A Seminar for Medical Students: “Medical Ethics: A Natural Law Perspective”

images (11)Want some additional medical ethics education this summer? We want to encourage you to attend this special seminar:

Medical Ethics: 
A Natural Law Perspective 
June 16-22, 2013.




This seminar will examine the most important ethical questions that arise in the everyday practice of medicine. The framework of its analysis will be the theory of natural law that developed from the synthesis of ancient Greek thought (including the Hippocratic corpus) with Judaism and then Christianity. This framework will be contrasted with principlism and consequentialism as participants consider what sort of practice medicine is, whether it has a rational end or goal, and how medicine and the goods that medicine seeks fit within the broader scope of human goods.

For more information and to submit your application go to this link.

An Open Letter About the Future of Abortion in U.S. and Medical Students

Medical Students for Life of American sides with Life in all cases. Some physicians who consider themselves pro-life will perform an induced abortion to “save the life of the mother” as in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. Most pro-life physicians understand these types of pregnancies often spontaneously abort themselves and will provide close medical supervision to their patients during the process. With that said, the following letter appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The doctor’s in the letter gives an expansive view of the abortion debate since 1973 and a word oencouragement to Pro-Life Medical Students. 


No matter what your position on the rights or wrongs of abortion, the Roe vs. Wade decision, made 40 years ago today, was one of the most momentous in American history. It has had profound personal, social, political and demographic effects.

Since 1973, more than 50 million abortions have been performed in the United States. More than 30 percent of all women have had an abortion. That last fact alone explains why a dispassionate discussion of this topic is difficult. We all carry intensely personal baggage on this issue. Even from my male perspective, that is true.

During my 33-year medical career, I have done abortions. More accurately, I have ended pregnancies in very rare instances when they posed a risk to the life of a mother. However, my intention has always been to preserve the life of a mother, never to end the life of an unborn child. I will never forget the anguish of those choices.

Yet abortion didn’t trouble me in 1973. I went into medicine and OB/GYN partially because of my neighbor in Tucson, Ariz. He became the first Arizona physician willing to perform abortions when they became legal. As a premed college freshman, I wasn’t bothered by the logic of Roe. I was certainly in the demographic that is (still) most likely to support abortion — young men who would not mind having someone else make a little problem go away.

In 2013, some believe that the debate over abortion is over. You would think that the re-election of a president who unapologetically supports publicly funded abortion without restrictions ends the argument. Yet it rages on.

Why? Because the last 40 years have brought advances in medical care, as well as a surprising change of heart among the American people.

When I started medical school in 1976, babies born below 28 weeks were not resuscitated. They were not considered viable. Today, the lower limit of viability is 23 weeks. The incredible detail of ultrasound makes it difficult to ignore the obvious humanity of a life before birth. Intrauterine fetal treatment and surgery is an expanding option.

But when fetal status as a patient depends on the decisions of others, we have clear evidence of an unresolved moral tension.

Opinion polls have borne this out. Slate’s William Saletan recently noted that liberal attitudes have increased on a range of issues — with the exception of abortion. “When public opinion turns toward gay marriage without abandoning fidelity and family formation … [a]nd when public opinion turns toward reproductive freedom and equal rights for women but continues to oppose abortion, it punctures our dismissal of prolife sentiment as a vestige of right-wing sexism. Spin and soundbites won’t make the evidence go away. Sooner or later you have to face it.”

So how do we face abortion in 2013? Though economic issues are at the top of most everyone’s agenda, abortion is not far down the list, for supporters and opponents. At the federal level, we will have intense debate over abortion in health care reform, and any Supreme Court nomination will once again put abortion at center stage. On the state level, restrictions on abortion are proposed in many of the 27 states with prolife legislative majorities. The debate that Roe supposedly ended continues.

Is there any room for optimism? I believe there is.

As a clinical faculty member at the University of Minnesota, I have the privilege of reading essays submitted by students after their OB/GYN rotations. Many thoughtfully reflect on their clinical experiences with abortion. There are admissions of changed perspectives. Most encouraging to me is my volunteer role as faculty advisor to the self-organized Medical Students for Human Life group. They and their colleagues in the Medical Students for Choice group host respectful counterpoint panel discussions that are well-attended and beneficial.

The most recent discussion addressed the now-undeniable evidence that the choice of an abortion significantly increases the risk for preterm birth in a subsequent pregnancy. This effect is at least as strong as maternal smoking — which we tackle with intensive public-education programs. As the public-policy debate continues, it makes at least as much sense to enact informed-consent requirements and regulations for abortion as it does to put in place gun laws that might decrease the risk of horrific mass shootings.

