Friday, August 1, 2014

Christian doctors and the end of tolerance

For decades, tolerance was the golden rule of left-wing ideology. The public school system indoctrinated children about the absolute importance of being non-judgmental, and conservatives were told to love rather than moralise. We were all supposed to be headed towards some nirvana of values-free caring and sharing.

But it’s not turning out that way. Now that tolerance has done its work of confusing the populace and muddling popular common sense about right and wrong, the tune has suddenly changed. The left isn’t singing John Lennon’s Imagine anymore, they have moved on to a new song that could be called “My Way or the Highway.”

It’s time to wake up. The magic flute of tolerance which enraptured our society has been leading us along a pretty, winding path that ends in a new dictatorship.

Driving freedom out of medicine

A case in point is this week’s article by Martin Regg Cohn in The Toronto Star. Cohn wants doctors to leave their “private moral framework” out of the practice of medicine, and he urges the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to enact guidelines that would end the religious freedom of all doctors.

Cohn is undisturbed by the thought that many religious doctors might leave the practice of medicine if they are no longer able to conscientiously object to treatments like birth control pills, which may violate their religious and ethical values. Good riddance, says Cohn:
If a doctor is so antediluvian as to be anti-contraception, he’d best transition from medical to pastoral work. Playing God isn’t in the job description of physicians.
So much for tolerance towards those who disagree with the liberal ‘sexual rights’ agenda. Cohn is now telling faithful Catholics that they need not apply to medical schools. And, in a true dictatorial spirit, Cohn would like the Ontario government to force this policy if the College refuses to change its guidelines:
If the college fails to reassert itself as a self-governing authority, let the provincial government step in to defend patient rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Queen’s Park could do that by de-delegating the college’s authority and re-regulating medicine on our behalf.
This is a dangerously totalitarian way of thinking. What do the words “freedom of conscience and religion” mean to people like Cohn?

To be free means to live out our faith

In the past, our society understood freedom of conscience and religion to refer to every person’s right to live according to their own moral and religious precepts. We believed these rights to be foundational for our democratic society and enshrined them in our Charter as fundamental freedoms. Our Supreme Court has explained them this way:
The essence of the concept of freedom of religion is the right to entertain such religious beliefs as a person chooses, the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination.
These words by our highest Court closely echo Section 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that the “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” includes the freedom “to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Such passages recognize that living out our core values in our daily lives, which include our workplace, is the essence of true freedom. But that is merely a slight inconvenience for the new liberal ideology, which is busy moving the debate into the realm of “patient rights”.

Apparently, Ontario patients now can’t tolerate even a single “no” to any request for birth control, even if they can easily get their prescriptions of referrals elsewhere. As such, Cohn would take away Charter protection from doctors and make them into mere machines, just to save patients from the inconvenience and annoyance of going to the next clinic.

Come on Cohn, is minor inconvenience really too high a price to pay for the fundamental freedom of our doctors, or any citizens?

Is Cohn in the majority?

Apparently, many citizens today would answer that yes, the “patient is always right” approach is more important than religious freedom. At least, this is the impression one would get from reading the secular media.

The ratio of articles that have been published pro and against doctors’ religious freedom is telling. Over the last couple of months, about 20 articles have attacked the freedom of conscience of doctors, in various major secular Canadian newspapers and some mainstream online sites (not counting LifeSite News and other pro-life or Catholic media). In contrast, less than 5 articles defending the freedom of conscience have made it into the same forums.

On the other hand, the online poll on the College website is far more encouraging. Out of 22,597 votes, 67% said “yes” to the question “Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?” (When I last wrote about this poll, the results had been exactly opposite, so this is an excellent development).

Common misconceptions

Still, many people are not quite sure where they stand on this issue. While they might support religious freedom in theory, they are also worried about doctors putting patients at risk because of fringe religious ideas. Where should we draw the line?

The answer is, we already have a very good line, and it is working just fine. For instance, Muslim doctors already can’t opt out of treating women. The present College guidelines prohibit doctors from refusing to treat someone “on the basis of the individual’s or patient’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status and/or disability.”

