Category Archives: Medical Ethics

BRIEF: UNCW lecturer to speak about N.C. eugenics and Nazi eugenics Thursday

Anthropometry demonstrated in an exhibit from ...

Anthropometry demonstrated in an exhibit from a 1921 eugenics conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New York Times bestselling author and investigative journalist Edwin Black will speak about eugenics programs used against blacks and mentally disabled people in North Carolina as well as the eugenics programs of the Nazis at 7 p.m. Thursday (April 26) in the School of Nursing McNeil Auditorium, Room 1005 on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

His speaking tour is based on his book War Against the Weak and is sponsored by UNCW’s History department, the Block & Rhine Fund for Jewish Studies in association with The American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Details: 910-962-3308.

– Amanda Greene

Ministry for people with disabilities coming to the Carolinas

Wheelchair by the lake. Photo courtesy of Special Touch Ministries.

Andy Lee

By Blogger Andy Lee
Walk the Talk

According to Special Touch Ministries, the statistics are staggering: 58 million handicapped people in our country are unreached by the church.

One out of five families in America have a handicapped family member, and the divorce rate of marriages with handicapped children is 98 percent. There is a tremendous need to help these families.

Marshall and Gilda Wise know this need first hand. They know the

Marshall and Gilda Wise with their son, Chad. Photo courtesy of the Wise family.

physical, mental and emotional challenges of families with handicapped children because their son, Chad, has cerebral palsy. Perhaps this is why after retiring from pastoral ministry in January 2011, they decided to expand the national Special Touch Ministries, Inc. to North Carolina and South Carolina.

Special Touch Ministries, Inc. was founded by Debbie and Charles Chivers in 1982 when they held a summer camp in Wisconsin for children and adults with disabilities. Only 32 people attended the Summer Get A Way that first year, but the camp attendance continued to double each summer, and the ministry has expanded nationwide. The camps and chapters can now be found in Oklahoma, Arizona, New England, Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

A Summer Get-A-Way for our area is in the making. Wise hopes to have a camp developed for the Carolinas by 2013. These “get-a-ways” include recreational and worship experiences tailored for the handicapped ages 10 and older.

A Get-A-Way camper. Photo courtesy of Special Touch Ministries.

But Special Touch Ministries is not just about a summer camp,. It’s about reaching out to people with disabilities and their caregivers and supporting them with local chapters all year long. The chapters are interdenominational groups who meet once a month for support, fun activities and fellowship. They are love in action.

They are also the source for funding the Summer Get-A-Way camps. Each chapter reaches out to the businesses and churches in the community for financial support.

Finally, Special Touch desires to raise awareness of the lack of involvement of handicapped people within our churches. Many disabled in our community are bored and isolated. They need to be given a purpose, which is the difference between existing and living.

Questions Marshal Wise wants churches to ask are:

  • Besides providing handicapped parking and ramps, how is the church ministering to this special group?
  • Does the church provide classes for special needs?
  • Do we have a place of ministry for them?
  • Are we providing respite for the caregivers?

Interviewing Marshall and Gilda Wise made me realize how few handicapped people I remembered in the many churches I’ve attended throughout my life. Why is that? Where have they been?

As Gilda so beautifully put it, “People with disabled bodies don’t have disabled spirits.”

Let’s walk the talk.

To get involved email:

Man behind ‘near-death experience’ ponders the afterlife

Raymond Moody, the man who coined the term "near-death experience". RNS photo

c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) Raymond Moody has spent nearly 40 years looking forward, trying to understand what happens when people die. That pursuit led to the publication of “Life After Life” in 1975, a seminal collection that actually coined the term “near-death experience.”

But in his new memoir, “Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife,” the 67-year-old Moody instead looks back, reflecting on his fascination with death, the effect of his life’s work, and trying to figure out what it’s all meant.

One key revelation: despite his frustrations with some religious and New Age interpretations of his work, and the fact that he does not practice a religion, the psychologist and philosopher who grew up the son of an agnostic surgeon says he has “woken up to God.”

