November 11, 2018

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice

The War That Made the World We Live In

This is no ordinary Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth and much of Europe, and Veterans Day in the United States. Today we mark the one hundredth anniversary of the Armistice that brought to an end the most terrible war in history. Exactly a century ago - on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month - the guns fell silent on Europe's battlefields. The belligerents had agreed the terms of the peace at 5am that November morning, and the news was relayed to the commanders in the field shortly thereafter that hostilities would cease at eleven o'clock. And then they all went back to firing at each other for a final six hours. On that last day, British imperial forces lost some 2,400 men, the French 1,170, the Germans 4,120, the Americans about 3,000. The dead in those last hours of the Great War outnumbered the toll of D Day twenty-six years later, the difference being that those who died in 1944 were fighting to win a war whose outcome they did not know. On November 11th 1918 over eleven thousand men fell in a conflict whose victors and vanquished had already been settled and agreed.

100 years ago, US fought its deadliest battle in France

It was America’s deadliest battle ever, with 26,000 U.S. soldiers killed, tens of thousands wounded and more ammunition fired than in the whole of the Civil War. The Meuse-Argonne offensive of 1918 was also a great American victory that helped bringing an end to World War 1. Gerald York, grandson of World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York, said, “It was the first real modern warfare that the U.S. was in. Machine guns, airplanes, tanks, mustard gas that killed many. In that area was the largest battle and the most casualties because you had men going up against machine guns. And machine guns were just mowing folks down.”

"The founding catastrophe of the 20th century”

WWI saw 65 to 70 million service men and women — primarily men — mobilized for war, with casualties of more than 30 million. About half of all combatants were killed or wounded. “Seven thousand two hundred deaths a day, 300 an hour, five a minute; for more than four and a half years,” said Dr. Matt Naylor, president of the National World War I Museum and Memorial.

The impact of the First World War in some British towns was nothing less than catastrophic.

This photograph is an area of houses in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. Each poppy represents someone that did not home after Armistice Day.

 Poppies Grimsby
“Red lips are not so red/As the stained stones kissed by the English dead,” Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen obituary

News of the poet’s death reached his family as the bells rang out in celebration of the armistice and received only a passing mention in the long lists of casualties. One hundred years later, The  London Times now publishes his obituary....His subject was war, and the pity of war.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:52 PM | Permalink

August 1, 2017

How to survive freak accidents on vacation and how to recover from tragedy

How to survive freak accidents on vacation

A fall off a cruise ship
Remain still, do as little as possible and float.  Do not swim.
Ditch the ski poles and 'swim' sideways
Lean backwards and make like a starfish
Don't fight against the rip. Swim sideways across the current, you will eventually come out of the Rip current. and safety.  Or tread water and conserve energy until the current weakens and they can make it back to shore.
On Safari
Find yourself face-to-face with a lion, for example, and you'll need to make direct eye contact and back away very slowly. Never turn your back, never run.  If you endure a stand-off with a leopard, the reverse is true. Here, you'll need to avoid eye-contact at all costs and hope they lose interest.
Lost on a hike
Stop, stay calm, stay put. The further you walk, the longer it will take rescuers to find you.
All you can do now is solve the problem of getting out of the situation. Next, try to re-trace your steps...... 'If you are confident that you have determined the way to go and have time before dark to reach a known spot, such as the marked trail on your map, then go carefully and obviously mark your route with stacked rocks, sticks stuck in the ground, or strips of cloth from your bandanna. If you are not very, very confident in the route, then it's better to stay put.'
Snake bite
If you come across a snake, back away slowly and change your course. If it looks like it's following you, stamp on the ground to make vibrations in the ground, which should drive it away. If you are bitten, bring your affected body part down lower than your heart to slow the flow of venom in your bloodstream (if it's a limb) and get to the nearest hospital. Try and remember, or better still photograph, the snake so doctors can faster identify which anti-venom you need.

How To Recover From Tragedy: 4 Secrets From Research

1. Avoid personalization, pervasiveness and permanence: It’s not all your fault, it won’t affect every area of your life, and the pain will subside with time.
2. Ask “How much worse could it have been?”: Sheryl lost her husband. Adam reminded her that she could have lost her children too. It can always be worse. It’s not. Be grateful.
3. Get support: Talk to someone, preferably someone who has dealt with a similar problem.
4. Write about it: Thinking about it makes it worse. Writing about it makes it better.

In the past, researchers thought people who came out of tragedy fell into two categories: those who suffered PTSD and those who recovered. They were wrong…
There were actually three categories. Some people experienced “post-traumatic growth.” After tragedy they came out even stronger than they had been.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 AM | Permalink

April 5, 2017

"Americans must be suffering from an awful lot of pain."

Existing political proposals, Republican or Democratic, for solving the problem are based in economics.  The problem runs much deeper Damon Linker writes in The spiritual agony behind America's opioid crisis

One might even call them spiritual.  Imagine, for a moment, that addiction is a response to spiritual agony. Then consider the role of substance abuse in our lives.

A 2015 study showed that 32 million Americans (one out of every seven adults) struggled with a serious alcohol problem during the previous year — and that nearly a third of all Americans will exhibit signs of an alcohol-use disorder at some point in their lives. That's an astonishingly high rate of alcohol abuse....As of the end of 2015, the rate of fatal opioid overdoses was more than five times higher than [the crack epidemic] — 10.3 per 100,000. ...

Then there are prescription medications for depression and anxiety. The United States leads the world in per capita consumption of these drugs, with roughly 11 percent of the population over the age of 12 using them.....

What is clear is that the United States is filled with people pursuing various forms of relief from various forms of profound unhappiness, discontent, malaise, agitation, and emotional and/or physical pain....

Americans must be suffering from an awful lot of pain.

"The more often we’ve heard in this century about white privilege, the more often white people have dropped dead in despair, writes Steve Sailer in White Privilege, White Death.

The charts below shows how bad it is.

From Death Rates Rise for Wide Swath of White Adults, Study Finds in the WSJ

Increases in ‘deaths of despair’—from drugs, alcohol-related liver diseases and suicide

 White Deaths

 Death Rates Despair Comparison

 Death Opiods2000-2016

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 PM | Permalink

January 31, 2017

Compare and contrast

Since Roe v. Wade there have been some 58 million abortions in the United States.  Such a huge number is hard to comprehend, but watching this  video, only 4 ½ minutes long, will give you a far better sense.  58 Bells for the Unborn

Why is it so immensely powerful? As the numbers spin and whirl across the screen, like a kind of demented Dow Jones figure. a bell tolls each time the cumulative abortion count is shown. That alone would be enough to grab your attention.  But in addition, the numbers roll directly under a map of the United States with the states in yellow. State by state “disappears,” representing the ever-mounting numbers of children who have disappeared over time.

Whatever someone’s view is on abortion, this video will help them grasp the immensity of the loss of life which is the real legacy of Roe v. Wade.

 Abortion Impact Us Map

By contrast, the number of Americans killed in all U.S. wars is only 1.1 million according to PBS who made this graphic based on
the latest estimates from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 Military-Deaths All Us Wars

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 PM | Permalink

May 30, 2016

Remembering the honored dead

Most Americans, 80%, confess to having “little” or only “some” knowledge of Memorial Day. Just 20 percent of respondents claim to be “very familiar” with the day and its purpose.  In a disturbing video, various people thought it was about remembering Neil Armstrong, celebrating LGBT issues, the first flight of the Wright brothers, or the freeing of the slaves.
This appalling ignorance of so many, the product of our education system, is best remedied by parents For that I'm posting a long excerpt from Bookworm's post on Memorial Day, 2016 about teaching her teenage son about Memorial Day.

When my teenage son realized that Monday isn’t just a school holiday but is, in fact, a national holiday honoring the men and women who have died serving our country, he made an interesting comment about those who died. “It’s hard to appreciate that they’re real people because you never know who they are.

”Despite the fact that our country has been actively at war for three-quarters of his life, my son has never known someone who died while fighting on America’s behalf, nor has he ever met someone who lost a loved one to war. For so many in America — and this is true whether they support or oppose the war against fanatic Islamism — this multi-front war is an abstract thing. Thanks to our all-volunteer, professional, and efficient military, while our taxes help fund the war, most of us are utterly disconnected from it.

No wonder that for Americans young and old, Memorial Day is just understood as the excuse for another three-day weekend in the list of American holidays. To the extent people think about it, many confuse it with Veterans’ Day, believing that it’s a day to honor the troops, not to remember and honor the dead.....

Focusing on the dead — or the “honored dead” as they rightfully said during the Civil War — one realizes that my son is right that the sheer numbers make it hard to get a handle on each individual loss. ....I realized that my son had accidentally stumbled upon precisely the formulation attributed to Stalin: A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths are a statistic.

How does one bring the young to realize that, if you’re fortunate enough to live in a free country that values the individual over the collective, each number is a person? Those who died were children who left grieving parents, parents who left grieving spouses and lost children, brothers or sisters whose siblings will now age alone, or friends whose loss is a never-ending hole.

I started the process of giving the dead names by showing my son a picture that I found on a friend’s Google+ feed. As you can see, it’s an iconic picture, but one with a difference — every person in the photo is identified. They’re not icons at all. They’re real young men who fought — and most of whom died — defending America’s security and bringing freedom to parts of the world most Americans never had seen and never would see:


The transformation in my son when he realized that these were young men just like himself young men who played sports, flirted with girls, went to dances, and just enjoyed their lives — was surprising. He was suddenly awed and saddened. They weren’t historic curiosities; they could have been him or his friends.

As war becomes a pocket industry for a small subsection of society, those of us insulated from its reach have an obligation to make others aware that we are, and long have been, the beneficiaries of those who, willingly or not, fought for America. And while a few of our wars were misbegotten or foolish, the vast majority have seen Americans shed blood to bring freedom, whether at home or abroad.

Those who gave their lives truly are the honored dead and it behooves us to remember that none were statistics — all were individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice for liberty.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:57 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2016

"How wonderful it has been to to be able to save all those lives"

Dr. Henry Heimlich, 96, performs lifesaving technique he invented for the FIRST TIME when a woman chokes on her hamburger in the seat beside him

 Dr Henry Heimlich
Heimlich was sitting at a communal dining table at Cincinnati's Deupree House, an upscale senior living center where he lives, on Monday and noticed fellow resident Patty Ris, 87, in distress while eating an open-faced hamburger.  He dashed out of his seat, put his arms around her and pressed on her abdomen below the rib cage, following his own instructions. 

'After three compressions, this piece of meat came out, and she just started breathing, her whole face changed,' ....
'I sort of felt wonderful about it, just having saved that girl,' Heimlich said.  'I knew it was working all over the world. I just felt a satisfaction.' ....'When I used it, and she recovered quickly, it made me appreciate how wonderful it has been to to be able to save all those lives.'

Heimlich has lived in the 120-apartment complex for six years and swims regularly for exercise.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:05 PM | Permalink

December 14, 2015

Teaching the value of life by shutting employees inside coffins

From the BBC The employees shut inside coffins

South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and workers often report feeling stressed. So in order to make people appreciate life, some companies are making employees take part in their own pretend funerals.

In a large room in a nondescript modern office block in Seoul, staff from a recruitment company are staging their own funerals. Dressed in white robes, they sit at desks and write final letters to their loved ones. Tearful sniffling becomes open weeping, barely stifled by the copious use of tissues.

And then, the climax: they rise and stand over the wooden coffins laid out beside them. They pause, get in and lie down. They each hug a picture of themselves, draped in black ribbon.
 Korean Lyingincoffins
As they look up, the boxes are banged shut by a man dressed in black with a tall hat. He represents the Angel of Death. Enclosed in darkness, the employees reflect on the meaning of life.

The macabre ritual is a bonding exercise designed to teach them to value life. Before they get into the casket, they are shown videos of people in adversity - a cancer sufferer making the most of her final days, someone born without all her limbs who learned to swim.  All this is designed to help people come to terms with their own problems, which must be accepted as part of life.
"After the coffin experience, I realised I should try to live a new style of life," says Cho Yong-tae as he emerges from the casket. "I've realised I've made lots of mistakes. I hope to be more passionate in all the work I do and spend more time with my family."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:53 PM | Permalink

April 24, 2015

Why I support the death penalty for convicted terrorists

Deroy Murdoch lays out the case for the death penalty for terrorists, an argument I've supported for decades.

Sparing him could encourage terrorists to kidnap people to swap for him.
So, in short: Death to Dzhokhar Tsarn
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2015

"I can't go one. I'll go on"

Before I Go: A Stanford neurosurgeon’s parting wisdom about life and time

Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.

Yet one thing cannot be robbed of her futurity: my daughter, Cady. I hope I’ll live long enough that she has some memory of me. Words have a longevity I do not. I had thought I could leave her a series of letters — but what would they really say? ….There is perhaps only one thing to say to this infant, who is all future, overlapping briefly with me, whose life, barring the improbable, is all but past.

That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.

 Paul Kalathani+Daughter

The author, Paul Kalanithi, died last week at 37.  His obituary here

“Yesterday my brother Paul passed away about two years after being diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. He did so with customary bravery and poise, and died in peace on his own terms with his family around him. My brother achieved more in his short life than what most people do in twice that time. He was a good doctor, a good husband, a good father and a good man.
"We talked about how being the doctor is all about having control and wielding power, while being a patient is all about loss of control and feeling vulnerable,” said Periyakoil, a clinical associate professor of medicine. His ‘dual citizenship’ as a doctor and as a seriously ill patient had taught him that respectful communication is the bedrock of all medicine."
His essays tapped an outpouring of gratitude from readers — from young people who had lost parents to seniors facing their own mortality, to teachers desiring to share his essay with students. “It completely surprised me that it resonated with so many people,  Kalanithi wrote of the response to the Times piece in a 2014 San Francisco Magazine essay. “I still get an email nearly every day from someone with heart disease or depression or another medical illness, saying that it helped clarify his or her own situation. The second, and really pleasing, development was the number of doctors who emailed to say that they planned to give the article to their patients or incorporate it into medical school curricula to help students understand the human impact of disease. That was really touching.”

In the New York Times a year ago  the essay that sparked so much gratitude: How Long Have I Got Left?

Faced with mortality, scientific knowledge can provide only an ounce of certainty: Yes, you will die. But one wants a full pound of certainty, and that is not on offer.  What patients seek is not scientific knowledge doctors hide, but existential authenticity each must find on her own. Getting too deep into statistics is like trying to quench a thirst with salty water. The angst of facing mortality has no remedy in probability.

I remember the moment when my overwhelming uneasiness yielded. Seven words from Samuel Beckett, a writer I’ve not even read that well, learned long ago as an undergraduate, began to repeat in my head, and the seemingly impassable sea of uncertainty parted: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” I took a step forward, repeating the phrase over and over: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” And then, at some point, I was through.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:34 PM | Permalink

March 9, 2015

6.5 million Americans are 112 or older

If that seems impossible, it is.  Except  in the Social Security Administration.

The SSA's inspector general has identified 6.5 million number-holders age 112 -- or older -- for whom no death date has been entered in the main electronic file, called Numident.

The audit, dated March 4, 2015, concluded that SSA lacks the controls necessary to annotate death information on the records of number-holders who exceed "maximum reasonable life expectancies."

Some of the numbers assigned to long-dead people were used fraudulently to open bank accounts.  And thousands of those numbers apparently were used by illegal immigrants to apply for work:

Next question is how much Is the SSA paying out to people long dead.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 PM | Permalink

January 28, 2015

South Africa's 'ghost boy' trapped inside his body

What a remarkable story and testament to the power of love.  How many parents, in a similar situation, would have given up or begged doctors to end his life.  After all who would want to live like that.  Instead, we see endurance, fortitude and love begetting more love and happiness.

Man Awakens After 12 Years in a “Vegetative State,” Says “I Was Aware of Everything”

In the 1980’s, 12-year-old Martin Pistorious became seriously ill with what doctor’s believed was Cryptococci Meningitis. His health started deteriorating and Martin lost his ability to move, make eye contact and even speak to others. His doctors told his parents, Rodney and Joan Pistorious, to bring him home and let him die. They told them he was as good as a vegetable.  However, he didn’t die.  Joan said, “Martin just kept going, just kept going.”

According to NPR news, his father would get up at 5 o’clock in the morning, get him dressed, load him in the car, take him to the special care center where he’d leave him. Rodney said, “Eight hours later, I’d pick him up, bathe him, feed him, put him in bed, set my alarm for two hours so that I’d wake up to turn him so that he didn’t get bedsores.”

For twelve years, Martin’s family cared for him without any sign that he was improving. Joan started to despair and even told her son, “I hope you die.”  Today she acknowledges that was a horrible thing to say but says she just wanted some sort of relief. Remarkably, now Martin is 39-years-old and says he was totally aware of everything going on around him.

South Africa’s 'ghost boy' tells of waking from coma but finding himself trapped
Martin Pistorius spent eight years awake but unable to communicate with his family or medics, forced to watch Barney, the children's TV show, reruns

 Martin Pistorious

“Everyone was so used to me not being there that they didn’t notice when I began to be present again,” Mr Pistorius, who wrote a book entitled, Ghost Boy, about his experience, told NPR. “The stark reality hit me that I was going to spend the rest of my life like that - totally alone. It’s a very dark place to find yourself because, in a sense, you are allowing yourself to vanish.” His mother’s words to him were his lowest point, he said.  “Every time she looked at me, she could see only a cruel parody of the once-healthy child she had loved so much.”

The turning point came, he said, because of his desperation to escape the daily re-runs of Barney, the children's television program about a purple dinosaur, in front of which he was placed by staff at the care home where he spent his days. “I cannot even express to you how much I hated Barney,” Mr Pistorius told NPR.  He taught himself to tell the time by the sun so he could work out when he would be able to escape from the cartoon marathon.
Eventually, when he was 25, one of the therapists that worked with him picked up on his almost imperceptible smiles and nods, and asked for him to be referred for further tests.  “Happiness surged through me. I was Muhammad Ali, John McEnroe, Fred Trueman. Crowds roared their approval as I took a lap of honor,” Mr Pistorius said.

In the years that followed, Mr Pistorius learned to use a computer to communicate, taught himself to read and write and trained as a web designer.
In 2008, he met his wife Joanna, a social worker living in the UK, and fell in love.  “I’d experienced love as a boy and man, as a son, brother, grandson and friend, I’d seen it between others and I know it could sustain us through the darkest of times,” he said. “Now it was lifting me closer to the sun than I ever thought I would fly.”

Today, the couple live in Harlow, Essex and Mr Pistorius speaks through a voice synthesiser and moves in a wheelchair.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink

July 18, 2014

The cancer death-panel app

Wesley Smith writes Obamacare Opens Door to Death Panel App

Obamacare’s emphasis on cost-benefit has apparently granted permission for the medical technocrats to conjure all kinds of healthcare rationing schemes.  And the Medical Establishment is apparently playing along.

From, “The Cancer Death-Panel App,” by Robert Goldberg in the NY Post:

The latest innovation in cancer care isn’t a medical breakthrough but an app to ration new drugs. It’ll measure care in terms of what it costs health plans, instead of what it means for patients’ lives. That it’s being developed under the auspices of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, the world’s leading oncology association, is a grim warning about the state of organized medicine.

The app will use an algorithm like those many health plans apply to limit access to innovative treatments. Wellpoint Inc., for one, measures cost-effectiveness by comparing the benefits, side effects and costs of various treatments for specific types of cancer. The ASCO app uses the same benchmarks.

That’s no coincidence. At ASCO’s national conference, Dr. Lee Newcomer, United Healthcare’s medical director, said the “motives [of insurers] are viewed with suspicion when it comes to deciding whether a treatment is cost-effective. So having ASCO play a key role in establishing such guidelines would be crucial to their implementation.”

Translation: Patients are more likely to accept rationing if it comes with a “medical seal of approval.”

Dr. Lowell Schnipper, who heads ASCO’s Value in Cancer Care Task Force, which is building the app, parrots the claim made by Karen Ignagni, president of AHIP (the health-insurance lobby), that new cancer drugs are bankrupting the health system.

