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In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said:
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

– Acts 20:35–
 
On behalf of HALO’s Board of Directors and Advisory Board Members, we thank you and wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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$10,000 MATCHING GRANT!
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PROTECTING LIVES THROUGH PATIENT ADVOCACY

 


PROTECTING LIVES THROUGH PATIENT ADVOCACY

December 2020
Julie Grimstad
 
Each member of HALO has a story to tell. This is my story.

I graduated from nursing school in 1969. As far as I knew, there was universal respect for the sanctity and equality of human life. Patients could refuse burdensome treatment and we respected their wishes, but one thing we did not do was deliberately cause a patient’s death.

In the summer of 1985, a friend called and asked, “Julie, what do you know about Living Wills?” She informed me that Living Wills—the first healthcare advance directives—were introduced by the Euthanasia Educational Council as “a foot in the door” for social and legal acceptance of euthanasia. In fact, Montana, where I was living at the time, had just enacted a Living Will law that permitted patients to be starved and dehydrated to death!

Also, that year, I was blindsided by my first opportunity to be a patient advocate. My 92-year-old neighbor and good friend, Jane, became extremely ill due to a kidney infection. She was terrified of hospitals, but I convinced her to let me take her to the emergency room. She was admitted. For the first couple days in the hospital, Jane was improving with antibiotics and intravenous fluids. On the third day, when I tried to help her eat ice cream, she had difficulty swallowing. The next day, Jane was drowsy and unable to swallow anything when I visited at lunchtime, and her IV had been removed. Alarmed, I advised her daughter, Margie, to request a list of the medications she was being given. I took the list and my questions to a trusted pharmacist who told me that Haldol, an antipsychotic, was likely the cause of Jane’s problems. He explained that this drug could cause tightness in the throat and have other serious, even life-threatening side-effects, particularly for elderly people. Next, Margie and I asked Jane’s doctor why she was on Haldol. He stated, “To calm her anxiety.” We repeated what the pharmacist had said and insisted that he stop the Haldol. The doctor refused to do so, saying, “If you don’t trust me, find another doctor.” So, we did. (Back then, it was not difficult to find another doctor because patients chose their personal physicians who took care of them both in and out of the hospital. Today, hospitalized patients have little choice. They are cared for by hospitalists – doctors employed by hospitals.) The new doctor stopped the Haldol and ordered therapy to help Jane regain her ability to swallow. Two weeks later, Jane went home.

I discovered that, when a life is a stake, you must act quickly. The patient may not have much time left. This experience, the phone call about Living Wills, and several other incidents convinced me that there was an urgent need for volunteer pro-life patient advocates. Today, 35 years later, I am more convinced of this than ever. I currently volunteer as a patient advocate for the HALO Helpline (1- 888-221-4256).

HALO defines “patient advocate” as a relative, friend, volunteer, or healthcare provider who strives to safeguard the welfare of a vulnerable patient. To fully understand why patient advocates are vitally important, you first need to recognize how the culture of death has seeped into our healthcare system, causing an earth-shattering shift in medical ethics. You also may have questions about why organizations like HALO are needed and what patient advocates do. You might be surprised at the various roles patient advocates fill. For more information on these topics, click on the following article titles:


HALO provides our volunteer patient advocates with a comprehensive training manual, which is continually updated. We also conduct monthly training sessions. If you are interested in signing up as a HALO volunteer patient advocate or would like more information, send an email to feedback@halovoice.org or call 1-888-221-4256, Ext 1.


Possibly the most important role the patient advocate plays is as a visible ally of the patient – a sign to the world that this patient is valued and that caring for and protecting this patient is a commendable act. I think of Mother Teresa’s words (bing.com), “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Volunteering as a patient advocate has enabled me to touch people’s lives and make a difference in the world.


from the desk of the EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

 


December 2020
By Anne O'Meara

In May of 2020, we introduced the HALO Helpline (1-888-221-4256)! This was an exciting milestone for HALO, and we want to thank YOU for helping make this possible.
 
