A recent pro-life newsletter from the U.S.A. said that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that if Nancy Cruzan had clearly stated that se would have chosen death, then Missouri would have been obliged to starve and dehydrate her to death.  Did the Court say that? W.C., Willowdale, Ontario.


The issue before the Court was whether it was constitutional for Missouri “to require clear and convincing evidence of the patient’s wishes” before life sustaining treatment is removed.  The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that Missouri had that right, and concluded that “the State ma choose to defer only to those wishes [i.e. of the patient]

However, the concurring opinion of Justice O’Connor sounds a note of warning: “Today’s decision…does not preclude a future determination that the Constitution requires the States to implement the decisions of a patient’s duly appointed surrogate.”  By contrast, Justice Scalia said that “the Constitution has nothing to say about the subject” and that to raise a constitutional right we would have “to create” some constitutional principle ‘out of nothing.”

The lives of millions of people lie in the hands of nine judges on the Supreme Court.

When exactly does a child have an independent circulation?  The Supreme Court appears to think it is at birth. C.L., Ottawa

At about two to two-and-a-half weeks after conception (fertilization) and the baby starts to make its own blood.  The baby’s blood may well be not only different from but completely incompatible with the mother’s.  the fetal heart starts beating at 24 to 25 days, and the heart beat can be picked up at 35 to 37 days from conception.  The two heartbeats are quite distinctive; the baby’s is twice the rate of the mother’s.

The baby’s blood type and circulation are separate from the mother’s from the beginning: two hears, different blood, independent circulations.

Could one reason that we hear more about requests from families to disconnect life-support systems in the United States than in Canada, be because the U.S. does not have socialized medicine?

You may have a point.

Families whose medical insurance is insufficient and whose life-savings are disappearing might feel more pressured to hasten the death of a family member.  There is evidence, too, that the elderly and the frail are being conditioned to feel that they should not be a ‘burden’ on their children.  Governor Lamm of Colorado made national headlines in 1984 when he said that terminally-ill people have “a duty to get out of the way,” and he called rising medical costs “a fiscal cancer.”

On the other hand, socialized medicine has its own dangers.

The power to fund treatment, or to withhold it, lies in the hands of the state.  In Canada an anti-life federal or provincial government might well decide that treatments such as dialysis, anti-biotics or cataract surgery are too expensive “to waste” on the frail, the handicapped, or the elderly.  Such decisions have been made in other areas, and Canadian governments – federal and provincial – are not known as champions of the sanctity of life.

With governments which tolerate – or even promote – the killing of preborn children, it is not difficult to visualize a rationing of health care which will exclude the most needy and vulnerable Canadians, old and young, to save money.

Safety lies in our all being vigilant, and keeping eyes and ears on governments.

I was accused, as a pro-lifer, of being guilty of speciesism, which seems to be worse than racism.  What is speciesism?

Speciesism is a term used by the extreme wing of environmentalists.  Pro-lifers are accused of putting a higher value on human life – the human species – than on another species: whales, gorillas, birds, salmon, butterflies, etc.  We do, of course, and so we are classed with racists who believe one race is superior to all others.

One leading accuser of us as ‘speciesists’ is Professor Peter Singer, Director of the Centre of Human Bioethics at Monash University in Australia.  He is on record as saying that his dog has a higher value than a human baby (and isn’t that speciesism?).

He is co-author of a book, Should the baby live? In which he argues that babies with disabilities should be killed soon after birth. (He is Professor of Human Bioethics)