What about a doctor who refuses to treat someone in a life-threatening emergency because he doesn’t want to give blood transfusions? Answer: this is already not allowed. Doctors have a duty to treat patients in life-threatening emergencies, and any patient who needs a blood transfusion can rest assured that he or she will get it.

The only gray area in the current policy is that doctors in remote rural locations have the same freedom of conscience as city doctors. Clearly, if rural doctors refuse to prescribe birth control pills, this could be a major hardship for women who would need to travel to other doctors.

The media keeps bringing up this scenario as support for ending conscience rights, but the fact is, this situation has never arisen in Ontario and it remains speculative. There are very few doctors in this province who refuse on religious grounds to prescribe birth control pills and related treatments, and they already shy away from jobs in the middle of the woods. Without even a single real case to speak of, it would be premature and highly disproportionate to eliminate the religious freedom of all doctors on account of this unconfirmed fear.

Keep the course

The College will wrap up its public consultation on Tuesday, August 5. Until then, we still have a chance to let them know that they would do best to keep the course.

Patients don’t need a draconian policy that ends the religious freedom of Ontario doctors, and such a policy would only be counter-productive. Rather than improving our health care system, it would undermine the foundations of trust that are so important in medicine, and drive principled doctors out of the profession.

As it turns out, the best protection for all patients, as the last stand against bad medicine and unethical laws and regulations, is the freedom of conscience of our doctors.

Click here to participate in the public consultation and to vote in the CPSO's online poll.

Photo: a.drian via photopin cc

Friday, July 25, 2014

Petition to protect the religious freedom of doctors

There is a new petition circulating, and it needs all the signatures it can get. Here is the text of the petition:

To: The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
Re: Review and Public Consultation of the Policy Guidelines “Physicians and the Ontario Human Right’s Code”

In light of public debate regarding physicians’ rights to freedom of conscience and religion, we the undersigned, urge the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) to uphold policy guidelines that respect the freedom of physicians to practice their profession in a manner that does not violate their conscience or moral and ethical beliefs.

Forcing physicians to disregard their conscience or moral and ethical beliefs in the provision of legally sanctioned non-emergency medical services has serious and far-reaching consequences that affect the integrity and practice of medicine. Cultivating a medical culture that encourages physicians to disregard their conscience by forcing them to do what they believe to be wrong or harmful has the potential to compromise the well-being of patients, physicians, and society.

Freedom of conscience and religion are fundamental freedoms in Canada under Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A policy that restricts the freedom of physicians to practice their profession in a manner consistent with their conscience or moral and ethical beliefs infringes upon these Charter rights. We urge the CPSO to defend these fundamental freedoms that are essential to the proper functioning of a free and democratic society and hope that the CPSO will uphold the rights of physicians to practice their profession without compromising their integrity, conscience and moral or ethical values.


Please consider adding your voice to this initiative. If we don't act now to protect the fundamental freedoms of our doctors, then when will we ever act?

Click here to sign the petition.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Are Catholic working mothers kosher?

This is a topic that I have thought about a great deal, and my thinking on it has gone through a bit of an evolution in recent years.

Prior to having children, I was sure that I wanted to stay home with them full time. Part of my thinking was that I believed, and still do, that children need their mothers more than anyone else, and that it was best for them. I still think I made the right decision in that regard.

But another part of my thinking was that I believed at the time that to be a good Catholic mother, I ought to stay home full time unless I really needed to work in order to make ends meet financially for our family. On that count, I have changed my perspective.

In fact, some self-described Catholic organizations do preach this thinking. Without picking on anyone in particular, I have come across organizations which present themselves as Catholic and use that platform to propagate the idea that women should stay home as mothers and wives, going as far as to say that any woman who wants to work outside the home has been brainwashed by feminism.

I have even seen such Catholic organizations say that young Catholic women should be encouraged to get married right out of high school and avoid going to university, because getting university degrees would just sidetrack women into careers that they shouldn't be chasing. These organizations present their attitude as faithful to Catholic teaching.

