Nel's New Day

June 18, 2018

Courts Feature DDT’s Problems

Today’s post is about recent legal decisions and lawsuit filings, but I’ll begin with the separation of children from their families at the Mexico border.

  • A letter to the editor complained about Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) for not doing his job because he tried to visit to incarceration facilities for these children. This is part of his job.
  • NPR, which now gets large donations from far-right contributors such as the Koch brothers, allowed statements that children are better off being separated from their parents with no one explaining the physical and emotional damage of the separations.
  • Yesterday DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Today she backed down at a White House briefing but supported the lies of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) by blaming Democrats and adding other lies of her own.

People watching nothing but conservative media such as Fox are spared horrific tapes of the cries of abducted children separated from their parents. A six-year-old girl kept repeating her aunt’s telephone number and pleading for someone to call her. When the call was finally made, the aunt in El Salvador could do nothing because she and her daughter cannot get asylum in the U.S. because the DOJ no longer accepts people fleeing from gangs and domestic violence. The six-year-old’s mother will probably be deported without her daughter.

As bad as things are for DDT, the courts are pursuing him. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit against DDT, his three oldest children, and the Donald J. Trump foundation because DDT’s charity allegedly engaged in “illegal conduct” by raising over $2.8 million to influence the presidential election in DDT’s campaign. The suit calls for dissolving the foundation, repaying the $2.8 million along with other penalties, a 10-year ban on DDT serving as director of a New York nonprofit, and a one-year ban on his serving on a nonprofit board for each of his children. Prison could also be a possibility. Underwood also sent referral letters to the IRS and FEC, listing potential law violations for more investigation and legal action.

Summer Zervos’ defamation civil suit for DDT accusation that his sexual assault victims are liars can continue, according to New York’s Supreme Court. Zervos’ lawyer said that they look forward to the “discovery process,” which could reveal information that DDT is hiding.

Rudy Giuliani tried to defame Stormy Daniels because of her profession as an adult film star, saying that she cannot be trusted. In return, Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti tweeted his 500,000+ followers in a search for Giuliani’s porn-watching habits.

An Emoluments Clause lawsuit against DDT for taking gifts from state and foreign governments, a case with no direct precedent, should be decided by the end of July. DDT’s legal team claims that DDT cannot be sued, that his proceeds are not emoluments, and that he has donated his profits to the Treasury. DDT has no evidence for his statement that he made only $151,470. In another emoluments case, 200 congressional Democrats state that DDT has to ask Congress for the right to receive emoluments. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington failed its first round in an emoluments claim for having no standing, but the group is appealing. Any case that manages a requirement of discovery is victorious because DDT has thus far hidden his financial records.

A federal judge in Seattle refused to stay an earlier injunction halting DDT’s transgender military ban while the government is appealing because the government has no new arguments. The judge is one of four issuing preliminary injunctions against Trump’s transgender military ban.

The day after the official end of net neutrality in the United States, an action allowing more profit-making to internet servers, a George W. Bush-appointed judge approved the $85.4 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner with no conditions. The owners of DirecTV, U-verse, AT&T mobile and broadband, Cricket wireless, etc. will now possess HBO, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, Warner Brothers Studios, a stake in Hulu, etc. The judge ruled that the merger did not violate antitrust laws because of the consumer welfare standard that examines only consumer costs. Monopolies are now legal; for example, ultra-conservative Sinclair Publishing can move into almost all the local markets across the nation. Comcast entered a bidding war with Disney for Fox TV and movie assets. T-Mobile, which partners with Netflix, has a deal to buy Sprint. Leon’s ruling also leaves Aetna open to join with CVS, and other health corporations can merge.

In another permit for a huge merger earlier this year, the German pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer can buy agricultural giant Monsanto, creating the world’s biggest pesticides and seeds monopoly.  After the $66 billion purchase, just three megacorporations–Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-DuPont, and Syngenta-ChemChina–will control 61 percent of global seeds and pesticides production, worrying farmers about prices with no competition. Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds have trapped farmers into dependence and reliance on chemicals.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not decide on two gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland. The non-decision gave Wisconsin to the Republicans and Maryland to Democrats. For Wisconsin, the high court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled that challenges must come from each district by voters with standing because the court’s role is only for “individual rights.” The case was sent back to a lower court to determine whether plaintiffs existed in all districts. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch wanted to end the Wisconsin case. An unsigned opinion stated that the Maryland case is at a preliminary stage but that the lower court was not wrong in refusing to order the congressional maps redrawn. The next Supreme Court decision about gerrymandering could come from North Carolina where the GOP controls 10 of 13 congressional districts.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly struck down Minnesota’s ban on political apparel in polling places with the 7-2 ruling that the law was too broad. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that a state may prohibit some apparel, but it must have a “reasonable” line. An example is the California law that defines political information.

Last week, a 4-4 split on the Supreme Court after Justice Anthony Kennedy recused himself left in place a lower court decision supporting the salmon rights of 21 Northwest Native American tribes who sued Washington state for the replacement of almost 1,000 culverts. The decision, that the state cannot impede the salmon that tribes have a right to fish, could affect development, construction, and farming practices in the Northwest by engaging tribes in decision-making.  Tribes may also look at other treaty rights outside fishing and hunting, such as the preservation of national parks and opposition to pipelines.

