lie.



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Rick

posted June 22, 2010 at 11:49 am


Chris, while the position you mention is the position supported by many Christians, it is not the position officially taught by the Catholic Church. You will find Catholic theologians who agree with that position, but the official teaching does not agree with it. While many Catholics would agree with your perspective, I think you need to be careful not to present it as official teaching.



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aquamarine

posted June 22, 2010 at 12:34 pm


I argue often that less than 20% of America is still Christian, simply because without a cross, and despite lip service and “feel good” services, it simply can’t be Christianity.
You can argue that self-serving notion all you like, but without evidence to back it up, that’s a pretty un-Christian, un-Catholic, judgmental statement to make.
Only God knows what goes on in each of our lives. He knows who we are, he knows what we’ve experienced (and at whose hands…), he knows our hearts, our intent, our minds.



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cathyf

posted June 22, 2010 at 12:59 pm


wineinthewater, that seems to me too facile. In 1850 cutting across someones abdomen when you have no hope of avoiding killing her is not indirect anything, it’s murder. Otherwise you could argue that vacuuming out an 11-week-old fetus is not directly killing the fetus and his/her death is merely an “unintended consequence” of treating the mother. It seems to me that the expected outcome has to matter when deciding what the intended outcome is. Look at the case where a woman is in labor at a point where the baby is viable, and mama suddenly develops pre-ecclampsia. The doc whips out the vacuum extractor and gets baby out of there quick with the full expectation that this is in the best interests of both of the patients. The only difference between that and a vacuum abortion at 11 weeks is that the expected outcome of removing a fetus of non-viable age from the womb is different.



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Klaire

posted June 22, 2010 at 1:57 pm


Aquamarine I don’t disagree that only Jesus knows our hearts and minds, but I’m judging actions and evidence, not hearts and minds.
The evidence is overwhelming in America that we run from any type of “cross/suffering.” Just look at all of the ‘Christians’ who supported embryonic stem cell research. Never mind that it involved the killing of a fetus, after all, if it keeps US from suffering, so be it. We have almost 4,000 abortion a day in the US, most of them for ‘convenience’.
Look at all of the mega churches that pack them in into convention halls. Do you really thing those crowds would be there without the “feel good” only gospel? Have you ever seen a cross hanging at one of those events?
It was American Catholics who put Obama, the most pro abortion president in US History, into office, on the false hope that he would be our “savior” for all good things to come, from our pocketbooks to “anything but Bush.” Everyone who voted for him voted against the teachings of the Catholic Church, more in line of self than sacrifice, even if meant increased abortions and ESR funds.
I would wager most Catholics aren’t even aware that Fridays are still penitential days. We no longer have to abstain from meat, but we still are required to do some type of penance. I even know people who rationalize eating before mass and communion, finding the “one hour fast” too difficult.
Another great example is our consumerism, from big screen TV’s that none us “need” to billions of dollars spent on pornography; no cross there.
Look at our “political correctness”; every kid a winner, an “honor” student, or anything other than accepting the fact that we sometimes don’t get everything we want in life, and, that it’s ok, we can “offer it up.”
Objectively, every time we sin, be it premarital sex, homosexual sex, adultery, contraception, divorced and remarried sans annulment, we are knowing or unknowingly, thumbing our noses to the cross, as the thought of “doing it Christ’s way is simply too hard.”
Perhaps Aquamarine, it would be an easier debate if you provided some examples of the cross in the American Culture, not what is in our hearts and minds, but as examples in our daily life. All of the above examples I provided could not come from someone who had his or her “heart and mind” on the cross of Christ.
Lastly, look at the lack of reverence and decrease of regular mass attendance, which is none other, than the foot of the cross, Calvary outside of time. The evidence is overwhelming that mass attendance is anything but widely popular, just like the cross with American Christians.
You can label it whatever you want, but without a cross, there is no Christianity.



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cathyf

posted June 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm


This article also seems to address cathyf’s hypothetical: it states that one life cannot be chosen over another. Surgery that saves the child but kills the mother should not be conducted within the moral framework of Catholic teaching.