But as it happens, the Church already spoke on this topic more than 30 years ago in a document called Familiaris Consortio, and it left no doubt about its own position on these matters. Here are some quotes from the section "Women and Society" in this illuminating document:
Without intending to deal with all the various aspects of the vast and complex theme of the relationships between women and society, and limiting these remarks to a few essential points, one cannot but observe that in the specific area of family life a widespread social and cultural tradition has considered women's role to be exclusively that of wife and mother, without adequate access to public functions which have generally been reserved for men.
Notice how Familiaris Consortio identifies the practice of women staying exclusively in the home as a "social and cultural" tradition, not a "religious tradition". This clearly indicates that our faith does NOT actually require women to stay home exclusively as wives and mothers. God is not asking this of women; rather, it is men who have traditionally asked this of women.
There is no doubt that the equal dignity and responsibility of men and women fully justifies women's access to public functions. On the other hand the true advancement of women requires that clear recognition be given to the value of their maternal and family role, by comparison with all other public roles and all other professions. Furthermore, these roles and professions should be harmoniously combined, if we wish the evolution of society and culture to be truly and fully human.
This is a very clear statement. The Church believes that women should be able to work on a footing equal to men. The Church is NOT sending women back to the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. The Church is saying that work and motherhood should be harmoniously combined. It is possible to be a good Catholic wife and mother, and still have a job outside the home. The Church is not saying that women should focus exclusively on motherhood to the exclusion of any work outside the home.
...While it must be recognized that women have the same right as men to perform various public functions, society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not in practice compelled to work outside the home, and that their families can live and prosper in a dignified way even when they themselves devote their full time to their own family.
The way I read this: women who choose to work outside the home should be fully able to do so. Women who choose to stay home should be fully able to do so. Makes perfect sense. It is tragic when mothers have no other choice but to work, especially when their children are small and need them most.
...Furthermore, the mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome. This requires that men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and that society should create and develop conditions favoring work in the home.
That would be a great development, but in a culture obsessed with personal success and achievement, good luck with that goal happening anytime soon. Society has a long way to go before it fully appreciates the work that, for the upper castes of our society, is mainly done by maids, nannies, personal shoppers, secretaries, taxis and hired drivers, gardeners, meal-delivery services and take-out restaurants.
With due respect to the different vocations of men and women, the Church must in her own life promote as far as possible their equality of rights and dignity: and this for the good of all, the family, the Church and society. But clearly all of this does not mean for women a renunciation of their femininity or an imitation of the male role, but the fullness of true feminine humanity which should be expressed in their activity, whether in the family or outside of it, without disregarding the differences of customs and cultures in this sphere.
I love this passage from Familiaris Consortio, because even 30 years ago the Church clearly understood the need that the secular world is only starting to appreciate: the need for the working world to treat women as women, not as clones of men.

Women have their own way of participating in the working world. Their role as mothers often puts women on a different trajectory than men in the early years of their employment. Small children need their mothers, and women should not be penalized for making a space for children in their lives early in their careers.

The linear workplace is heavy on face-time and long on hours, and reduces the career potential of anyone who ventures off the full-time career path for any length of time. Women don't do well with arrangements like that. We need on-ramps and off-ramps, we need part-time arrangements and work-from-home arrangements, we need more flexible deadlines and the ability to incorporate family responsibilities into our work day.

Some workplaces are now starting to understand and accommodate these needs. It's quite amazing that Familiaris Consortio already recognized the need for these things in 1981.

Photo: Paul Mayne via photopin cc

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Anti-Semitism Survived the Concentration Camps

Israel once again finds itself nearly alone in the world when attacked by thugs and criminals reminiscent of the Nazis. Meanwhile, Twitter is trending #Hitlerwasright.

Why is there so much prejudice against the Jewish people today, even as we remember the senseless brutality of the Nazis? The concentration camps that smoked human ashes across Europe 60 years ago shocked the world and showed the despicable ends of such hatred. But while Jews were killed in those camps, anti-Semitism clearly survived.

