Pro-Life Health Care Conference Review
by Phil Sevilla
A pro-life health care conference sponsored by Texas Leadership Coalition addressing the crisis in end of life care in America was held on Saturday, November 19, 2016 at Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio. We had a room full of attendees at the all day conference. The event began with Holy Mass celebrated by Fr. Christopher Phillips, pastor of the parish, followed by lectures at the St. Anthony Hall.
A video lecture by Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Rene Gracida, addressed health care problems surrounding organ transplantation and “brain death”. According to Bishop Gracida, the organ transplantation industry plays a significant, insidious role in end of life care practices. He emphasized that the medical industry has been attempting to redefine death to benefit the organ donation industry (a $29 billion a year industry) not to mention government and private organizations that oversee health care. An accurate definition of death according to Bishop Gracida:
“DEATH is the total permanent loss of circulation of blood leading to the cessation of vital functions dependent on such circulation such as pulsation. respiration. Brain activity leading in turn to the destruction of these vital systems and organs necessary for the preservation of human life. Death is not an instantaneous phenomenon. it is a process. PROCESS means the successive occurrence in time of the physiological changes named above in parts of the human body. CHANGES described above causing death can be measured in nano-seconds, seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks or longer.”
Furthermore, His Excellency, Bishop Gracida, in the handout he sent to the conference, stated that “words are symbols with meaning. We must fight to have the law in very state redefine death using the words I have written at the beginning of this post.” Bishop Gracida’s special video presentation should not be missed. (Download a copy of Bishop Rene Gracida’s handout)
Julie Grimstad, Director of Life is Worth Living, a patient advocacy organization in Texas, gave two presentations on the health care crisis in America and the critical need for informed patient advocates to assist the elderly and disabled who are not capable of representing themselves.
Earlier hospice care service providers were originally dominated by non-profits, many affiliated with religious and church-affiliated organizations. While there are some wonderful hospice agencies, according to Mrs. Grimstad, multi-state for-profit corporations are now dominating hospice care which has grown to a $14 billion dollar industry. Over 4,000 hospice care agencies (2014) in the U.S. provide medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support for 1.3 million patients (2013) facing terminal illnesses or health conditions that are no longer treatable. (CDC National Center for Health Statistics).
Pro-life hospices are becoming rare and many serious and deadly abuses in hospice care have been reported. Cases have been reported about patients being dehydrated, sedated, and morphine overdoses causing intentional death. Whistleblowers have reported widespread Medicare fraud in hospice agencies.
Mrs. Grimstad informed the conference attendees that the leading trade organization, National Hospice and Palliative Care is the legal and corporate successor to the Euthanasia Society of America. Ultimately families and caregivers must learn to be vigilant and well informed about their rights and protect the interests of their loved ones in extremis when dealing with hospitals, medical professionals, and hospice agencies.
Mrs. Stephanie Block, goddaughter of Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, well-known, highly esteemed Catholic philosopher and author, gave a thoughtful reflection on Dr. Von Hildebrand’s talks and writings on the gift of redemptive suffering followed by a presentation by Mr. John Seago, a pro-life advocate and lobbyist in Austin, who informed attendees about the medical futility statutes in the Texas Advance Directive Act which according to Mr. Seago does not fairly balance patient and hospital rights and should be amended, hopefully in the next legislative session next year.
Deacon Robert Correa and Mr. Jesse Tovar spoke about their extensive service in hospice and hospital chaplaincy and the enriching experience both have been blessed with in serving the seriously sick and those in end of life situations. Mr. Tovar made an appeal for more volunteers in hospital ministry.
Mr. James Keller and Mrs. Cathy Campbell, both hospice nurses with extensive experience in hospice care, gave presentations on the history of the modern hospice movement which started with the charitable work of physician, Dame Cicely Saunders, in England after WWII which spread to the U.S. a few decades later. Mr. Keller and Mrs. Campbell shared their experiences since becoming hospice nurses and both agreed their service and work in hospice has been a rewarding and enriching experience.
All these presentations can be viewed by our readers if you scroll down to the Video Library at the bottom of the Texas Leadership Coalition homepage: TexasLeaders.org
The responses to the conferences have been very favorable and there is interest in continuing similar conferences and workshops within Catholic parishes and to form a patient advocacy organization in San Antonio. If you are interested in participating in organizing a patient advocacy group in San Antonio, please contact me.
Contact: Phil Sevilla, firstname.lastname@example.org, 210-784-0518