In the late 1990s, LLDF became involved with its first of many cases in which health care providers attempted to remove food and fluids from a cognitively disabled patient, Robert Wendland. If not for the timely and effective legal intervention of his sister and mother, Robert’s caregivers would have followed Robert’s wife’s direction to dehydrate and starve him to death.
Robert’s case was just the beginning. Here are a few examples of other cases in which LLDF intervened to stop the active killing of people in a life-threatening medical crisis:
• the withholding of antibiotics by a hospital because a cancer patient “will die anyway;”
• the withholding of food, water, and antibiotics by a hospital care team because a spouse didn’t want her husband, who was in and out of consciousness, treated for injuries after a single car accident;
• the withholding of food and water for a conscious elderly man who was asking for food because hospital staff convinced his wife that he “had led a long life, would just be back in the hospital again, and so why not ‘let him go?.’” In this instance “palliative care” was provided in the form of morphine to make the patient “comfortable;”
• Terri Schiavo’s case, where after years of fighting for her life by every possible means her feeding tube was removed and she was allowed to die by dehydration and starvation without pain relief;
• most recently, the case of Jahi McMath, who was declared dead without adherence to proper protocols as a means to discontinue critical care.
Sadly, in each of these cases the need for intervention did not arise from an untreatable medical condition. Families were not asking to keep their loved ones alive through extraordinary means. They were asking for reasonable care to not unnaturally shorten life. These cases resulted from a medical establishment that had become overtly pro-death.
Moreover, until Jahi McMath’s case, never had we seen such a cold-hearted, vicious attack on a helpless person’s life by those whose duty it was to care for the patient. Jahi’s case demonstrates the level to which death is accepted as medical treatment.
The time has come for new measures to protect life at its most vulnerable phase. To meet this need, LLDF has developed a concept we are calling Life Legal Guardians (LLG).
Several months ago Attorney Cyrus Johnson came to LLDF with the idea of LLG, a simple, yet brilliant concept: a new movement to stand with the “Least of Our Brothers” as is commended in the Gospel of Matthew (see chapter 25, verse 40).
Among the least of our brothers and sisters to be protected by LLG are those who find themselves either mentally incapacitated, medically undocumented, or medically disabled—in short those who find themselves in a medical crisis, usually in a hospital, such as the cases mentioned previously.
How many will see their lives ended because they are incorrectly judged “not to be alive” or “brain dead”? How many will have their lives ended because treatments or procedures are denied due to “medical protocol” or “limited efficacy,” or because their wishes are not “documented” or are “inadequately documented” or even ignored?
As Cyrus points out, “It would seem as though a national ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order is being placed on all of America. It would seem as though ‘medical disability’ is now acceptable grounds for denial of care, even nutrition and hydration. It would seem as though medicine (healing) is becoming in some quarters medicide (anti-healing).”
How can this be? The answer is that our children have been taught well. They have witnessed an entire generation of parents end their siblings lives via abortion. That mentality has taught them that when someone is “inconvenient” it is acceptable to end their life. Euthanasia has become acceptable medical “treatment”. The post-Roe generation will end our lives—unless we do something about it now. LLDF intends to do just that.
In Summer 2014 we are launching the LLG project as a new way of defending life in the medical context for LLG members. LLG is a union of life designed to defend the patient—before the medical crisis—through a series of safeguards to give their life and their wishes a fighting chance. We believe that combining new strategies in the fight for life with the legal protections available during and before a medical crisis will protect and defend the least of our brothers—the medically disabled, the medically incapacitated.
Since this concept was created by long-time LLDF friend and pro-life attorney Cyrus Johnson, I want to give him the opportunity to describe his vision to you. You can get to know Cyrus by reading our interview with him several years ago, published in Lifeline, Summer 2011, and an LLDF.org article about his work with LLDF in stopping PP from opening in Redwood City.
LLG is your concept. Can you tell us what led to LLG?