Except that my 1850 hypothetical, if it were to happen today, would not result in the baby’s death to avoid killing the mother. Instead what would happen would be that the mother would be placed on life support, the baby delivered by c-section, perhaps the mother’s organs harvested for organ transplant, and then the life support would be turned off.
What seems to me to be the difference is that we have this concept of “brain death” to cover the case where someone has circulation and oxygenation of their blood through medical machines, but they are in fact dead. So in such a case it would be permissible to “kill” the mother to save the life of the baby (and the lives of perhaps several recipients of the organ donations) because it’s not really killing. We have this carefully constructed notion of “brain death” which tells us those circumstances where the person on life support is already dead — and that manipulating a dead person’s body for the benefit of others is morally permitted.
The principle of “brain death” does not just look at the present circumstances. Not everyone on life support is brain dead! One of the key stipulations is that there is no hope that the person will recover in any way. I think that is a key point — the only way we are going to find our way to a “the death of one person is better than the death of that person plus the death of another” solution is to include in our moral calculus when the death of one of the two is already assured no matter what we choose.
It seems to me that this is the key to the direct vs indirect argument, the notion that if we didn’t have a choice then we didn’t choose. If (as is claimed in the Phoenix case) there was no choice as to whether or not the baby died, then no one made the choice that directed that the baby die.



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Rick

posted June 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm


I don’t understand, cathyf:
–My understanding is that the Church’s prohibition against abortion is based on the commandment, “You shall not kill.” If you terminated the pregnacy of a baby that is going to die, you still break the commandment. You killed someone before his or her natural death. In Catholic morality that is still considered a sin. You cannot, within the existing Catholic framework, euthanize one person to save another.
–Regarding a woman who is brain-dead, the Church does not teach that disconnecting artifical life-support is killing the woman. The Church would agree: she’s already dead–no sin to disconnect.



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cathyf

posted June 22, 2010 at 4:02 pm


My point, Rick, is that the principal of “brain death” is quite recent because it is only with the creation of medical technology which allows us to keep vitals going on a person that we now conclude is actually dead. In the case of Lincoln, it was said that he was shot in the head at Ford’s Theater and died across the street half a day later. When someone is shot in the head with those exact same wounds in 2010, we call him brain dead long before he stops breathing. Our 1865 ancestors would have been horrified by the sight of us harvesting organs from a still breathing person. But technology has overcome the “universal” meaning of “still breathing” being equivalent to “alive” and our moral theology has become more precise in order to handle the distinction.
I don’t know if we can construct a moral calculus that gets us to the place where we can save the life of the mother by executing a choice over the manner of death but not the fact of death for the baby. Bishop Olmstead certainly does not believe that it is possible! But surely if we are going to get from here to there it is going to hinge completely on a factual basis for saying that is actually true that the baby is actually going to die within a few hours one way or another no matter what choice is made.
The other thing to realize is that this case is enormously complex because of the two lives involved, but some of the same issues come up in the cases of how aggressively to treat very early preemies, and how to decide when to “pull the plug” when preemies head south.



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted June 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm


My one thought about this…
We all know the Church’s teaching on abortion. We all know what should and should not be done. We also know, from the reports in the media, that this poor woman was in a medical crisis and did not want to abort her child.
But then, what would any of us do? The ultimate decision had to be hers. Imagine being in her position. You know your faith. You love it. You cherish the life you’re carrying. You do not want, despite all the risks, to lose the child you’re struggling to bring into the world. But then there is that one moment when a decision has to be made. You face an agonizing and terrifying moment of truth, and know that if you walk down this one path, everything will change forever. Lying there, you think of your four young children, and your husband, and what will be left behind. And … you just can’t do it. And it destroys you to realize that. Your heart breaks in grief and shame.
We sit here and scratch our chins and argue and point fingers. We like to think we’d be good Catholics and do the right thing.
But, honestly, speaking for myself: I have my doubts. I’d like to think differently, and presume that somehow God’s grace would get me through it. But could I have that much courage? That much faith? Could I be a martyr?
I hope I’m never in a position to have to find out.



