Pro-Life Advocates Should be Upset by Veterans Guide Pushing Euthanasia

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 28, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Advocates Should be Upset by Veterans Guide Pushing Euthanasia

by Bradley Mattes
August 28, 2009 Note: Bradley Mattes is the executive director of Life Issues Institute, a national pro-life educational group. Mattes is a veteran of the pro-life cause, with over 33 years of educational, political and humanitarian experience.

First there were angry senior citizens at town hall meetings, literally fearing for their lives. They’re worried that under the President’s proposed health care plan they’ll be denied critical life-saving services because of their age. There’s good reason for their concern. And what’s come to light since then won’t make them sleep any easier.

The Obama administration now seems to have our nation’s veterans in the crosshairs. Perhaps you’ve heard about the booklet Your Life Your Choices—also known as the Death Book for Veterans. This book is particularly alarming, so I want to share some detail you may not have heard.

I have the book on my desk. Part of it consists of reasonable dialogue on the importance of sharing your wishes regarding potential future medical treatment with trusted family members or friends. I agree that communication before a health crisis arises is key.

But look at one section titled “What makes your life worth living?” It lists 18 potential physical conditions, and the veteran is required to check which column reflects his outlook on life. One of those columns is “not worth living.” I’m all for personal autonomy in choosing appropriate health care, but this booklet clearly crosses the line.

Keep in mind it’s designed for veterans, some who’ve recently returned from the Middle East, missing limbs or sight. Others may be dealing with paralysis or traumatic brain injuries.

Many are looking at months or years of rehabilitation—facing a future that’s dramatically and often permanently altered. The physical wounds are accompanied by the infliction of psychological damage: depression, the fear of being dependent on others or financial concerns.

It is in this context that some of our war heroes will read Your Life Your Choices. After each of the 18 scenarios on page 21, a veteran is to ask himself or herself if life would be worth living. But a scant few actually reflect life-threatening situations.

Most indicate less critical burdens like being confined to a wheelchair, incontinence or not being able to “shake the blues.” Some don’t reflect the physical condition of the veteran at all, but instead how others will be affected: being a financial burden, not able to contribute to the family well being, or causing stress for other family members. These make me wonder—whose suffering is this booklet designed to alleviate?

The “instructions” that follow sent a chill up my spine. If the veteran more than once checked the column called “worth living, but just barely,” he or she is asked what combination of those would it take to make his or her life “not worth living”? If the veteran checked “can’t answer now” he or she is asked what would it take to “help you decide”? See page 21 in its entirety.

The obvious purpose of this booklet is to be an advance directive of sorts for medical treatment. Several of the pages even asked for the veteran’s initials and date. But at the back of the booklet where resources are listed, the only group indicated under “advance directives” is Choice in Dying, formerly known as the Euthanasia Society. The purpose of this organization is solely to advocate euthanasia.

The Veterans Administration might as well abandon all subtleties, dig a grave and push our nation’s heroes into it. We owe a debt of gratitude to America’s veterans that we can never repay. The VA has not only brought shame upon its department but also on our whole nation.

After the group Aging with Dignity brought this booklet to light, a disclaimer has been added that a revision is in the works. But no amount of change can take away the stain of the intended purpose—to nudge America’s war heroes toward the grave in an effort to protect limited government resources. If you’d like to see the entire publication, click here.

Please contact the Veterans Administration: [email protected] Phone: 202.501.0364. Mail: National Center for Ethics in Health Care, Veterans Health Administration (10E), 810 Vermont Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20420.

Tell them America’s veterans deserve better.

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