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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Debate over three-parent embryos and DNA manipulation reveals baseless "bioethics"


USA Today this morning highlights yet another weird ethical issue involving the destruction of living human embryos:
In two days of hearings ending Wednesday, a federal [FDA] committee proved quite skeptical about research that might help some patients birth healthy children — but might also open the door to human gene manipulation. The procedure being considered, called mitochondrial transfer, would mix the genes of two women in hopes of creating a healthy baby.
click image to view the video
Christian Medical Association CEO Dr. David Stevens appeared on the Fox and Friends national news program today to discuss this issue with cohost Elisabeth Hasselbeck and "bioethicist" Dr. Arthur Caplan. Dr. Stevens noted the destruction of human embryos in the proposed procedure and non-destructive alternatives to pursuing the cure. He also highlighted the ethical issue of foisting genetic changes, with unknown consequences, on successive generations.
"Germline manipulation is something that has been prohibited in science all over the world up until the present time," Dr. Stevens noted.
Dr. Caplan replied, "I understand the concern about where we might go. I'm going to worry about that when I get there."
So there you have it--a "bioethicist" says we should ignore ethical concerns and race ahead with whatever. 
Once people abandon the objective, biblical principles (such as "Thou shalt not kill") that have guided civilizations for millennia, there's really nothing left but personal opinion. Whose opinion will prevail? Whoever has power. 
Welcome to the world of social Darwinism.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why Kirsten Powers' "Bake the cake or else!" stance violates 1st Amendment

Kirsten Powers

In her acerbic commentary for USA Today, "Jim Crow laws for gays and lesbians," Kirsten Powers rails against Kansans considering a bill to prohibit coercing people into performing marriage ceremonies or providing adoption or business services that are "contrary to sincerely held religious beliefs" "regarding sex or gender." Citing the Bible and several pastors, Powers argues that Christians should love and serve everyone regardless of sexual preference, suggesting that unchristian bigots who decline to bake cakes for or take photos of same-sex weddings deserve no protection for contrary convictions.
Yet our 1st Amendment guarantees that even if your beliefs do not comport with the Bible, even if your conscience goes against the current of the culture, the government must not compel you to violate your convictions. Americans' commitment to conscience is so strong that we do not even force conscientious objectors to join the Army when the nation is at war. Nor do we force Catholic physicians to participate in the death penalty, or Jewish deli owners to serve pork barbecue, or commercial photographers who support animal rights to supply shots for fur coat ads.
How ironic it would be to turn a wedding won through a campaign for "equality and freedom" into an event of subjection and coercion.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Physicians reach "tipping point" in dissatisfaction, plan to exit in droves--thanks to government interference

Regulatory paperwork and government interference are
driving physicians out of medicine; a third plan to quit or cut hours.
Over a third of all physicians plan to quit medicine or cut hours, and three in five say Obamacare imperils the future of medicine, citing regulations and paperwork as top reasons for their intense dissatisfaction.
These are not Republican talking points but the published results of the premier nationwide survey of American physicians, taken every two years by the prestigious Physicians Foundation. According to the Foundation:
"Over half of physicians surveyed have reached a tipping point and plan to make changes to their practices. Many intend to take one or more steps likely to reduce patient access to their services, limiting physician availability at a time when doctors already are in short supply."
Over 59 percent said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has made them less positive about the future of healthcare, compared to 18.5 percent who said PPACA has made them more positive (p. 34).
Other survey findings prove similarly alarming:
Over 84 percent of physicians agree that the medical profession is in decline (p. 7).
Physicians cite as top reasons for decline of medical profession:
1. regulations/paperwork
2. loss of autonomy
3. erosion of the physician/patient relationship (p. 19).
Part II of the survey suggests that physicians are at a tipping point at which they will seek ways to further disengage from today’s medical practice environment, reducing their hours, decreasing the number of patients they see, and accepting the status of salaried employees – trends that should be of urgent concern to both policy makers and the public (p. 29).
Over a third (35.4%) plan to retire or cut hours (p. 22).
Physicians are working fewer hours on average and seeing fewer patients than four years ago. If these patterns continue, over 44,250 full-time-equivalent (FTE) physicians could be lost from the workforce in the next four years (p. 11).
Over one in four (26.1%) docs spends up to 20 hrs. per week on paperwork; over one in seven (15.9%) spend more time than that (p. 39).
Over three in four (78.4%) docs describe themselves as either maxed out or overextended (p. 40).