“From the very beginning (of my afterlife studies) I was hearing people with experiences, some of whom had not been religious and some of whom were, and whatever they had been before, afterward there seemed to be a sort of commonality, which is the understanding that yes, there is a God,” Moody said.

The Georgia-born Moody became obsessed with the afterlife not out of religious conviction, but as a philosophy student at the University of Virginia.

“I was reading Plato’s ‘The Republic’ at age 18 and I can’t account fully the electricity that had for me,” he said. The story of Ur, a warrior thought dead who awoke and described going to another world, impressed him deeply.

“I felt the question of the afterlife was the black hole of the personal universe: something for which substantial proof of existence had been offered but which had not yet been explored in the proper way by scientists and philosophers,” Moody writes in “Paranormal.” His fascination only deepened after befriending a psychiatrist at the university, George Ritchie, who had his own near-death experience, and even felt that his experience had given him at times a “direct line with God.”

Ritchie’s was the first of many near death stories Moody heard. He found some commonalities: an out-of-body experience, the sensation of traveling through a tunnel, communicating with dead relatives, encountering a bright light (thought by some to be Jesus, God or an angel), and when they came back, a sense that there was truth in all the great faiths.

In “Paranormal,” Moody writes that “Life After Life” was so successful — it sold more than 10 million copies — in part because it didn’t entertain a religious bias. “People no longer had to keep it in the closet or worry about people thinking they were crazy,” Moody said. “It gave us legitimate consolation.”

It also ignited an ongoing crusade among some religious people and New Agers who felt “Life After Life” was proof that an afterlife existed and wanted his public endorsement for their beliefs — something Moody has refused to do. In spite of all the stories he’s heard and research he’s done, he doesn’t see his body of work as definitive scientific evidence that life after death truly exists.

“Religion has co-opted his field of study, and they built fences around near-death experiences he doesn’t think should exist,” said Paul Perry, Moody’s friend and “Paranormal” co-author. “The same is true of New Agers. … It’s frustrating for Raymond to deal with who he considers fanatics.”

Nevertheless, Moody said he understands why people would take comfort in his research, and why they would associate his findings with God or their religious beliefs. Moody himself frequently speaks to religious and New Age groups.

“Raymond will speak at any place he is asked to speak. It’s part of how he makes his living,” Perry said. “There’s no place for a guy to get the word out other than New Age functions and religious functions. Science doesn’t totally recognize near-death studies. … But generally when he talks at New Age functions and churches, he’s right up front about how he feels about religion and New Age philosophy, and he’s going to tell people what he thinks.”

The events around “Life After Life” occur about halfway through “Paranormal.” Moody’s memoirs also touch on his other interests of studies, like using hypnotherapy to revisit past lives, and constructing a chamber dubbed a “psychomanteum” at his home in Alabama, where patients have used crystal gazing in a bid to communicate with deceased loved ones.

These sorts of eccentric studies no doubt invite scrutiny — Moody reveals in the book that his own father had him committed to a mental hospital after Moody shared stories of his psychomanteum. He also details his own near-death experience in “Paranormal” when he attempted suicide in 1991; Moody was suffering from an undiagnosed thyroid condition at the time which, he said, affected his mental state.

But Moody said “he is too old for secrets,” and in “Paranormal,” he argues that the suicide attempt made him more honest about himself and his work.

“Without it, I would lack that dimension that is not present in many doctors, the one that goes beyond knowledge and into the realm of actually being a patient,” he writes.

“I don’t care what other people think,” Moody said of “Paranormal.” “Putting it together brought back so many memories. It was a sobering and delicious experience.”

How do we care for the elderly in compassionate and alternative ways?

By Blogger David Scott
Politics + Religion

In his recent visit to the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich spoke about pumping more money into brain science research for cures and

Newt Gingrich at a political conference in Orl...

Newt Gingrich at a political conference in Orlando, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

therapies for autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

But alternative therapies for dementia can cost as little as a pair of headphones, a CD and a music player.

This video looks at one type of music therapy for elderly patients with mental illnesses.

This video will make your day!