That’s not true. Yes, spending on cancer treatments has climbed from $24 billion in 2004 to about $37 billion today. But that’s less than a half a percent of total US health-care spending.

More important: While expensive, since 2004 such innovations were largely responsible for a 40 percent increase in living cancer survivors, from 9.8 million to 13.6 million. The new therapies also saved $188 billion on hospitalizations.

In fact, a new study by Dr. Newcomer himself confirms this result: United Healthcare’s cancer costs dropped as spending on new cancer drugs increased.

Finally, new drugs help people go back to work. The value of the increase in ability to work is 2.5 times what we spend on new therapies.

The app’s biggest problem, though, is that it’s one-size-fits-all: It treats all patients as the same, ignoring the genetic variation in patient response that a new class of “targeted” cancer drugs will soon address.
Dig a bit deeper, and it’s clear that Schnipper and his allies have a more ideological motivation. He talks of limiting spending on new treatments as a way to make “the health-care system, not just the cancer system, more rational and just.”

And this line of thinking does away with the Hippocratic Oath. No longer is the doctor’s first obligation “to apply for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required.” Instead, Schnipper believes three months of added life “is not a large enough benefit to trump the greater benefits to many that would have to be foregone to provide it.”

In fact, he regards the premium that Americans place on life as a character defect, observing, “Other cultures do not seem to view the postponement of death by a few months” the same way we do…….
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:21 AM | Permalink

July 8, 2014

When gangs replace families

Social chaos is what happens when families break down.  It's happening in Chicago which has the strictest gun laws in the nation.  Over the 4th of July weekend, 80 people were shot and 14 killed.

  Rich Lowry explores What's behind Chicago's carnage

Chicago is a running illustration of the cliché that if you ban guns, only criminals will own them. Not surprisingly, if you are willing to shoot someone in a meaningless gang dispute, you are willing to disregard laws for the purchase and possession of firearms.
Gun laws are beside the point. The tony Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park could have the same laws as gun-friendly Vermont and it would still be extremely safe. What Chicago is suffering from is not a random citywide phenomenon, but a specific, highly concentrated one.

Overall, according to Chicago magazine, the rate of nonfatal gunshot injury in Chicago was 46.5 per 100,000 from 2006 to 2012. But it was only 1.62 per 100,000 for whites. For blacks, it was 112.83 per 100,000. For black males, 239.77, and for black males aged 18-34, 599.65, or “a staggering one in 200.”.....

Chicago is grappling with the profound social breakdown of certain neighborhoods, where the two-parent family has been obliterated and where, too often, young men consider lawlessness the norm.

It is here, as Heather Mac Donald of City Journal writes, that gang members define themselves not by “family, or academic accomplishments or interests, but ruthless fealty to small, otherwise indistinguishable, pieces of territory.”

This breakdown is “the root cause,” to use that old catchphrase, of Chicago’s violence. It blights the lives of countless young men, hundreds of whom end up in the morgue every year.

You would think that trying to find ways to combat it would be an obsession of liberals who profess to care about the welfare of our cities, but all their energy is devoted to income inequality, global warming and other fashionable causes.

And the drumbeat of murder in a great American city goes on.

As Jason Riley points out in Chicago and Black Criminality

The problem is not our gun laws. Nor is it our drug laws, or racist cops, prosecutors and judges. The problem is black criminality, which is a function of black pathology, which ultimately stems from the breakdown of the black family. The late James Q. Wilson put it this way:

"If crime is to a significant degree caused by weak character; if weak character is more likely among the children of unmarried mothers; if there are no fathers who will help raise their children, acquire jobs, and protect their neighborhoods; if boys become young men with no preparation for work; if school achievement is regarded as a sign of having "sold out" to a dominant white culture; if powerful gangs replace weak families—if all these things are true, then the chances of reducing by plan and in the near future the crime rate of low-income blacks are slim."

Wilson wrote that in 2002, but it was true 20 years before then and may still be true 20 years from now if we don't confront the problem head-on. And it's awfully difficult to confront something that most people, especially on the political left, don't even want to talk about.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:46 PM | Permalink

June 13, 2014

The Sinking of the Lancastria

I had never heard of the sinking of Lancastria on June 17, 1940 which sent at least 4000 people to their deaths and possibly many more.

From Wikipedia:

It is the greatest ever loss of life in the sinking of a single British ship, claiming more lives than the combined losses of the RMS Titanic (1,523 passengers and crew) and RMS Lusitania (1,200 passengers). It had also the highest death toll for UK forces in a single engagement in the whole of World War II.

She was sunk off the French port of St. Nazaire while taking part in Operation Ariel, the evacuation of British nationals and troops from France, two weeks after the Dunkirk evacuation….

By the mid-afternoon of 17 June, she had embarked an unknown number (estimates range from 4,000 up to 9,000[, of civilian refugees (including embassy staff, employees of Fairey Aviation of Belgium), line-of-communication troops (such as Pioneer and RASC soldiers) and RAF personnel. The ship's official capacity was 2,200 including the 375 man crew. Captain Sharp had been instructed by the Royal Navy to "load as many men as possible without regard to the limits set down under international law".
There were 2,477 survivors, of whom about 100 were still alive in 2011. Many families of the dead knew only that they died with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF); the death toll accounted for roughly a third of the total losses of the BEF in France

David Niven told this story about the disaster and the sacrifice of a priest

"David Niven told the engrossing story (I had never heard it) of a single episode in the chaotic flight from France after Dunkirk in 1940.
One motley assembly, ‘Royal Air Force ground personnel who were trapped, Red Cross workers, women, ambulance drivers and, finally, the embassy staff from Paris with their children — by the time they got to St. Nazaire at the mouth of the Loire, there were over three thousand of them and the British government sent an old liner called the Lancastria to come and take them away, with three destroyers to guard her. They were just pulling up the anchor when three dive bombers came.

The destroyers did what they could, but one bomb hit, went down the funnel and blew a huge hole in the side, and she quickly took on a terrible list. In the hold there were several hundred soldiers. Now there was no way they could ever get out because of the list, and she was sinking. And along came my own favorite Good Samaritan, a Roman Catholic priest, a young man in Royal Air Force uniform. He got a rope and lowered himself into the hold to give encouragement and help to those hundreds of men in their last fateful hour.’

‘Knowing he couldn’t get out?’ ‘Knowing he could never get out, nor could they. The ship sank and all in that hold died. The remainder were picked up by the destroyers and came back to England to the regiment I was in, and we had to look after them, and many of them told me that they were giving up even then, in the oil and struggle, and the one thing that kept them going was the sound of the soldiers in the hold singing hymns.’”

Winston Churchill hid the news of the deaths of possibly more than 7,000 men from the public as it might have damaged morale.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:09 PM | Permalink

May 26, 2014

Shadow over Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the federal holiday to honor those service men and women who have sacrificed their lives to defend this country.  We remember that there are men and women who died so that you and I can live with greater security and peace. As Jesus Christ said ,  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address spoke of the undying gratitude we should have for those who made the ultimate sacrifice:

We can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

The motto of the Veterans Affairs is a quote from Abraham Lincoln, "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan."

The shadow over this Memorial Day are the daily revelations of appalling government behavior and treatment of the men and women who deserve the best of care.  Worse, the government deliberately falsified data to hide its scandalous behavior.  The department's inspector general says 26 VA facilities are under investigation, including the Phoenix VA hospital, where a former clinic director says as many as 40 veterans may have died while awaiting treatment.

The VA is an island of socialism in American health care writes Rich Lowry

It generally provides adequate care — to a limited universe of people and for only certain conditions — but has long been plagued by scandal. It is perhaps the worst bureaucracy in the federal government. As with all such single-payer-type systems, the cost of the notionally free health care is in the rationing, in this case the wait times that have had desperately ill vets hung out to dry for months….. The existence of the VA isn’t politically controversial. No one is trying to repeal it, or “sabotage” it. What we’re seeing is simply unaccountable bureaucracy in action.

It's with shame that we learn that Al Qaeda terrorists at Guatanamo are treated better than our veterans.

The VA and Gitmo eligible patient-to-health care provider ratios speak volumes.  While the Gitmo ratio is 1.5 to 1, for America’s 9 million veterans receiving VA health care and 267,930 VA employees, the ratio is 35 to 1.

Illegal aliens are treated better than our veterans writes Michelle Malkin

In New York, doctors report that nearly 40 percent of their patients receiving kidney dialysis are illegal aliens. A survey of nephrologists in 44 states revealed that 65 percent of them treat illegal aliens with kidney disease.

In Memphis, a VA whistleblower reported that his hospital was using contaminated kidney dialysis machines to treat America's warriors. The same hospital previously had been investigated for chronic overcrowding at its emergency room, leading to six-hour waits or longer. Another watchdog probe found unconscionable delays in processing lab tests at the center. In addition, three patients died under negligent circumstances, and the hospital failed to enforce accountability measures.
In 2013, the Obama Department of Homeland Security released 36,007 known, convicted criminal illegal aliens, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. The catch-and-release beneficiaries include thugs convicted of homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, and thousands of drunk or drugged driving crimes.

The same Department of Homeland Security issued a report in 2009 that identified returning combat veterans as worrisome terrorist and criminal threats to America.

Fraud should not be “punished” with paid vacations — the criminals should go to jail. writes Deroy Murdock in VA Hospitals Are Now Crime Scenes

At this writing, the Veterans Administration scandal has engulfed 16 states and 26 hospitals. In Atlanta, widespread mismanagement caused the preventable deaths of at least three veterans. In Columbia, S.C., six vets died because of delayed colorectal-cancer screenings. And in Phoenix, some severely ill vets urinated blood and endured searing pain from cancer. At least 40 of them dropped dead before getting life-saving treatment.

Instead, hospital officials allegedly doctored appointment books to “comply” with VA scheduling rules, maintained secret wait lists that confirm this deception, and destroyed this evidence when the watchdogs barked. This ugly picture quickly devolves from lassitude into lawlessness. VA hospitals have become crime scenes.
As much as possible, VA hospitals should be privatized and coverage voucherized. Compensation in what remains should reflect patient satisfaction. As the Cato Institute’s Roger Pilon explains, this means “veterans benefits vs. veterans hospitals.”

Jim Geraghty reports in Another Day, Another Series of Horrific Stories Out of VA Facilities that Veterans Affairs

Secretary Eric Shinseki apparently is going to institute a new lengthy waiting period before action to address the problem of lengthy waiting periods.

Ace reports Networks Devote More Time to Christie's "Bridgegate" Pseudoscandal in Four Days Than They Devote to the VA Scandal In an Entire Month

The Senate Just Blocked Legislation to Speed Up VA Firings.  The bill that would have held VA officials accountable by making it easier to fire incompetent VA officials passed the House but was blocked in the Senate by Democrats.

They are not even burying the bodies.  The LA County Morgue has been holding bodies of as many as 60 veterans over the past year and a half. because they were unclaimed   They  blamed the VA while the VA claims they were never notified.  On Friday, 28 bodies were finally moved to Riverside National Cemetery for burial.

I am pro-choice when it comes to health care for veterans and i support the Call by GOP leaders and a whistle-blower join to privatize veterans' care

"Let our veterans choose the health care that they need and want the most, and not have to be bound to just going to the VA,” said Senator John McCain.

Today, the VA turns to private hospitals for help

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will let more veterans obtain health care at private hospitals, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced Saturday.

Shinseki, who faces calls to resign amid reports of lengthy waiting lists and preventable deaths in the VA’s healthcare system, said the agency is "increasing the care we acquire in the community through non-VA care," according to the Associated Press.

The Most Important War Memorial Is One You Probably Will Never See
It wasn’t constructed by an architect or an artist. The memorial didn’t have tourists coming through it like Arlington Cemetery or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. It was a closed site, built and maintained by Marines. Hundreds of rocks had been carried there. Each week, Marines would carry lawn mowers up and groom it.

Above all, treat veterans with respect, not pity. Too many Americans assume that troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan must be traumatized.  Phil Klay writes

War subjects some of its participants to more than any person can bear, and it destroys them. War makes others stronger. For most of us, it leaves a complex legacy. And though many veterans appreciate the well-meaning sentiments behind even the most misdirected pity, I can't help feeling that all of us, especially those who are struggling, deserve a little less pity and a little more respect.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:52 PM | Permalink

May 21, 2014

What Will the Post-Antibiotics Future Look Like?

Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future

After 85 years, antibiotics are growing impotent. So what will medicine, agriculture and everyday life look like if we lose these drugs entirely?

Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, warned in 1945 as he accepted the Nobel Prize in Medicine,
“It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them… There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily under dose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.” ….
What worried him was the possibility that misuse would speed the process up. Every inappropriate prescription and insufficient dose given in medicine would kill weak bacteria but let the strong survive. ... Bacteria can produce another generation in as little as twenty minutes; with tens of thousands of generations a year working out survival strategies, the organisms would soon overwhelm the potent new drugs.
With antibiotics losing usefulness so quickly — and thus not making back the estimated $1 billion per drug it costs to create them — the pharmaceutical industry lost enthusiasm for making more. In 2004, there were only five new antibiotics in development, compared to more than 500 chronic-disease drugs for which resistance is not an issue — and which, unlike antibiotics, are taken for years, not days.
So what would a post-antibiotic era look like?  It isn't hard to imagine what would happen first.  Infected patients would die.  In fact, they already do.

What else?    Well, getting a tattoo, botox or liposuction would be far more fraught with danger.

Those calculations of risk extend far beyond admitting possibly contaminated patients from a nursing home. Without the protection offered by antibiotics, entire categories of medical practice would be rethought.
"A post-antibiotic world means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it.  Things as common as a strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill." Dr Margaret Chan, World Health Organization.
Dr. Louis Rice, chair of the department of medicine at Brown University’s medical school. “Plus, right now healthcare is a reasonably free-market, fee-for-service system; people are interested in doing procedures because they make money. But five or ten years from now, we’ll probably be in an environment where we get a flat sum of money to take care of patients. And we may decide that some of these procedures aren’t worth the risk.”
Out of all the antibiotics sold in the United States each year, 80 percent by weight are used in agriculture, primarily to fatten animals and protect them from the conditions in which they are raised…..

A growing body of scientific research links antibiotic use in animals to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria: in the animals’ own guts, in the manure that farmers use on crops or store on their land, and in human illnesses as well. Resistant bacteria move from animals to humans in groundwater and dust, on flies, and via the meat those animals get turned into.

In the Kenyon Review, Jacob Appel writes in Sudden Death: A Eulogy, "Sudden death is a conclusion. Too often, I fear, the long goodbye devolves into a negation." 

The lingering long goodbye is how death is experienced today when every effort is made to prolong life using all the medical technology and modern medicines at the doctor's command.

In a post-antibiotic world, death will come much earlier and more quickly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:00 PM | Permalink

April 9, 2014

Suicide in the white professional class

You can not underestimate the importance of family and friends in having a good and happy life.    This is especially true for professional men.

When Bankers and Physicians Commit Suicide

Apparently, the media finds stories about Wall Street bankers killing themselves to be compelling. The prevalent narrative suggests that big, bad bankers are so troubled by their oppressive practices that they cannot live with themselves.  Sally Satel effectively debunked this story in a recent column. In truth, doctors and lawyers are more likely to commit suicide than are finance professionals.

White privilege notwithstanding, white males are three times more likely to commit suicide than are blacks and twice as likely as Hispanics and Asians. Moreover, they are four times more likely than females to commit suicide. Thus, bankers belong to a cohort that is more inclined to commit suicide.
The problem is not new. It has been extensively researched. One report defined some of the problems that beset physicians:

Many of the risk factors for suicide in physicians correspond to risk factors in the general population. Suicide rates have been found to be higher among physicians who are divorced, widowed, or never married. The high-risk physician has been described as driven, competitive, compulsive, individualistic, ambitious, and often a graduate of a high-prestige school. He often has mood swings, a problem with alcohol or other drugs, and sometimes a non- life-threatening but annoying physical illness.
The report adds that physicians often have a great deal of difficulty forgiving themselves for mistakes. In part, it must have something to do with the influence of malpractice laws, but one suspects that a breakdown in camaraderie also contributes:
If physicians lack a sense of belonging to a group, of being part of an honorable profession, of enjoying camaraderie with other physicians, clearly this psycho-social factor creates anomie and fosters depression.

One suspects that the same problem exists in other professions, where  people used to be able to work together but where they now believe that they are working against each other.

Another recent example  is Roy Cullen, long-time president of the Cullen Foundation, Houston's most well-known charitable foundation which gave millions in 2013 who shot himself dead in a locked bedroom in  his family mansion two days ago.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:55 PM | Permalink

April 1, 2014

The Black Death was a Pneumonic Plague Spread by Coughing say scientists

The Bubonic Plague of 1348 was actually a pneumonic plague

RATS and fleas have been unfairly implicated in the spread of the Black Death, according to scientists studying the remains of Londoners who died in the 14th century.

Around 60 per cent of people living in the capital died at the peak of the Black Death pandemic, which arrived in England from central Asia in 1348. But, following excavations of medieval graves in the course of Crossrail construction works, scientists now believe that a death rate of such magnitude would only have been possible if the plague had been airborne.

Skeletons dug up in Charterhouse Square, just north of the City of London, still contained the DNA of the bacterium responsible for the plague: Yersinia pestis. Researchers compared this DNA with that from a strain of the plague which recently killed 60 people in Madagascar. They found the medieval strain was no more virulent than the modern strain.

However, scientists now believe the only way that the Black Death could have killed so many people in 1348 was if it was actually a pneumonic plague – an airborne version of the disease which can be spread from person to person through coughing.

Dr Tim Brooks from Public Health England at the Porton Down research facility has a theory. Speaking of rats and fleas, Dr Brooks told the Guardian: "As an explanation for the Black Death in its own right, it simply isn't good enough. It cannot spread fast enough from one household to the next to cause the huge number of cases that we saw during the Black Death epidemics."

Scientists believe the poor health of the population of London was also a factor in the high death rate. The skeletons in Charterhouse Square showed evidence of rickets, anaemia and childhood malnutrition.

Skeletons  reveal Black Death Secrets

Skeletons dug up in London last year are indeed the remains of people who died from the Black Plague—and who suffered a tough life before falling ill, the BBC reports. Forensic analysis shows that teeth taken from at least four of the 12 corpses discovered during excavation for a rail line contained trace amounts of plague DNA, indicating exposure. Early burials found at the site, from the late 1340s, are nice and orderly, with bodies wrapped in white shrouds, but skeletons from a second outbreak in the 1430s are tossed in with what appear to be upper-body injuries—evidence of "a period of lawlessness and social breakdown." …Several skeletons suffered from malnutrition and 16% had rickets. Many had back damage, signalling stressful manual labor.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

February 28, 2014

“Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up”

In the New Yorker, Roger Angell on Life in the Nineties

“Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up” was the way Casey Stengel put it. He was seventy-five at the time, and contemporary social scientists might prefer Casey’s line delivered at eighty-five now, for accuracy, but the point remains. We geezers carry about a bulging directory of dead husbands or wives, children, parents, lovers, brothers and sisters, dentists and shrinks, office sidekicks, summer neighbors, classmates, and bosses, all once entirely familiar to us and seen as part of the safe landscape of the day. It’s no wonder we’re a bit bent. The surprise, for me, is that the accruing weight of these departures doesn’t bury us, and that even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way quite quickly to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming. The dead have departed, but gestures and glances and tones of voice of theirs, even scraps of clothing—that pale-yellow Saks scarf—reappear unexpectedly, along with accompanying touches of sweetness or irritation.

Our dead are almost beyond counting and we want to herd them along, pen them up somewhere in order to keep them straight….

My list of names is banal but astounding, and it’s barely a fraction, the ones that slip into view in the first minute or two. Anyone over sixty knows this; my list is only longer. I don’t go there often, but, once I start, the battalion of the dead is on duty, alertly waiting. Why do they sustain me so, cheer me up, remind me of life? I don’t understand this. Why am I not endlessly grieving?
Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life, but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

January 22, 2014

"The undeniable fact is that nearly a third of my generation is missing."