With respect to the timing of the rollout, I believe God lent a hand. As you know, 2020 has been an unbelievable year. We have struggled with an unprecedented global battle with the coronavirus pandemic. We have seen disturbing headlines regarding doctors and hospitals discussing the “necessity” of rationing ventilators and weighing universal DNR orders for coronavirus patients. And now it seems that COVID is being used as a pretext to usher in “rationing of care.” Numerous recent news stories, including 
Ohio 'Extremely Close' To Rationing Care Due To COVID-19 Surge (yahoo.com) and Sultan: Who gets health care if rationing begins? | Aisha Sultan | stltoday.com, show that a coordinated campaign is underway to condition the public to get used to rationing care as a component of the “new normal.”

COVID-19 has clearly exposed the vulnerability of the elderly and disabled, particularly when healthcare resources are considered “scarce.” While we understand that resources which are scarce may not be available to everyone who needs them, our Helpline patient advocates can advise callers about patients’ rights, especially when they are at risk of unjust discrimination. Decisions about who receives treatment must never be based solely on age or disability.
 
The HALO Helpline has expanded HALO’s reach and ability to deliver on our mission “to promote, protect, and advocate for the rights of the medically vulnerable.” Our volunteer patient advocates offer free and confidential information, support, and referrals for patients, their family members, and caregivers who have concerns about the treatment and care a patient is receiving in any healthcare setting, either at home or in a facility.
 
Some of the topics our Patient Advocates respond to most often are:

  • The hospital is threatening to stop my loved one’s treatment, including tube-feeding. What can I do?
  • How should I handle healthcare threats that my loved one is experiencing?
  • Should I have a do not resuscitate (DNR) order on file?
  • I think my mom (dad, friend, …) died from drug overdosing in hospice. Am I crazy?
  • What type of advance directive do you recommend?


As Julie Grimstad mentions in her article Protecting Lives Through Patient Advocacy, most of us will have opportunities to serve as patient advocates when a relative or friend faces a medical crisis or when they need long-term care. Preparing yourself beforehand may equip you to save the life of someone you love. To assist our patient advocates in handling Helpline calls, we provide a comprehensive Patient Advocate Guide and conduct monthly training calls. The FAQ’s in the Training Guide will equip you to handle similar situations should the need arise.
 
In closing, I want to thank each one of HALO’s volunteer patient advocates. Like the three kings displayed at the top of this newsletter, each patient advocate generously gives the gifts of their time and talents to honor God and show love to His children who are facing distressing medical situations. We are grateful beyond measure for their support. In future newsletters, we plan to introduce our volunteer patient advocates to you. Watch for more information!


THE COVID-19 RESPONSE: A PATHWAY FOR DISCRIMINATION AND THE CULTURE OF DEATH

 


THE COVID-19 RESPONSE: A PATHWAY FOR DISCRIMINATION AND THE CULTURE OF DEATH

December 2020
By Mariah Buzza

If the year 2020 has revealed anything, it is that suffering is an inevitable part of life. While Christians believe Christ has redeemed suffering, it is an experience that all will endure. The COVID-19 Pandemic has single handedly reminded us of this reality. From economic depression to the looming fear of the virus, anxiety abounds. However, the key to the Christian life lies in how we respond to suffering. While the virus is indeed a threat to human life, has society at large responded in a way that is counter-productive and creative of even greater suffering? Have we paved a way for the culture of death?

In response to the virus, governments throughout the United States initially shut down all activity it deemed “non-essential.” In this process, lawmakers declared what aspects of life were to be considered “essential” or “life-sustaining.” It should not come as a surprise that churches were not included in the latter category, as society has become increasingly disaffiliated with [1], and in some areas, hostile towards [2] Christianity and religion in general. For a culture and society that is increasingly replacing religion with an aggressive moral relativism [3], this process of distinguishing between that which is essential and non-essential is contradictory and, in some cases, clearly discriminatory.  