If one is paying attention he or she can see an ominous strain of thought growing very fast in the culture. I say “paying attention” because in many ways it is imperceptible. It used to wear the face of “compassion” then “my rights” or “my choice.” Today it wears the face of “protocol.”
It is man granting himself the power to decide life or death, and to call it “medicine.”
In my work as an attorney and in observing societal trends I noticed this creep accelerating, especially in the past six years. It made me stop and think about what was going on and why.
Euphemisms that serve this mentality are on the rise. There has been a progression from: euthanasia and people as “vegetables,” to “death with dignity” and “physician-assisted suicide,” to today “no more effective life,” “inefficacy of treatment,” or “brain death.” In these last examples even the agency of the person is taken away—the end-of-life patient perspective has gone from the “third person” to the “first person” to the “no person.”
And in some corners of the medical establishment a rising bias against life (against the person) creeps in when the “bias” of medicine should always be in favor of the sustaining life; of sustaining man.
Life is medicine’s purpose.
But increasingly it becomes “protocol,” so to speak, to withhold care or withhold food or withhold water—to withhold healing—it ought to shock the conscience. And it shocks mine.
It occurred to me that this bias threatens to completely overtake the thinking of medicine. It threatens to overcome the legal objections of patients and others to the ending of life. And this thinking threatens to “nullify” (to supersede) advance medical planning through the culture.
What was once strong legal protection for one’s life and wishes—the Advance Medical Directive that we attorneys draft—now becomes—by euphemism—one more “piece of paper.”
And it occurred to me that people of conscience should say and do something about it. This work of “social entrepreneurship,” to go to a new stage to strengthen legal and practical protections for life in the medical context, is needed in our age.
Tell us about the LLG project. What specific protections does it put in place for a potential patient?
Simply, it is the next generation of advance medical planning. Instead of a piece of paper (an Advance Directive) being the only means of protection for life, a new paradigm with a host of protections is put into place.
We call it a “union of life.” It is a community of persons; a solidarity, joining together to defend life and the lives of its members.
Specifically, Life Legal Guardians provides to its members:
1. A registry of Advance Directives
2. Formal legal notice to medical facilities of the wishes of the patient
3. Assistance with organ donation issues
4. Information (legal and medical) about the risks to life in the medical context
5. An empowered foundation of experts in life law and medicine with public relations, publication and media, fundraising, and legal assistance on the ready to bring defense to the cause of life wherever needed.
This is not a pre-paid legal agency. This is not an individual legal representation. Instead it is a resource for its members to bolster their advance medical planning—to have an plan in place, a team, working for them before there ever is a medical crisis and backed up by the medical and legal experts of the LLDF community which can intervene when and if needed.
Why did you come to LLDF with this project?
Much of this pseudo-medical thinking involves the “abortionization” of medicine.
Forty years of abortion propaganda have reprogrammed the thinking of so many who now view abortion as medicine. Manifestly it is not. Abortion, which is the taking or “removing” of a human life, is not medicine, which is the saving or conserving or restoring of a human life.
Steady decades of heavily often internationally funded propaganda convinces so many to that abortion is medicine. And for this to be so, the aborted has to be the mythical “blob of tissue” which can be excised in a “medical procedure,” rather than a person in their own right—with the moral and Constitutional right to life. Conceptually we have dehumanized ourselves by dehumanizing the smallest among us.
So how can we then be surprised if forty years of this propaganda—“it is not a person”—have led us to where we are today—that person in the hospital bed, that medically disabled person is seen as “brain dead” or “no longer really a living person.”
Think of what happened to Jahi McMath. Even though she was 13 years of age, she was nevertheless aborted. But they did not do it with a curetcurette or a chemical—it was done with an idea; the legal fiction of “brain death” taken as settled fact by many in the medical community. Jahi McMath was aborted (her life taken away) by a “medical” order which called her “dead already.” And now her brave attorney has the task of bringing her back to life, legally. Tell me you do not see the parallel with the Christian life. Tell me if you do not see the identity behind this ominous design which seeks to “cancel people.” Then tell me to remain silent. I can’t and neither can you.