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Rick

posted June 22, 2010 at 4:41 pm


There still seems to be some debate regarding brain-death and organ donation.
http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=28081
http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=21286
http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=11369
I’ve come across very strident here. There’s a lot that can’t be communicated over the internet.
In far easier and lesser things than this I have failed to follow the Church’s teachings. I have always been forgiven and I am sure that forgiveness,if they have sinned, is open to this woman,Sister McBride and others.
At the universal level, a lot of canon law can appear very harsh. It is softened, tempered, nuanced and contextualized in spiritual direction and the confessional.



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aquamarine

posted June 22, 2010 at 5:11 pm


Klaire,
I look around and the overwhelming majority of people I know are struggling each and every day with crosses of their own. They do their best. Most of them are good, good people who are getting up each and every day and, in spite of the crap the Pharisees are always piling on them, making it through. They swallow their pride and take crap from a-hole bosses at jobs they hate so they can feed, clothe, house and educate their kids. They spend their Saturdays off caring for elderly, sick parents. They support and encourage their friends, they lend a hand at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. They bring meals to the destitute lying in the streets.
Every single day, my next door neighbor, a man whom you no doubt would judge pretty quickly as someone who doesn’t know the cross, takes his 90 year old Alzheimer’s stricken father for a walk during his lunch hour. He could leave him at the assisted living center. He could visit once a week, once a month, once a year, whatever. But he drives over and takes his father, who rarely recognizes him, for a walk each and every day. Oh, yeah, he’s gay and living with his partner. Guess he’s going to hell, or would be if YOU were God, Klaire.
I see incredible acts of kindness all around me.
I see incredible acts of pure cruelty from plenty of Pharisees, too.
I don’t care what your Church or anyone else SAYS anymore. I care what people DO.
When people reach out a hand to each other, when they smile at a stranger and it’s the only smile that stranger may see all day, when they stay in thankless jobs to do the right thing by others, when they shoulder yet one more burden, when they do a kindess for no self-serving reason at all, when they choose to see the good rather than the bad, that’s Christianity. That’s Christ. That’s what I care about, not some stupid little Pharisee out to always blame and point the finger and judge and condemn.
For all you talk about thumbing your nose at the Cross, Klaire, your words are the biggest spit in the face of God I’ve seen in a long time — no, wait — since the last time you posted.
Whatever.
I don’t have time for people who think God is just an intellectual concept or a list of rules or a courtroom or whathaveyou.
God is real. God is freaking real and not one single person here can tell him how he has to judge another. Even the concept of one human being telling another they’re “excommunitcated” is a joke. God and God alone decides who is or is not worth of communion with him, and God and God alone will judge in the end.
Anything else is beyond ridiculous. Men prancing around in gowns telling other people they and they alone decide who can be in communion with God, or when and where and for how long God can be really and truly present.
Leave these people alone — you don’t even know them, and they did nothing to you. Their business is between them and God, and if I see any more crocodile tears for the poor dead baby, I’m going to puke.
The kid is with God now, so what are you crying for? Frankly, the kid got the best out of the deal — to be spared a lifetime of exposure to all the nasty-minded Pharisees in the world and to be with God for eternity?
If I could’ve signed up for that deal, I’d have taken it in a heartbeat.



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cathyf

posted June 22, 2010 at 5:55 pm


Rick, it’s not stridency, merely the recognition that we are in extremely dangerous territory here. There is a semi-famous science fiction story about a future world where society chose that executed inmates would have their organs harvested for transplants. (In real life a few years ago there was a death-row inmate who wanted to donate his organs after his execution.) The science fiction story is told through the eyes of a guy up on capital charges, who knows he will be convicted, who escapes and is recaptured. At the end of the story he is in court where they start his trial by reading the charges: 4 unpaid parking tickets…
My mom worked as a neonatal intensive care nurse, and in real life there are all sorts of difficulties in deciding which preemies you take heroic measures for and for whom hospice care is the moral choice. And since these children’s status can go from “doing great” to “without hope” in a blink of an eye, the choices keep having to be agonized over again and again. And of course the people making the choices are far from disinterested — they are often wracked with grief, and denial and anger over their own powerlessness.
I’m trained as a mathematician, and there are several classic “proofs” that end up at two equals one. Generations of students have learned them, because understanding the subtle errors that lead you to the incorrect conclusion teaches you a lot about math. So when I get to the end of the moral calculus in this case, and the answer is “2