The lack of consideration for churches as essential not only highlights the decline of religiosity but ultimately paves the way for discrimination that is already occurring. An example of this discrimination can be seen in the state of New York [4], where caps were put on the number of attendees allowed to participate in worship services but not on businesses, and despite the fact that evidence exists that when guidelines are followed the risk of spread remains low[5] in houses of worship. Thankfully the Supreme Court agreed that the caps were improper and struck the order down, but this type of inconsistent regulation is not merely a disconnected symptom of increasing religious disaffiliation, but is actively damaging to the life of numerous souls.

Suffering Souls Forced to Die Alone

A bleak reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is that those suffering the most from the virus have been forced to die alone for fear of viral spread. Hospitals across the United States have restricted patients from receiving visitors. However, these restrictions have gone so far as to bar the sick from receiving a visit from a pastor or priest, and in some cases causing them to die without final encouragement from a spiritual leader. In some cases, dying patients have also been denied the ability to see their families simply to say goodbye.[6] As time has passed many hospitals have loosened their restrictions for the dying, however it remains problematic that the most vulnerable lack the freedom to nourish their souls in their final moments. The treatment of the dying as mere transmitters of a disease shows how little we value the life and dignity of each and every person.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that humanity has forgotten the sanctity of life and the value of community. One need only look to the New Testament to understand the centrality and need for community in living the Christian life. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”(Matthew 18:20) God is all the more present when Christians are together in communion with each other and it is very clear that Christ desires this. In a time in which God is needed more than ever, communion is needed more than ever. It is not good for man to be alone.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has illuminated the battle between the culture of life and the culture of death that exists in our society and appears to be culminating in the field of health care. The culture of life will only prevail through an acknowledgement of the immense dignity that every human life possesses and that this dignity calls for communion. Health care professionals and our legislative bodies can only promote the culture of life by acknowledging a patient’s right to ethical treatment at all stages of life and allowing patients the resources necessary to care for their spiritual health in respect of their First Amendment Right to Freedom of Religion.
About the Author: Mariah Buzza is the Assistant Manager of Membership Development for CMF CURO and a Policy Analyst for the Christ Medicus Foundation. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Divine Mercy University.
[1] Pew Research Center, “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace: An Update on America’s changing religious landscape,” Religion & Public Life, October 17, 2019, Available at: https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/ (Accessed: November 30, 2020).
[2] Pew Research Center, “Harassment of religious groups continues to be reported in more than 90% of countries”, Religion & Public, November 10, 2020, Available at: https://www.pewforum.org/2020/11/10/harassment-of-religious-groups-continues-to-be-reported-in-more-than-90-of-countries/ (Accessed: November 30, 2020).
[3] Gowans, Chris, "Moral Relativism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Available at: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2019/entries/moral-relativism (Accessed September 15, 2020).
[4] Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York v. Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York, 592, U.S., No. 20A87 (2020) Available at: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/20a87_4g15.pdf (Accessed: November, 30, 2020).
[5] Catholic News Agency Staff, “Evidence shows Mass is safe when guidelines are followed, doctors say”, August, 25, 2020, Available at: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/evidence-shows-mass-is-safe-when-guidelines-are-followed-doctors-say-20801 (Accessed: November 30, 2020).
[6] Hadro, Matt, “HHS: Hospital Restrictions Mean ‘Too Many Dying Alone’ During Coronavirus”, National Catholic Register, June 9, 2020, Available at: https://www.ncregister.com/news/hhs-hospital-restrictions-mean-too-many-dying-alone-during-coronavirus (Accessed: September 15, 2020).
The spiritual health of the faithful has suffered because of COVID restrictions. See how people are fighting back!


MY BROTHER WAS EUTHANIZED

 


MY BROTHER WAS EUTHANIZED

December 2020
By Kathleen Friedman

Note from the editor: The below report is sadly similar to many HALO receives. These stories serve as a reminder to be vigilant whenever a medically vulnerable loved one is receiving hospice care, and not to delay seeking help if you suspect that a life is in danger in any healthcare setting.
 
I believe my brother, Joseph Baxter, was euthanized at a hospice and palliative care center in New Hampshire.

