Conference DVDs can be ordered by contacting The Euthanasia Protection Coalition at
Burke J. Balch, J.D., director
A San Francisco transplant surgeon was charged Monday with prescribing overdoses of medication to speed up the death of a man at a San Luis Obispo hospital and harvest his organs.
Dr. Hootan Roozrokh, 33, prescribed excessive amounts of morphine and Ativan and injected the topical antiseptic Betadine into Ruben Navarro's stomach in February 2006, prosecutors in San Luis Obispo County said. Navarro, 26, who was severely disabled mentally and physically, had suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest and had been taken off life support, authorities said.
In order for doctors to harvest organs, a patient must be declared dead within 30 minutes of being taken off life support. Navarro, however, died eight hours after being removed from a respirator and his organs were never recovered.
Roozrokh is believed to be the first doctor in California ever accused of criminal charges in connection with procuring organs. He faces felony counts of dependent adult abuse, administering a harmful substance and unlawful prescription of a controlled substance.
A warrant has been issued for his arrest. If convicted of all three counts, he could be sentenced to eight years in state prison.
Roozrokh, who at the time was a surgeon with Kaiser Permanente's now-closed kidney transplant center in San Francisco, was in San Luis Obispo as part of a team that harvests organs of people who have just died.
State law forbids transplant doctors from treating potential organ donors before they are declared dead.
Kaiser placed Roozrokh on administrative leave Monday, officials at the health care group said. He voluntarily stopped seeing patients last year, after Navarro's family first accused him of trying to speed up the sick man's death.
Roozrokh's attorney, M. Gerald Schwartzbach of Mill Valley, said in a statement that the charges against the surgeon are "unfounded and ill advised" and said his client has been "the subject of an 18-month witch hunt."
"Nothing that Dr. Roozrokh did or said at the hospital that night adversely affected the quality of Mr. Navarro's life or contributed to Mr. Navarro's eventual death," Schwartzbach said. "Dr. Roozrokh did not commit any crime."
Navarro had been living in a nursing home when he suffered a respiratory and cardiac arrest Jan. 29, 2006. He was in a coma when he was taken to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo. Doctors there said he had suffered irreversible brain damage and he was put on a respirator, but he was not declared brain dead.
His mother gave approval to donate Navarro's organs, and on Feb. 3 the California Transplant Donor Network sent a surgical team, including Roozrokh, to San Luis Obispo to handle the organ recovery.
Earlier this year, the coroner's officer in San Luis Obispo County reported that Navarro had died of natural causes.
Navarro's mother filed a wrongful-death lawsuit last year against Roozrokh and several others, including the hospital, Kaiser and the California Transplant Donor Network, claiming that her son had been removed from life support without her permission and had been given lethal doses of drugs.
Kaiser officials said Monday that Roozrokh had been acting independently of their health care organization when he went to San Luis Obispo. Officials with the California Transplant Donor Network would not comment on the case.
The following are summaries of articles which can be found at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Click on the title for the original article
Oregon and Assisted Suicide
Ten Years of “Death with Dignity”
by Courtney S. Campbell
The Oregon Death with Dignity Act (ODDA), which permits physicians to write a prescription for lethal drugs to qualified terminally ill patients, has been in effect for a little over a decade. It has, from October 1997 to the present, been the only such statute until 2008 in the United States permitting what is variously called “physician-assisted suicide,” “physician aid in dying,” or “death with dignity” (the statute refers to the procedure as the ending of life in a “humane and dignified manner”).
The central stated purpose of the ODDA is to expand patient control over end-of-life choices. Before ODDA passed, it remained illegal to hasten death intentionally through the prescription of lethal drugs.
The ODDA aimed to end this ban on the grounds of patient self-determination and “choice.” They saw no principled difference between, on the one hand, refusing medical treatment in a way that would inevitably bring about death and, on the other, hastening death with a lethal drug.
The article Ten Years of “Death with Dignity”
takes a look at the results of 10 years of the Death with Dignity act.