Politico, Snow doesn’t hinder March for Life

Every January for the past 40 years, a large group of anti-abortion advocates has gathered on the National Mall and then marched to the Supreme Court to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Organizers say their participants in the past few years have numbered from 200,000 to 400,000, a large part of whom are young people, and yet they remain perplexed why one of the largest demonstrations in Washington, D.C., gets little of the attention they feel it is due.

“It is sort of frustrating when you’re downtown freezing your tail off with hundreds of thousands of people, it’s the biggest you can imagine you’ve ever taken part in, and you go home and you watch the news or you pick up the paper and … you’re lucky if you get on the news 20 seconds of coverage,” said Kevin Bohli, director of youth outreach for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. “You might have 10 people camped out in a park for Occupy getting news for weeks on end, but hundreds of thousands of people from all of the nation coming together and almost nothing.

Despite cancelled flights and stopped D.C. bound tour buses, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.  will trudge through the snow in D.C. to March for Life.

The theme this year is adoption. …."We want to encourage women facing the option of abortion to choose adoption," said Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund. "Adoption is at the center of motherhood. Motherhood is all about sacrifices. This is an ultimate sacrifice for the good of the baby."

 55Million Abortions Since Roe V.Wade

I Am Overwhelmed by 55 Million Babies Killed Since Roe v. Wade, Kristan Hawkins

The undeniable fact is that nearly a third of my generation is missing. We are missing brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, husbands and wives…….

You see, Miss Weddington’s generation got it wrong. In attempting to correct gender inequality in the workplace and in our society, they set into motion the ultimate act of discrimination – abortion. Instead of glorifying motherhood, they pitted the mother against her child, creating an endless cycle of selfishness, pain, and deceit.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker on Child Sacrifice.

We are a people who sacrifice babies.  The logic of child sacrifice in primitive societies was simple: the gods provided the peace, prosperity and power you wanted, and to please them you gave them the most valuable thing: a human life. Likewise we offer  the products of our unrestrained pleasure–sacrificing them to provide prosperity and a peaceful life.

The entire interview with Cardinal Sean O'Malley on abortion, buffer zones, Project Rachel, Pope Francis and adoptions. is worth reading

“The normal Catholic in the parish might hear a sermon on abortion once a year. They’ll never hear a sermon on homosexuality or gay marriage. They’ll never hear a sermon about contraception. But if you look at the New York Times, in the course of a week, there will be 20 articles on those topics. So who is obsessed? Now, the Church’s positions are very clear and very consistent. For us, life is at the very center of our social teachings. Life is precious. It is a mystery. It must be nurtured, protected, the transmission of life is sacred. And our defense of human life is a great service to society. When the state begins to decide who is worthy of living and who isn’t, all human rights are put in jeopardy, but the voice of the church is very clear. And we’re not just saying that life is precious in the womb but life is precious when someone has Alzheimer’s when someone has AIDS when someone is poor when someone has mental illness. Their humanity is not diminished – and they have a claim on our love and on our services. So the church’s position is a very consistent one. It is a consistent life ethic.

The good news. Report: Abortions Drop 32 Percent From All-Time High as Roe Turns 41

National Right to Life President Carol Tobias, “Abortion remains widely available. But after years of being told that abortion was ‘the best choice’ or ‘their only choice,’ women are learning that there are alternatives to abortion that affirm their lives and the lives of their children,” added Tobias. “The bottom line is simple: the right-to-life movement is succeeding because even after 41 years and more than 56 million abortions, the conscience of our nation knows that killing unborn children is wrong.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:33 PM | Permalink

December 17, 2013

If what you know about CPR is from TV shows, you're wrong

The number of lives saved by CPR isn't as many as TV shows would have you believe.

 Cpr Chicagohope Tv

Un-extraordinary measures: Stats show CPR often falls flat

In his 20 years of practicing emergency medicine, Dr. David Newman says, he remembers every patient who has walked out of his hospital alive after receiving CPR.

It's not because Newman has an extraordinary memory or because reviving a patient whose heart has stopped sticks in his mind more than other types of trauma. It's because the number of individuals who survive CPR is so small.

In fact, out of the hundreds of CPR patients who have come to the New York hospitals where he has worked, Newman recalls no more than one individual a year making a full recovery.
Exact survival rates are difficult to come by, as studies generally look at specific populations. A 2012 study showed that only about 2% of adults who collapse on the street and receive CPR recover fully. Another from 2009 (PDF) showed that anywhere from 4% to 16% of patients who received bystander CPR were eventually discharged from the hospital. About 18% of seniors who receive CPR at the hospital survive to be discharged, according to a third study (PDF).

So when did the misconception about the effectiveness of CPR begin? Some researchers argue that television created the myth. Between 1994 and 1995, researchers from Duke University watched 97 episodes of "ER," "Chicago Hope" and "Rescue 911," taking note of when CPR was administered during each show.  In these dramas, 75% of patients survived immediate cardiac arrest, and two-thirds were discharged from the hospital with full brain function, a stark contrast to the much smaller percentage found by medical studies.
Newman says the few who do survive after CPR are what physicians describe as the "healthy dead": i.e. "a boy who drowned moments before," "a man who collapses while running a marathon" or someone experiencing a mild heart attack.

More common are the "unhealthy dead": those with terminal illnesses, the chronically ill and patients who do not receive CPR within five to 10 minutes of cardiac arrest.

"In these cases, (CPR) is unnecessarily burdensome, invasive and arguably cruel, with little to no chance of benefit," Newman said. Many survivors suffer abdominal distention or broken rib cages; some have severe brain damage from being without oxygen for so long.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 PM | Permalink

December 9, 2013

"'None of us needs to live the saddest part of our lives 24/7"

The forgiveness of the Amish was an amazing story in 2006 and it continues today with the example of the mother of the mass murderer

Mother of Amish schoolhouse shooter shares her story of forgiveness

Once a week, Terri Roberts spends time with a 13-year-old Amish girl named Rosanna who sits in a wheelchair and eats through a tube. Roberts bathes her, sings to her, reads her stories. She can only guess what's going on inside Rosanna's mind because the girl can't talk.

Roberts' son did this to her.    Seven years ago, Charles Carl Roberts IV barricaded himself inside an Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, tied up 10 girls and opened fire, killing five and injuring five others before committing suicide as police closed in.
The Amish responded by offering immediate forgiveness to the killer - even attending his funeral - and embracing his family.

    Terri Roberts Amish Grieving
Terri Roberts forgave, too, and now she is sharing her experience with others, saying the world needs more stories about the power of forgiveness and the importance of seeking joy through adversity.

'I realized if I didn't forgive him, I would have the same hole in my heart that he had. And a root of bitterness never brings peace to anyone,' Roberts said. 'We are called to forgive.'

One of her sons is making a documentary - called Hope - about her remarkable journey from heartbroken mother to inspirational speaker.  Zachary Roberts originally conceived the film to help his mother. But it's also proving to be cathartic for him.

'It was like a step toward getting this off my shoulders and being able to speak about it,' said Roberts, 35, who lives in Sweden.'I have a kid now, and I don't want this to be one of those dark family secrets that nobody talks about. I want to be OK with it, and I want my daughter to be OK with it.'

Roberts appears in the trailer and doesn't mince words about the challenge that faced his mother after his 32-year-old brother's rampage: 'How does the mother of a mass murderer move forward in life?'

Terri Roberts' path toward healing and reconciliation began, surprisingly enough, that very first afternoon.  Her husband, Chuck, had wiped away so many tears that he'd rubbed his skin raw. The retired police officer hung his head, inconsolable.

'I will never face my Amish friends again,' he said, over and over.

An Amish neighbor named Henry told him otherwise. 'Roberts, we love you. We don't hold anything against you or your son,' Terri Roberts recalled Henry saying as he massaged Roberts' slumped shoulders. 'We're a forgiving people.'

It was an extraordinary gesture, one that gave Terri Roberts her first glimmer of hope. She calls Henry her 'angel in black'. That same day, a counselor helped her realize that 'we do not need to live in our sorrow'.

'I can't tell you what that did for me. That was just so helpful for me, and I feel now that it's helped many other people,' Roberts said.

Rosanna wasn't expected to survive after being shot in the head. She laughs, cries and responds to stimuli, and King said she is mentally alert. But she requires constant care.

Terri Roberts' weekly visits with Rosanna force her to confront the damage her son caused. But Roberts also finds peace as she spends time with Rosanna and provides some relief to the teen's family, if only for a few hours.

'Beautiful young woman, but life is not as it should've been for this little girl. So my mind will never forget the hardship that day has caused in many people's lives,' Roberts said.

'And yet,' she said, 'none of us needs to live in the saddest part of our lives 24/7.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:04 PM | Permalink

November 21, 2013

Kennedy was killed by a communist

JFK was assassinated 50 years ago today by the left-wing, self-confessed communist Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine who had been court-martialed twice and who, after his discharge, traveled to Russia where he  appeared at the US Embassy in Moscow to declare his intention to renounce his U.S. citizenship.  He was given a job and a state-subsidized apartment in Minsk but found life in the Soviet Union so dull, he wanted to return to the U.S . After marrying a Russian woman, they  both returned to the United States and settled in Texas where he became active in the pro-Castro 'Fair Play for Cuba' committee in New Orleans.  He traveled to Mexico City to get a visa to visit Cuba but was turned down. He then returned to Texas where he got a job in the Texas Book Depository in Dallas and the rest is history.

It is pernicious and utter tripe to argue as James McAuley did in a NYT op-ed entitled The City with a Death Wish In Its Eye, that Dallas was "the city that willed the death of the president."

People on the left can not face the fact that a left-wing commie killed Kennedy.  They will do anything to shift blame to conservatives.    One way that has proven very successful is to encourage conspiracy theories involving the right wing..  61 percent of Americans still insist the JFK assassination was a conspiracy.

Dan Greenfield  writes  "Sometimes a conspiracy theory exposes a conspiracy. Sometimes the conspiracy theory is the conspiracy".

There was never really any disagreement about Lee Harvey Oswald's politics. The media has avoided the issue by not talking about it while characterizing him as a screwball who wasn't happy anywhere. That much is true, but Lee Harvey Oswald was a militant Socialist screwball who defected to the Soviet Union and plotted the murders of people he considered "right-wing".

The piles of conspiracy theories shove him to the side as an excessively convenient killer. But Lee Harvey Oswald was part of a continuum of left-wing terror in America. The murder of JFK was a bridge between the explosions of violence in the twenties by anarchists and by the Weathermen in the seventies. Oswald was part of the leading edge of left-wing violence in America.
JFK was not killed by a military-industrial complex or a vast right-wing conspiracy. No group of men in suits sat around a table plotting his death. The forces that killed him were the same political ideas of the left that led young American men and women to cheer for the Viet Cong, plant bombs and wage war against their own country.
The real Kennedy conspiracy was an effort to suppress the basic truths of what had happened and to replace them with a recursive loop of conspiracy theories that could never resolve anything while convincing everyone that the basic truths of what happened could be safely ignored.

The conspiracy did not cover up the work of the secret organization that killed JFK, but the secret organizations of the left whose ideas led to his murder. The real JFK conspiracy concealed the deeper secret that the left is destructive and that its ideas carry a dark wind of chaos and violence.

Lt. Gen Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking Soviet bloc intelligence official ever to defect to the West.  He offers New Proof of the KGB's hand in JFK's Assassination

According to new KGB documents, which became available after Programmed to Kill was published, the Soviet effort to deflect attention away from the KGB regarding the Kennedy assassination began on November 23, 1963—the very day after Kennedy was killed—and it was introduced by a memo to the Kremlin signed by KGB chairman Vladimir Semichastny. He asked the Kremlin immediately to publish an article in a “progressive paper in one of the Western countries …exposing the attempt by reactionary circles in the USA to remove the responsibility for the murder of Kennedy from the real criminals, [i.e.,] the racists and ultra-right elements guilty of the spread and growth of violence and terror in the United States.”

In the WSJ James Piereson writes JFK—Casualty of the Cold War 

Why does the Kennedy assassination still provoke so much controversy?

A large part of the answer can be found in the social and political climate of the early 1960s. Immediately after the assassination, leading journalists and political figures insisted that the president was a victim of a "climate of hate" in Dallas and across the nation seeded by racial bigots, the Ku Klux Klan, fundamentalist ministers and anticommunist zealots. These people had been responsible for acts of violence across the South against blacks and civil-rights workers in the months and years leading up to Nov. 22, 1963. It made sense to think that the same forces must have been behind the attack on Kennedy.
Ironically, U.S. leaders adopted a line similar to the one pushed by the Soviet Union and communist groups around the world. They likewise blamed the "far right" for the assassination.
The assassin's motives for shooting Kennedy were undoubtedly linked to a wish to interfere with the president's campaign to overthrow Castro's government. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy pledged to abandon efforts to overthrow Castro's regime by force. But the war of words between the two governments continued, and so did clandestine plots by the Kennedy administration to eliminate Castro by assassination.

Castro, however, was probably aware of these plots against him, thanks to information thought to have been provided by a Cuban double agent. In early September, Castro declared in an interview with an American reporter that U.S. officials wouldn't be safe if they continued efforts to assassinate Cuban leaders. A transcript of the interview was published in the local paper in New Orleans where Oswald was then living; and it may have been Castro's remarks that sent him on his trip to Mexico City a few weeks later. Oswald was attentive to the smoldering war between the U.S. and Cuban governments and to the personal and ideological war of words between Castro and Kennedy.

The JFK assassination was an event in the Cold War, but it was interpreted by America's liberal leadership as an event in the civil-rights crusade. This interpretation sowed endless confusion about the motives of the assassin and the meaning of the event. The vacuum of meaning was filled by a host of conspiracy theories claiming that JFK was a victim of plots orchestrated by right-wing groups.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

August 8, 2013

What happened to Barnaby Jack?

Was this computer nerd killed after discovering how to murder anyone with a pacemaker?

When the acclaimed television drama  series Homeland climaxed with a devious plot by terrorists to kill America’s vice-president by hacking into his electronic pacemaker, critics scoffed at the ludicrousness of the idea.

But the outrageous storyline was thought credible by many in the world of computer security.  Among those was the New Zealand-born computer hacker Barnaby Jack.  The 35-year-old — who, unlike many in the business, used his skills ‘ethically’ — had spent his career demonstrating the dangers posed by unscrupulous hackers combined with computer manufacturers’ failure to install proper safety devices on equipment.
 Barnaby Jack
Jack thought it highly plausible that a terrorist could hack into someone’s pacemaker and speed up their heartbeat until it killed them.  He also believed it was possible to infect the pacemaker companies’ servers with a bug that would spread through their systems like a virus.

‘We are potentially looking at a “worm” with the ability to commit mass murder,’ he said. ‘It’s kind of scary.’ Jack certainly knew what he was talking about — having become famous after demonstrating how he could sabotage cash machines and make them dispense large sums of money (a trick he called ‘Jackpotting’) by hacking into a bank’s computer system.

Another stunt was to reveal how a diabetic’s insulin pump — which is designed to deliver insulin to the body day and night — could be hacked from 300ft away, so it could dispense a fatal dose.

Jack, who had been obsessed with computers since childhood, emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 21 and joined a firm specializing in computer security issues.
In recent years, he had developed a specific interest in what is known as ‘embedded’ technology, the hardware and software built into everyday objects such as cars, banking systems, home appliances and medical devices. Jack thought it plausible that someone could hack into a pacemaker and speed up their heartbeat until it killed them

He was preparing to demonstrate his work two days ago at a major computer-hacking convention in Las Vegas.

In an address to the Black Hat convention titled ‘Implantable medical devices: hacking humans’, Jack was due to show an audience of hackers and cyber security experts at Caesar’s Palace how he could hack into devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators.
However, he was never to give the demonstration. A week beforehand, Jack was found dead in his flat in the San Francisco neighborhood of Nob Hill. His body was believed to have been found by his girlfriend, Layne Cross, a 31-year-old model. According to friends, he was found dead in bed.

To say his sudden death  remains shrouded in mystery is putting it mildly.

Predictably, for someone who worked in such a shadowy world, there have been countless theories about how he was killed. Hackers are a suspicious bunch who have become even more paranoid since the U.S government’s efforts to silence whistleblowers such as ex-soldier Bradley Manning (who faces jail for leaking secret government cables to WikiLeaks).  The absence of even the most basic details about Barnaby Jack’s untimely death has ignited a firestorm of speculation that foul play could be involved.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:14 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2013

Generation 'lightbulb'

This is very good news.

Generation 'lightbulb': Medical advances are enabling us to go on and on and on . . . until suddenly we 'go out'

People are not only living longer but they are staying much healthier in later in life too, according to a new study.

Until recently very poor health tended to strike in the last six or seven years of life, but now it is more likely to occur shortly before death.  Experts believe that this is thanks to medical advances that not only prevent us becoming ill in the first place, but also help us recover our health in the aftermath of a serious condition.

Professor David Cutler of Harvard University, said: 'With the exception of the year or two just before death, people are healthier than they used to be.
'Effectively, the period of time in which we're in poor health is being compressed until just before the end of life. 'So where we used to see people who are very, very sick for the final six or seven years of their life, that's now far less common.

The study is based on results from nearly 90,000 peopled surveyed between 1991 and 2009.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:09 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2013

What can we learn from Detroit's Bankruptcy

Kevin Williamson at NR, Detroit Goes Down

In 1960, Detroit had the highest per capita income in the United States; today, it is the poorest large city in the United States….

Detroit has suffered the usual problems associated with large, Democrat-dominated cities. Its spending has long been out of control, and former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and one of his cronies are prison-bound on 31 counts of extortion, bribery, and racketeering….

The city has for years proved unable or unwilling to provide the basic services people expect from municipal authorities: While political cronies got fat, the people of Detroit were left with some of the worst schools in the country, some of the most dangerous streets in the country, and a mass-transit system that is a non-functioning mess. Not that you’d want to start a business there, but if you did, its licensing and regulatory agencies run the gamut from incompetent to corrupt.

So the people of Detroit went on strike…..They packed up and left, taking their businesses, their innovation, and their tax dollars with them. The powers that be in Detroit can rob people blind, but they cannot make them stay.
Detroit is the victim of a vicious circle: Failing municipal institutions mean that without the allure of a high-paying job, Detroit is an undesirable place to live, while the unions have helped to drive away a great many of those high-paying jobs. A city that already was corrupt and incompetent saw its tax base evaporate, meaning that it quickly became a city that is corrupt, incompetent, and broke. Of its $11 billion in unsecured debt, the great majority — $9 billion — is owed to pensions and health-benefit plans for the same public-sector incompetents who helped bring the city to its knees in the first place. Detroit’s ruling class is a parasite that has outgrown its host.

Tim Stanley views Detroit  from the U.K., This is what happens if you vote Democratic for 51 years.

I’ve been to Detroit and I won’t be hurrying back. I’ve never been surrounded by such appalling poverty in a Western country – rows and rows of public housing, every window broken, every door barred. I was advised to take a cab everywhere and to avoid the sidewalk at all costs. The gas station near my motel was a notorious hangout for crack dealers. The only way to get any food was to order it in, and the pizza guy refused to enter the motel itself. I had to come out to the freeway and nervously exchange money for food in the middle of the road.
But it’s surely no coincidence that Detroit has also been run by the same people for 51 years. Since 1962, the city has always returned Democratic mayors and, lacking in any real political competition, they’ve been allowed to run the city into the ground. High minded liberal rhetoric covers up for incompetence corruption. ….

So what you have is a toxic combination of stupidity and malice, all enabled by a one party system. This is what all of America would look like if only Democrats governed it for fifty years. You won’t read this often, but thank goodness for the Republican Party.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:05 PM | Permalink

Warning sign to clear out

In Cluttered Home, a Dark Secret 3 Decades Old.  He beat his wife to death and hid her body in a garbage bag behind a false wall of his house and continued living there until his death 30 years later.