Vet hears God’s call in providing artificial limbs

Standing With Hope Founder, Gracie Rosenberger with SWH patient, Abraham. RNS photo courtesy of Standing With Hope

c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

NASHVILLE (RNS) Allan Doyle used to have big dreams and little faith.

He’d grown up Methodist but dropped out of church after high school. A bad marriage in his early 20s ended in divorce, leaving Doyle afraid that he’s spend most of his life alone.

His main goal was to save enough money from serving in the Army to go to college and become a corporate lawyer. “I wanted to make as much money as possible,” said Doyle, 39.

But the Iraq War changed all that.

In 2003, Doyle was in Saddam Hussein’s palace in Tikrit when a stone from one of the walls fell on him, crushing his left leg. Doctors had no choice but to amputate it below the knee.

A few months later, Doyle was fitted with his first artificial leg. Along the way he rediscovered his faith and found a new calling as a prosthetist — a medical professional who fits amputees with new limbs.

This summer, he’ll spend a week in Ghana with Nashville-based Standing with Hope, a nonprofit that helps provide high quality limbs for people of the West African nation.

“I just want to help people walk again,” said Doyle.

Seven years ago, when they founded Standing with Hope, Gracie and Peter Rosenberger had the same goal.

The couple met in college at Belmont University in Nashville, where Gracie was an aspiring Christian singer who hoped to someday be a missionary.

A week before Thanksgiving in 1983, Gracie, then 17, fell asleep while driving in rural Tennessee. She endured dozens of surgeries, hoping doctors could repair her shattered legs. The recovery was excruciating.

Doctors weren’t able to save her legs and both were amputated. That left her with a fearful and uncertain future, until Gracie got her first prosthetic legs. She was able to recover enough to walk and play basketball in the driveway with her two boys, and to realize her dream of becoming a singer. A highlight of her career was singing for President George W. Bush in 2004 at an event in Nashville.

She’s also visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Without those new legs, she said, none of that would have been possible.

“They gave me my life back,” she said. “I had no idea what I was capable of. I want to offer people the same hope that’s been offered to me.”

The Rosenbergers founded Standing with Hope in 2003 and starting working in Ghana two years later.

The nonprofit ships the parts and supplies needed to build legs to the National Prosthetics and Orthotics Center run by Ghana’s National Health Service in the capital city of Accra. Most of the parts are recycled from old prosthetic limbs that have been donated to Standing with Hope.

Technicians trained by Standing with Hope then use those recycled parts to assemble and fit the new limbs on amputees.

Jim McElhiney, a Spring Hill, Tenn.-based prosthetist who’s a longtime friend of the Rosenberger’s, helped design the training program. Initially, he was skeptical, saying the program wouldn’t work if it relied too heavily on Americans to build and fit artificial limbs.

“I didn’t want to do it at first,” he said. “Look, if I go over there for weeks once a year — how many legs can I make? The need is so much bigger than I — even if I had a team of 50 prosthetists — could handle.”

With the help of Standing with Hope, technicians at the clinic in Accra can now build custom limbs to fit amputees as well as provide follow-up care.

“We put hundreds and hundreds of legs on people but each person needs adjustment over the years. If the patient is young, they might need new legs as they grow. It is a lifelong commitment to each patient.”

Last fall, Standing with Hope started a new program they hope will expand the number of prosthetics they can provide in Ghana. Inmates at a Nashville prison now disassemble donated limbs and sort the parts for shipping to Africa.

The charity’s biggest need is for more donated limbs, said Rosenberger. At the clinic, each patient also gets a bag with cleaning supplies and tools needed to care for their new limb. The bag also includes an explanation of the charity’s Christian mission.

Peter Rosenberger, who will be making his 10th trip to Ghana this summer, said that he and other volunteers don’t push their faith. But if the patients are interested, he shared with them how faith in Jesus motivates the charity’s work.

He recalls telling one patient about how Christianity gave his wife, Gracie, hope after she lost her legs. “I told him, ‘You are literally standing on her belief,'” he said. “She trusted on that belief and every step you take you are standing on that faith.'”

Doyle said he rediscovered his faith while in the Army, and it was strengthened while he recovered from his injury in Iraq. He now attends a Southern Baptist congregation in Texas. Doyle also remarried and now is the father of four, with three young children from his second marriage and an older daughter from his first.