How and why did that pernicious virus of hatred continue to spread so effectively across the world? One answer might lie in the post-war history of Dr. Joseph Mengele.

Frankenstein on the run

Dr. Mengele was without doubt one of the worst Nazi criminals. He was the true Frankenstein, a notorious Nazi monster who inflicted a sadistic reign of terror upon thousands of prisoners at the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. Mengele’s mad pseudo-scientific experiments were particularly cruel for their focus on children, twins, dwarfs, pregnant women, and others.

After the war, Mengele became one of the world’s most wanted fugitives. But justice never caught up with him. He finally met his end by drowning in 1979 at the Brazilian beach house of friends Liselotte and Wolfram Bossert, Austrian Germans who later said they had considered Mengele a “member of the family.” They had apparently known his true identity for seven years, but continued to be close friends. Six years after Mengele’s death, the authorities searched the Bosserts’ beach home and discovered Mengele’s diary, his hand-written history and two boxes of his other documents and personal items.

The Bosserts were among Mengele’s closest friends, but they were not unusual. Over more than 30 years as a fugitive, Mengele continued to have various friends who helped him evade justice. Some may not have known his true identity, but others knew and still continued to help. Some even blackmailed him but did not turn him in.

Who would help Hitler run away?

Whoever helped Mengele would surely have helped Hitler too. As could be expected, many of Mengele’s helpers were former Nazis themselves. These included Wolfgang Gerhard, an enthusiastic Nazi and Holocaust denier who returned with his family to Austria in 1971 to reap the benefits of their health care system.

But other supporters did not have a Nazi past. Among these were Hungarian Germans Geza and Gitta Stammer, who helped to hide Mengele for several years even after discovering his true identity. Indeed, it seems that Mengele felt quite welcome in some ways in South America. He wrote in one one letter that the families in his Brazilian social circles were mainly sympathetic to the Nazis.

Prejudice trickling down the family tree?
Photo: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

Where are those families, their like-minded friends, and their descendants today? Still there, surely, still passing on their negative beliefs and attitudes about the Jewish people.

And that’s the problem. While the most notorious Nazi criminals were mostly caught and punished, the majority of Nazis and their supporters continued their lives without being held to account. In fact, they became even more widely dispersed through the world as they fled from justice at home.

There are far too many such people to ever identify or hold responsible:
  • What happened to the majority of Nazi officers? 
  • What happened to all those gestapo who rounded up and deported the Jews? 
  • What happened to the SS officers who stood by in concentration camps, watching and enabling Dr. Mengele and others like him to perform their horrors? 
  • What happened to the civilians who, out of cowardice or actual hatred, voluntarily betrayed their Jewish neighbours to the Nazis? 
  • What happened to those who knew that something terrible was being done to the Jews across Europe, but still did nothing or, in a thousand small ways, supported what was happening? 
  • What happened to all those people across Europe who secretly agreed with the Nazi mission of exterminating the Jews?
The answer is, usually nothing happened to those people. They and their descendants are everywhere among us.

Europe through a special imaging camera

Thermal imaging cameras shine an infrared light onto an area and detect human beings by revealing the heat from their bodies. If we had similar cameras that we could shine on Europe, which would detect the anti-Semitism in people’s hearts, the resulting image would surely not be a pretty picture.

In Czechoslovakia, where I was born, anti-Semitism has continued to pervade the opinions of older generations to this day. Many people who are otherwise reasonable and respectable also hold on to prejudiced opinions that cast Jews in a negative light, such as believing that Communism was a Jewish conspiracy, or that Jewish people are stingy and thieving money-managers, and other lies and stereotypes. They still drill these opinions into their children and grandchildren.

Even in Germany, where Holocaust denial is a punishable crime, anti-Semitism appears to have continued underground. In 1985, when the media reported on Mengele’s home town of Guensburg amidst reports of his death, his family business was employing 1200 people and grossing $80 million in annual sales. The mayor told the media that the Mengele family was highly regarded there, even as the town was gaining a reputation for being a “stronghold of incorrigible Nazis.”