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cathyf

posted June 22, 2010 at 6:03 pm


…oh now that was interesting. Use a less-than sign (you know, the one above the comma on your keyboard) and the posting software deletes it and the rest of the paragraph. So let’s try that 3rd paragraph again without the offending mathematical symbol:

I’m trained as a mathematician, and there are several classic “proofs” that end up at two equals one. Generations of students have learned them, because understanding the subtle errors that lead you to the incorrect conclusion teaches you a lot about math. So when I get to the end of the moral calculus in this case, and the answer is “2 is less-than 1″ I have the same reaction as when I get to the end of the math proof and arrive at “2 equals 1″ — that there is an error somewhere and I must find it!



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Klaire

posted June 22, 2010 at 6:22 pm


Aquamarine quote:
God is real. God is freaking real and not one single person here can tell him how he has to judge another. Even the concept of one human being telling another they’re “excommunitcated” is a joke. God and God alone decides who is or is not worth of communion with him, and God and God alone will judge in the end
It’s not “us” who is telling anyone how to live Aquamarine, God did that himself, via his Son, Jesus. You have total free will to follow the teachings of Christ or do you own thing. The Catholic Church, despite how much you may resent it, is the church of Jesus Christ.
As for caring about what people “do”, Christians “do” in Christ, as there is no spiritual merit if we are separated by sin, as it simply wouldn’t make sense.



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Panthera

posted June 22, 2010 at 7:06 pm


Checking in briefly to say thank you to Deacon Kandra for his post of 4.24pm.
Cathyf, this interface appears to function as a rather limited html editor, incapable of parsing syntax beyond the level of programs we used back in the early 1990’s. You’ve found just one of many ‘surprising’ bugs, features. I received a request from Beliefnet a few years back asking me not to even use such simple commands as italics or strike-through as the software simply couldn’t handle it.
That restriction, at least (if only, it appears) has been lifted.



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wineinthewater

posted June 22, 2010 at 7:27 pm


cathyf,
There is the need to distinguish between means and consequences. Yes, in the 19th c., then it is probably safe to say that the unavoidable consequence of that cut is the death of the mother. But the death is the consequence, the death of the mother was not the means. Otherwise, any method of killing her would have sufficed. But even here, there is the moral obligation to attempt to avoid the unintended consequence .. even if failure seems inevitable.
With this case, the death of the child was not just a consequence, but the means. Since it was the child’s very life which was diagnosed as the cause of the mother’s danger, many means of death would have likely sufficed. Death was not an unavoidable consequence, it was the very means.
This is why the new argument that this could be termed a “separation” rather than an abortion (well, that is if it wasn’t a standard abortion where the child is killed before the separation) is the closest a framework has come to justifying this under double-effect. The argument is compelling. The question comes down to whether, for a pre-viable child, there really is a distinction between separating and killing. Between the cutting and killing for the 19c. woman? I can see it. For the 11 week-old child, I don’t buy it. But if the Church ends up teaching so, I’ll accept it.



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Chris Sullivan

posted June 22, 2010 at 7:40 pm


The moral object of choosing to separate a baby is a perfectly valid moral object.
It is NOT the unintended death of the baby which saves the mother. What saves the mother is the separation of the baby. The mother is saved REGARDLESS of whether or not the separated baby can be kept alive.
The death of the baby is an intended consequence of our current medical inability to keep an 11 week old child alive outside the womb.
We are making huge strides in medical technology in our ability to keep alive early pre-term babies. Maybe one day we’ll have the medical technology to do it at 11 weeks.
It will then be very obvious that removal of the baby is not an abortion.
Which is clear from what Popes John Paul II and Pius XII teach.
If Catholic teaching on abortion is to have any credibility or moral consistency then we need to be very clear, as the Popes are, as to what constitutes an abortion and what doesn’t.
God Bless



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Michael Liccione

posted June 22, 2010 at 8:50 pm


Deacon Greg:
I’ve written quite a bit about the Phoenix issue, beginning with an “On the Square” article at First Things that Elizabeth Scalia liked. My latest contribution to the controversy, which contains a lot of links, is here: http://mliccione.blogspot.com/2010/06/getting-it-right-while-getting-me-wrong.html. I think you’d agree with my take.
Incidentally, I’ll be teaching at a Catholic college near you this fall. I’d like to meet you at some point.
Best,
Mike