Who knows what the status of abortion will be in 2033, when my granddaughters are young women? Knowing their grandmother and their mothers, I am sure that they will support the substantial prolife resources already available across this country.

As the 40th anniversary of Roe is celebrated and lamented, I am optimistic, because a growing majority of Americans believe that abortion is not the right answer.


Steven Calvin is a Minneapolis physician.

They Said No

Written by: Alliance Defending Freedom

Nurses in a big city hospital never know what a day’s shift will bring – straightforward cases or medical miracles, major crises or minor first aid. Whatever her station, whatever the duty of the moment, a nurse tries to ready herself for anything. But some things, you just can’t see coming.

It was Beryl Otieno Ngoje’s turn to work the desk in the Same Day Surgery Unit at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), in Newark. She was busy with the usual administrative duties – filing charts, handing out forms to the patients, answering visitors’ questions – when another nurse hurried up beside her.

“Oh, something just happened, you won’t believe it,” the woman said, visibly excited. “I have it in my hand.” She held up a clenched fist, palm up. “I have it in my hand,” she said again.

“What do you have in your hand?” Beryl asked, bemused at the woman’s demeanor.

“Do you want to see?”

“Yes,” Beryl said – and instantly regretted it.

The other nurse opened her hand to reveal the tiny, tiny form of a baby, just aborted.

Read More Here 

Knowing Your Alternatives Webcast Replay

Did you miss our national webcast Knowing Your Alternatives to Prescribing Contraceptives with Dr. Marguerite Duane?

Fertility is a normal, healthy physiologic state.  Women’s hormonal cycles determine the fertile window when a couple will most likely conceive.  An understanding of the cycle and recognition of the external signs that determine each phase has led to the development of more environmentally friendly and highly effective forms of family planning.  Despite these advances, there is limited information about fertility awareness based methods (FABMs) being taught in medical school and residency and the majority of health professionals are trained to approach fertility as a disease state.

Dr. Marguerite Duane discussed all the options available to physicians when counseling patients on family planning options on our national webcast last week.  Her discussion was very interactive with numerous medical professionals and medical students participating. If you missed it you can replay the webcast here.

Abortion Referrals as Compassionate Care?

By: Jon Russell, National Coordinator for Medical Students for Life

I was recently contacted by an OBGYN wanting to get involved with Medical Students for Life as a mentor or speaker. The doctor was very delightful and you could tell by her voice she had a passion for life, but there was something not settling right with me.

You see, in the initial discussion we had over email, she shared her passion for the pro-life cause and wanted to share her pro-life views with others. She further explained that on occasion she referred some of her patients to a “safe” abortion clinic!?!…….Yes that alarm bell going off in your head was exactly what I heard.

During our phone conversation, I asked about her claim of being pro-life and yet referring her patients for abortion. She asked what else she was supposed to do for her patients asking for abortion services. I gently challenged her by saying, she was not practicing as a pro-life physician nor was it consistent with her Hippocratic oath to do no harm. Though she thought she was being compassionate, she was the primary care provider to both the mother and the growing fetus inside her. If she sends her patients to the abortion clinic, one or maybe both are not coming back to her clinic for a follow-up visit because one or both of them would be dead from the abortion. Referring patients for abortion is lethal and uncompassionate to both patients.

I also compared abortion referrals to the blacksmith who was asked to fix slave chains for a slave owner in the early 1800’s. The blacksmith was against slavery and had to say no to the slave owner and refused to refer the slave owner to another blacksmith.

Refusing to refer for abortion is the compassionate thing to do for your patient. The physician’s role is to heal illness, alleviate suffering, and provide comfort. Not to assist in taking a life.

I believe this doctor was divinely inspired to contact Medical Students for Life and to be challenged on her practice. I believe fully that our conversation was a new starting point for her. Please pray for doctors across the country to live out their convictions fully without compromise.

O’Malley lauds defeat of doctor-assisted suicide bill

By Lisa Wangsness  GLOBE STAFF     NOVEMBER 12, 2012

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston, said Monday that the results of the Nov. 6 election do not reflect increased support for abortion rights in the United States, even though some of the candidates most staunchly opposed to abortion lost.

O’Malley, who will take over as chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pro-Life Committee this week, said a few prominent abortion opponents may have caused a backlash in their own races by talking about the issue in a way that alienated voters, but the economy and immigration were the main issues driving the outcome.

He added that long-term polling data suggest that Americans are becoming less comfortable with unfettered access to abortion.

“I am very confident that the prolife position in the country is growing stronger, particularly among the younger demographic, and I think many people are out of touch with that,” O’Malley said in a phone interview from Baltimore, where he was attending the fall gathering of the US bishops.

In remarks to the assembly earlier in the day, O’Malley thanked his fellow bishops and Catholic organizations for their help in defeating physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts, which he called a “terrible assault on human life.”