Medicine exists only for three specific purposes: to prevent illness, to heal and to alleviate pain. The taking of human life does not serve any of those purposes; thus, assisted suicide is not legitimate medicine. It does not become medicine regardless of whether the perpetrator is a doctor, the patient is terminally ill or a state rescinds criminal penalties for the act.
In an attempt to legitimize euthanasia, some would blur the line separating assisted suicide from the treatment of pain. An argument used to further this notion is that pain medication hastens death (via the depression of respiration). This is only true when one’s tolerance is low. When the medication is administered properly in increments, the patient will develop a tolerance such that respiration will be unaffected.
Indeed, there is a distinction between euthanasia and pain treatment. The primary difference between assisted suicide and the treatment of pain lies in the intent. Physicians providing palliative care intend the easing of a patient’s pain (success occurs when suffering is relieved). Physicians assisting in suicide primarily intend the patient’s death (success occurs when the patient has expired).
The distinction is also recognized in law through the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act of 1997 (ASFRA) and the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). ASFRA prevents the use of federal funds for the payment of items that cause or assist in death, but does not prevent the use of federal funds for items to alleviate pain. CSA is consistent with the distinction in its restriction against physicians who prescribe large quantities of tablets to one who had previously attempted suicide.
When the distinction is recognized and euthanasia prohibited, patient care improves as a whole. When the distinction is blurred, resources are redirected from care in favor of killing. In the majority of assisted suicide cases of Oregon, no palliative care intervention of any kind was given. In fact, Oregon physicians who assist suicide are not even required to know how to relieve suffering or to evaluate whether a patient is simply suicidal.
Message to Washington: Oregon assisted suicide is NOT abuse free
Costly treatment - NO; Assisted suicide - YES
"The abandonment & cruelty of euthanasia"
U.S. Supreme Court and Assisted Suicide
There are two court cases that serve to demonstrate the Constitutional validity of state laws which prohibit assisted suicide. The Washington v. Glucksberg court decision states that Washington’s law against euthanasia does not violate Constitutional guarantee of liberty. The Vacco v. Quill decision rules that New York’s similar law does not violate guarantees of equal protection.
In Washington v. Glucksberg, Washington’s euthanasia prohibition law is proven not to offend the 14th Amendment. Indeed, the opposition to assisted suicide mindset remains consistent with the legal doctrine and practice of several centuries. The case reveals the slippery slope in how assisted suicide may lead to the coercion of vulnerable (elderly, poor, ill) people into assisted suicide.
In Vacco v. Quill, New York’s euthanasia prohibition law is shown to uphold the Equal Protection Clause. New York’s law treats people evenhandedly: everyone is entitled to lifesaving medical treatment; no one is permitted to assist suicide. Also a distinction is made between physician-assisted suicide and the withdrawing of life-sustaining treatment. The underlying difference is in the physician’s intent. In withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, the physician intends to respect the patient’s request to not endure unnecessary treatment; in contrast, in assisted suicide, the physician acts with the clear intent to end the patient’s life.
Assisted Suicide: What is at Stake?
There is a real danger to the structure of society that results from permitting physician-assisted suicide. Life is a gift from God; once the sanctity of life is ignored in one form, eventually it becomes easier to ignore it in another form. This is a concept known as the slippery slope. Even the American Medical Association feels that physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer. They recognize that to take life is a power that most physicians could not control. In a society where assisted suicide is permitted, the less important members of society will be coerced into dying by physicians who feel that they are a burden unworthy of life. The drive for cost-efficiency will tend to treat patients by their economic worth; economic liabilities such as the poor and disabled will be more driven to giving up their life. The Netherlands is a prime example of this degradation of society. After a few years of practicing euthanasia and assisted suicide on the terminally ill without restriction, the practice of assisted suicide expanded to use on the disabled and psychologically distressed; in fact, thousands of patients in the Netherlands have been killed by their doctors without any request.