“I’m still upset,” said Mary Feron, a longtime neighbor. “I mean, he wrapped her up and put her in the wall and lived there and went out to church suppers and went out to IHOP and Perkins and all the time….” She shook her head. “I hate that.”

But there were warning signs.  Only to a next-door neighbor and close co-workers did Ms. Nichols hint that her husband’s oddities bothered her, too. She told Mary Jo Santagate, a teachers’ aide at her school, that she disliked the house’s clutter and wished that her husband had not kept their dead cat frozen in their refrigerator: she dreaded opening it to cook.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2013

Christians tortured and killed in Egypt and Nigeria

Tortured in the Sinai: 'I Was Hanged for Days'

From the West Coast of Africa to the deserts of Sinai, Bedouin tribes are conducting a human trafficking trade on a massive scale.  It's no secret. The trade reaps millions of dollars and deals with human misery. It could be stopped but so far no one has dared.

"By that time I had lost sense [sensation] in both my hands," an Eritrean torture victim told CBN News. "It was a result of the accumulated torture but mainly because [both] of my wrists were tied up so tightly, [and I was] hanged up from the ceiling for three days, the blood was cut off from my hands and the flesh started to literally drip from my hands."

This man is just one victim of this widespread modern-day slavery, kidnapping, and torture trade in the Sinai desert.
"In some cases, we were tortured simply because we were Christians," he told us, his chest trembling slightly as he spoke.

"Sinai was always a place for human smuggling, but since around two years ago—even a bit more—it started also to be a place of human torture," Shahar Shoham, director of Physicians for Human Rights, told CBN News.

Shorham has documented more than 1,300 cases of torture in the Sinai. Those survivors, like Philip, made it to Israel. But most of the cases of torture are not documented.
The location of these torture camps is no secret.

"Their location and whereabouts is known already by many high officials," human rights activist Majed El Shafie told CBN News.

"The only way out of this problem is for the international society or the international community to put pressure on the Egyptian government to release the victims, to stop these human traffickers," he said.

Anti-Christian sentiment widespread in Egypt

Christian merchant abducted and decapitated, the second Christian killed in northern Sinai in the past week.  Coptic Christian priest Mina Abboud Sharobeen was gunned down by suspected militants last Saturday as he walked in an outdoor market.
Here's another story. 
The mob’s rampage through the village of Nagaa Hassan, burning dozens of Christian houses and stabbing to death three other Christians as well, came two days after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi from power. It was no coincidence the attackers focused on Naseem and his family: He was the village’s most prominent campaigner calling for Morsi’s removal.

The radical Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram (meaning Western education is sin) is continuing its reign of terror in Nigeria. It attacked a boarding school before dawn, killing 29 students and a teacher, many of whom were burned alive.  Yet Western media is not telling the full story as Mollie Hemingway points out in A Newtown massacre in Nigeria, with ghosts.

it completely avoids mention of the Christian victims of Boko Haram. Laat year Boko Haram ordered all Christians to leave the north in 72 hours and began killing them arbitrarily in a major genocidal campaign that led to hundreds of deaths. By year’s end, more Christians had been killed for their faith in northern Nigeria than in the rest of the world combined according to reports from World Watch Monitor and Jubilee Campaign.

I get that reporters are more interested in politics than religion, but such omissions are seriously problematic.

Burning Books and Children

Boko Haram is a mutant: part indigenous group, part Islamist group, part motorcycle gang, founded by a virulently anti-Western cleric with a graduate degree, good English, and a Mercedes-Benz. Some analysts describe it as a cult. But we should not dismiss the group’s own words: It is an organization for Islamic proselytism and jihad, and its aim is, among other things, to forbid education. 
What we can do is be honest, at least with ourselves, about the nature of the problem. The world is shrinking, and the two main contenders for global cultural hegemony are Islam and Western liberalism. Islam is a serious underdog but, at its edges, is serious enough about prevailing that it is willing to declare education itself a sin and to enforce injunctions against it by burning children alive. President Bush got a lot of things wrong, but he got that much right: They do hate us for our freedom.

The U.K. Bans Islamic Terror Group Boko Haram.  Will the U.S?

The group’s serial killing sprees have caused the deaths of over 3,000 Nigerians since 2009.  In an attack last October, members of the group executed a suicide bombing at St. Rita Catholic Church during Mass that killed ten congregants and wounded at least 145.

Sadly, the U.S. and its allies have largely yawned at Boko Haram’s blood-soaked campaign to create an Islamic-dominated region in northern Nigeria. The al-Qaeda-linked Boko Haram has neither been listed by the U.S. government nor by the European Union as a foreign terrorist organization. Plainly put, the West’s counterterrorism indifference to one of Africa’s most lethal Islamic terror entities is shocking.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:54 PM | Permalink

July 3, 2013

Growing trend of baby-hating

At special session of the Texas state legislature. Pro-abortion protestors chant 'Hail, Satan' to drown out pro-life protestors singing Amazing Grace. 

The Anchoress comments

“Amazing Grace” is a psycho-spiritual weapon. When it is deployed, people cannot be shocked at what weapons others will use in response.

The Anchoress writes, "Simcha Fisher speaks truth" ( in The Earth is a Nursery )    "Only Bad Guys Hate Babies"  Succinct.  To the point. 

increasingly people feel entitled to publicly demonstrate their hatreds, not just for people who think differently (“enemies of the human race!”), or on political issues (“I hope your daughter gets raped!”); they feel okay about hating little kids.

Active baby-hating is not a sign of a healthy society.

And in another post, on the growing trend of adults expressing displeasure at the public  existence of children and their parents

— as one contributor to the New York Times Magazine put it — “These wan goons. . .bringing their squealing offspring to brunch or for clogging up the sidewalk…”

[The New York Times Magazine] featured this letter to the editor, written by “Carolyn” in Maryland:

Five years ago I faced an unwanted pregnancy. At the time, I had a 2 year-old and a 4 year-old, and I was working full time as a college professor and living an upper-middle-class life. When I found out I was pregnant at eight weeks, I consulted with my husband (who supported either decision) and we scheduled an abortion the following week. I was overwhelmed at the thought of caring for another child. Had I been turned away, I’m sure that I would be able to report that I loved that third child, that our family was doing well and that there were no notable negative impacts or issues as a result of bearing and raising the child from an unwanted pregnancy. I can, however, say the same thing now, having not had that child.

The blood runs cold. Break it down to its essentials, and it’s “Yeah, I could have had the kid and we’d have still been fine, but what’s the difference? This way I wasn’t inconvenienced.”

Or, put another way: “I just sacrificed my child to the idol of I. The idol of myself. I can’t even claim he was sacrificed for the idol of future plans, or that she was sacrificed to the idol of a career. No, I just sacrificed my child to me. To the idea of me: Ms. Personal Autonomy. I am like a god! I decide who lives and dies; didn’t feel like having another baby, so I killed it. Because I could. My other two kids only breathe and live by my grace, alone.”
It is precisely because a baby brings the unconditional love of God to us in a renewed way that evil cannot abide it, and works so desperately to prevent it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:56 PM | Permalink

May 29, 2013

100,000 Christians violently killed each year

These are astonishing numbers.  Vatican to the UN: 100,000 Christians Killed for Their Faith Each Year.

The Vatican’s representative to the United Nations, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, released an alarming report this week. Vatican Radio reports that in his address to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the archbishop said, “Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year. Other Christians and other believers are subjected to forced displacement, to the destruction of their places of worship, to rape and to the abduction of their leaders — as it recently happened in the case of Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, in [Syria].”

“It may be useful that the Delegation of the Holy See should recall” the more than 300,000 Catholic institutions around the world that provide social services - schools, hospitals, care homes, orphanages, rehabilitation centers , refugee centers etc - "without any distinction of religion or race".

Paul Marshall points out

In contrast, our current administration is seeking to define any such services religious groups provide without “any distinction of religion” as therefore, by the very fact, not really religious, and therefore subject to close government control.

Charlotte Allen in the WSJ  Christian Martyrs to Islam, Past and Present 

On May 12 Pope Francis officially canonized more than 800 male Catholic residents of the southern Italian port of Otranto, who in 1480 were beheaded en masse for refusing to convert to Islam after their city was invaded and captured by a Turkish Muslim fleet. The making of the new saints was a vivid reminder of something that many people, including historians, prefer to gloss over: the pattern over the centuries of Islamic persecution of Christians that continues to this day in many Muslim-majority lands.

Despite the fact that 50.8% of Nigerians were Christian in 2011, The deadliest place to be a Christian is Nigeria .

The publicly reported Christian casualties in Nigeria last year were greater than the Christian casualties of Pakistan, Syria, Kenya and Egypt combined. In fact, Nigeria alone accounted for almost 70 percent of Christians killed globally.
Much of the violence in 2012 was attributed to the Jihadist terror group Boko Haram (3,000 casualties)….

While Boko Haram’s bloody terrorist tactics certainly merit serious concern, the focus on this group has overshadowed a pattern of systemic religious violence in Nigeria. It obfuscates the pervasive history of the killing of Christians by Muslims in northern Nigeria going back over a quarter century.
In 1999, after a pro-democracy movement successfully ended military dictatorship and a Christian was elected president, 12 Muslim-controlled states in northern Nigeria reacted by imposing Islamic sharia law in open violation of Nigeria’s constitution. This resulted in horrific violence the following year that left thousands dead when Christians protested peacefully.

Such acts of violence continue to this day with virtual impunity. In November, for instance, the mispronunciation of a dress style by a non-Muslim tailor led to his death – along with several other Christians – and church burnings in spontaneous riots. This ultimately fatal fashion mistake was not the handiwork of terrorists but of average northern Nigerian Muslims.
In April 2011, in what was dubbed one of the “freest and fairest” elections in Nigeria’s recent history, Goodluck Jonathan was elected president. Before his victory was announced, violence erupted in the 12 northern sharia states – again.

The final toll for the Christian community was staggering. In a 48-hour period, 764 church buildings were burned, 204 Christians were confirmed killed, more than 3,100 Christian-operated businesses, schools, and shops were burned, and over 3,400 Christian homes were destroyed. While there have been similar death tolls in certain incidents in terms of scope and coordinated scale of destruction, there has been no equivalent attack against the church in recent decades, with the possible exception of government-backed genocides in Sudan.

Yet this was not a government-backed endeavor. Instead, thousands of Muslim youths in 12 states gathered together with machetes, knives, matches and gasoline and carried out this pogrom. The “freest and fairest” elections resulted in one of the “fiercest and most ferocious” violence against innocent Christians that Nigeria has seen.
The U.S. State Department, among others, claims that the Muslims of northern Nigeria have been marginalized politically and economically by the federal government and have responded to “legitimate grievances” with violence. This has been used to give unconscionable justification to violence against Christians in northern Nigeria, whether by terrorist actors such as Boko Haram (sect level) or the Muslim community at large (street level).

Raymond Ibrahim, Obama Administration calls for the 'human rights' of jihadi murderers

Nigerian warplanes struck militant camps in the northeast on Friday [5/17] in a major push against an Islamist insurgency, drawing a sharp warning from the United States to respect human rights and not harm civilians. Troops used jets and helicopters to bombard targets in their biggest offensive since the Boko Haram group launched a revolt almost four years ago to establish a breakaway Islamic state and one military source said at least 30 militants had been killed.  But three days after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeast, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a strongly worded statement saying: “We are … deeply concerned by credible allegations that Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations, which, in turn, only escalate the violence and fuel extremism.
As for Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the group has been responsible for some of the most horrific human-rights abuses. Indeed, of all the human rights abuses I catalog in my new book Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, Boko Haram’s relentless slaughter of Christians is the most savage, resulting in more Christians killed than in the rest of the world combined.

The group has bombed or burned hundreds of Christian churches, most when packed for service. The Christmas day church attacks — in 2010, 2011, and 2012 — which left hundreds of Christians dead or dismembered, are the tip of the iceberg of Boko Haram’s hate for Christianity. In the group’s bid to cleanse northern Nigeria of all Christian presence, it has threatened to poison the food eaten by Christians and “to strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women.” The group frequently storms areas where Christians and Muslims are intermingled — from villages to colleges — and singles the Christians out before slitting their throats to cries of Allahu Akbar. Pregnant and elderly Christian women and children have been raped, enslaved, and slaughtered simply for being “infidels.”

The fact that Boko Haram’s motives are clear-cut and fueled by Islamic teachings — the creation of an Islamic state that enforces Sharia law and is Christian-free — has not stopped the Obama administration from pointing to anything and everything else to rationalize its bloodlust.
At root, Boko Haram’s terror campaign is entirely motivated by Islamic teachings — even as the Obama administration refuses to designate the group as a terrorist organization, wastes millions of U.S. tax dollars on superfluous initiatives (or diversions), and pressures the Nigerian president to make concessions to the jihadis — including building more mosques, the very breeding grounds for Islamic “radicalization.”

And now, when the Nigerian government goes on the offensive to neutralize the terrorists responsible for countless inhuman atrocities, the Obama administration offers “a strongly worded statement” to defend their “human rights.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:45 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

“The soldier is not respected because he is doomed to death, but because he is ready for death; and even ready for defeat.” G. K. Chesterton.

 Flags Boston Common Memday

Boston Common is a sea of flags placed by the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund in memory of every fallen Massachusetts service member from the Civil War to the present.

A Tradition of Sacrifice, From Yorktown to Ramadi

Memorial Day is deeply personal—to me, as it is to any veteran, to any military family. It is a time of mixed emotion: solemn reflection and mourning, honor and admiration for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.
Let's remember on Memorial Day—and every other day, for that matter—that America did not become a nation without a fight…..It was not the Declaration of Independence that gave us freedom but the Continental Army. America was born from conflict, delivered by soldiers willing to pay with their blood the tremendous cost of freedom.

The dead did not wish to be martyred. They no doubt longed to return to their homes and families. But they believed in the "glorious cause," something far greater than themselves. Despite knowing the dangers before them, they followed Gen. Washington into the fray even when victory seemed hopeless and the cause all but lost.

Why do we honor those who have sacrificed their lives?

Not because they have secured our ability to seek our individual good, but because they have given their lives in pursuit of a common, intrinsic, and greater good.

-Kelly Mixon Widow Afghan Ied
The sacrifice is felt most deeply by the women and families left behind.  Amy Mixon kneels before grave of her husband Kelly who was killed by an IED in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan.

The fighting Irish. The Irish have won the Congressional Medal of Honor far more than any other ethnic group. 

The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Henry Steele Commager called it "the one great song to come out of the Civil War, the one great song ever written in America". writes Mark Steyn

Whether or not that's true, most of us understand it has a depth and a power beyond most formal national songs. When John F Kennedy was assassinated, Judy Garland insisted on singing it on her TV show – the producers weren't happy about it, and one sneered that nobody would give a damn about Kennedy in a month's time. But it's an extraordinary performance. Little more than a year later, it was played at the state funeral of Winston Churchill at St Paul's Cathedral. Among those singing it was the Queen. She sang it again in public, again at St Paul's, for the second time in her life at the service of remembrance in London three days after September 11th 2001. That day, she also broke with precedent and for the first time sang another country's national anthem – "The Star-Spangled Banner". But it was Julia Ward Howe's words that echoed most powerfully that morning as they have done since she wrote them in her bedroom in Washington 140 years earlier:

As He died to make men holy
Let us die to make men free
While God is marching on.

The US Army Chorus sings at the White House in 2008 before President Bush and Pope Benedict on his visit to the U.S.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 AM | Permalink

May 22, 2013

Gives birth while 'dead', comes back to life

What an astonishing story.

Erica Nigrelli, Pregnant Teacher Gives Birth While Dead, Coworkers Help Bring Her Back To Life

Erica Nigrelli died, gave birth and was then brought back to life. The Houston high school teacher was 36 weeks pregnant when she collapsed in her school’s hallway and her heart stopped.

Her colleagues at Elkins High School in Missouri City, Texas, started performing CPR and used a defibrillator to jump-start her heart. By the time paramedics transported her to a nearby hospital and performed an emergency caesarean section, her heart still wasn’t beating, Click 2 Houston reports. Baby Elayna, who technically had a postmortem birth, is now stable and well.

"She's just a baby," Nigrelli said.  "A normal baby." 

Elayna, who is 3 months old, weighs 9 pounds and will be taken off oxygen support soon. Her mother was diagnosed with an undetected heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle walls become abnormally thick.

"Apparently I told her I feel very faint and I put my head down and I essentially just passed out," Nigrelli told Keye TV.

Both Nigrelli and her daughter spent several weeks in intensive care. Her co-workers have been credited with saving both of their lives.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:35 PM | Permalink

May 15, 2013

He was swallowed by a hippo and still lives

Experience: I was swallowed by a hippo
'There was no transition at all, no sense of approaching danger. It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf'

He managed to escape until he was attacked again.

Hippos' mouths have huge tusks, slicing incisors and a bunch of smaller chewing teeth. It felt as if the bull was making full use of the whole lot as he mauled me – a doctor later counted almost 40 puncture wounds and bite marks on my body. The bull simply went berserk, throwing me into the air and catching me again, shaking me like a dog with a doll.

Then down we went again, right to the bottom, and everything went still. I remember looking up through 10 feet of water at the green and yellow light playing on the surface, and wondering which of us could hold his breath the longest. Blood rose from my body in clouds, and a sense of resignation overwhelmed me. I've no idea how long we stayed under – time passes very slowly when you're in a hippo's mouth.

The hippo lurched suddenly for the surface, spitting me out as it rose. Mike was still waiting for me in his kayak and managed to paddle me to safety. I was a mess. My left arm was crushed to a pulp, blood poured from the wounds in my chest and when he examined my back, Mike discovered a wound so savage that my lung was visible.

Luckily, he knew first aid and was able to seal the wounds in my chest with the wrapper from a tray of snacks, which almost certainly stopped my lungs from collapsing and saved my life.

By chance, a medical team was nearby, on an emergency drill, and with their help I stayed alive long enough to reach a hospital with a surgeon. He warned me he would probably have to take off both my arms and the bottom of my injured leg. In the end, I lost only my left arm – they managed to patch up the rest.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:10 PM | Permalink

May 3, 2013

Roundup: Rising suicide, rising number of men who don't want to marry, the DSM and mental illness

Suicide Rate Rises Sharply in U.S.

More people now die of suicide than in car accidents reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  There is a 30% surge in suicides among middle-aged Americans (35-64). 

Boomers account for the largest increase.  For  men in their 50s, suicide rates jumped nearly 50%  and women in their early 60s, the increase was nearly 60%.  Some explanation lies in the economic downtown and the increased availability of opioid drugs.  Maybe it's the increased stress of caring for aging parents while still providing financial and emotional support to adult children.  I expect life just didn't pan out the way they expected or wanted, and, having discarded religion,  they had no source for hope.

Men Thirty to Fifty Less Likely to Marry

Among never-married adults ages 30 to 50, men (27%) are more likely than women (8%) to say they do not want to marry.  That's a very great gap.  As one commenter pointed out, marriage holds no real benefits for men any more.

The Real Problems With Psychiatry  Hope Reese interviews Gary Greenberg
A psychotherapist contends that the DSM, psychiatry's "bible" that defines all mental illness, is not scientific but a product of unscrupulous politics and bureaucracy. 

Nobody can define mental illness.
one of the issues with taking these categories too seriously is that it eliminates the moral aspect behind certain behaviors.
The American Psychiatric Association owns the DSM, (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, now in its 5th edition)  They aren't only responsible for it: they own it, sell it, and license it. The DSM is created by a group of committees. It's a bureaucratic process. In place of scientific findings, the DSM uses expert consensus to determine what mental disorders exist and how you can recognize them….

Dr. Joy Bliss, another MD Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst, comments

I tend to think that the whole thing is a pseudo-medical charade, designed for the drug industry and for the insurance industry's convenience.