He graduated from University of Texas Southwestern with a degree in prosthetics and orthotics and is currently working for a prosthetist in Texas. He hopes to finish his final licensing exam in June.

During his training he worked at a Veterans Administration facility in Texas, helping other veterans who are amputees.

“It is wonderful to see a guy walking again for the first time after he was amputated, and you helped them to do that,” he said.

And his new life is better than his old dream of being a wealthy lawyer.

“I look at my injury as a blessing,” he said, “rather than a curse.”

Three cheers for Mormons and other “healthy faiths”

By Contributor Cynthia Barnett

The effect of religion on health is probably too huge a question to study easily. Certainly, one short blog can’t provide a full account of what is today being learned. But there are consistent tidbits coming out of contemporary studies that remind those of us who have a spiritual practice the importance of focusing on loving God more than all else and not making anything an idol.

Here’s one example. Many of us know Mormons are taught clear and prudent ways to live. They focus on commitment to both marriage and family stability. They neither smoke nor drink alcohol. And, they don’t use caffeine. It’s also understood they don’t use illegal drugs.

Sound too prissy for you? Listen up, anyone who wants a healthier life. A study by UCLA indicates these choices are direct contributors to improved health and longevity.

According to a Ford Motor Company newsletter on various faiths and religious practices:

1.) A UCLA study revealed that practicing Mormons live longer than most Americans, men by 11 years, and women by eight years.

2.) Utah, arguably the state with the most Mormons, ranks 50th in the nation in smoking, alcohol consumption, drunk driving, heart disease and sick days.

The studyprovides a glimpse, not only into the improvements in


Health (Photo credit: 401K)

individual health, but also to the overall impact of healthcare costs and incalculable suffering and economic impact connected with drunk driving, heart disease and “sick days.”

Studies such as these, tracking the connection between health and religion, offer other interesting insights. One of those is that the benefits of a connection between spirituality and health are not unique to any particular faith practice. For me, as someone who comes out of a Judeo-Christian background, this speaks of the universality of the idea that when we focus on growing our understanding of God (no matter what we call the Divine) and turn away from material things that become idols, we can rest assured of greater well-being.

I’m not in the business of converting folks to religion, not even my own. But as a Christian Scientist whose religion also teaches avoidance of tobacco, alcohol and other harmful habits like gambling and overeating, I can’t help but be grateful for the growing body of evidence which shows that focusing on “mindfulness practices” including spirituality and religion leads to better health and better communities. It’s certainly been my experience for more than 50 years.

One Brave Christian Experiment: Day 39, “A Life That Really Matters”

Editor’s Note: Contributor Christine Moughamian is blogging each day of Lent about her progress becoming “one brave Christian.” Follow her experiment on Twitter @1bravechristian.

By Contributor Christine Moughamian

In 1965, Danny Morris was the minister of John Wesley Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, FL, where Sam Teague created his “Ten Brave Christians” experiment. He recounted the spiritual renewal his congregation underwent in his book: “A Life That Really Matters.”

In his foreword, Morris explained it was “the story of how the program started and what happened to the first 38 people who took part.”

I was particularly interested in two of the testimonies.

Under “A New Calling,” Morris told the experience of a young man who participated in the original group and owned a drugstore. Although all names had been withheld, it was easy to identify Calvin LeHew, co-author with Stowe Dailey Shockey of “Flying High,” the book which inspired my Lenten experiment.

Once he completed the program, LeHew asked himself: “How many of my customers’ physical ailments are related to their lack of spiritual life?” He further noted: “With my drugs, they get relief but not help.”

Then LeHew decided to give every new prescription customer a complimentary “good book” which would read on the inside cover:

“Thank you for letting us aid in your physical health! May we also recommend this book to aid in your spiritual health.”

His “New Calling” served two purposes: to “witness to God for others” and to motivate Morris to write the “good book” which became “A Life That Really Matters.”

The second testimony that was meaningful to me came from a woman who had always been a Christian but, “in an attitude of prayer,” still wondered about “surrendering” her life to God.