Declaration on Euthanasia (1980)
The following is a declaration on the subject of euthanasia and similar issues regarding the sanctity of life. Utmost in importance in regard to these issues is the value of human life. To Catholics, human life should be recognized as a gift of God’s love, which should be preserved and made fruitful. As such, the nature of human life gives rise to certain consequences. An attempt on the life of an innocent person opposes God’s love for that person; it also violates the fundamental right of life and thus is a most grave crime. We are obliged to lead our lives in accordance with God’s plan. The intentional taking of one’s own life is equally as wrong an act as murder; suicide is a rejection of God’s sovereignty and plan, as well as a refusal to love oneself.
Euthanasia is defined in the context of this document as an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated. The essence of euthanasia is rooted in intention (to kill) and methods. Incidentally, those who are terminally ill whether they realize it or not, when asking for death, for most instances, are actually giving an anguished plea for help and love. Indeed, what sick people truly need is human love, intimate care and compassion from family, friends and even physicians.
Suffering even plays a role in the life of a Catholic. In suffering, one shares in the passion of Christ. However, one is not expected to endure great suffering; the use of painkillers is acceptable to relieve this suffering. Indeed, Pius XII condoned the use of painkillers when no other means exist and they do not prevent the carrying out of religious and moral duty; in such a case, pain relief is the primary intention and death is in no way sought. And unless there is serious reason for such, one should never deprive another of consciousness.
In regard to remedies, one should never use “extraordinary” means (great disproportion of life-sustaining effort such that a great burden is imposed with little to no results). Guidelines to this effect are as follows: when there are no other sufficient remedies, with the patient’s consent, one may use the most advanced (even if experimental) means; when results fall short of expectation, one may interrupt such treatment; one is permitted to accept the normal means that medicine can offer as this is simply an acceptance of the human condition; and when death is imminent, despite all effort, one can refuse special treatment as long as normal care is still provided.
Statement on Euthanasia (1991)
Efforts are being made to legalize euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. The proponents of these deadly acts manipulate the confusion, ambivalence and fear of modern life-sustaining technology usage to garner support. They redirect the focus of the issue from the unspeakable act of ending a human life to the “ultimate freedom” of having complete control of one’s body and life. Nevertheless, the fact remains that life is a precious gift given by God, and as such should not be so frivolously tossed aside at a whim. Indeed, one is not morally obligated to use every available medical procedure at every possible opportunity, but that should not lead one to intentionally cause one’s own death; these situations are in no way equivalent! Truly, the legalization of euthanasia would not only violate fundamental human rights and equality, but in doing so, also weaken and deteriorate all other rights. Eventually all people “disabled” in one way or another will be at risk of their “freedom” to be killed.
Terri Schiavo’s Feeding Tube Removed
Nutrition and Hydration: Moral and Pastoral Reflections (1992)
Painful starvation death took 13 days.
Terri Schindler Schiavo, a 41-year-old disabled woman from Florida, died on March 31, 2005 after 13 days without food or water. “This was not only a death, this was a killing.” Rev. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life told the press minutes after she died. Terri Schiavo became physically and mentally impaired in 1990 due to a lack of oxygen to her brain. The cause of her injury is uncertain. Her fate was the subject of an extensive court battle between Terri’s husband and parents over her guardianship.
Terri’s parents contend she was denied medical care to treat infections, regular dental care, and any rehabilitation or therapy after Michael was awarded a settlement of nearly one million dollars for her care. Terri was not allowed to practice her faith, to attend Mass and receive the sacraments. Her husband obtained three court orders to euthanize her. Terri was denied a guardian ad litum to represent her interests during most of the litigation between Michael Schiavo and Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.
When Florida Circuit Court Judge George Greer ruled that Schiavo’s feeding tube must be removed and set the date for March 18th, he thwarted efforts by Congressional Republicans to keep her alive by issuing subpoenas for Schiavo, her husband Michael Schiavo, and her health care providers to appear at hearings on March 25th and March 28th. Greer’s ruling also contradicts a move by fellow Circuit Judge David Demers who temporarily blocked removal of the feeding tube an hour earlier.