The Catholic church teaches that all life is sacred, from conception to natural death, and that suicide is always objectively wrong, though whether a person bears responsibility for committing suicide depends on his or her psychological and physiological state.

In his remarks, O’Malley pointed to the Netherlands, where doctor-assisted suicide is legal and where a group is now creating mobile teams that will offer euthanasia to patients at home, making lethal drugs more widely available to patients. The United States, O’Malley said, is a long way from that scenario, but only because voters in all but two states have held the line.

“What has put the brakes on the growth of physician-assisted suicide in the US is that more than 20 states have rejected proposed legislation and ballot initiatives,” he said.

The Archdiocese of Boston led the fight against Question 2, the ballot measure that would have allowed people with less than six months to live to obtain lethal prescriptions. The church helped build a diverse coalition of doctors, hospice workers, and interfaith leaders and helped raise more than $4 million, much of it from Catholic organizations and wealthy donors across the country.

Polls indicated that the measure had overwhelming support as recently as the beginning of October, but on Election Day it failed by 2 percentage points.

O’Malley, in the interview after his talk, pointed to the organizational strategy that helped defeat Question 2.

“I think we need to engage with the larger community,” he said, discussing his plans for directing the US bishops’ agenda on the topic. “That’s what we did in Massachusetts on the question of physician-assisted suicide.”

For example, he said, “I think there are probably a lot of prochoice people out there who are not happy with the fact that we allow gender-selection abortions to take place in our country.”

The defeat of Question 2 was one of the few bright lights for Catholic leaders on an election day that saw victories for gay marriage and abortion rights.

With the help of a majority of Catholics, voters also reelected President Obama. The bishops are nonpartisan and do not endorse candidates, but they have vehemently opposed on religious freedom grounds a new federal health care provision requiring employers offering insurance to provide free access to birth control.

Read More Here.

Battle Over Mentally Disabled Woman’s Pregnancy

KOLO TV Reporter: Kendra Kostelecky

RENO, NV – A hearing taking place in a Washoe County courtroom is getting national attention. The legal guardians of a mentally disabled pregnant woman are claiming the court wants to force her to have an abortion against her will. As you can imagine this case has tempers flaring, not just as an issue of choice, but civil rights.

Family Court Judge Egan Walker has asked KOLO 8 News Now not to identify the woman at the center of this case out of respect for her privacy. He also expressed concerned that she could become the target of predators in the future if her image was made public. That woman is 32-years-old, but has the mental capacity of a five to seven-year-old. In addition she has a number of physical disabilities related to fetal alcohol syndrome including epilepsy and bipolar disorder for which she takes medication.

One of the unanswered questions before the court is how she got pregnant. She currently lives in a group home and according to testimony she’s been known to disappear for hours or days, sometimes having sex with men at a local truck stop. It’s not known if her pregnancy is voluntarily or the result of rape. It’s also unclear, based on what we heard in court Thursday, whether she wants to keep her child. Her adopted parents, who are also her legal guardians are clearly in favor of that choice.

Representatives for the Washoe County Public Guardian’s office say they never requested an abortion. As a matter of procedure, they requested an investigation into her medical, psychiatric and psychological condition only after her doctor notified the County his patient was pregnant, and her guardians had failed to submit required annual reports. That investigation will also review the appropriateness of her placement in a group home.

Meanwhile, the court heard differing opinions from local doctors. Based on the medications, physical condition, and choices of the mother they were asked if it would be safe for her to carry to term. One expert testifying that there are significant risks for both mother and child. Another doctor argued that all pregnancies and terminations are inherently risky. He also recommended a Caesarean section based on the mother’s mental state.

There is some urgency in this case. The court racing to examine the best options before the mother passes her first trimester when risk factors will increase. She is now 11 weeks into the pregnancy. Still the question remains – if the mother chooses to keep her child regardless of the facts presented, can the court order her to terminate the pregnancy?

Read More Here

Tonight: National Webcast on “The Future of Medicine Under the Affordable Care Act”

Please join us for tonight’s National Webcast on “The Future of Medicine Under the Affordable Care Act” with Dr. C.L. Gray, MD at 9:00PM EST.

How will the new Affordable Care Act effect your decisions on issues of Life as a health care professional? This is a great concern for many med students as rights of conscience and medical ethics are under attack and the future of medicine is changing.  That is why we are inviting you to attend this very important webcast.