She said: “in a time of war between two countries… the surrender is complete. I thought of the struggle I had been having in my own soul.”

She realized that to “surrender” her life to God meant: “God can decide – and help me to decide – what in my life needs to be cast off. He is the victor.”

Upon reading her testimony, I was reminded of two wars. The first one was raging in Vietnam at that time.

The second war opens “The Bhagavad Gita,” or “The Lord’s Song.” In the

Prince Arjuna and his Charioteer, Lord Krishna. Photo via Wikipedia

Hindu scripture, it is waged in the soul.

Prince Arjuna is portrayed on the battlefield, in his chariot. He is pleading with Lord Krishna to avoid the inevitable: surrendering to God.

In the epic allegory, the chariot represents the body, which must be fit. The five horses are the five senses, which must be controlled by the reins of the mind. Lord Krishna is the intellect or Divine Guidance within. Arjuna is the Master Archer who must battle his drives and desires with one-pointed concentration and surrender his ego, his own will, to the will of God.

After a long struggle, Arjuna runs out of arguments. He throws down his bow and arrows, sits down in his chariot, despondent. He addresses Lord Krishna “in an attitude of prayer”:

“I am your disciple. Please teach me, for I have taken refuge in you.”

From that place of total surrender to Divine Guidance, Prince Arjuna lets Lord Krishna drive his chariot on the battlefield of the soul. He conquers his inner enemies, the error thoughts of separation from God. The Prince becomes the King of Action, masters the Law of Karma.

He achieves Union with the Divine and inherits the Kingdom of Heaven.

Across thousands of years, those two stories seem to illustrate the same point:

Surrendering the ego to Divine Guidance may lead one to live “a life that really matters.”

BRIEF: Caregiver conference coming to downtown Wilmington

Caregiver joins her striking caregivers

Caregiver joins her striking caregivers (Photo credit: Simon Oosterman)

Lower Cape Fear Hospice & Lifecare Center will present the free Live Well. Every Moment Matters community caregiver conference 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Friday (March 30) at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside in downtown Wilmington.

The event includes lunch, all materials presentations on preparing to be a caregiver, communicating with people with dementia; caring for your spirit while caring for others.

The event is targeted to individual caregivers as well as church leaders.

The conference sessions include:

Prepare to Care: What Caregivers Need to Know with Suzanne LaFollette-Black (AARP)

Finding Meaning in the Moments: Communicating with People with Dementia, Melanie Bunn (Alzheimers NC)

Keeping your Spirit Healthy when your Caregiving Duties and Responsibilities are Dragging You Down, Benjamin Pratt (Author/Speaker)

Living with Loss, Living with Hope, Susan Dunlap (Duke Divinity School).

Details: 910-796-7943.

– Amanda Greene

White House proposal gives religious groups more say in birth control mandate

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) The Obama administration is offering to expand the number of faith-based groups that can be exempt from the controversial contraception mandate, and proposing that third-party companies administer coverage for self-insured faith-based groups at no cost.

At its heart, the newest offering from the White House would allow religious groups — dioceses, denominations and others — to decide which affiliated institutions are “religious” and therefore exempt from the new requirement that employers offer free contraception coverage as part of employee insurance plans.

The proposals are an effort by the administration to blunt criticisms of the controversial regulation, especially by the nation’s Catholic bishops, who have been at loggerheads with the White House since President Obama announced the contraception mandate in January.

Obama was sharply criticized by faith groups for not providing a sufficiently broad exemption for religious groups. On Feb. 10 he outlined an “accommodation” that tried to circumvent most of the problems by having insurance companies — rather than religious employers — provide the birth control coverage through a separate rider and at no cost to the employer.

While that move appeased some concerns, Catholic bishops and others argued that the religious exemption was still too narrow and could set a dangerous precedent by appearing to allow the government to determine what groups within a faith should be considered religious.

Others object that many religious groups self-insure in order to save money, and so having the insurer pay for contraception coverage rather than the employer made no difference because insurer and employer are one and the same.