Healthcare specialist Mark Horton’s lawsuit against St. Louis-based Midwest Geriatric Management, now pending in the 8th Circuit Court, comes from the company’s pulling his job offer after it discovered he is gay. Major companies such as Microsoft and Airbnb joined EEOC to support Horton’s case; conservative states oppose it. The 2nd Circuit Court ruled that the Civil Right Act protects LGBTQ workers.

A federal judge in Missouri this week upheld a state law restricting access to medication to induce abortions as the case awaits trial.

A California appeals court reinstated the state’s right-to-die law until a lawsuit goes to court. A lower court had blocked the law on the grounds that the legislature could not pass the law during a special session limited to other issues. Oregon was the first to pass a death-with-dignity law in 1997 before it was joined by Washington, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington D.C.

Kentucky is suing Walgreens for allegedly aggravating the opioid crisis as both distributor and dispenser in filling huge quantities of prescription narcotic pain medication. This is the sixth opioid-related lawsuit filed by Kentucky. Other states are doing the same—Florida, Delaware, and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Massachusetts is also suing Purdue Pharma and 16 of the OxyContin maker’s executives for misleading doctors and patients about the risks of opioids. Alabama filed a suit against the company four months ago.

A federal judge blocked Indiana from immediately purging registered voters with personal records elsewhere on the faulty Crosschecks computer program.

A question about citizenship abruptly added to the 2020 census with no vetting has brought lawsuits from over two dozen states and cities in opposition. The subsequent release of 1,320 internal memos, emails, and other documents sheds light on this decision. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the cost of the last-minute addition would be insignificant, but John Abowd, the Census Bureau’s chief scientist, conservatively estimates the expense at $27.5 million. The question came from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, known for his work to disenfranchise progressive voter. He objected to undocumented immigrants being used to determine the number of congressional seats, despite the fact that this constitutional practice has been used since the first census in 1790.

Earlier this year, Kobach was fined $1,000 for misleading the court about documents in a folder he took to a meeting with DDT soon after the presidential election. Kobach said he paid the fee “out of his own pocket,” but he used a state credit card issued to Craig McCullah, deputy assistant secretary of state under Kobach, for the payment. McCullah, in Ukraine deployed with the Oklahoma Army National Guard when the payment was made, was not told about it. Kobach was also found to have disobeyed orders to notify thousands of Kansans that they were legally registered to vote in 2016. He is running for governor of Kansas.

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was suspended from the bench for 32 counts of lying and using his public office for personal gain. Those seem to be actions reserved for the president of the United States.

June 9, 2013

Redemptive Suffering May Come to Your Town

The only hospital within 25 miles of our small town was created by a health “special district” supported by local taxes. Most of the area’s doctors are connected to the hospital. Almost 15 years ago, Providence, a large Catholic hospital wanted to take over the health district. When asked about the Catholic approach toward health care, Providence spokespeople assured people that nothing would change, that the hospital could continue with providing contraceptive medications and procedures to all men and women and that we could continue with the policy of “death with dignity,” legal in the state of Oregon.

When the case went to court, however, hospital officials admitted that they had not told the truth; the hospital and all the doctors connected with it would be required to follow the Catholic directives described below.

More and more people around the country are realizing the loss of patience autonomy if Catholics control their hospitals. Arizona found this out when a pregnant woman suffered from life-threatening heart danger:

“Physicians concluded that, if she continued with the pregnancy, her chances of mortality were ‘close to 100 percent.’ An administrator, Sister Margaret McBride, approved an abortion, citing a church directive allowing termination when the mother’s life is at risk. Afterward, however, the local bishop, Thomas Olmsted, said the abortion had not been absolutely necessary. He excommunicated the nun and severed ties with the hospital, although the nun subsequently won reinstatement when she agreed to confess her sin to a priest.”

Washington state has had an even greater independent view of health care than many other states. Like Oregon, they legalized death with dignity. Washington law mandates that “every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse birth control” and “every woman has the fundamental right to choose or refuse abortion.” The state also guarantees an absolute right to privacy around mental health and reproductive issues for teens aged 13 and up. Last year, Washington legalized recreational marijuana use and marriage equality, and their constitution has an Equal Rights Amendment and a stronger wall of separation between church and state than the U.S. Constitution. State law even extended statutes of limitations on child sex abuse—something Archbishop Timothy Dolan successfully fended off in New York and Pennsylvania.

Like Oregon, however, the mergers between independent hospitals with large healthcare corporations mean more Catholic hospitals. Five of the six biggest hospital organizations are Catholic, including the Catholic Health Initiatives, operated by the conservative Franciscans. If all the planned mergers in Washington are successful, 45 percent of the state’s hospital beds will be religiously affiliated by the end of this year. One-hundred percent of hospital facilities in ten counties will be religious, including outpatient clinics, laboratories, and physician practices.