Greer appears to believe he is above the law by ignoring Congress and the rulings of a fellow Circuit Court Judge. Greer ordered Terri’s feeding tube removed on March 18 without allowing her parents a reasonable amount of time to appeal. No convicted murderer is treated in such a manner. All appeals are exhausted before an execution can take place. In Terri’s case, the date to remove her feeding tube was set knowing with certainty that she would be dead in a matter of weeks. Terri Schiavo, who left no written document with regard to her wishes, was denied due process. Her parents and their lawyers filed emergency appeals. No new review of her case was granted. If the Schindlers had a reasonable amount of time to present their case, the outcome might be different: Terri might still be alive.
How could a Circuit Court Judge thwart a Congressional order and the order of a fellow Judge? Greer simply ignored the rule of law. He ordered Terri Schiavo’s starvation death and no one challenged it. At least not to the point where they would attempt to rescue Terri. Florida Governor Jeb Bush sent social workers to the hospice where Terri was being starved to death, but they did not take her into custody.
This was another tragic case where judicial activists thumbed their nose at the Constitution and the will of the elected Representatives of the American people. Unless such judges are impeached, the votes of the American people will mean nothing.
Online petitions to have Judge Greer Removed from Office can be found at petitiononline.com/ijg520/petition.html
and at petitiononline.com/jswede47/petition.html
Unless such judges are impeached, the votes of the American people will mean nothing.
This action came too late to save Terri, but if an example were made of Judge Greer, other innocent Americans might be protected and other judicial activists might be less likely to think themselves above the law.
Terri died of starvation and dehydration, which was the direct result of the removal of her food and water, as ordered by Judge Greer. The Scranton Chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life placed four ads in the Scranton Times following the starvation killing of Terri Schiavo. One dealt with the effects starvation and dehydration has on the body. These included: her mouth would dry out and become caked or coated with thick material; her lips would become parched and cracked, her tongue would become swollen and might crack. Her eyes would sink back into their orbits, and her cheeks would become hollow. The lining of her nose might crack and bleed, the lining of her stomach would dry out causing dry heaves and vomiting. Her skin would become loose and dry; her urine highly concentrated causing burning to the bladder. She could develop a high body temperature, have convulsions and eventually all her major organs would fail. These statements are true and taken from the finding of fact in the Paul Brophy case, another so-called death-with-dignity case in which Mr. Brophy was starved to death. Administering drugs does not take away the effects of starvation and dehydration.
Peggy Hamill, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin said it well, “Terri Schiavo’s court-ordered death is barbaric and entirely senseless. Our courts are supposed to protect people, not give a husband permission to kill his wife by dehydration and starvation.”
“Our laws must presume in favor of nutrition and hydration because food and water are ordinary means of sustaining a person’s life, even if administered by a feeding tube,” said Matt Sande, director of legislative affairs for Pro-Life Wisconsin. “Food and fluids are not medical treatment. They do not become ‘treatment’ simply because they are taken by tube; anymore than penicillin or Pepto-Bismol become ‘food’ when taken by mouth.
Certainly if Terri was facing imminent death, or was physically unable to receive food or water, it would be morally permissible to remove nutrition and hydration. However, the removal of food and water to cause death should never be permitted.
As basic human needs, food and water are basic human rights.”
Reprinted from Pro-Life Reporter Spring 2005
In this day and age, where the achievements of medical technology seem limitless, the moral ramifications become more complicated. The medical moral dilemma is especially present in the issue of providing nutrition and hydration. The following set of principles may aid one in making decisions consistent with the Judeo-Christian moral tradition.