If "mental health" cannot be defined, how can you draw lines to define "mental illness"? You can, at the extremes, but otherwise you can't. Everybody is a little nuts.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 AM | Permalink

April 12, 2013

Kermit Gosnell trial finally getting attention of more people

Unexpectedly, the trial of Kermit Gosnell and his house of horrors is finally breaking through to widespread coverage, at least in the alternative media.

For reporters who are stuck on how to approach the story, The Anchoress offers a Media Assist: Easy, Logical, Fair Angles to Pursue on Gosnell Story .  Here are a few:

***Nail salons and Tattoo shops are inspected twice year; Gosnell’s practice had not been inspected in 17 years. Why were inspections suspended? Is it common for abortion clinics to be bypassed? Does that not encourage unsafe, unsanitary conditions to flourish?

***Would Gosnell have severed baby feet and kept them like trophies if he had any fear of surprise inspections? Could regular inspections have saved women’s lives? Did political pressure from abortion advocates precipitate end of inspections, limited regulations?

***Poor, minority women were anesthetized by untrained 15 year-olds, and frequently delivered their late-term (often living) babies into toilets, with no doctor present. At trial testimony we hear, “white women got more and better treatment”. How does this speak to the treatment of underprivileged women. Could this sort of treatment every be ignored if it touched monied white women? If there is a “war on women” isn’t this a trench worth fighting in?

***How does Gosnell’s apparent disregard for minorities connect to Margaret Sanger’s genocidal desires to decimate minority populations?

Dr. Dwight Longnecker writes in America's Holocaust Deniers

Here is the thing which worries me even more deeply. If the media can stay silent about this, what else are they staying silent about? What else do we not know? If they can stay silent on this, what else will they stay silent about in the future? When people are taken away in the night who will say anything? When there are legal detention camps who will object? When people start to disappear who will say anything at all? Who will know?

Journalists used to report news. Now they have become mouthpieces for the ideologues who are running this country. The secular mainstream press in the USA are now no different than the government owned propaganda machines in the Soviet Union. If the mainstream media cannot report on the Gosnell case then shame, shame, shame on them. They are a disgrace to their profession–cowards and holocaust deniers.

David Weigel writes in Kermit Gosnell: The Alleged Mass-Murderer and the Bored Media

If you're pro-choice, say, and you worry that the Gosnell story is being promoted only to weaken your cause, you really should read that grand jury report. "DOH could and should have closed down Gosnell’s clinic years before," write the investigators. Why wasn't it? Were state regulators nervous about igniting a political fight about abortion? Is the regulatory system incompetent or under-funded? And are there other states where the same could be said? Social conservatives are largely right about the Gosnell story. Maybe it's not a raw political story. It's just the story of a potential mass murderer who operated for decades as government regulators did nothing.

It's Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic who makes the biggest turnaround in one day.  Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell's Trial Should Be a Front-Page Story

Until Thursday, I wasn't aware of this story. It has generated sparse coverage in the national media, and while it's been mentioned in RSS feeds to which I subscribe, I skip past most news items. I still consume a tremendous amount of journalism. Yet had I been asked at a trivia night about the identity of Kermit Gosnell, I would've been stumped and helplessly guessed a green Muppet. Then I saw Kirsten Power's USA Today column. She makes a powerful, persuasive case that the Gosnell trial ought to be getting a lot more attention in the national press than it is getting.

He goes to some length in detailing just what was in the Grand Jury Report

The grand jury report in the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, is among the most horrifying I've read. "This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy - and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors," it states. "The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels - and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths."

He finds many stories, any one of which would be a blockbuster news story

For this isn't solely a story about babies having their heads severed, though it is that. It is also a story about a place where, according to the grand jury, women were sent to give birth into toilets; where a doctor casually spread gonorrhea and chlamydiae to unsuspecting women through the reuse of cheap, disposable instruments; an office where a 15-year-old administered anesthesia; an office where former workers admit to playing games when giving patients powerful narcotics; an office where white women were attended to by a doctor and black women were pawned off on clueless untrained staffers. Any single one of those things would itself make for a blockbuster news story. Is it even conceivable that an optometrist who attended to his white patients in a clean office while an intern took care of the black patients in a filthy room wouldn't make national headlines?

But it isn't even solely a story of a rogue clinic that's awful in all sorts of sensational ways either. Multiple local and state agencies are implicated in an oversight failure that is epic in proportions!

Jonah Goldberg reads the The Gosnell Grand Jury Report too.

Having now read the Gosnell grand-jury report, I must say I’m extremely impressed with how well-written it is. Yes, the underlying facts are horrifying and disgusting. But it reads like some of the best journalism. Is that typical?  Here’s the opening overview:

This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.
The “Women’s Medical Society” - That was the impressive-sounding name of the clinic operated in West Philadelphia, at 38th and Lancaster, by Kermit B. Gosnell, M.D. Gosnell seemed impressive as well. A child of the neighborhood, Gosnell spent almost four decades running this clinic, giving back – so it appeared – to the community in which he continued to live and work.

But the truth was something very different, and evident to anyone who stepped  inside. The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment – such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff – was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.

Even Buzzfeed reports on the Shocking Revelations From The “House Of Horrors” Trial

Make no mistake, Kermit Gosnell Is Not an Outlier

The horrible truth that the National Abortion Federation or Planned Parenthood or any other abortion apologist wants to hide is that Kermit Gosnell is not an outlier. Earlier this year, a 29-year-old kindergarten teacher died when “something went wrong” with an abortion of her unborn child. The woman was reportedly 33 weeks pregnant. And the doctor who performed this abortion, a full two months after the 24-week viability line, was the celebrated — and I do mean celebrated — Dr. Leroy Carhart.
There’s very little difference between what Carhart does on a regular basis and what Kermit Gosnell stands on trial for. In one federal trial on the federal partial-birth-abortion ban, one abortionist testified (under a court-imposed cloak of anonymity) that his regular practice in late-term abortions was to decapitate a partially born child.
While the pro-abortion industry appears embarrassed by the Gosnell trial, they’ve held Carhart up as their hero. Carhart was awarded the 2009 William K. Rashbaum, MD, Abortion Provider Award by Physicians for Reproductive Health — because there’s nothing like dying on the table to advance a woman’s health. Oh, and NARAL Pro-Choice America (which no longer stands for National Abortion Rights Action League, given that some people might think that name icky) gave him its Hero Award in the same year. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:04 PM | Permalink

Gosnell trial and the "Monster of Bureaucratic Neglect"

The latest news from the Gosnell trial is that a 15-year-old intern at the  Gosnell clinic administered intravenous medication,  assisted in abortions and her mother helped get her the job.  Teen intern at Gosnell clinic recalls hearing aborted fetus 'screeching'

Baldwin also told the jury about seeing at least five aborted babies moving, breathing, and, in one case, "screeching" after late-term procedures at the clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave.
Baldwin said one baby was so big that Gosnell joked that "this baby is going to walk me home."
Ashley Baldwin said she assisted Gosnell in abortions, applying pressure to the mother's abdomen, handing the doctor instruments and equipment.
She said she also saw Gosnell use scissors to "snip" the neck of newborns who were moving after the procedure.

Although she sometimes felt uneasy about what she saw, Baldwin said, Gosnell always had an explanation: "He told me that's how it was supposed to go."
She said he told her she was working legally because, as a doctor, he had "grandfathered her in."
Ashley Baldwin has not been charged with any crime. Tina Baldwin, 47, has pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy, and corrupting a minor - her daughter.

From Get Religion is this photo of seats reserved for the media in a post about a Washington Post reporter who explained she doesn't cover 'local crime'.

So when a private foundation privately decides to stop giving money to the country’s largest abortion provider, that is somehow a policy issue deserving of three dozen breathless hits. When a yahoo political candidate says something stupid about rape, that is a policy issue of such import that we got another three dozen hits about it from this reporter. It was so important that journalists found it fitting to ask every pro-lifer in their path to discuss it. And when someone says something mean to a birth control activist, that’s good for months of puffy profiles.


The picture above, for what it’s worth, is of the reserved media seats at the Gosnell trial. It was taken by JD Mullane, a news writer and columnist for the Bucks County Courier Times, The Intel and the Burlington County (NJ) Times. He says:

Sat through a full day of testimony at the Kermitt Gosnell trial today. It is beyond the most morbid Hollywood horror. It will change you.
I was surprised by the picture and asked “really?” He responded “Local press was there, Inky, PhillyMag, NBC10 blogger. Court staff told me nobody else has shown up.”

Ace comments

This story exposes faultlines between Democrats, who are by political necessity abortion absolutists, and Independents, who may lean somewhat pro-choice but sure the hell aren't on board for infanticide. But to report this story at all would put the Democrats in the difficult position of angering its an element of its hardcore single-issue leftist coalition, or alienating independents.

Thus, the media -- which just "wants to report the facts" and "takes no positions on policy questions" and which has no partisan leaning at all -- simply doesn't report the story at all.

After all, if the public hears of it, they may make The Wrong Decisions.

You don't trust children with matches and you don't trust the American public with information. It's that simple.

Horrifying Illegal Abortion Clinic Wasn't Inspected For 17 Years Due To Pro-Choice Policy

72-year-old Kermit Gosnell has been charged with killing seven babies and accused of killing hundreds in gruesome and illegal late-term abortions.
Prosecutors claim Gosnell "snipped" the necks of viable babies and exploited low-income, immigrant women who couldn't get abortions anywhere else.
Gosnell — who wasn't licensed to practice obstetrics and gynecology — is also accused of giving women venereal diseases by using dirty instruments, and of causing the death of a 41-year-old immigrant from Nepal.

The clinic was not inspected from 1993 to 2010, when FBI agents finally raided the place. They found moaning women covered in blood-stained blankets and jars with severed fetus feet, according to the 281-page grand jury report.

The grand jury report that lays out allegations against Gosnell has an entire section called "How did this go on so long?" The simple answer is politics.

The "monster of bureaucratic neglect"

Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society might still be in operation today had the doctor’s lucrative side practice — dispensing “fake prescriptions” for painkillers such as Oxycontin — not brought him to the attention of prosecutors in the first place.

Here’s some of what I wrote in “A Philadelphia Story”:

In the years since Roe, as the Philadelphia grand-jury report exhaustively details, a bureaucratic double standard on abortion policy spawned layers of “official neglect,” amounting to “utter disregard both for the safety of women who seek treatment at abortion clinics and for the health of fetuses after they have become viable.” Why was this allowed to happen? “We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion,” the jurors concluded. (The occasional white student or woman from the suburbs who found her way to Gosnell’s clinic, however, got special attention from the doctor himself and “did not have to wait in the same dirty rooms as black and Asian clients.”)

The “grand jury report is scathing about the failures of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.” Section VI, titled “How Did This Go On So Long?” and running 80 pages, is indeed a scathing indictment: of the state’s health department, which, it charges, “has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality health care as patients of other medical service providers”; of Pennsylvania’s Department of State, which ignored complaints about Gosnell and “failed to investigate a 22-year-old patient’s death caused by [his] recklessness”; of Philadelphia’s Health Department, whose employees “ignored the serious — and obvious — threat to public health posed by Gosnell’s clinic”; and finally, of “fellow doctors who observed the results of Gosnell’s reckless and criminal practices,” when his injured victims sought treatment at nearby hospitals, and “failed to report him to authorities.”

Curiously, while the grand jury recommended indictments for Gosnell and several of his staff, it did not do so for any public employee, despite adducing that “the [state] Department of Health’s neglect of abortion patients’ safety and Pennsylvania laws is clearly not inadvertent: It is by design” (their emphasis).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

April 8, 2013

“I am officially Very Poorly”

Libby Banks Iain Banks shows it’s better to accept the facts of death
Kicking away the cobwebs of terror and denial about one's mortality is not the same as 'giving up’

Iain Banks has written startlingly dark, intelligent novels – most notably The Wasp Factory – but tells the world that the new one will be the last. He announces his coming death with characteristic humour but without darkness, only frank resignation: “I am officially Very Poorly.”

He has gall bladder cancer and counts his remaining life in months. He asked his partner, Adele Hartley, “to do me the honour of becoming my widow”, apologising for the “ghoulish humour”. All public appearances are cancelled in favour of seeing friends and relatives. He has gone on honeymoon and reports via a friend that he is in Italy “enjoying life to the max”.

There is an admirable breezy gallantry and good example about the way in which public people have begun to take back ownership of their own mortality, kicking away the cobwebs of terror and denial and dispelling the sickly, deceptive miasma of false hope. It is not the same as ''giving up” or refusing to “fight” (terminal cancer patients get really sick of that language, with its implication that if they were a bit more positive they’d get better). There is a time to fight and hope for life, but when modern medicine, despite its bias in favour of prolonging life at all costs, admits that it can do no more, acceptance is healthy. Use the time, smell the roses, speak your love.
Accepting this, in the long or the short term, is the ultimate test of adulthood.
Down the ages, wise men have looked on skulls and coffins and come to a peaceful, if unwilling, acceptance that we’ll all be dust one day. And that it could be soon.
But accepting death, whether it comes soon or late, does not have to involve sickbed detail, any more than it has to be morbid or suicidal. It’s just a fact, and in an age of delusion and comfortable fantasy, accepting facts does us nothing but good.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink

February 11, 2013

Where u at UPDATED

Far too many young people driving around in cars have died in horrific crashes because they took their eyes off the road to answer or send a text message.    They've lost their lives and the pain of their families is heart-breaking.

AT&T has a ten-minute documentary Don't Text While Driving which should be compulsory watching for any teen-ager with a license.  Something to shatter their illusionary sense of invincibility.

Your last words should come at the end of a long life and may they never be, "where u at"

UPDATE;  The National Safety Council estimates a minimum of 24% of all crashes involve drivers talking and texting on cell phones.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:28 PM | Permalink

January 30, 2013

Aging Matures the Soul

When the frailties of age sound like the maturation process of fine wine

We all ponder death, our own and those of our friends and relatives. For people like Barnes it is something to be frightened of because it means final extinction, an often undignified departure from the only life there is – a life that is thus clung to desperately until the moment one decides to knock off or to be knocked off; when it’s no longer worth the candle. For Christians, as I have written in other blogs, death is not about discarding “a terrifyingly unsound body” for an abyss of nothingness; it is the gateway to eternity, a sacred transition that is accompanied by consoling, ancient, hallowed rites of passage.
The last years of our lives are meant to mellow the soul and most everything inside our biology conspires together to ensure this happens. The soul must be properly aged before it leaves. It’s a huge mistake to read the signs of aging as indications of dying rather than as initiations into another way of life. Each physical diminishment is designed to mature the soul.”
James Hillman,  The Force of Character and Lasting Life
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink

January 25, 2013

'I couldn't take it anymore'

Father-of-seven, 93, accused of killing wife, 95, after 70 years of marriage saying 'I couldn't take it anymore'

A 93-year-old Kansas City man has been charged with stabbing his 95-year-old wife to death, allegedly telling a nurse afterwards: 'I couldn't take it anymore'.

Harry Irwin is accused of stabbing Grace Irwin, his partner of 70 years and mother of his seven children, on Wednesday, before trying to kill himself, according to the Kansas City Star.

Irwin, his wife's primary carer after since she suffered debilitating cancer, slit his own wrists and plunged a knife into his chest after the alleged stabbing.
The paper reports he is also alleged to have told a shift nurse he 'couldn't take it anymore' and saying he killed his wife because she was 'arguing and screaming at him all night'.
Neighbors told the newspaper the family were close with the couple's many children and grandchildren often visiting the home they had shared for 10 years. They were all said to live nearby, mostly within 15 minutes of the couple's Wynadotte Street home.

Why is a  93-year-old man caring for his sick wife dying of cancer 24/7 all alone?  Did none of his children see how burnt-out he was?
Where was the support for this poor old man and his dying wife?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink

December 21, 2012

"Just spunk won’t be enough; you’ve got to have gumption."

James Agee was an author, journalist, poet, screenwriter and influential film critic and a hard drinker and chain smoker who died of a heart attack in 1955 when he was only 45.    He left little money for his family and an almost completed manuscript of an autobiographical novel.    His own father died when he was six.  A Death in the Family was released posthumously, winning for Agee the Pulitizer Prize for fiction in 1958 and inclusion on Time magazine's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. 

Agee+Death In Family

Penguin Classics republished the book in 2009 on the 100th anniversary of Agee's birth, saying 

A Death in the Family remains a near-perfect work of art, an autobiographical novel that contains one of the most evocative depictions of loss and grief ever written. As Jay Follet hurries back to his home in Knoxville, Tennessee, he is killed in a car accident?a tragedy that destroys not only a life, but also the domestic happiness and contentment of a young family. A novel of great courage, lyric force, and powerful emotion, A Death in the Family is a masterpiece of American literature.

I thought of it again in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy and I highly recommend it for anyone struggling with loss and grief.  This is a quote from the book.

Just spunk won’t be enough; you’ve got to have gumption. You’ve got to bear it in mind that nobody that ever lived is specially privileged; the axe can fall at any moment, on any neck, without any warning or any regard for justice. You’ve got to keep your mind off of pitying your own rotten luck and setting up any kind of howl about it. You’ve got to remember that things as bad as this and a hell of a lot worse have happened to millions of people before and that they’ve come through it and you can too. You’ll bear it because there isn’t any choice—except to go to pieces… It’s kind of a test, Mary, and it’s the only kind that amounts to anything. When something rotten like this happens. Then you have your choice. You start to really be alive, or you start to die. That’s all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 AM | Permalink

November 17, 2012

'I'm not in pain"

Vegetative patient Scott Routley says 'I'm not in pain'

A Canadian man who was believed to have been in a vegetative state for more than a decade, has been able to tell scientists that he is not in any pain.

It's the first time an uncommunicative, severely brain-injured patient has been able to give answers clinically relevant to their care.

Scott Routley, 39, was asked questions while having his brain activity scanned in an fMRI machine.

His doctor says the discovery means medical textbooks will need rewriting.

the British neuroscientist Prof Adrian Owen - who led the team at the Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario - said Mr Routley was clearly not vegetative.

"Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind. We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is."

Prof Owen said it was a groundbreaking moment.
Scott Routley's parents say they always thought he was conscious and could communicate by lifting a thumb or moving his eyes. But this has never been accepted by medical staff.

Extraordinary that we are now able to communicate with those in such a profound, paralyzed state.    I wonder what Terry Schiavo would have said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink

November 11, 2012

Veterans Day: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

Born in England, Wilfred Owen, a soldier in World War I and a poet, was killed in action on November 4, 1918, one week before the Armistice.  He is one of 16 of the Great War poets commemorated in Westminster Abbey's Poet Corner.  The inscription on the slate is Owen's, "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

Pat Barker's novel Regeneration, the first of a trilogy of novels on the First World War, describes the experience of British army officers being treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh.  Dr. William Rivers, an army psychiatrist, treats the traumatized officers so they can be returned  to battle, among them Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, both poets.

In an interview referenced in the Wikipedia article about the book,  Pat Barker said, "The trilogy is trying to tell something about the parts of war that don't get into the official accounts".


Barker states that she chose to write about World War I "because it's come to stand in for other wars, as a sort of idealism of the young people in August 1914 in Germany and in England. They really felt this was the start of a better world. And the disillusionment, the horror and the pain followed that. I think because of that it's come to stand for the pain of all wars." 

The book was made into a fine film, titled Behind the Lines, which you can find on Netflix.  It closes with this stirring rendition of a poem Wilfred Owen wrote.

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in the thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:02 AM | Permalink

November 5, 2012

Vote NO on Question 2 in Massachusetts

On the Massachusetts ballot this year is Question 2 which would allow physician-assisted suicide.  The sponsor behind the bill is the former Hemlock Society which has renamed itself Death with Dignity.  Corrupting not only language,  the initiative, if it became law, would corrupt the medical profession and pharmacists making them accomplices in suicide.    There is no reason why pain by dying patients can not be treated with medications.

