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Those who despair at religious politics governing the issues of life and death can take hope from a report showing that 10 years ago medical professionals were the ones making and acting upon euthanasia decisions.

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SAY WHAT?

"Jim, you think he's with Jesus now? We only have 30 seconds." —CNN's Larry King, talking about Pope John Paul II with Passion star Jim Caviezel, 4.3.05

In "The Role of Critical Care Nurses in Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide," a study in the May 23, 1996, New England Journal of Medicine, author David A. Asch reported the results of a survey of a thousand nurses, 852 of whom worked solely in adult ICUs. Here were some of his findings:

  • A total of 141 of the 852 (17 percent) reported that they had received requests from patients or family members to perform euthanasia or assist in suicide.

  • Of the total, 129 reported that they had engaged in such practices.
  • Thirty-five (4 percent) reported that they had hastened a patient's death by only pretending to provide life-sustaining treatment ordered by a physician.
  • Some nurses reported engaging in these practices without the request or advance knowledge of physicians or others. The method of euthanasia most commonly described was the administration of a high dose of an opiate to a terminally ill patient.

  • Jesus: Friend or foe of the poor

    Sooner or later the world's 1 billion Catholics will have to make up their minds where they are living: this world or somewhere else. In the U.S., the church currently remains mired in sex scandals. The church is known worldwide as anti-feminist. Spain's Conference of Catholic Bishops put out a manifesto in February 2004 blaming the sexual revolution for the abuse of women.

    "The sexual revolution has separated sex from marriage, and procreation from love," it said. Its "bitter fruits" are "domestic violence, sexual abuse, and homeless children."

    The church, on the whole, turns a deaf ear to the millions of desperately ill people in Africa and South Asia infected with HIV and AIDS. It rants and raves against gays. Catholics are forceful, but not alone, in arguing that marriage is the basis for having a family. But many millions of people pay little heed to that idea.

    Often the Vatican becomes a caricature of itself, as when Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said, "Don't read and don't buy The Da Vinci Code. This book, read by millions, perverts the story of the Holy Grail, which most certainly does not refer to the descendants of Mary Magdalene. It astonishes and worries me that so many people believe these lies."

    The church has experienced rapid growth in the developing world, especially Latin America, where Brazil has become the country with the largest Catholic population.

    Latin America has been the center of the Vatican's attack against liberation theology, which has sought to portray Jesus as a friend of the poor, encouraging them in the struggle against exploitation and oppression. And the church remains, like the rest of Western Christendom, out to lunch on the subject of Islam.

    Most of the cardinals gathering to elect a new pope either come from Europe or were educated in Europe. Will they have the foresight to elect a pope from the developing world who can address spiritual and economic issues of the 21st century?


    Additional reporting: Nicole Duarte

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