The 32-page proposal, published late Friday (March 16) in the Federal Register, goes out of its way to state that “this religious exemption is intended solely for purposes of the contraceptive coverage requirement” and does not “set a precedent for any other purpose.”

“Whether an employer is designated as ‘religious’ for these purposes is not intended as a judgment about the mission, sincerity, or commitment of the employer, and the use of such designation is limited to defining the class that qualifies for this specific exemption,” states the proposed rule.

The other main innovation in the new proposal is to have a “third-party administrator of the group health plan or some other independent entity” assume responsibility for the contraception coverage for self-insured organizations, with various proposals for ensuring that self-insured groups with religious objections would not directly or indirectly pay for the birth control policy.

Whether any of these ideas will satisfy the die-hard critics of the contraception mandate is unclear, and perhaps unlikely.

“At the end of the day, no accounting gimmick changes the fact that the mandate forces religious organizations to pay health insurance companies for coverage to their employees with drugs and services that simply violates their religious convictions,” said Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops’ conference, told National Catholic Reporter she was “surprised that such important information would be announced late Friday of St. Patrick’s Day weekend and as we prepare for the fourth Sunday of Lent.”

Others involved in the negotiations said it would take time to review the proposals properly.

Sister Carol Keehan, the head of the Catholic Health Association, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals, said she and her members “will have to give it a careful review” before responding.

Some critics charge that the latest proposals are an effort to “kick the can down the road” so that the administration does not have to issue a final determination until after the November election. Yet the delay in finalizing the regulations could also serve to prolong the debate.

Others believe that the 90-day open comment period on the proposals, known as an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” or ANPR, could actually function as a kind of cooling-off mechanism for this issue, which has exploded into an election-year debate that poses risks and rewards for all sides.

The ANPR at several points sets out a variety of possible solutions to religious objections, and invites “input on these options, particularly how to enable religious organizations to avoid such objectionable cooperation when it comes to the funding of contraceptive coverage, as well as new ideas to inform the next stage of the rulemaking process.”

By providing new details and extending the opportunity for dialogue, the Obama administration can now begin to shift discussions to the nuts and bolts of addressing the religious freedom concerns and away from rhetorical broadsides that the White House is launching a “war on religion” and can’t be trusted.

Staff members from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops were involved in initial discussions to work out a deal, but those ground to a halt when bishops accused the White House of negotiating in bad faith, a charge the administration strongly rejects.

Prescription: Medicine of the heart

By Contributor Cynthia Barnett

What if medicine was more of a balm for the soul than a drug for the body?

What if the heart of the treatment was compassion from doctor to patient? In other words, a kind of “heart to heart.”

According to Donna Helen Crisp, this more spiritual approach is ideal, practicable and effective. As clinical assistant professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Nursing in Chapel Hill, Crisp wrote movingly in a Dec. 9 “News and Observer” article about the need to address the compassion issue.

She observed, “True compassion replaces ‘niceness’ when physicians understand that suffering is about more than the flesh; that it also encompasses a person’s mind and spirit, hopes and dreams, sense of control and fears about what is to come.”

She added states of thought such as loneliness, hopelessness, powerlessness and loss of dignity may be “invisible yet powerful dimensions of patient suffering.”

Some years ago a friend experienced what she felt were symptoms of heart disease. Accustomed to prayer as a first response to her health challenges, she began considering her own fears or other unwholesome states of thought might be behind the physical symptoms.

A sense of guilt over a family situation surfaced. Memories of a much loved grandmother’s rebuke came to light. Apparently my friend had chosen a life that was not the one her grandmother had wished for her, and the grandmother had lamented many times, “You’re breaking my heart.”

In a flash of revelation, my friend saw she’d done nothing wrong, she’d always loved and revered her grandmother, and she was not the cause of her grandmother’s self-inflicted disappointment. In God’s eyes, they were both innocent.

All guilt was washed away with this prayer-based thought process and in its place she felt compassion for both her grandmother and herself. And, the symptoms of heart trouble disappeared as well.

“It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly,” Crisp quotes Saint-Exupery.

Hearts touch hearts.

Thoughts change, things improve, and we are restored to wholeness.