The webcast will be joined by Dr. C.L. Gray and he will discuss what you, as a med student, can expect under the new healthcare law and what to prepare for as you chart your course as a physician.  Dr. C. L. Gray is a nationally known writer, speaker, and board certified physician practicing hospital-based medicine in North Carolina. In 2006 he founded Physicians for Reform, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving patient-centered healthcare. Now in its second printing, Gray’s book, The Battle for America’s Soul, resulted from a decade spent in research and analysis of the history and philosophy of medical ethics. This book presents findings that link America’s present cultural divide with the practice of Post-Hippocratic medicine.
This webcast is open to all med students and health care professionals.  So, please join me on October 30th at 9:00pm ET!

Join by phone: 206-402-0100, caller ID 402116#

Join online:   http://instantteleseminar.com/?eventid=34680396

Please don’t miss this exciting opportunity to gain the tools and understanding to chart your course as a pro-life medical professional.

State Board of Health passes regulations on abortion clinics

Mon., Sept., 17, 2012; 10:53 PM by Mallory Noe-Payne, news editor, Collegiate Times

The Virginia State Board of Health voted last Friday to adopt regulations requiring existing clinics that provide abortions to follow the same building regulations as hospitals.

Abortion rights supporters have described the regulations as unnecessary and cumbersome, and a political tactic for minimizing access to abortion clinics.

In a 13-2 vote, members of the board reversed an earlier decision, which would have exempted existing buildings from the regulations previously applied only to new construction.

Anti-abortion defendants have applauded the board’s decision, although some board members deny the rules have any political agenda, instead saying regulations are only for ensuring health and safety.

“The primary purpose of the regulations is to ensure there is a safe, clean, healthy environment in which these procedures are performed for these women.” said Bruce Edwards, Chair of the Virginia State Board of Health.

The regulations require Virginia clinics that provide five or more abortions a month upgrade their facilities to meet hospital standards. These upgrades would include wider hallways and larger operating rooms, now the norm for new construction. Additionally, it affects the number of parking spaces available.

Olivia Babis, the southwest Virginia field coordinator for Planned Parenthood, said while Planned Parenthood is by no means anti-regulation, these particular rules are purposefully onerous, having “absolutely nothing to do with patient safety.”

“It is designed to shut down facilities performing abortions, there are no other purposes to it,” Babis said. Edwards, who is also the representative on the Board for Emergency Medical Services, disagrees.

“It is aimed at ensuring that things are sized properly so that good care can be provided to these patients,” Edwards said. “It’s important for me to be able to get all the way around the patient.

“I’ve been in small examining rooms… it’s often times difficult to get in there, particularly if the patient is not doing well.”

Blacksburg’s Planned Parenthood provides medical abortions during the first trimester, meaning it prescribes an oral medication inducing a miscarriage. Despite not performing any surgical


procedures, the facility will be subject to these new regulations.

Planned Parenthood in Blacksburg provided 160 medical abortions in 2011. Planned Parenthood in Roanoke, which provides surgical abortions as well as medical, provided 846 abortions in 2011.

Unconscionable Abortion Doctors Compare Themselves to Life Giving Doctors

Conscience is not relative. Conscience is not subject to feelings, but is rooted in intellect capable of differentiating right from wrong. For a doctor to espouse conscience as a reason to terminate an innocent life is nothing short of unconscionable. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on Sept 13th quoted Lisa Harris, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Health System, “doctors can be “conscientious” providers of abortion.”

Dr. Harris highlights both historical and contemporary evidence that conscience motivates abortion provision. She cites sociologist Carole Joffe’s study that shows skilled mainstream doctors offered safe, compassionate care before Roe v. Wade, risking fines, imprisonment and loss of medical license. “They did so because the beliefs that mattered most to them compelled it. They saw women die from self-inducted abortion and from abortions performed by unskilled providers,”

Now, the NEJM is a well-respected journal, which provides valuable medical information to physicians around the world. But I must say this article is suspect – if not borderline unethical. Point in case:

In the article, Dr. Harris writes, “Certainly, if abortion providers’ conscience-based claims require scrutiny, so do conscience-based refusals, to ensure that refusals are indeed motivated by conscience and not by political beliefs, stigma, habit erroneous understanding of medical evidence or other factors.

For Dr. Harris to talk about “medical evidence” as an abortion advocate is laughable. Most every embryology text book in most every medical school gives us this definition for the word ‘life’: “From the earliest stages of development, the preborn are distinct, living, whole, human beings. They are immature and yet to grow.” Possibly the most scary thing is that she knows this, yet still espouses the termination of viable pregnancies. She refuses to accept the medical evidence in order to advance her eugenics based medicine.

There is nothing courageous or ethical about a physician bound by the Hippocratic Oath willing to take the life of a pre born patient, no matter the circumstance.

Read more.

More information: New England Journal of Medicine, N ENGL J MED 367; 11

Journal reference: New England Journal of Medicine Provided by University of Michigan Health System