It's an extremely poorly written law with no safeguards against abuse, not even a requirement that the death certificate shows suicide as the cause of death.  Families do not have to be notified nor are patients requesting such assistance required to have a psychiatric evaluation to ensure they are of sound mind.  We should be devoting our efforts to improving palliative care and promoting hospice so that those at the end of life can have a good death, a death with real dignity.  Dying alone after ingesting 100 seconal is not a death with dignity. 

Along with those listed below, I urge a vote NO on Question 2.

The Massachusetts  Medical Society

The proposed safeguards against abuse are insufficient.  Enforcement provisions, investigation authority, oversight, or data verification are not included in the act. A witness to the patient’s signed request could also be an heir.
Assisted suicide is not necessary to improve the quality of life at the end of life. Current law gives every patient the right to refuse lifesaving treatment, and to have adequate pain relief, including hospice and palliative sedation. 
Predicting the end of life within six months is difficult; sometimes the prediction is not accurate. From time to time, patients expected to be within months of their death have gone on to live many more months — or years. In one study, 17 percent of patients outlived their prognosis.
Doctors should not participate in assisted suicide. The chief policy making body of the Massachusetts Medical Society has voted to oppose physician assisted suicide.
“Allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good. Physician assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer. “Instead of participating in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life. …  Patients must continue to receive emotional support, comfort care, adequate pain control, respect for patient autonomy, and good communication.”

Boston Globe

Authorizing assisted suicide is “not, in itself, an answer to the far deeper question of how to help patients make end of life decisions.”

Boston Herald

Dr. Barbara Rockett, President of American Medical Association’s Foundation

Centuries ago the physician Hippocrates wrote the Hippocratic Oath, which many of us took when we became physicians and guides us in the ethical practice of medicine. It states that when treating patients, physicians will “First do no harm.” It goes on to state that “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked nor suggest any such counsel.” Physician-assisted suicide is in direct conflict with this statement which, when followed, has protected the patient, physician, society and the family, and at the same time has committed doctors to compassion and human dignity.

Lahey Clinic Medical Ethics Lecture Series: The Arguments Against Question 2 and Physician-Assisted Suicide

Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians.

Joseph Gravel, president of the MassAFP, said in a statement. “This certainly includes end-of-life care. It is clear that we need to continue to work to provide those suffering from serious illnesses, depression, and other conditions that can lead to hopelessness highly effective palliative and hospice treatments that are now available.

Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide

American Medical Association

Allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good. Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.

Suicide is Always a Tragedy

Cardinal Sean O'Malley to Catholics:  It would bring spiritual death, a cheapening of human life, and a corrupting of the medical profession. It means making the pharmacists, doctors, nurses, family members, friends and society itself, accomplices in a suicide. Our task is to help prevent suicide and provide the very best palliative and hospice care for our terminally ill loved ones.

Cardinal O'Malley to non-Catholics:  Suicide is never a dignified way to die.  Suicide always impacts others beyond the individual.  Doctors strongly oppose.  Disability advocates strongly oppose.  Terminal diagnoses are often wrong.  Question 2 is strongly flawed (ingestion of 100 pills of Seconal without a doctor present;  no witnesses need be present; no oversight of drug after dispensed; no enforcement provisions, investigative authority, oversight or data verification).  No requirement for psychiatric evaluation.  Complex issues like this should be decided in a legislative context not by ballot initiative.

Vicky Kennedy, widow of Ted Kennedy in CapeCodOnline

The language of the proposed law is not about bringing family together to make end of life decisions; it's intended to exclude family members from the actual decision-making process to guard against patients' being pressured to end their lives prematurely. It's not about doctors administering drugs such as morphine to ease patients' suffering; it's about the oral ingestion of up to 100 capsules without requirement or expectation that a doctor be present. It's not about giving choice and self-determination to patients with degenerative diseases like ALS or Alzheimer's; those patients are unlikely to qualify under the statute. It's not, in my judgment, about death with dignity at all.
My late husband Sen. Edward Kennedy called quality, affordable health care for all the cause of his life. Question 2 turns his vision of health care for all on its head by asking us to endorse patient suicide — not patient care — as our public policy for dealing with pain and the financial burdens of care at the end of life. We're better than that. We should expand palliative care, pain management, nursing care and hospice, not trade the dignity and life of a human being for the bottom line.
When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, he was told that he had only two to four months to live, that he'd never go back to the U.S. Senate, that he should get his affairs in order, kiss his wife, love his family and get ready to die.

But that prognosis was wrong. Teddy lived 15 more productive months. During that time, he cast a key vote in the Senate that protected payments to doctors under Medicare; made a speech at the Democratic Convention; saw the candidate he supported elected president of the United States and even attended his inauguration; received an honorary degree; chaired confirmation hearings in the Senate; worked on the reform of health care; threw out the first pitch on opening day for the Red Sox; introduced the president when he signed the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act; sailed his boat; and finished his memoir "True Compass," while also getting his affairs in order, kissing his wife, loving his family and preparing for the end of life.

Physician-Assisted Suicide Is Not Progressive  Ira Byock in the Atlantic

Right to die" is just a slogan. No civil right to commit suicide exists in any social compact.
it's fair to say that most social conservatives ardently oppose assisted suicide, while a clear majority on the political left support legalization. That's the case in Massachusetts where Question 2 is on November's ballot, and according to recent polling is very likely to pass.

I am an outlier, in that I am a registered Democrat and progressive, as well as a physician who has cared for people with life-threatening conditions for more than three decades. I support universal health care, voting rights, disability rights, women's rights, Planned Parenthood, gay marriage, alternative energy, and gun control. I yearn to see an end to the war on drugs and the war in Afghanistan. And, I am convinced that legalization of physician-assisted suicide is something my fellow progressives should fear and loathe.
In today's "Newspeak" the Hemlock Society morphed into Compassion and Choices, which promotes "death with dignity" and objects to the word "suicide," preferring "aid-in-dying" and "self-deliverance." These terms sound more wholesome, but the undisguised act is a morally primitive, socially regressive, response to basic human needs.
America is failing people who are facing the end of life and those who love and care for them. Giving licensed physicians the authority to write lethal prescriptions is not a progressive thing to do.

When Your Doctor Is Your Executioner

It was a short step from there to deciding that illness and suffering needed a quick and “merciful” end. Rather than use the pain medications we have and care for those who are elderly or infirm, we quickly moved to the argument that killing them was the “moral” and “humane” thing to do. First we called it “mercy killing.” When that gentle phrase became tainted, the advertising folks supplied a new one. Today we call it “death with dignity.”  Somewhere along the line, we lost the understanding of just how dangerous a doctor who no longer feels a responsibility to be a healer can be.

Suicide by Choice?  Not so fast

NEXT week, voters in Massachusetts will decide whether to adopt an assisted-suicide law. As a good pro-choice liberal, I ought to support the effort. But as a lifelong disabled person, I cannot.
My problem, ultimately, is this: I’ve lived so close to death for so long that I know how thin and porous the border between coercion and free choice is, how easy it is for someone to inadvertently influence you to feel devalued and hopeless — to pressure you ever so slightly but decidedly into being “reasonable,” to unburdening others, to “letting go.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:37 PM | Permalink

November 1, 2012

Superstorm Sandy

I have been at a loss of words as I try to process the enormous amount of destruction that Hurricane Sandy wrought.  I've found that the Daily Mail has been the best for coverage and photos though I am laid low by some of the stories.  It is impossible to imagine the devastation brought to so many lives.

Mother whose two boys were swept out of her arms in superstore was left screaming on street for 12 hours by neighbors who refused to help her

Police find bodies of Glenda Moore's sons Connor, 4, and Brandon, 2.

'Even momma got outta house to loot new shirt': Looters brag on Twitter

The tragic faces of Sandy's young victims.

• Off-duty NYPD officer Artur Kasprzak drowned saving seven family members, including 15-month-old son .
• Two friends in Brooklyn, Jessie Streich-Kest, 24, and Jacob Vogelman, 23, struck by tree while walking their dog - but bodies were not discovered until next day.
• Two-year-old and four-year-old feared dead after mother's SUV flipped, while at least three children killed by falling trees.
• Elderly residents also succumbed to storm's strength including Herminia St John, 75, who died when her respirator stopped during power cut.
• Lauren Abraham, 23, was electrocuted by a downed power cable having gone out to take photographs.
• Tony Laino, 29, was killed in his bed when a tree crashed through his house.
• Richard Everett, 54, and his wife Elizabeth killed in their car by falling tree in Mendham, New Jersey as their children looked on.

On Staten Island, Where is the Red Cross?

Whenever there’s a drive in Staten Island, we give openly and honestly. Where are they? Where are they? I was at the South Shore yesterday, people were buried in their homes. There the dogs are trying to find bodies. The people there, the neighbors who had no electricity, were making soup. Making soup. It’s very emotional because the lack of a response. The lack of a response. They’re supposed to be here….They should be on the front lines fighting, and helping the people.”
We’re talking about getting water of the tunnel. Let’s get the water out of the tunnel tomorrow, let’s get the people out of the water today. There’ve been thousands of people who have been displaced. There are people who are cold, who are hungry, who are without a place to go, and looking for warmth. There are people still trapped. Yet we’re talking about marathons and tunnels. I walked on the rooftop of a house yesterday, I stepped on it because the debris that surrounded it was level with the rooftop. That’s what happened here on Staten Island.”

I leave it to Walter Russell Mead in Nature and Nature's God

While the lights went out across Manhattan tonight, and the city that calls itself the capital of the world was cut off from the mainland as flood waters thundered through its streets, many people around the world watched the spectacle and were reminded just how fragile the busy world we humans build around us really is.
Into this busy, self involved world Hurricane Sandy has burst. Sharks have been photographed (or at least photo shopped) swimming in the streets of New Jersey towns; waves sweep across the Lower East Side; transformers explode on both sides of the Hudson as salt water surges into the tunnels and subways. For a little while at least, New Yorkers are reminded that we live in a world shaped by forces that are bigger than we are…
The strongest walls, the sturdiest retirement plans stuffed with stocks and CDs, the best doctors cannot protect us from that final encounter with the force that made and will someday unmake us.  Coming to terms with that reality is the most important thing that any of us can do. A storm like this one is an opportunity to do exactly that. It reminds us that what we like to call ‘normal life’ is fragile and must someday break apart. If we are wise, we will take advantage of this smaller, passing storm to think seriously about the greater storm that is coming for us all.
That is something we all need to do. It involves a recognition of our helplessness and insufficiency before the mysteries and limits of life. Like the First Step in the Twelve Step programs, it begins with an acknowledgment of failure and defeat. We each try to build a self-sufficient world, a sturdy little life that is proof against storms and disasters — but none of us can really get that done.  Strangely, that admission of weakness opens the door to a new kind of strength. To acknowledge and accept weakness is to ground our lives more firmly in truth, and it turns out that to be grounded in reality is to become more able and more alive. Denial is hard work; those who try to stifle their awareness of the limits of human life and ambition in the busy rounds of daily life never reach their full potential.
To open your eyes to the fragility of life and to our dependence on that which is infinitely greater than ourselves is to enter more deeply into life. To come to terms with the radical insecurity in which we all live is to find a different and more reliable kind of security. The joys and occupations of ordinary life aren’t all there is to existence, but neither are the great and all-destroying storms. There is a calm beyond the storm, and the same force that sends these storms into our lives offers a peace and security that no storm can destroy. As another one of the psalms puts it, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Accepting your limits and your dependence on things you can’t control is the first step on the road toward finding that joy.

Mead again on the Perils of Nanny State Governance

The New York Times notes that scientists and flood experts have been warning about the risks of flooding in New York for years and have suggested everything from levees to floodgates in New York Harbor to minimize potential damage. Yet neither the city nor the state government has taken serious steps to act on these suggestions:
The problem with nanny state governance isn’t just that it’s intrusive. It isn’t just that it stifles business with over-regulation, and it isn’t just that it empowers busybodies and costs money. It’s that it distracts government from the really big jobs that it ought to be doing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:26 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2012

New statistics are chilling

Suicide is now the leading cause of injury deaths.  Too many people are living lives of despair as the miserable economy takes its toll.   

More people commit suicide than die in car crashes.    A report in the American Journal of Public Health says suicide ranks first followed by car crashes, poisoning, falls and murder.

"Suicides are terribly undercounted; I think the problem is much worse than official data would lead us to believe," said study author Ian Rockett, a professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University…. For the study, Rockett's team used data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics to determine the cause of injury deaths from 2000 to 2009.

Deaths from intentional and unintentional injury were 10 percent higher in 2009 than in 2000, the researchers noted. And although deaths from car crashes declined 25 percent, deaths from poisoning rose 128 percent, deaths from falls increased 71 percent and deaths from suicides rose 15 percent, according to the study.
In 2009, more than 37,000 Americans took their own lives, and more than 500,000 were at risk of suicide, according to Pamela Hyde, administrator of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

How to Stop Hospitals from Killing Us.

Medical errors kill enough people to fill four jumbo jets a week. A surgeon with five simple ways to make health care safer. 

All of them have to do with transparency

  • online hospital performance ratings
  • teamwork scores  Good teamwork meant safer care.
  • compliance cameras
  • open notes
  • no more gagging

A staggering 94 million Americans exposed to potential identity theft through breaches in government agencies
.  And it's probably much worse.

ABC News reports 

Furthermore, out of 268 breach incidents reported since 2009, the 67 of the public agencies responsible (and I use that term loosely) couldn't even figure out how many records were lost. That fact alone will tell anyone with basic math skills and a lick of common sense that this epidemic is much worse than we know. …..

Premeditated attacks by hackers accounted for only 40 breaches since 2009, a mere 15 percent of the total….Plain and simple stupidity and negligence caused most of the rest.
the sad truth is that our own government's security policies -- or lack thereof -- have put us all at risk. …The GAO's report found that out of 24 major government agencies, 18 had inadequate information security controls….the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services, each of which have met just over 50 percent of the law's requirements.

Robert Morgenthau: The Death of Peter Wielunski

For every soldier killed in combat, 25 veterans are dying by suicide. It's time to broaden efforts against PTSD.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

September 19, 2012

Her faith kept her alive

'I asked the lord to satisfy my stomach as if I’d had a full meal': Woman who survived SEVEN WEEKS stranded in Nevada wilderness after husband died seeking help says her faith kept her alive

A Canadian woman found on the verge of starvation after seven weeks in a Nevada wilderness area told an Idaho church congregation that she had been prepared to die the same day hunters came across her stranded van. Rita Chretien, of Penticton, British Columbia, spoke on Sunday during a service at First Church of the Nazarene in Twin Falls about her ordeal.

She was found weak but alive in May 2011 in the rugged mountains of northeastern Nevada, near the Idaho state line.  Aged 56 at the time, Mrs Chretien survived 49 days on trail mix, boiled sweets and melted snow. But it was her faith, she told the church, that saved her.

'I asked the lord to satisfy my stomach as if I’d had a full meal,' Mrs Chretien said, adding that 'I’ve always walked with the lord ever since I was a little girl.'

She and her husband, Albert, 59, had become stranded after their van got stuck on a muddy road on Mach 22, having lost their way because they were 'foolishly following a GPS without a lot of experience,' Mrs Chretien said.  Mr Chretien set off on foot after three days to seek out help but failed to return. His body was never found and he has been presumed dead.

After being stranded 49 days, Mrs Chretien said her strength was almost gone and she thought she was going to have a heart attack.  She pulled on fresh socks, wrapped herself in a blanket and prepared to die.... Minutes later she heard the sound of off-road vehicles.

'I thought I was dreaming,' she said. 'Then I thought, "Hey, I'm not dreaming. This is really happening".'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:03 PM | Permalink

August 3, 2012

Life expectancy U.S. Map

 Us Lifeexpectancy Map

The life expectancy map of America: Graphic reveals alarming differences in death rates between states

The diagram has been compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from data gathered from 98 per cent of the medical files for all deaths across the U.S. in 2010.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink

August 1, 2012

Potpourri of interesting articles you may have missed

Some interesting articles that you may have missed.

When Hyphen Boy Meets Hyphen Girl, Names Pile Up  "We had the potential of being the McKenna-Thomas Camera-Smith household. Which sounded too much like a law firm, really."

PJ Tatler  What Obama could learn from  West Wing

The president’s speech calls to mind a second-season West Wing episode, in which speechwriter Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) explains to the staff of some liberal house members why he won’t insert a line in President Bartlet’s upcoming speech. They want the president to attack Republican tax cut proposals as financing “private jets and swimming pools” for the wealthy. As Seaborn argues:

Henry, last fall, every time your boss got on the stump and said, “It’s time for the rich to pay their fair share,” I hid under a couch and changed my name. I left Gage Whitney making $400,000 a year, which means I paid twenty-seven times the national average in income tax. I paid my fair share, and the fair share of twenty-six other people. And I’m happy to ’cause that’s the only way it’s gonna work, and it’s in my best interest that everybody be able to go to schools and drive on roads, but I don’t get twenty-seven votes on Election Day. The fire department doesn’t come to my house twenty-seven times faster and the water doesn’t come out of my faucet twenty-seven times hotter. The top one percent of wage earners in this country pay for twenty-two percent of this country. Let’s not call them names while they’re doing it, is all I’m saying.

The Big Mistake

The CEO of Peregrine Financial, a futures trading brokerage firm in Iowa, is accused of stealing over $200 million of the customers' money over a 20 year period.  This is one mistake that Russ Wasendorf made.

The bigger mistake was trying to commit suicide and leaving notes for his business partners and his wife. That leaves no question he was trying to commit suicide.  He made the mistake of hooking his tailpipe exhaust to a hose into his car as his suicide method.

Being a successful CEO he undoubtedly has a new car. In order to asphyxiate yourself with carbon monoxide you must use an automobile dating before 1992. Since then catalytic converters have been so successful that there is not sufficient carbon monoxide to commit suicide.

The Washington Post admits that Dan Quayle was right 20 years ago about Murphy Brown; single parenthood should be discouraged.

Why you should 'grin and bear life's problems - it's good for the heart.  Your grandma was right again.

Ed Driscoll, Reality, What a Concept .  For example, what the liberal Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam discovered about ethnic diversity. communities become more ethnically diverse they in fact become socially frayed. In a survey that included interviews with over thirty thousand people, Putnam found that as a community becomes more ethnically and socially varied, social trust plummets. People tend to “hunker down,” in Putnam’s words banding together with a shrunken and shrinking group of friends or alone in front of the TV. Trust in political leaders, the political process, and even voting decline precipitously. Volunteerism, from charitable giving to carpooling, deteriorates. Political activism increases as people look to government to solve problems that once might have been solved by a simple conversation across a coffee table or a shared fence between neighbors.

Note: Putnam did not find that diversity fuels racism; the vast bulk of the people interviewed for the study were not bigots. What he found was that diversity promotes alienation, disengagement, and social isolation. This all runs counter to a host of prevailing clichés and pieties.

In Nature, The mind reader

Adrian Owen has found a way to use brain scans to communicate with people previously written off as unreachable. Now, he is fighting to take his methods to the clinic.

Walter Kirn Confessions of an Ex-Mormon.  A very affecting  personal history of America’s most misunderstood religion.

IPCC Admits Its Past Reports Were Junk

Hidden behind this seemingly routine update on bureaucratic processes is an astonishing and entirely unreported story.  The IPCC is the world's most prominent source of alarmist predictions and claims about man-made global warming.  Its four reports (a fifth report is scheduled for release in various parts in 2013 and 2014) are cited by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. and by national academies of science around the world as "proof" that the global warming of the past five or so decades was both man-made and evidence of a mounting crisis.
In 2010, we learned that much of what we thought we knew about global warming was compromised and probably false.  On June 27, the culprits confessed and promised to do better.  But where do we go to get our money back?

Diesel won't save you money.  Great diesel myth: They DON'T save you money and petrol models 'are more economical for most makes of car'

"Totally re-writing" fashion history is the discovery of medieval bras and bikini panties from the 15th century

Doctors hail jab that can stop Alzheimer's in its tracks for three years.  Bad news: it won't be on the market for years.  Extensive human trials are next

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:58 PM | Permalink

July 20, 2012

Shootings in Aurora

The shootings in Aurora left 12 dead and 50 wounded.    None of dead knew it would be their last day.  That's how suddenly and unexpectedly death can come.