Solutions

Over half (55.7% of docs see health savings accounts as an effective cost solution (p. 33). While a surprising third of docs (36.3%) see a single payer system as a solution to cost, nearly half (48.3%) see it as negative (p. 33).
Less government regulation” was rated as the most positive solution to cost and access challenges, followed by “evidence-based medicine” and “widespread adoption of health savings accounts” (p. 37). 
Physicians cite defensive medicine as top driver of health costs (p. 31), so malpractice liability reform should be near the top of policy makers' legislative lists.

Conclusion

Unless policy makers take note of and address these serious concerns and statistics, you may not be able to find a doctor to care for you in the near future--regardless of what health laws are in place by then. If we want physicians to stay in and students to choose medicine as a career, we will need to:

  1. Restore medical decision making to the physician-patient relationship.
  2. Reform malpractice law to cut defensive medicine.
  3. Cut government interference by reducing the regulatory and bureaucratic burden on physicians.


 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Even with perfect software, Obamacare cannot function in real world


Some will read the Washington Post's revelation--that the administration is not addressing its mistakes in processing the online health insurance enrollments of tens of thousands of consumers--and conclude that the Obama administration is singularly incompetent. Perhaps so, but even with the best software system, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) cannot function in the real world under any administration.
The Affordable Care Act fails to account for fundamental human nature. Faced with paying expensive new mandated insurance for full-time employees, employers simply will cut employees' hours. Presented with high new premiums that essentially subsidize insurance for sicker older people, healthy young people simply will refuse to enroll. Without adequate Medicare reimbursements--a cost-cutting measure used to help sell and pass the ACA--physicians simply will stop taking poor patients.
The Affordable Care Act defies efficiency and effectiveness by shifting decision-making power away from patients and their personal physicians to federal bureaucracies--the most inefficient and ineffective level of decision-making possible.
The ACA replaces free choice and competition with senseless and coercive mandates, such as forcing even conscientious objectors such as elderly nuns to participate in the provision of controversial contraceptives and sterilization surgeries.
Congress should heed the lessons of the ACA and enact measured reforms that drive costs down by letting consumers choose policies across state lines, provide safety nets for the poor through high-risk pools, increase personal choice and cost-saving accountability with health savings accounts and respect First Amendment principles protecting conscience.

Friday, February 7, 2014

When the administration attempts to force even nuns to violate their religious convictions - commentary in LA Times