The plus side of mergers is the ability to acquire more expensive equipment, better electronic record keeping, and greater administrative efficiency. The down side is that everyone who is in the hospital or has a health practitioner connected with the hospital will have to follow the religious directives because, in the words of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, Catholic hospitals and healthcare corporations are “healthcare ministries” and “opportunities”:

“New partnerships can be viewed as opportunities for Catholic healthcare institutions and services to witness to their religious and ethical commitments and so influence the healing profession. . . .For example, new partnerships can help to implement the Church’s social teaching.”

No longer will care be dictated by medical science and patient preference. A set of theological agreements call the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” or ERDs dictate treatment options offered to–or even discussed with–patients.

Gone is the dual patient-doctor relationship. Religious hospitals operate with a trinity—a patient-doctor-church relationship: “The Church’s moral teaching on healthcare nurtures a truly interpersonal professional-patient relationship. This professional-patient relationship is never separated, then, from the Catholic identity of the healthcare institution.”

Providers who work in these religious systems must sign binding contractual agreements to adhere to the religious directives: “Catholic healthcare services must adopt these Directives as policy, require adherence to them within the institution as a condition for medical privileges and employment, and provide appropriate instruction regarding the Directives ….”

Fertility Treatment: “Reproductive technologies that substitute for the marriage act are not consistent with human dignity.” ERDs prevents any in vitro fertilization and related treatments, either for same-sex couples who may use surrogacy or insemination for childbearing of for the ten percent of couples in the United States who have fertility problems.

Contraception: “Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices …. Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution.” A woman who delivers a baby at a Catholic hospital and wants an IUD inserted or her tubes tied must have a second, separate procedure at a secular facility—if she can find one. State-of-the-art methods like IUD’s are better provided at the time of delivery, because postpartum insertion improves health outcomes; having tubal ligation at a different time than delivery means two surgeries instead of one if the baby was delivered through a C-section. Physicians connected to a religious hospital are prevented from doing vasectomies in their office or clinic.

Abnormal Pregnancies: “In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion.” Catholic practice requires the removal of the entire fallopian tube to end an ectopic pregnancy instead of just taking out the developing fetus. That mandates invasive and fertility-destroying surgery. Catholic “ethics” also forbid abortion even to save the life of the woman carrying the fetus. The recent publicity regarding Beatriz in El Salvador clearly exemplifies this situation.

Advance Directives: “A Catholic health care institution … will not honor an advance directive that is contrary to Catholic teaching.” If patient directives and bishop directives conflict, the directives of the bishops take precedence regardless of a patient’s own religious or conscience obligations.

DNR: “The free and informed judgment made by a competent adult patient concerning the use or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures should always be respected and normally complied with, unless it is contrary to Catholic moral teaching.” Catholic hospitals refuse to honor a patient’s request of “Do not Resuscitate,” maintaining life support at all costs despite patient orders.

Death with Dignity: “Catholic healthcare institutions may never condone or participate in [Death With Dignity] in any way.” Although three states have now legalized the right of patients to voluntarily end their lives under specific conditions, Catholic hospitals will not allow this right. Physicians are prohibited from even discussing options that exist in other institutions or making referrals.

“Patients experiencing suffering that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering.” This theological notion is derived from the crucifixion story—the idea that the blood sacrifice of a perfect being could redeem harm done. Suffering itself has redemptive value, which is why Mother Teresa’s order, for example, practiced self-flagellation and glorified suffering of the poor, ill, and dying.

Not everyone in Washington is accepting the Catholic health care takeover. After Catholic Peace Health got an exclusive contract near her home in the San Juan Islands, advocate Monica Harrington created a website to complement the efforts of the national Merger Watch. Fighting the religious takeover of secular systems across the country for over a decade, Merger Watch has identified a recent surge of Catholic hospital ownership. The ACLU of Washington working toward a state-wide solution, the first in the country. Part of its efforts is soliciting confidentially-protected stories from patients and providers anywhere who have experienced religious interference in medical decisions in the United States.

The Catholic Church provides less than five percent of revenues for Catholic-controlled hospitals. The other 95 percent comes from insurance reimbursement and tax-payer funds in the form of Medicaid, Medicare and capital grants for public services. Yet that five percent gives the Catholic Church total autonomy.

Washington is not the only state in trouble. In Arkansas, the state’s only teaching hospital, UAMS, is negotiating a merger with St. Vincent Health. If that were to happen, medical students would not be taught correct procedures in women’s reproductive needs, endangering the lives of people who go to these students when they become health practitioners.

The following map shows the growing influence of Catholic hospitals, now providing 16 percent of the beds, through the share of admissions to Catholic hospitals in the United States:

1369656508-catholic_hospitals_map_lg

Fortunately, health care in our small town had a happy ending. We affiliated with a group of four other small-town hospitals, each of which kept its religious affiliation. One is Episcopalian, and another is Seventh Day Adventist. The other three are secular. The hospital still honors women’s reproductive rights, advance directives, and death with dignity.

People need to understand that Catholic hospitals prevent much more than abortions and emergency contraception. Catholic hospitals take away the rights of patients to both save their lives and make their own end-of-life decisions. Anyone in a Catholic hospital may discover, up close and personal, the meaning of redemptive suffering.

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