So why LLDF? No other organization understands legally and practically this dynamic of “canceling people.” 25 years of work in defense of life makes LLDF expert in seeing and addressing the imperceptible creep of deadly thinking wearing a mask of medicine, as abortion thought creeps into medical practice.
So do you not trust medicine? Are you saying doctors or hospitals are unsafe?
Not at all. Medicine is a good of mankind. And most every practitioner gets into medicine because they love life and mankind and they want to help, to heal. And restoring health is one of the highest callings. All are grateful to the many thousands of skilled and thoughtful and feeling practitioners who wish to serve their fellow man.
This is not a circumstance of medicine “turning bad.”
Instead this is a cultural phenomenon (I think a spiritual one)—something from society—which is being imported into medicine and corrupting it. It is a foreign body to medicine. In fact it is anti-medicine. It calls un-healing “medicine” which is why physicians who are outraged at this trend have joined us in our work.
Part of our mission at LLG is to help heal medicine from this ignoble phenomenon.
How is LLG different from other efforts to stop active killing?
1. It is a community. We are a body of persons jointly agreeing to stand for life against death. Quite often the taking of life in the medical context can only happen when the patient or family is alone, isolated, and unrepresented. LLG ameliorates this aloneness with solidarity. That is one key.
2. Another is beginning work before it is “needed.” Too many times people find themselves in a medical crisis and must put together a legal team, strategy, public relations, fundraising—not to mention educating themselves on the spot about the right issues. We address this need before it is ever needed so that if it ever is we lead and do not follow.
3. Medical expertise. We rely heavily upon not only lawyers but also the best doctors and medical ethicists to inform on the best way to address a given need. In this way we speak the language of medicine as well as the language of law.
Tell us why LLG’s time has come.
Ask Terri Schiavo’s brother. Ask Jahi McMath’s mother. What has changed in ten years?
We are honored to have as an LLG board member Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri Schiavo. During our first meeting in 2013 he recounted how his sister was actually personally belittled in the popular media, how this was acceptable due to her medical disability. In other words, because of her medical disability she was held up to scorn and humiliation in a way a person who is “just” in a wheelchair for instance would not dare be treated.
And what is the difference? The advance of death. Making fun of people is dehumanizing (to them and to ourselves) but in the medical instance—in Terri’s case the dehumanization was “necessary” from evil’s perspective—to make the taking of her life ok. Ten years ago it was necessary to “discount” the life before we “canceled” it.
Now is the era of Jahi McMath. Notice she is not made fun of. In fact you will notice she is not much talked about at all. And when she is, especially by medical “experts” she is talked about in the past tense or even referred to by several people as “the body.”
Whereas medicine could get away with ending and not healing life when the life was seen as discounted, ten years later it can simply declare in the first place that the life no longer requires treatment or it is no longer there. That is quite a leap. It seems to say, “We did not end this life. It was over when we got here.” Well if that is the case I ask, why are you there at all?
The time for LLG has come because it would seem as if a national DNR (“do not resuscitate”) order is being placed by default on patients in hospitals everywhere. And this is your family and my family and you and me.
We have as much of a legal mission, as we do an organizing mission, as we do a thinking mission—to help bend care to preserve life wherever possible.
So also part of the mission of LLG is countering deadly euphemisms—public education of the society at large. This can be tough because many people look blankly at you when you even say, “euphemism.” There is much work to be done.
When can we sign up?
We are building a list of interested persons at our website LifeLegalGuardians.org
Regardless of whether or not you want to be a member of LLG, we would like to invite you to partner with us as we launch the project. Just as LLDF’s work has resulted in thousands of lives saved from abortion we want to provide that same protection to the medically disenfranchised. We’ve said it hundreds of times before, but it is still true: we cannot do it without you! Please donate to the project at LLDF.org/donate.
[If you would like a template for a prolife advance directive that may best suit your needs, please see LLDF.org/AHCD for downloadable, usable files and information about how to leave clear instructions.—Ed.]
This article originally appeared in Lifeline (Summer 2014).