In the face of such an evil, senseless act,  I can only offer prayers for all those died, the wounded and for all the families whose lives have been changed in an instant.

Looking at the pictures at grieving family members from the Mail Online is almost too much to bear.   

How did James Holmes, a 24 year-old Ph.D candidate, go so wrong?

 James Holmes Killer

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 PM | Permalink

May 18, 2012

Bucket List


In the American Scholar, Toys and Joys by William Deresiewicz

In Nothing to Be Frightened Of, his book-length meditation on death, Julian Barnes, quoting Richard Dawkins, produces a similar list: “music, poetry, sex, love (and science).” Again the emphasis is on the pleasures, high and low. Look at lists of “100 Things to Do Before You Die,” and you’ll find them dominated by exotic sensations of one kind or another (“Skydive”; “Shower in a waterfall”; “Eat jellied eels from a stall in London”).

Really? This is the best we can do? This is what it’s all about? These are the things that make our lives worth living? When I think about what really makes me happy, what I really crave, I come up with a very different list: concentrated, purposeful work, especially creative work; being with people I love; feeling like I’m part of something larger. Meaning, connectedness, doing strenuously what you do well: not sights, not thrills, and not even pleasures, as welcome as they are. Not passivity, not letting the world come in and tickle you, but creativity, curiosity, altruism, engagement, craft. Raising children, or teaching students, or hanging out with friends. Playing music, not listening to it. Making things, or making them happen. Thinking hard and feeling deeply.

None of which involve spending money, except in an ancillary way. None of which, in other words, are consumer experiences.
Our idea of the self becomes a consumerist one, which means a passive and diminished one. I’m all for jellied eels, but the pleasures of the body are as nothing to the joys of the soul.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 PM | Permalink

May 1, 2012

"Obama's crew has nothing on the team that got drunk before JFK's assassination"

In the wake of the Secret Service scandal, here's something I didn't know. 

The Biggest Secret Service Failure of All Time

Obama's crew has nothing on the team that got drunk before JFK's assassination.

Congressman Pete King, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, calls the scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia “the worst moment in the history of the Secret Service.”

He’s wrong about that. The worst moment in the history of the Secret Service was November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. It was the first and only time since the Secret Service was put fully in charge of protecting the president in 1902 that a president was assassinated.

William Manchester, in his 1967 book about the Kennedy assassination, The Death of the President, reports that nine agents of the White House Secret Service detail were out after midnight on November 22, starting with “beer and mixed drinks.” One agent was out until 5 a.m. Manchester wrote, “Fellow drinkers during those early morning hours included four agents who were to ride in the president’s follow-up care in Dallas, and whose alertness was vital to his safety.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 AM | Permalink

April 28, 2012

"Thinking about death can make your life better"

Life Advice: Think More about Death

A new paper published in Personality and Social Psychology Review looks over the accumulated evidence and concludes that thinking about death can make your life better…..researchers led by Kenneth E. Vail III at the University of Missouri, Columbia, say the perks of morbid thinking are too great to ignore.
Conscious reminders of death can encourage people to stay healthy and pursue their goals.
When people were asked to list their goals immediately after answering questions about death, they placed more importance on what psychologists call "intrinsic" goals--those related to relationships and personal growth, for example, rather than wealth or attractiveness.
Thoughts about dying may strengthen our bonds to others, too. Studies have found that after reminders of mortality, people feel more committed to their romantic relationships and strive more for intimacy. They're also more inclined to have children.
Tapping into the benefits of our fear of death, the authors say, could make people "more inclusive, cooperative, and peaceful." The downside of our psychological response to death is hostility toward outsiders. But as long as people view themselves as part of a larger community, thinking about our mortality can encourage us to clean up our acts. We may be more helpful to others, more committed to our relationships, more focused on healthy habits, and more thoughtful about our long-term goals.

All the spiritual traditions I know of say the same thing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2012

Boy scout tips saved his life

Stranded man, 76, survives 10 days in the wilderness after eating snow and remembering Boy Scout tips... but friend dies going to find help

An elderly man has survived ten days in the remote Nevada desert by eating snow and using tips he learned as a Boy Scout.

James Klemovich, 76, was found in good health by military personnel but his travel partner was discovered dead around a mile from the stranded car after he went to find help. 

Mr Klemovich, from Littleton, Colorado, had been exploring a mine he co-owned with 75-year-old Laszlo Szabo of Lovelock, Nevada. Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado said Mr Klemovich and his friend got lost on March 18. They were reported missing by family members who hadn't heard from them in several days.  The 76-year-old, who is diabetic, was treated at a hospital in Fallon, Nevada and has since been released.  He also wears a pacemaker and has had triple bypass heart surgery.
According to Mr Klemovich's wife, Joanne, the pair had become stuck on an isolated road with no cell phone reception.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:57 AM | Permalink

March 1, 2012

Would you mistake sepsis for the flu?

Within a day of his eczema being infected Marc was dead

One Wednesday night last February, Marc Franks, a fit, 38-year-old company director, mentioned a patch of eczema on his right arm.

As his wife Barbara recalls: ‘I’d given birth to our fourth child three months before, so I didn’t really pay much attention. Marc said the eczema was cracked, dry and probably infected. But he said the pain wasn’t too bad — he’d had eczema before and it always cleared up, so we weren’t too worried.’

The next morning, he said he felt fine and went off to work, leaving Barbara, 38, at home in Didsbury, Manchester, with daughters Ashlea, seven, and Rowan, four, and sons Thomas, five, and Owen, now 15 months.

But Marc felt so unwell that he returned home to spend the day in bed. The couple assumed he’d picked up the winter vomiting bug that had affected the rest of the family. He had an upset stomach and Barbara made sure he kept well hydrated.

He died of sepsis that same day.

Do you know the warning signs of sepsis?  Would you mistake it for the flu?

There are 102,000 cases of sepsis (previously known as blood poisoning or septicaemia) each year in Britain and it kills 37,000 people — more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined. Sepsis is also the biggest killer of pregnant women, who are particularly susceptible because their immune systems are suppressed in pregnancy. However, it can strike any age.
What few realise is that there doesn’t have to be a cut or wound to get blood poisoning. ‘Any type of infection — including chest infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, burst ulcers, appendicitis, bites and skin infections such as eczema can trigger sepsis,’ says Dr Daniels.

And it can kill rapidly — within 24 hours in some cases — so spotting it early is vital.’
says Dr Daniels. ‘The problem is that symptoms can be similar to flu and be non-specific — but there are key symptoms that set it apart.’

These are a rapid heart rate, a high or very low temperature (below 36c or above 38.3c), shallow rapid breathing and confusion or slurring. Dr Daniels says patients with two or more of these symptoms should seek medical advice.

‘If a patient also has cold, pale or mottled skin, loses consciousness or has not passed water for more than 18 hours, they need to be taken to hospital as an emergency as soon as possible.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:35 PM | Permalink

February 29, 2012

"Morally irrelevant" babies

I find this appalling and chilling and profoundly wrong. 

Ethicists call for killing of newborns to be made legal

A leading British medical journal has published an article calling for the introduction of infanticide for social and medical reasons.

The article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, entitled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” states in its abstract: “After-birth abortion (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

The article, written by Alberto Giubilini of the University of Milan and Francesca Minerva of Melbourne University, argues that “foetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons” and consequently a law which permits abortion for certain reasons should permit infanticide on the same grounds.

Lord Alton, co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said that infanticide was the “chilling and unassailable” logical step for a society that permits killing a baby one day before birth.

He said: “That the Journal of Medical Ethics should give space to such a proposition illustrates not a slippery slope, but the quagmire into which medical ethics and our wider society have been sucked.

“Personal choice has eclipsed the sacredness, or otherness, of life itself. It is profoundly disturbing, indeed shocking, to see the way in which opinion-formers within the medical profession have ditched the traditional belief of the healer to uphold the sanctity of human life for this impoverished and inhumane defence of child destruction.

“It has been said that a country which kills its own children has no future. That’s true. And a country which accepts infanticide or the killing of a little girl or a little boy because of their gender, the killing of a baby because of a disability, or the killing of a child because it is inconvenient, the wrong shape, or the wrong colour, also forfeits its right to call itself civilised.”

But Julian Savulescu, the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, has defended the publication of the paper on the British Medical Journal website. He said: “What is disturbing is not the arguments in this paper nor its publication in an ethics journal. It is the hostile, abusive, threatening responses that it has elicited. More than ever, proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat from fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.”

We know what's next - euthanasia or assisted suicide.  Even further down the slope, anyone sick or in a coma or disabled  or whose care costs too much for the government. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:59 PM | Permalink

February 7, 2012

When All Hell Let Loose

What happens when All Hell Let Loose?

Military historian Sir Max Hastings asks and answers the question

what happens when “almost everything which civilised people take for granted in time of peace [is] swept aside, above all the expectation of being protected from violence.”

The figures themselves almost overwhelm the reader: 60 million people died between 1939-45, both combatants and civilians, often in horrifying circumstances. Russia’s sacrifice of lives was immeasurably greater than all the other countries: 65 percent of the total.
He also shows the bungling and incompetence that are a characteristic of war and which often caused most casualties, commenting that in England “before peace came, accidents in the blackout killed more people than did the Luftwaffe.” The magnificent Churchillian rhetoric which Hastings rightly extols in his study of the wartime prime minister could not hide the fact that the British armed forces demonstrated continual “failures of will, leadership, equipment, tactics and training.” Where there was a will to win, as the author points out, it could not compete with the Russian or German brutal acceptance of the inevitability of huge
Interestingly, given the intellectual eminence of Germany, the author suggests that Britain’s claim to genuine success lay in the superiority of its application of science and technology.  The best civilian brains were mobilised in the war effort; the work of the boffins at Bletchley Park and the cracking of the German Enigma code were more effective in defeating the enemy than the campaigns in the field.
Yet as the author grimly reminds us, two million Russians also starved to death in territories controlled by their own governments; Stalin was as cynical about human life as was Hitler. His war aims, to grab as much territory in Eastern Europe as he could get away with, were equally selfish and at odds with human liberty.
He is dismissive of the German defence, “We did not know” when mass atrocities came to light after the War, concluding that it was “impossible” for most German civilians credibly to deny knowledge of the concentration camps or of the slave labour system. Again, referring to the Holocaust, he judges that it was “easy”, in one of the most highly educated societies in Europe, to find people willing to murder “those whom their rulers defined as state enemies, without employing duress.”

His book available at Amazon

'Unquestionably the best single-volume history of the war ever written’ The London Sunday Times epic tale of human experience, from campaign to campaign, continent to continent.This magisterial book ranges across a vast canvas, from the Russian front, where more than 90% of all German soldiers who perished met their fate, to the agony of Poland amid the September 1939 Nazi invasion, and the 1943 Bengal famine, in which at least a million people died under British rule – and British neglect.

Via Tea at Trianon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

January 24, 2012

"Four Britons are dying of dehydration and malnutrition in hospital each day"

Why a government-run health service is so problematic.

Cristina Odone in the Telegraph Visiting a patient in a British hospital? Then take them food and water, just to be safe

While GPs are preparing to go on strike, and consultants and nurses ratchet up their attacks on the Coalition's proposed reforms to the NHS, four Britons are dying of dehydration and malnutrition in hospital each day Few deaths can be as agonising as those caused by lack of liquids and nutrients, yet few deaths are as preventable.

Critics (and I'm often one) of NHS staff complain usually about their indifference, self-righteousness, and us-against-them mentality. Now there is another charge to add to that list: letting patients die of hunger and thirst. No wonder family members insist on staying by their loved ones' bedsides in the ward: they fear for their lives. The problem is some of the most vulnerable patients have no family visiting them: who then looks after their welfare? The sad answer is no one.

It's a shameful "first" for Britain: the NHS comes first in Europe when it comes to the percentage of hospital patients suffering malnutrition: a whopping 58%, compared to 24% in the Netherlands and just over 30% in Denmark. You have to go to Vietnam to find a similarly horrific number of malnourished hospital patients.

The stories told by the commenters would make you weep.

My father died recently in horrible circumstances at Southampton General. In a ward of 8 or 9 distressed old men it was like a scene from Bedlam. At night a West African nurse frightened the old boys by not displaying one iota of sympathy or care. The noise in the ward was unbelievable . Buzzers and alarms going of constantly for no apparent purpose. Nurses striding around skilfully avoiding eye contact like workers at B&Q.

My mother who had been married to my dad for 60 odd years was constantly harassed for being in the ward to look after him, trying to make him eat and trying to wet his parched mouth. When my sister and I finally found a nurse who would stop and talk to us she explained he was on the 'Liverpool Pathway' hardly a user friendly term of explanation. It certainly went over my mother's head.

I have many posts on the Liverpool pathway.

Perils of the Pathway

“My mother was going to be left to starve and dehydrate to death. It really is a subterfuge for legalised euthanasia of the elderly on the NHS. ”

It really does seem that the Liverpool pathway has become a protocol to deal with all elderly patients and thus the reason to give minimum care and so hasten their deaths. 

For the life of me, I can not understand how doctors or hospitals, even under the guise of 'policy' or 'protocol', can deny  anyone who wants food and water no matter how old or sick. 

The "Death Pathway"

“Forecasting death is an inexact science,”they say. Patients are being diagnosed as being close to death “without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong.

“As a result a national wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients."

The warning comes just a week after a report by the Patients Association estimated that up to one million patients had received poor or cruel care on the NHS.

He said: “I have been practising palliative medicine for more than 20 years and I am getting more concerned about this “death pathway” that is coming in.

“It is supposed to let people die with dignity but it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

He said that he had personally taken patients off the pathway who went on to live for “significant” amounts of time and warned that many doctors were not checking the progress of patients enough to notice improvement in their condition.

Death Panels

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:19 AM | Permalink

January 17, 2012

Captain Coward

 Capt Francesco Schettino
Francesco Schettino, Captain of the Costa Concordia

Stricken cruise liner captain DID abandon ship 'half an hour before passengers' AND refused to go back when ordered

Francesco Schettino to appear before judge today on charges of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship.  He ignored orders from the Italian coastguard to return to his ship and the hundreds of passengers he abandoned to fend for themselves.

Officials say that during those chaotic minutes, the bungling skipper had tried to palm them off and minimise the dangerous situation it was facing - and that it was his juniors who realised the impending disaster and ordered passengers and crew to the lifeboats.

From a translation of the phone communications between the coast guard and the captain  

Coast Guard: "Tell me the reason why you are not going back on board."

Schettino: "There is another life boat ... "

Coast Guard: "You go back on board! That is an order! There is nothing else for you to consider. You have sounded the 'abandon ship.' Now I am giving the orders. Go back on board. Is that clear? Don't you hear me?"

The captain did not go back and that is why he is now  the most hated man in Italy and dubbed "Captain Coward"

Facebook anger at skipper of doomed cruise liner who 'abandoned ship hours before passengers'

Thousands have taken to the web to vent their fury at the so-called ‘Captain Coward’, who is now claimed to have ‘skimmed’ past the Tuscan isle of Giglio not just to salute a retired officer but also to impress his head waiter’s family on shore.

Many scorned his decision not to remain with his stricken ship.

Even with the order to abandon ship, many of the crew were also cowardly.  One survivor reported

that men pushed past children who were screaming 'I don't want to die' as the young and elderly were 'abandoned by the crew'.

What others said about  the Cowardly crew on cruise

“No one was giving directions, saying older people and kids should get into the boats first,’’ said Karen Camacho, of Homestead, Fla.

“Instead of letting passengers get into lifeboats, the crew went in first and [was] saying not to let [passengers] in,’’ she told USA Today.

Some compared the wreck to the Titantic, but in that disaster when people realized there were not enough lifeboats, men willingly gave up the chance to save their lives so that women and children could be saved first.  By so doing, they proved themselves to be real men.  The natural duty and responsibility of men is to protect life, especially women and children,  and if necessary give up their lives to do so.    Children have a long life ahead of them; women can create new life.  And that is why they are naturally given preference and rescued first.  More life is rescued if women and children are rescued first. 

I would even say this is true in all cultures and is probably hard-wired into our human nature.  Fathers and mothers naturally would sacrifice themselves to save their children.  Men who flee disaster to save their own skins and abandon women and children are cowards.  They fail to achieve humanness. And for that reason, they are shamed.

Cicero said long ago, Courage is the first virtue enabling all others. 

'My husband gave me his lifejacket as we jumped off sinking cruise ship... I never saw him again,' says French survivor

A Costa Concordia survivor has told how her husband saved her life before drowning - because there was 'nobody there' to save him.

Frenchwoman Nicole Servel, 61, said Francis Servel, 71, gave her his lifejacket before they leapt off the sinking cruise ship.
She said: 'I owe my life to my husband – it’s obvious he saved me.' She managed to swim for shore, while Mr Servel was swept underwater and drowned.'

Captain Coward is in court today

Schettino, who faces up to 12 years in jail for manslaughter, will appear in court today after his company chiefs accused him of an ‘unauthorised and unapproved’ decision to sail so close to the eastern side of the island of Giglio.

The £400million liner, with 4,200 passengers and crew, was sailing just 300 yards from the island’s rocky coast when it should have been at least four miles out to sea. It came to grief on Friday night after sustaining a 160ft gash in the port-side hull.

After swiftly escaping from the listing liner, Schettino – the Concordia’s skipper for six years – was arrested along with first officer Ciro Ambrosio.

The captain was spotted wrapped in a blanket on his way to the shore at around 11.30pm – more than four hours before the evacuation of the vessel was completed - and breaking the maritime tradition of remaining with his ship.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 PM | Permalink

December 3, 2011

Death panels

Catching up on the news after almost three weeks away from the Internet, politics was less interesting than ever, but other stories were more shocking than ever.  In particular, this story about the brain surgeon who went to Washington to be briefed on how Obamacare would effect advanced neurosurgery for people over 70.

Full Transcript: Neurosurgeon Briefed by HHS Reveals Obamacare's Death Panels (Hint: Patients Are Called 'Units')

I just returned from Washington, DC, where we were reading over what the Obama health care plan would be for advanced neurosurgery for patients over 70, which we all found quite disturbing. As our population gets older, the majority of our patients are getting over 70. They'll require stroke therapy, aneurysm therapy, and basically what the document stated is that if you're over 70 and you come into an emergency room... if you're on government-supported health care, you'll get "comfort care".

ML: Wait a minute... what’s the source for this?

Jeff: This is Obama’s new health care plan for advanced neurosurgical care.

ML: And who issued this? HHS?

Jeff: Yes. And basically they don’t call them patients, they call them units. And instead of, they call it “ethics panels” or “ethics committees”, would get together and meet and decide where the money would go for hospitals, and basically for patients over 70 years of age, that advanced neurosurgical care was not generally indicated.

ML: So it’s generally going to be denied?

Jeff: Yes, absolutely... If someone comes in at 70 years of age with a bleed in their brain, I can promise you I’m not going to get a bunch of administrators together on an ethics panel at 2 in the morning to decide that I’m OK to do surgery.

ML: Is this published somewhere where the general public could get a hold of it?

Jeff: Not yet.

I assume that government-supported health care includes Medicare that everyone over 65 must join.
The conclusion I draw is that if you have a stroke and you're 70 or older, you're out of luck.

Over In the U.K., in the National Health Service, doctors are failing to inform up to half of families that their loved ones have been put on a scheme to help end their lives, the Royal College of Physicians has found.

In addition to the withdrawal of fluid and medication, patients can be placed on sedation until they pass away. This can mean they are not fed and provided with water and has led to accusations that it hastens death.