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Chris Sullivan

posted June 22, 2010 at 10:28 pm


Michael,
Thanks for your helpful article at First Things.
http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/05/excommunicating-intentions
What you said here is the nub of the issue:-

The moral principle of Double Effect plays a role here. Catholic teaching condemns only “direct abortion”: abortion in which the death of the child is either directly willed in itself or directly willed as a means to some specific end. The Church does not condemn “indirect abortion”: abortion that is a foreseen but unintended side effect of a medical procedure designed to preserve the mother’s life, which is not wrong, at least not merely as such. (The most common example is an ectopic pregnancy, in which the Fallopian Tube must be removed to save the mother’s life, but the resulting death of the child is not directly willed.)

Here’s the very orthodox/conservative William May pointing out the papal distinction between abortion and removal :-

Now I want to present my view, noting first of all that in Evangelium
Vitae,” No. 58, Pope John Paul II defined abortion as the deliberate and intentional killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.” His way of defining abortion is most important. As scholars have pointed out, prior to this encyclical, Catholic moral theologians (e.g., D. Prummer, J. Noldin and others) defined abortion as the “removal of the fetus from its place in the mother’s body.” John Paul II’s definition, however, allows us to distinguish between abortion as “removal,” something not intrinsically immoral, and abortion as “deliberate and intentional killing,” something always gravely immoral.

http://www.zenit.org/article-29448?l=english
God Bless



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cathyf

posted June 23, 2010 at 12:10 am


Another wrinkle…
In this pulmonary hypertension case, the disease process is that the placenta secretes hormones into the mother’s bloodstream which cause fatal changes to her lungs. It looks to me like if you could engineer a drug or other drug-like process to disrupt the particular hormone function, then if that drug also killed the baby then this would count as an indirect abortion. (Similar to chemo during pregnancy that indirectly kills the baby.)
But such treatments usually work in such a way that they take time — days or weeks for the damage to reverse. So you could find yourself in the particular situation where the indirect abortion requires you to make a much earlier commitment to the death of the baby, whereas the direct abortion is so simple and straightforward that if you wait and see if the disease process stops progressing by itself, then you can wait much longer — until mama is right at death’s door — to commit to a course of treatment which will result in the baby’s death. In other words you could find yourself at a crossroads where the indirect abortion chosen earlier gives you a significantly lower chance of two live patients at the end than choosing to wait and see with the direct abortion as a last-ditch contingency.
This whole indirect/direct argument feels squirrelly to me. If we get to a point where you get babies who end up dead who would be alive if it weren’t for the necessity of maintaining the “indirect” fig leaf, that’s where I have to say, nope, something has gone wrong with your moral reasoning.



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cathyf

posted June 23, 2010 at 12:27 am


With this case, the death of the child was not just a consequence, but the means. Since it was the child’s very life which was diagnosed as the cause of the mother’s danger, many means of death would have likely sufficed. Death was not an unavoidable consequence, it was the very means.

No, not quite. It is not the child’s life that which was the cause of the danger, but the hormones in the placenta, a single organ which has cells that come from both the mother’s body and the baby’s body. So we are analogous to the case of removing the cancerous uterus which just happens to have a baby inside of it — we are removing a diseased placenta which just happens to have a baby attached to it.



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Susan Peterson

posted June 28, 2010 at 5:34 pm


Chris…when we can keep an 11 week old fetus alive outside the womb, removing one intact from the womb and putting it in a life support device will not be an abortion.
Since it is known that there isn’t even a snowball’s chance in hell that we can keep such a being alive outside its mother’s womb right now, removing it is an abortion. It is a direct killing, and wrong.
If we learned to implant working gills in humans, keeping a human so equipped under water for 24 hours would then not be murder. But if someone today were to hold you or me under water for 24 minutes, it would most certainly be murder.
Your argument is specious…and an evil kind of specious at that, since it is designed to give cover to the killing of the innocent.
Susan Peterson



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