The editorial by the Los Angeles Times (bottom, below), my response (directly below) and the response of an attorney for atheists outline some of the arguments being made for and against the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to the HHS contraceptives and sterilization mandate.
---
Re: "The rights of the religious," Editorial, Feb. 4
The Times rightly defends but wrongly interprets a federal law that forbids the government from imposing "substantial burdens" on the exercise of religious convictions and requires federal officials to pursue the "least restrictive means" of achieving any "compelling interest."
The Times neglects 1st Amendment principles in defending the administration's attempts to force employers with conscientious objections to bow to the government's edict to provide controversial contraceptives and sterilization surgeries.
The government easily could avoid restricting religious freedom by directly supplying poor women with contraceptives, just as it does worldwide.
Just as the 1st Amendment protects the free speech of citizens and corporations such as The Times, it also protects the free exercise of religion by citizens and employers. When the administration attempts to force even elderly nuns to violate their religious convictions, clearly the government has trampled on sacred 1st Amendment ground.
--Jonathan Imbody
Washington
The writer is vice president for government relations at the Christian Medical Assn.
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Re: "The rights of the religious," Editorial, Feb. 4
I am counsel of record on a Supreme Court brief representing atheist and secular organizations in the contraceptive mandate case. We argue that religious employers should have to obey laws that apply to everyone else, such as the requirement that all for-profit employers provide their workers with access to health insurance that permits employees to make their own decisions regarding contraception. I appreciate that The Times does not want these employers to prevail. However, in still defending the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, you fail to recognize the harm done to the quest for full equality, for everyone, if only religious believers are allowed to avoid complying with otherwise universally enforceable laws. In 1997, then-Supreme Court Justice Paul Stevens correctly saw that this law was unconstitutional because it allows religious adherents to challenge compliance with generally applicable laws in ways that are not equally available to agnostics and atheists.
--Edward Tabash, Beverly Hills
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Defining the rights of the religious in America
Critics want to overturn the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but that's going too far.
By The Los Angeles Times editorial board
February 4, 2014
Two decades ago, Congress overwhelmingly approved and President Clinton enthusiastically signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But now that the 1993 law is being used to challenge the Obama administration's requirement that employer health plans include contraceptive services, some supporters of the law are having second thoughts, and several organizations want the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional. That would be a mistake.
The law was a response to a 1990 Supreme Court decision involving two Oregon men who had been denied unemployment benefits after they were fired for using the hallucinogenic drug peyote during a Native American religious rite. In his decision for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia upheld the government's right to deny the benefits on the grounds that a religious motivation doesn't entitle a believer to disobey a generally applicable criminal law. Congress, in turn, passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says the government may "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" only if necessary to further a "compelling government interest" and only if the law in question is the "least restrictive means" of achieving that interest.
Next month the Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases in which owners of for-profit businesses argue that the law allows them to disregard the contraceptive mandate because of their religious objections. We hope and expect that the court will reject their claim. The law refers to burdens on "a person's exercise of religion," not a corporation's, and the burden must be substantial. Providing insurance coverage for a woman who uses it to obtain contraceptives no more implicates an employer in her decision than does the payment of her salary, which can also be spent on birth control. Finally, ensuring that women have access to preventive healthcare is clearly a compelling interest.
But we don't think the law should be declared unconstitutional, as several organizations — including the Freedom From Religion Foundation — have argued. They claim that it is a "takeover of [the Supreme] Court's power to interpret the Constitution" and amounts to an "establishment" of religion in violation of the 1st Amendment.
This goes too far. Congress is free to protect rights more comprehensively than the 1st Amendment does, whether it is religious freedom or the right of reporters to protect their confidential sources (the aim of a proposed federal shield law). The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a balanced effort to protect religious liberty. Properly interpreted, it doesn't require the court to weaken the contraceptive mandate.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Read more news and commentary on faith and freedom at www.Freedom2Care.org.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Must even nuns pay for contraceptives?


As the facts presented in a Washington Post article, "Obama prepared to avoid Congress, go it alone on carrying out modest initiatives" suggest, President Obama has become the shadowy alter ego of Candidate Obama--exchanging promised presidential restraint for executive fiat, cooperation for partisanship and public priorities for ideological hobby horses.
Consider Mr. Obama's relentless campaign to round up everyone from elderly nuns to Mennonite small business owners and force them to obey his Obamacare contraceptives mandate. The issue served as a potent campaign tool to juice up his radical base about a fabricated "war on women." But continuing to push the controversial program on conscientious objectors serves no apparent purpose other than to assert executive power over individual religious freedom.
Targeted by contraceptives edict: Little Sisters of the Poor
Must even nuns pay for contraceptives? Even his own Supreme Court appointees balk at the president's aggression, slapping the administration with an injunction to stop their pursuit of the Little Sisters of the Poor and taking up two cases likely to overturn the administration's anti-religious overreach.
Gone are the president's optimistic rhetoric and soaring appeals to what Lincoln referred to as the "better angels of our nature." What remains is an alienated and isolated president combatively asserting raw executive power, Nixon-like, while his moral authority decays.