From the evening my brother was taken to the hospital by ambulance on June 24, 2020, the doctors were pushing hospice on us. My husband, a board-certified Gastroenterologist and Internist from New York, responded to the doctor on call that Joe at least deserved a chance to get to his first chemotherapy treatment. Joe had stage 4 esophageal cancer. The previous week, he had undergone surgery to place two stents in his esophagus so he could eat food or drink Boost shakes until his first chemotherapy treatment. Joe was three weeks shy of his 65th birthday. From diagnosis to death, it was two months.  

The hospital’s doctors kept insisting on hospice. I finally caved on Monday, June 27, after being told that he possibly had another perforation in his esophagus. (A few days prior to this, a third stent had been surgically placed to try to "plug" a perforation that no doctor was able to determine was even there.) The day he was to leave the hospital for the hospice center, my husband asked for a CT scan to determine if there was a perforation; and, if so, where it was located and if it could be sealed. In response, we were told that Joe would be unable to lay flat and be still for the scan. My husband saw Joe when he was being prepared for the move to hospice. Guess what? He was lying flat and still!
 
Once he got to the hospice center, they would not give my brother intravenous fluids. I knew he was thirsty and dehydrated (as acknowledged by my husband, a physician) and asked for an IV. The hospice doctor replied, “To what end?” 

My husband asked for oxygen to be administered by nasal cannula. After some discussion with my husband, this was provided reluctantly.  

The day my brother died, the hospice doctor asked me a peculiar question: “Will there be anyone else coming to visit your brother?” I replied, “No.” Six hours later, I received the call that Joe had passed away. Below is a day-by-day summary of what unfolded:

Day 1 (Monday) in hospice: The doctor asked Joe if he had any short-term goals. Joe responded that he wanted to get out of bed and use the bathroom; get to his first chemo treatment (which had been scheduled for July 13, 2020); attend his 65th birthday party at a local lake in VT; visit his nephew for his 4th birthday in August; and then fly to Las Vegas. The doctor told Joe that she would bring in a physical therapist to evaluate his ability to sit up and walk. He was given Ativan and morphine throughout the evening “to help him sleep and for pain" I was told.

Day 2 (Tuesday) in hospice: My family and I arrived at about 10:30 am. Joe was awake and alert. I asked if the physical therapist had been in to see him to evaluate his ability to walk to the bathroom. He replied, “No, nobody has come in so far." He then called his bank to pay some bills and face-timed with my son and his family in Florida. He also asked me to get him a thick shake. Later, he asked for a Dr. Pepper. He drank both. He was looking and acting fine. I asked again about giving him some IV fluids as the urine in the collection bag was becoming a darker color. The hospice staff told me Joe could not have an IV. He could have as much fluid as he wanted, but it would have to be given orally, which my brother had difficulty with due to his cancer. He was sipping some liquids, but his intake was barely enough to prevent dehydration. As evening approached, he was given more Ativan and morphine.

Day 3 (Wednesday) in hospice: My son drove up from New York to visit with Joe. He was less coherent than he had been the prior two days. I was told he was very anxious and in pain during the night and was given more Ativan and morphine. However, he was able to converse with his nephew for a few hours. In addition, when my son and husband were in his room, they were discussing something, thinking Joe was asleep. To their surprise, he heard every word they were saying. (I believe they were looking for the cell phone extension cord. Joe came out of his sleep-like state and told them exactly where it was.) Joe's urine output had decreased, and the color was a dark orange. He received more Ativan and morphine as the day wore on, but no IV.  

Day 4 (Thursday) in hospice: Joe seemed overmedicated and could not communicate. I was told he had been given more Ativan and morphine. My son left at 1:00 pm. The hospice doctor asked me if any more family/visitors were coming. I responded, “No.” At 5:30 pm, my sister and husband asked Joe (who was pretty much “out of it”) if we should go to dinner. He waved his hand “go.” At 8:30 pm, we received the call that Joe had passed away. We immediately went to see him. His body was cold. They said he had just passed at about 8 pm, but my husband, a physician for over 40 years, said it was longer than that.
I know my brother wanted a shot at fighting his cancer. This photograph was taken of Joe in the hospital emergency room where my husband and I took him for some rehydration and a GI consult on June 16, a week before he was brought back to the ER and two weeks and two days before he died. He doesn't look like a person with two weeks left to live.  
In a nutshell:  No physical therapist was brought in; no IV fluids were administered; it was a struggle to get a nasal cannula; and there was no regard for what Joe wanted, nor for his "short-term goals." All he got was lots and lots of Ativan and morphine – a planned and programmed death by euthanasia.
 
