New Information On LifeTree's Timeline; and Evidence Of Right-to-Die
Elizabeth D. Wickham, Ph.D.
Executive Director, LifeTree, Inc.
September 15, 2005
A couple of years ago I wrote you about attending two Rallying Points Summits in Columbia, SC and Cary, NC which were sponsored by the Carolinas Center for Hospice and End of Life Care, an umbrella hospice policy group for both Carolinas. We wrote that in these day-long sessions there were warning signals about an organized public relations effort to change our views about hastening death.
We concluded that even though the message was cast in terms of "improving how people die" the real message was about changing the "default" in health care to withdrawal of life-saving treatment. In other words, patients and families were counseled to err on the side of death, rather than on the side of life.
We now learn that this very same organization has been mainstreamed into a hospice umbrella group at the national level.
Because our state hospice policy group played a major role in blocking a bill to ban assisted suicide (S145) in North Carolina in 2003, we began to collect and compile data to help us understand the real issues.
We discovered that in 2000 Partnership for Caring, a right to die organization, received $12 million to establish a new "grassroots" project called "Rallying Points" in conjunction with the Bill Moyers television special On Our Own Terms. Rallying points’ goals were to promote living wills, train volunteers, and work for change in state/federal laws and regulations through some 350 local end-of-life coalitions of professional and consumer organizations.
Two articles about Partnership for Caring
We found two articles which tell some history of this
branch of the euthanasia movement. See part 1of an article
written by Rita Marker, the executive director of
the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted
Suicide (ITF), and another article
written by Stephen Drake, a research analyst for
the disabilities group Not Dead Yet.
In the first piece titled "Assisted
Suicide & Death With Dignity: Past, Present &
Future" the author traces Partnership for Caring
back to the Euthanasia Society of America (ESA) and
notes that in 2004 Last Acts officially merged with
Partnership for Caring (PfC) to become Last Acts Partnership
(LAP). She reports that in October 2004 Last Acts Partnership
announced it was winding down its operations and would
go out of business. This history is excellent and parallels
the information in LifeTree's timeline available at
This branch of the right-to-die movement is noted for its promotion of the Living Will document which was first proposed in 1967 by a member of ESA’s Euthanasia Education Council and first introduced in Florida as a legally binding document in 1968.
Stephen Drake of the disability group Not Dead Yet wrote
the second piece, an excellent article in 2003 for Ragged
Edge titled "Changing
the words, re-framing the issue: A brief history."
As a disabled person himself, he expresses concern that
groups such as Partnership for Caring and Last Acts
have been redefining "terminal illness" to
be "life-limiting illness."
Prophetic Words about Hospice
The Drake article contains a warning about hospice that has been expressed by a few prophets over the last 30 years, but not many. Drake quotes from Prof. Donald Gibson's 1984 article titled "Hospice and the New Devaluation of Human Life" written for Mental Retardation, No. 22, No 4 157-162:
"A careful examination of the hospice movement reveals the following: First, justifications for the hospice program are similar to those offered for non-treatment or active euthanasia of the individuals with mental retardation. Generally, these justifications are based on "quality of life" and economic cost considerations. Second, hospices may become the basis upon which a national death establishment is to be constructed. Third, the rejection of medicine's obligation to preserve life which is contained in the hospice literature and the tendency in the hospice movement to broaden the categories of people eligible for "care " suggest the possibility that hospice programs might be used for people with mental retardation who are denied medical treatment."
Sparked by the Drake quote we went back to the original
1984 article to read more from Gibson's thinking at
the time: "There are a multitude of death tendencies
in American society today. Active (starvation, poisoning)
and passive (non-treatment) euthanasia of individuals
with mental retardation, ending of so-called heroic
treatments, and writing of living wills are but three
examples. However, there is no death related movement
(unless abortion is included) that has resulted in the
type of national structure which is being organized
around hospice programs. The hospice movement is creating
a death facilitating apparatus which possesses a national
organization, and this movement has the support of private
foundations, insurance companies, private health industries,
and the federal government. It is this movement which
has the financial and institutional potential to bring
into being a national euthanasia program."
Rallying Points Moves to "Caring Connections" at NHPCO
Concerning the recently announced dissolution of Last Acts Partnership we report some new and important information: Rallying Points is continuing at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). [On the LifeTree timeline at www.lifetree.org/timeline.html click the icon on the right hand side titled "Rallying Points moves to NHPCO." Then follow the bright red links introduced by the word "Next" at the bottom of each item to history and funding of this right-to-die program.]
Rallying Points has changed its name to "Caring Connections" at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. The NHPCO's Caring Connections staff and advisory committee include many people who were involved with the low profile wing of the euthanasia movement on our timeline. The former director of Rallying Points from Florida is now a VP of NHPCO. In addition, the program director of the Sept, 2003 Rallying Points Summit in the Carolinas is now on the NHPCO's staff of Caring Connections. They are joined by several others who were actively involved in Partnership for Caring before its demise.
Statewide coalitions used to execute strategies
We discovered that the statewide coalition which participated in the NC Rallying Points Summit is just one of 30 statewide end-of-life coalitions. A state by state listing is provided on NHPCO's site.
For more information on these coalitions, search our timeline for "Midwest Bioethics Center", "Community-State Partnership", "C-SP", "CSP" and "coalitions". You will read how the Midwest Bioethics Center used state bioethics networks and networks of hospital ethics committees to build these coalitions and partnerships which execute comprehensive strategies to "improve the quality of end-of-life care." A prime example is the Florida Partnership which is reported on extensively on the timeline at the link on the right hand side under the icon "Florida - Bioethics in the Land of Medicare."
Become informed in prayer.
We hope you will take time to use the links and read these two informative articles. Awareness and prayer are the first line of defense against this campaign to make euthanasia an accepted part of our culture.
God bless you.
Elizabeth D. Wickham, Ph.D.
"When inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life as long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted." Declaration on Euthanasia, May 5, 1980
"The evaluation of probabilities, founded on waning hopes for recovery when the vegetative state is prolonged beyond a year, cannot ethically justify the cessation of interruption of minimal care for the patient, including nutrition and hydration. Death by starvation or dehydration is, in fact, the only possible outcome as a result of their withdrawal. In this sense it ends up becoming, if done knowingly and willingly, true and proper euthanasia by omission," Address of John Paul II to the Participants in the International Congress on "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas," Saturday, 20, March 2004