Foremost, one should recognize that human life is the foundation of all other human goods. One must oppose all attacks on human life, including euthanasia and willful suicide (any action with the intent of ending a human life). The good of suffering is that it is a sharing in Christ’s passion; however, one’s relieving of suffering is also good. One is obligated to care for one’s own life and health and to seek care from others when necessary; however, one need not employ disproportionate means of preserving life (means that offer no reasonable hope or involves excessive burden). At the final stage of death, one need not prolong death by whatever means; one can acceptably refuse treatment. Without hastening death, one should accept reality and prepare for it. One must always make decisions regarding human life without a bias based on age or dependency. Society should protect the right to life through its laws and policies.
Indeed, in regard to use of assisted feeding, such principles are essential. When one removes assisted feeding from a patient, one should clearly realize a direct causation of death; in intending this, one performs euthanasia. Though one need not accept burdensome prolongation of life, one still must receive the normal care due to a human being. In most cases, hydration and nutrition are essential human care; yet, even when assisted feeding would involve discomfort and no real benefits (in the case of one nearing death), one could still relieve suffering of dehydration without need of euthanasia by offering sips of water or chips of ice.
According to medical ethics, a procedure is appropriate if it offers hope of saving life, reestablishing health or alleviating suffering. Food and fluid sustain life, provide sound health care and prevent suffering of dehydration and hunger.
A specific concern in the discussion of assisted feeding is the unconscious or persistent vegetative state (PVS). Some would argue that unconscious patients are “lesser humans” because of their low “quality of life” or because they are incapable of advancing their spiritual life (interacting with God through prayer). These people would argue that the life is a “burden” and need not be prolonged. The reality, though, is that all humans have inherent dignity and value, and as such should never be directly killed.
Ultimately, in the matter of nutrition and hydration, one should follow this procedure. Reject omission of nutrition intended to cause death. Presume the providing of assisted nutrition and hydration to patients in need, only yielding in cases where procedures have no hope of sustaining life or pose excessive risks or burdens (as judged by the patient or family).
Human Dignity in the ‘Vegetative’ State
Despite the long-held physician mindset as evidenced in the term “persistent vegetative state” that people without consciousness or sensation could never recover (after a lengthy period of time), various patients have indeed recovered from the “vegetative” state. Truly, our understanding of the nature of this state is very limited, to say the least, and yet we may remove basic sustenance from one such patient with absolute certainty that it is the “best” thing to do. Indeed, the issue of providing basic care to these people is significant to this era, and as such the Pope addressed this issue in 2004.
Among the points the Pope made were the following. No living human can descend to the category of vegetable or animal, and no one can judge the value of another human life (measure a quality of life). Since all human life retains dignity, no human, regardless of condition (even those in “persistent vegetative state” are capable of recovering), can be denied basic care (nourishment). The deliberate withdrawing of food and water from a patient aims at one outcome, the death of the patient, and therefore is euthanasia by omission. We are still not required to impose excessively burdensome treatment on patients; the ending of such treatment is acceptable.
The supporters of the right-to-die promote the withdrawal of assisted feeding to patients in a “vegetative” state. They push the idea that the “vegetative” patient has become an empty shell, drained of its former dignity by being subjected to forced feeding, such that the act of ending its life would be beneficial to both the patient and the family. Such thought is most fallacious. Assisted feeding should not be thought as “extraordinary means” (it is in fact basic human necessity that does not burden the patient) and as such should be maintained.
As a patient, actions should be made to properly address certain situations. One should be wary of “advanced directives” rejecting assisted feeding across the board. Rather one should seek documents that recognize the presumption in favor of assisted care when not imposing undue burdens. Other positive actions include acquiring forms to convey your wishes or assigning a proxy to make decisions when one is incapacitated.
Indeed, hospitals and physicians should not be obliged to comply with any immoral request from patient or family. The physician is responsible to observe his/her own moral conviction over the demands of certain people.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the decision-maker to recognize that though medical procedures may become useless or burdensome, the patient, as a human life, should never be considered a burden; as long as this is recognized, one will always recognize that basic human care is essential.