If I had known I could take Joe home, I would have.  He had excellent insurance. I was told he wouldn't make the trip. Well, he didn't "make the trip" he was promised at hospice, either.

BETRAYED BY HOSPICE

December 2020

The weekly radio show, Betrayed by Hospice, informs listeners of the potential dangers, terminology and red flags of hospice. In this week’s episode, you can listen to Debbie Frost Blachford speak about her mom’s death in hospice which was needlessly hastened with toxic drugs.
 
An archive of all Betrayed by Hospice shows can be found here. 
We encourage you to check them out!


 



Euthanasia doctor: ‘I don’t call it killing'
– Added December 2020

This short documentary from BBC Stories follows a euthanasia doctor with his patients, offering insight into the pro-death mentality that has infiltrated the medical facilities of the western world. Doctor Yves de Locht practices euthanasia in Belgium, one of the most liberal countries on this deadly procedure. “I don’t call that killing a patient,” says Locht. “I shorten his agony, his suffering, I provide final care, but I don’t feel like I’m killing the patient.” Doctor Locht has euthanized more than 100 people. Eventually he started keeping a diary of his patient’s stories. In a moment of reflection, he admitted that he has to choose which patients to euthanize, and that he has had to say “no” to close friends or family members because it was too hard on him emotionally.
 
This film highlights several patients who asked for Doctor Locht’s “services.” One, referred to as Alain, was a man suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Another patient, Louise, was in perfect health. In crude language she explained her desire to go out on her own terms.
 
The film makers put the most focus on a third patient, Michel, who suffered from jaw cancer. According to his wife, he began his cancer treatment by saying, “I will struggle up to the end. I will do my best to be cured.” However, when the treatments failed to work, he gave up and contemplated suicide. Michel, talking directly to the camera, thanked Doctor Locht for allowing him a way to "die with dignity."
 
As the film comes to a close, Doctor Locht is pictured leaving a hospital after euthanizing Michel. The doctor explained that it went “smoothly” while revealing that “it was a long night” and it “hit him” emotionally.
 
Euthanasia doctor: ‘I don’t call it killing’ is disturbing to watch, especially for a person with a life-affirming mindset. Many of the choices made in the film pervert the meaning of dignity by promoting the attitude that when a life is deemed “difficult,” it should be ended. But our human dignity comes from the terms set by our Creator, not the terms we choose for ourselves. A life well lived is one that is properly accepted as a gift and is lived bravely through the inevitable adversities we each will face. This is a message which medical professionals would be wise to heed. When Doctor Locht is called “home,” one hopes that his conscience will not have been completely euthanized and that he will have asked for God’s mercy before facing judgment.

Reviewed by Chris Rogers
Image: BBC Stories

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With the holidays coming up soon, please prayerfully consider letting friends and family know that in lieu of gifts they could choose to make a donation to HALO!
 
Send your donations (checks only) to:
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Healthcare Advocacy and Leadership Organization is a 501 (c)(3) organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

HALO MISSION STATEMENT


The mission of the Healthcare Advocacy and Leadership Organization is to promote, protect, and advocate for the rights of the medically vulnerable through direct patient and family interactions; through community education and awareness programs; and through promotion and development of concrete *"life-affirming healthcare"* alternatives for those facing the grave consequences of healthcare rationing and unethical practices, especially those at risk of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
*"Life-affirming healthcare" is defined as medical care in which the paramount principle is the sanctity of life, which means that the life and safety of each person come first and each person receives medical care across their lifespan based on their need for care and never with an intention to hasten death, regardless of their abilities or perceived "quality of life."



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