Mengele’s family loyalty

Indeed, the story of Mengele’s family is indicative. They never disowned their most infamous member. Instead they continued to funnel large amounts of money to him for decades, even as they publicly maintained that they had lost all contact. Mengele even became their salesman in Argentina, and a representative of the family’s business secretly flew to South America on at least two occasions, bringing large amounts of cash in order to pay off those who were helping to hide Mengele.

Mengele even managed to marry his brother’s widow in 1958. After his younger brother Karl died in Germany, his widow Martha and son Karl-Heinz joined Mengele in Uruguay, where she married him. Mengele’s stepson spent several years with him in South America, and he was reputed to have been quite close to Mengele.

This same Karl-Heinz, Mengele’s stepson, was back in Germany and running the family’s business in 1985, together with his cousin, the son of Mengele’s second brother. Their family business still operates today, and still looks to be going strong. Their website makes no mention of any connection to Josef Mengele.

Merano and other towns

Aside from Guensburg in Germany, there have been other reputed strongholds of Nazism in post-war Europe. These include the lovely resort town of Merano in Italy, through which many higher-profile Nazis passed on their escape routes. Many Nazi-supporters apparently parked themselves there permanently. Among its inhabitants was also Mengele’s second wife Martha, who left South America after several years of life with Mengele, and settled in Merano for her retirement. She never divorced Mengele, and she apparently continued to be a Holocaust denier right into her old age, telling a newspaper in 1985 that Mengele’s atrocities were “all lies and propaganda.”

Piecing it all together

The Nazi regime was fuelled by an irrational hatred that was, I believe, largely based upon jealousy and envy of the Jewish people. This hatred was mixed with a snobbish sense of superiority, and supported by scientific theories derived from Darwinism, which in effect gave the Germans license to kill in the name of survival of the fittest and genetic engineering of the Aryan race.

Science may no longer give the government license to kill, but traces of the hatred and snobbery that led to Nazi atrocities still brew in many people’s hearts. HItler and Mengele may be dead, but they were just the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

That iceberg never melted completely, and I do believe that this is in part why Israel is still so alone today.

Top photo credit: lungstruck via photopin cc
Last photo credit: photo credit: Alejandra H. Covarrubias via photopin cc

Friday, July 18, 2014

Kate Desjardins, I'm Calling Your Bluff

The story of 25-year-old Kate Desjardins has been repeated a zillion times in the media, and no one has ever questioned her authenticity. I suppose the mainstream media has stayed away from this because well, questioning the story of a poor young woman in need of birth control would would perhaps seem cruel and not kosher.

But I will go there. Personally, I have reservations about the genuineness of Kate Desjardins. In fact, I believe her whole story to be concocted and bogus.

The marbles don't add up

For one thing, the first place she posted about her story, even before she went to XOX Jane, was the Facebook page of a feminist group here in Ottawa called the Radical Handmaids. The Radical Handmaids are a vicious abortion-rights group with distasteful tactics like dressing as mock nuns at the March for Life.

How did Kate find this group so quickly, and why did she decide that they were the right place to post her story (as opposed to, say, writing a letter to The Ottawa Citizen)? Most young women who go to the doctor would have no idea that such a group exists, nor would they immediately seek out this group.

For another thing, her story doesn't add up. She says in XOX Jane:
I've gone to this clinic for well over two years at this point, and I never had any warning of what was about to happen.
So let me get this straight. Dr. Kyrillos practices with two other pro-life doctors, and the door to their clinic has a sign which informs patients that they do not prescribe birth control pills. How did Kate manage to avoid seeing this sign for two years?
When I mentioned I was there to get a prescription for my birth control, she suddenly looked up at me. She then told me that that couldn't be done. Taken aback, I asked why. She pointed at the stack of letters on the desk. I took one and started reading it. I was truly shocked at what I read. This had never happened before.
Again, for two years she never received this letter before, even as she has allegedly been coming to refill her prescription for birth control pills? Hard to believe.

