- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 2004

The role of the church

In response to your article about the religious left attempting to broaden “moral values” to include “economic justice,” I view with skepticism those in the religious left who want to use the power of the government to push a social agenda that broadens moral values to include economic justice (“Economic morality?” Culture, et cetera, Thursday).

Are they not aware that the more we are taxed and the more government does, the fewer the reasons we have to rely on the benevolence of the church? Will the government also pay for mission projects in Africa?

One just has to look at what happened to the churches in socialist Europe. They have become irrelevant to any agenda, social or spiritual, as governments have taken over an expansive role.

There is no doubt the leadership of liberal denominations like the United Methodist Church would rather talk about the poor, the needy, and the homeless, because if their flock knew where their church stands on abortion, homosexual rights and “marriage,” gun control, and capital punishment, perhaps the tithing would not be as reliably blind. Again, we conservatives are the intolerant.



Second thoughts on CAFTA

I read with great interest Bernardo Callejas’ support of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in your Dec. 21 edition (“CAFTA and the economic guard,” Commentary). It’s no surprise that the senior investment adviser to Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos’ ProNicaragua Investment Promotion Agency would take such a stance. After all, according to its own Web site, ProNicaragua is a newly created agency “dedicated to support foreign investors seeking offshore opportunities in Nicaragua.”

Those familiar with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) all know what the term “offshore opportunities” means: sending more American jobs elsewhere where cheaper labor can be found and exploited at the expense of hardworking Americans.

I particularly enjoyed Mr. Callejas’ reference to ” ‘economic-freedom’ fighters” whose hopes lie in U.S. adoption of CAFTA. I’m guessing these “freedom-fighters” aren’t your average everyday Nicaraguan farm and manufacturing laborers, but rather the wealthy elites who are the only ones who stand to gain from CAFTA in the Central American region should it become law.

The reality is that the six CAFTA countries are notorious for the region’s significant and undeniable environmental hazards, rampant use of child labor, unsafe work environments and human rights abuses. These are all problems CAFTA does not adequately address. No wonder several Hispanic, faith-based, human rights, labor, agricultural and manufacturing and environmental groups here and in Central America actively oppose this deal.

CAFTA would force American farmers and workers to compete with countries that do not respect basic workers’ and human rights, and it directly threatens the survival of entire U.S. industries for little or nothing in return. Trading away American jobs for access to a region with a combined gross domestic product equal to that of New Haven, Conn., is simply bad policy.


Executive director

Americans for Fair Trade


Beware the slippery slope

Bob Barr wisely warns of the Dutch euthanasia policy, most recently exposed in the province of Groningen, that would permit “the actual medical homicide of individuals who can’t protest or defend themselves” (“Euthanasia … or a ‘Dutch treat’,” Commentary, Sunday).

I heard about this when I traveled to the Netherlands to research its liberal euthanasia policy. I interviewed Dutch citizen Henk Reitsema, who related how his beloved grandfather, a cancer patient, naively asked a nursing home doctor in Groningen for relief of a painful thrombosis in his leg. The “compassionate” Dutch physician, trained in a medical culture that has promoted euthanasia more aggressively than palliative care, instead withheld food and water from the elder Mr. Reitsema while administering lethal doses of morphine.

Family members discovered this too late, and their beloved grandfather died at the hands of a physician who deemed his life not worth living. The news media eventually uncovered records suggesting that the nursing home had a “bed-clearing” policy of involuntary euthanasia.

“The family wanted to press charges against the doctor,” Mr. Reitsema explained to me, “and collected some of the data for that. But it proved to be a no-win situation. Only the most extremely harsh cases ever come to court, and even then, the approach of the court is always extremely lenient. It’s always in favor of the doctors: ‘Maybe a judgment error.’ ”

Unfazed by such “judgment errors,” Groningen University Hospital has reportedly empowered its doctors to euthanize certain children under the age of 12. Like all other supposed restraints against medical killings, the Groningen protocol “safeguards” are virtually unenforceable — the unassailable doctors must simply diagnose the child as having an “incurable illness” or “intolerable” suffering.

Don’t think the flood of nonvoluntary medical deaths in Holland, which officially number more than 1,000 a year, will remain behind Dutch dikes. Oregon now sanctions assisted suicides and shrouds them in a veil of state secrecy. Legislatures and voters in other states, including Hawaii, Michigan, Maine, California and Vermont, have also considered doctor-assisted death bills and initiatives.

Americans would do well to examine how the Dutch euthanasia and assisted suicide model has falsely promoted libertarianism and patient autonomy while granting doctors virtually unchecked power over life and death. Physicians today can draw from the highest technological advances in pain relief to provide effective consolation to suffering patients, yet restrictions have chilled aggressive use of this pain technology. The answer to suffering near the natural end of life is not to empower doctors to kill, but to empower them to ethically and compassionately comfort their patients.


Senior policy analyst

Christian Medical Association

Washington Bureau

Ashburn, Va.

Protect young athletes

Patrick Hruby’s article (“Let them eat ‘roids,” Sports, Dec. 21) about performance-enhancing drugs pointed out that drugs aren’t the only way to enhance performance. The same objective can be achieved through medical advances and training-technique improvements, to say nothing of advances in equipment.

The situation is such that in many cases it is difficult to say where the line should be drawn or whether it should be drawn at all.

It strikes me the issue of banning performance-enhancing drugs is putting the emphasis where it does not belong. In fact, all good medicine is performance- enhancing.

The emphasis should be placed on banning drugs that are putatively performance-enhancing in the short run but are definitely or probably harmful in the long run. Most steroids seem fall in this category.

Steroids (and other harmful substances) should be banned not because they enhance performance, but because they harm the athlete in the long run. The temptation to a young athlete to trade this long-off danger for short-term gain is so powerful that sport owes it to him to strengthen his resolve to resist it.

On the other hand, if the performance-enhancing substance is not harmful, there is no reason to ban it.


Charlottesville, Va.

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