What really happened

My suspicion is that the real story goes something like this: this woman is affiliated with the Radical Handmaids, and decided to pick on Kyrillos intentionally because they would like nothing better than to eliminate pro-life doctors from being able to practice.

Note that the Radical Handmaids are connected to the  Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. They were founded in part by Julie Lalonde, a very active feminist who sits on the board of the ARCC.

I do not believe Kate's claim that she was a patient at the clinic for two years. In fact, I don't believe she had any intention of being a patient there even on the day that she received the letter. When she walked in the door that day, she already knew very well what she would be told, and that is precisely why she had come to that clinic. She took the letter and headed straight for Facebook.

Successful tactic

As it happens, this tactic by the Radical Handmaids has been hugely successful. In the initial media blow-up in February, Kate Desjardins even got to remain anonymous - her name only surfaced in the second round of the debate this summer. Her story has never been questioned, and nothing about her own background of affiliations has ever been discussed. The media has given her an incredible platform, without even an ounce of doubt as to her contrived claim of embarrassment. 

With success like that, expect to see more such stories popping up like mushrooms.

UPDATE July 20, 2014

I have received information from a very credible source which corrects some of what I wrote above:

  • Dr. Edmond Kyrillos doesn't practice together with the other two pro-life doctors. He practices in a different clinic with other doctors who do prescribe birth control pills - something that is new to me, as the media seem to lump them together into one clinic.
  • The sign on the door is not always present. It is visible whenever Dr. Kyrillos is on duty at the clinic. Some regular patients might never see this sign if they always happen to visit the clinic at times when Dr. Kyrillos is not on duty.
  • When she got the letter, Kate Desjardins posted in on her own Facebook page and also forwarded it to the Radical Handmaids (she and the Handmaids say that Kate sent the letter anonymously). Hard to verify or expand on this information today because it looks like Kate must have erased her FB profile and restarted it in May, so there are no traces left behind.

Based on the information above, it seems that Kate might indeed have been a patient at the clinic, but not a patient of Dr. Kyrillos. She might have been genuinely surprised by the letter, since she might have never previously come to the clinic while Dr. Kyrillos was on duty. Still, I wonder: was Kate a feminist to begin with, and already familiar with or even affiliated the Radical Handmaids? 

And on a side note, why the media has made such a big fuss of Kate's inconvenience? Thousands of doctors across the country put up signs saying that they will not prescribe narcotics, even though some people do need them. And yet, this is apparently not nearly as offensive to the public as not prescribing birth control pills. It's okay to make sick people clinic-hop in search of narcotics, but the sky falls if a woman doesn't get birth control pills on the spot.

Photo: Amber B McN via photopin cc

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Religious Liberty of Doctors Under Threat in Canada

My new article on FrontPage Magazine:
Another attack on religious freedom is under way in Canada, this time against doctors in the province of Ontario. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is reviewing its human rights code guidelines, and the public response has been explosive. Many people want the College to change its present practice of permitting doctors to opt out of referring or prescribing treatments that violate their ethics or religious faith.
This is not a case of liberal intellectuals and unelected leaders reducing our freedoms without the consent of the public. Judging by the slew of negative comments to stories in the mainstream media, the public is on the side of clamping down on doctors. It’s disturbing to see that of the nearly 9000 votes submitted in the College’s online poll, around 67% said “no” to the question: “Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?”
Read More.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Making Doctors Into Robots in Ontario

My new article is up at LifeSiteNews:
Some years ago I filled out a prescription for Yasmin, a birth control pill that is often prescribed, as in my case, to control acne for young women. Luckily the warning label scared me enough that I ended up throwing those pills in the garbage. I felt a bit foolish but followed my gut against the assurances of my doctor, who considered those pills the equivalent of Tylenol.
He was wrong. Yasmin made headlines last year when it was linked, together with another birth control pill, to the deaths of 23 women in Canada. This February the European Medicines Agency also admitted that the blood clot risks of Yasmin and similar newer birth control pills are much greater than previously thought.

Read more.