The Liverpool Care Pathway was intended for use in hospices but was given approval by the Department of Health in 2006 leading to widespread use in hospitals. Concerns about the pathway were raised first in The Daily Telegraph in 2009 when experts warned that in some cases patients have been put on the pathway only to recover when their families intervened, leading to questions over how people are judged to be in their “last hours and days”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:46 PM | Permalink

Why the obsession with sex and death?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin in Captivated by Death

Entertainment was always obsessed with sex and death, but while sex is easy to depict and always titillating, waiting around for people to age and die is neither easy to depict nor titillating
Ironically, people reject the best avenue for grasping spiritual reality when they reject religious faith. They are making a choice to remain in the grip of materialism. This simply means that they experience little or nothing in their daily lives that is not constrained by the natural limitations of physical matter. They have chosen not to relate to anything they cannot see, touch, eat, or wear. Their life is, well, limited.

Thus their only glimpses into a transcendent eternity are the transforming moments into and out of physical life. Conception is the magical moment that brings matter into existence, and death is the moment that bids it farewell. People are captivated by sex and violence because their souls yearn for contact with the infinite.

Hollywood manufactures sex and violence, legitimately in my opinion, because that is what the market wants. People want it for the same reason that folks outside Seattle use instant coffee. It is what you do when you cannot obtain the real thing. The real thing is regular contact with the infinite through the wonderful world of religious faith.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 PM | Permalink

October 24, 2011

Doing good versus doing nothing

The opportunities to make grand heroic gestures are rare while we can, if we choose, do simple acts of kindness everyday.

A good rule of life.  Always Go to the Funeral

By the time I was 16, I had been to five or six funerals. I remember two things from the funeral circuit: bottomless dishes of free mints and my father saying on the ride home, “You can’t come in without going out, kids. Always go to the funeral.”

Sounds simple — when someone dies, get in your car and go to calling hours or the funeral. That, I can do. But I think a personal philosophy of going to funerals means more than that.

Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex’s uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:15 PM | Permalink

September 23, 2011

Mega-Mega Death

The toll of  humans killed by China over the course of its one-child policy now dwarfs the number killed  by Stalin 20 million , the number killed in World War II 66 million and the number killed by Mao Tse Tung 40 million.

China's One Child Policy Toll Reaches 400 Million

During a meeting yesterday with members of the House Budget Committee, Congressman Huelskamp asked Gao Qiang, who served for two years as the Party Secretary for the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China, about the country’s population control policy.

Through an interpreter, Party Secretary Gao responded that the population of China is 400 million less than it would have been had the Party not adopted and enforced a one-child policy. He went on to say that China had prevented more births than the population of the United States, which currently stands at 312 million.

But it also reveals a fundamental disconnect with the demographic reality that they themselves have created, namely, a rapidly aging population that is disproportionately male. Thanks to family planning run amuck, China is a country where unborn baby girls are selectively aborted, where young men cannot find brides and where young women are trafficked across borders to meet this demand.

According to advance testimony, today The House Subcommittee on Health and Human Rights will hear of Explosive new evidence of torture, murder and pillage related to China's brutal one-child policy.

I’ve received an advance copy of the testimony to be given by Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, and it is heartbreaking and infuriating. How can China be getting away with this as the world stands by?

Littlejohn’s report, which includes photos, contains 13 new documented cases of “family planning” coercion, including the forced abortion of 8-1/2 month old twins; Family Planning Police; Family Planning jail cells; the demolition of homes (even by relatives, for missing a pregnancy check); the use of “implication” (detention, torture and fining of relatives of “violators”); a couple brutally tortured for missing a pregnancy check by one day; a man whose head was smashed and who is now permanently disabled because his wife had a second child; and a father who was beaten to death because his son was suspected of having a second child.

Last month in China, Vice President Biden said

Your policy has been one which I fully understand – I’m not second-guessing – of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people.  Not sustainable.

They would have had enough people if they hadn't killed all the babies.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

September 11, 2011

The spiritual impact of 9/11

 Wtccross Rubble

The Meaning of the Cross at Ground Zero by Father Brian Jordan who celebrated most of the Sunday Masses at Ground Zero.

I must say this: "We saw evil at its worst and goodness at its best."
Christmas Eve was the coldest night recorded during the 10-month recovery period at Ground Zero. Nevertheless, more than 150 worshippers came for midnight Mass. We sang Christmas carols and prayed for all who died on 9/11. One hour before the Mass, a firefighter's body was recovered, and I joined the Honor Guard from the pit to the top road to accompany the body to be transported by a FDNY fire truck. The Honor Guard participated in the Mass as tears streamed from their eyes in memory of their fallen brothers.

One of the most powerful Masses I ever experienced was not planned or even anticipated. Sunday, May 12, was Mother's Day, and we expected a great number of mothers who lost loved ones on 9/11 — husbands, children, siblings, etc. to participate in the Mass. During the homily, unexpectedly, two units of U.S. Special Forces soldiers joined in the Mass.  One unit just came back from a tour in Afghanistan; the other was about to be dispatched there. During the sign of peace, I asked all the mothers to first embrace those coming back from their first experience of war and then the second unit who would experience war for the first time due to 9/11.

 Cross Firefighters

New York's Cardinal Egan remembers 9/11 very well

The first person to appear on a gurney was a woman who had died and was completely burned. I anointed her from head to toe.
Standing with me were two doctors. One was trembling and weeping. I went over to him and asked what was wrong. He told me, “My father was on one of the highest floors of the tower.” I asked him if he’d like to sit down and have a cup of coffee.
He said, “No, Your Eminence, I am a doctor, and this is my place.”

Soon after, I told Pope John Paul II about that young man. He asked me, “Has he finished his education?” I said he still faced years of training. The Holy Father asked whether the doctor would have to cover the costs himself, and I said, “Yes.” The Pope said he would like to help him. Later on, Cardinal [Leonardo] Sandri, prefect for the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, delivered a check to the young man.
President [George W.] Bush visited Ground Zero and from the stage shouted down to me to say an opening prayer. I shouted my prayer in the sky. Afterwards, the president said, “Isn’t it a shame we don’t always pray with that intensity?”

There were many funerals in the wake of the attacks. There were two or three funerals a day. They were for firefighters, police and emergency workers. The mayor went to almost every one. He was outstanding and gave great leadership. The same was true for those who worked with him. At one Mass, there was a woman, the widow of the deceased. She was pregnant and had a baby in her arms. Her sons were serving at the altar. You would have to be a stone not to be touched.
It was a time of great tragedy, but also of great heroes. New York and the world saw examples of self-sacrifice that I don’t think have ever been matched in our time. People worked around the clock, with dust and sand from above or below. No one was thinking about themselves. Police officers, firefighters, emergency workers poured themselves out for others. You couldn’t help but be inspired by that. We saw heroism and self-sacrifice — expressions of great holiness.

Brian Williams, the anchorman and a friend for many years, asked me, “What has been the spiritual impact of the attacks?

It had an amazing effect.

 Wtccross Memorial

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

September 1, 2011

Abortion is a risky business

Sure to cause controversy is the study endorsed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry which concluded that Women who have abortions 'face double the risk of mental health problems'.

Professor Coleman has been the frequent target of pro-choice campaigners in the U.S. for her insistence that abortion is linked to poor mental health.

But while critics have doubted her methods, they have failed to damage her academic reputation, and publication in the peer-reviewed British journal is a signal that the psychiatric establishment is now taking seriously the possibility that abortion is a cause of anxiety, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide.
Professor Coleman’s study was based on an analysis of 22 separate projects which together analysed the experiences of 877,000 women, of whom 163,831 had had an abortion.
Overall, the results revealed that women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81 per cent increased risk of mental health problems, and nearly 10 per cent of the incidence of mental health problems were shown to be directly attributable to abortion.’
The study said that abortion was linked with a 34 per cent greater chance of anxiety disorders, and 37 per cent higher possibility of depression, a more than double risk of alcohol abuse – 110 per cent – a three times greater risk of cannabis use – at 220 per cent – and 155 per cent greater risk of trying to commit suicide.

Professor Coleman added: ‘There are in fact some real risks associated with abortion that should be shared with women as they are counselled prior to an abortion.’

Let's face it.  Abortion is a risky business and women planning to undergo an abortion should be advised of the risks.     

Abortion is also the leading cause of death in the United States with 1.2 million abortions a year.  The number of people who die with heart disease is 598,607.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:59 PM | Permalink

June 3, 2011

What people regret on their death beds

Via The Deacon's Bench comes this report from a palliative nurse on What most people regret on their death bed.

The top regrets center largely around living a more authentic life:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. [...]

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5.  I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:15 PM | Permalink

May 25, 2011

Tornado Tragedies

The on-going tornado tragedies in Joplin have been greatly upsetting.  The suddenness and the scale can not be comprehended no matter how pictures and videos I  have seen. 

So many people homeless, injured, dead and lost in the matter of moments. 125 dead,  2000 buildings destroyed,
hundreds missing.    People searching for loved ones and others for scraps of their former lives in a devastating reality they never could have imagined. 

I've been too busy to blog, but not too busy to pray for all those affected who live and for the repose of the souls for all those caught up and swept away to death.

No one of us is guaranteed another day of life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 PM | Permalink

April 18, 2011

"Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die"

Walter Breuning, the world's oldest man, died of natural causes at the age of 114 in Great Falls, Montana.

He remembered his grandfather's stories about killing southerners in the Civil War.

That first decade of the 1900s was literally a dark age for his family. They had no electricity or running water. A bath for young Walter would require his mother to fetch water from the well outside and heat it on the coal-burning stove. When they wanted to get around, they had three options: train, horse and foot.

His parents split up and Breuning moved back to Minnesota in 1912. The following year, the teenager got a low-level job with the Great Northern Railway in Melrose.

"I'm 16 years old, had to go to work on account of breakup of the family," he said.
"Everybody got laid off in the '30s," Breuning said. "Nobody had any money at all."

People began to arrive in Great Falls searching for work. He recalled transplants from North Dakota telling tales of desperate families pulling weeds from the ground and cooking them up for food.

Work was a constant in Breuning's life, what he did to get through the hard times and what he used to keep his mind active. One of the worst things a person can do is retire young, Breuning said.

"I remember we had a worker in the First National Bank one time retired early. He wanted to go fishing and hunting so bad. Two months (later) and he went back to the bank. He got his fishing and hunting all done and he wanted to go back to work," Breuning said.

"Don't retire until you're darn sure that you can't work anymore. Keep on working as long as you can work and you'll find that it's good for you," he added.

 Walter Breuning 244X183

In interviews in the years before his death, Walter Breuning passed on what he had learned from life.

Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. ("Every change is good.")

Eat two meals a day ("That's all you need.")

Work as long as you can ("That money's going to come in handy.")

Help others ("The more you do for others, the better shape you're in.")

Then there's the hardest part. It's a lesson Breuning said he learned from his grandfather: Accept death.

"We're going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die," he said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 AM | Permalink

February 8, 2011

"This is not a 15-minute conversation, and it should not happen in the back of the ambulance on the way to the ICU at 3 in the morning."

More candor urged in care of dying cancer patients

WASHINGTON – Patients don't want to hear that they're dying and doctors don't want to tell them. But new guidance for the nation's cancer specialists says they should be upfront and do it far sooner.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology says too often, patients aren't told about options like comfort care or even that their chemo has become futile until the bitter end.

To help families broach the topic, too, the group developed an easy-to-read booklet about those choices, from standard care to symptom relief, and advice about what to ask to maximize remaining time.

"This is not a 15-minute conversation, and it should not happen in the back of the ambulance on the way to the ICU at 3 in the morning," says ASCO chief executive Dr. Allen Lichter. "When everyone is well and has their wits about them, it's time to start the process."

The guidance and booklet — available at — mark an unusually strong push for planning end-of-life care, in a profession that earns more from attacking tumors than from lengthy, emotional discussions about when it's time to stop.

"This is a clarion call for oncologists . to take the lead in curtailing the use of ineffective therapy and ensuring a focus on palliative care and relief of symptoms throughout the course of illness," the guidance stresses.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 AM | Permalink

February 4, 2011

Political correctness kills

String of failures' cited in Fort Hood attack - warning signs unheeded

The report says evidence of Mr. Hasan‘s radicalization to violent Islamist extremism was on “full display to his superiors and colleagues during his military medical training” and that an instructor and a colleague each referred to him as a “ticking time bomb.” Not only was no action taken to discipline or discharge him, the report says, but also his officer evaluation reports sanitized his obsession with violent Islamist extremism into praiseworthy research on counterterrorism.

The Senate Investigation just adds details to what we already knew. Political correctness kills.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:43 AM | Permalink

January 18, 2011

Losing your sense of smell

New evidence that losing your sense of smell when you are older could mean your time is nigh.

How your sense of smell could predict when you're going to die

Scientists from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that the more everyday odours a person can identify, the more likely they are to be alive several years later.

The team gave more than 1,000 volunteers, aged between 53 and 100, a standard 12-item smell test.

Study leader Dr Robert Wilson told Mail Online: 'We used a scratch and sniff test for each odour where the participant had a choice of four options. 'The odours were fairly familiar such as smoke, lemon, black pepper, chocolate and cinnamon.'

The researchers then followed the participants, none of whom had dementia or Parkinson's disease at the time, for four years. During this period, 321 individuals or 27.6 per cent died. Amazingly, they found that the risk of death was 36 per cent higher for those who only got six of the answers correct compared to those who managed to identify 11 out of 12.

This association was true even when age, disability, depression, brain dysfunction and leisure activity was taken into account.

Smell the roses while you can, but don't worry if the roses at your florist/market have no smell. It's been breed out of them. You have to find old-fashioned roses - look in backyards - to understand what roses smell like.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 AM | Permalink

January 13, 2011

President Obama in Tucson

Suffering from a bad cold, I've been able to read but not write about the horrific shootings in Tucson last Saturday. What I did read left me so dispirited, even discouraged, that I was driven back to bed.

I wanted to read about the victims, those dead and those wounded and about the heros who wrestled the crazy shooter down to the ground. I wanted to know how this tragedy was affecting people who lived in Tucson.   

Instead the news everywhere was not based on facts but on wild speculation and the unhinged political rants of too many people who ought to have known better.   Even the memorial service seemed a raucous event, more a pep rally with shout-outs and T-shirts, hooping and hollering than a solemn occasion to express solidarity in grief.   

Last to speak, President Obama ennobled the entire event with dignity and grace, in what I think was the finest speech of his presidency. He paid tribute to the lives lost, to the heroes, and to the grieving families.   

He was moving, eloquent, and powerful.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. (Applause.)

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “When I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.


For the truth is none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind. Yes, we have to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future. (Applause.) But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. (Applause.) That we cannot do. (Applause.) That we cannot do.

As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together. (Applause.)


So sudden loss causes us to look backward -– but it also forces us to look forward; to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. (Applause.)


We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -– but rather, how well we have loved — (applause)– and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better. (Applause.)

And that process — that process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions –- that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires.

He was inspiring and powerfully consoling, just what we, as a nation, needed. If you didn't see it, take the time to do so here
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:40 PM | Permalink

November 27, 2010

The Dying Banker

A Dying Banker's Last Financial Instructions

when Mr. Murray, a former bond salesman for Goldman Sachs who rose to the managing director level at both Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse First Boston, decided to cease all treatment five months ago for his glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, his first impulse was not to mourn what he couldn’t do anymore or to buy an island or to move to Paris. Instead, he hunkered down in his tiny home office here and channeled whatever remaining energy he could muster into a slim paperback. It’s called “The Investment Answer,” and he wrote it with his friend and financial adviser Daniel Goldie to explain investing in a handful of simple steps.


So when his death sentence arrived, Mr. Murray knew he had to work quickly and resolved to get the word out to as many everyday investors as he could.

“This is one of the true benefits of having a brain tumor,” Mr. Murray said, laughing. “Everyone wants to hear what you have to say.”

About his former employer Goldman Sachs he says
“Our word was our bond, and good ethics was good business,” he said of his Wall Street career. “That got replaced by liar loans and ‘I hope I’m gone by the time this thing blows up.’ ”


But he plays along with the dying banker angle, willing to do just about anything to make sure that his message is not forgotten, even if he fades from memory himself.

“This book has increased the quality of his life,” Mr. Davis said. “And it’s given him the knowledge and understanding that if, in fact, the end is near, that the end is not the end.

"The Investment Answer" (Daniel C. Goldie, Gordon S. Murray)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

November 11, 2010

Courage and Veterans' Day

We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, the Enemy permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame. ..

And in fact, in the last war, thousands of humans, by discovering their own cowardice, discovered the whole moral world for the first time. In peace we can make many of them ignore good and evil entirely; in danger, the issue is forced upon them in a guise to which even we cannot blind them.

C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters via American Catholic.

We honor courage which is why this is the ....

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

Old Soldiers

Buddy Madden has played taps on Veterans' Day since he was 6 years old, playing at more than 3500 military funerals for 86 years.

"We're all brothers of the service.  We're all family.  We all served in uniform.  We're all, we're all together.  We're all one."

Haunting Notes for Veterans' Day

For all who served, my thanks,  our thanks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:45 AM | Permalink

September 14, 2010

The immediate aftermath of 9/11

I was quite effected on the 9th anniversary of 9/11 in particular by this article by Vincent Druding, Ground Zero: A Journal, originally published in the December 2001 edition of First Things which captures better than anything else I've read the aftermath of the first few days and  the self-organizing community of hundreds of people from across the country hard at work to recover bodies.

When the President finally grabbed a bullhorn and began to speak, it was hard to hear him at first. When someone in the crowd shouted, “We can’t hear you!” the president proclaimed loudly, “But I can hear you! And the rest of the country hears you! And soon, the people who did this . . . are going to hear from all of us!” At that moment, a shot of electricity surged through the crowd. Cheers erupted and echoed off the surrounding buildings, each draped with a tattered American flag. “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” It went on and on.

Then—at the corner of West and Vesey streets in New York City, on the edge of a mass grave, at the feet of the commander-in-chief of the world’s mightiest nation—I was overwhelmed with an unexpected sense of fraternity and love of country. Not fifty feet away lay the remains of five thousand innocent people, and here, at their side, a band of their brothers stood before their leader, united in an unconditional love of justice. I really do think that is what it was.

One night at 2 a.m. I was on my way through the rain to pick up supplies in the AMEX building, which, among other things, was being used as a transfer station for the bodies and parts of bodies we had recovered from the site. From there, they were packed onto trucks to be taken to the morgue at Bellevue Hospital. As I entered the atrium of the building I saw scores of workers holding their hard hats over their chests. Fifty yards away a dozen firefighters proceeded slowly in my direction carrying a body bag. I removed my hard hat and stepped to the side. As they approached, I could read their red, swollen eyes. Their uniforms were dark with mud and soot. Raindrops dripped from everyone’s gear. A priest wearing a raincoat, a hard hat, goggles, a respirator, and a headlamp came forward with a book and oils. The men carrying their fallen friend cried quietly as the priest rolled back the bag and anointed the body, administering Last Rites. In the atrium, heads bowed and no one moved. I don’t remember how long we stood there, but time seemed to stop as profane space became as sacred as a shrine. Eventually, the priest stepped away, and the firemen walked slowly forward, out the doors and into the truck waiting outside. Without a word, we went back out into the dark rain to work.

Also, Victor Davis Hanson, What Made Them Do Their Duty?, from the Autumn 2001 edition of City Journal who reminds us that 30,000 were saved because of the bravery of the firefighters.

So many of them disappeared—at least 388 firefighters—because in a heartbeat they chose to race into the flames and smoke rather than to hesitate and accept the obvious: that the towers were already death traps. In the tradition of all great American armies in battle, officers—47 lieutenants, 20 captains, and 21 chiefs—died alongside the rank and file, heroic death requiring no prerequisite of class or color. Indeed, the magnitude of the terrorist-inflicted disaster rivaled that of a fierce battle, where the enemy overruns and annihilates an entire military unit—paramedics, a fire marshal, even the fire department's chaplain were engulfed. Remarkably, moments after the buildings collapsed, there were even more rescue workers on the scene than before. It is human to flee from a place of death; the firemen and the police were almost inhuman in mounting so quickly the rubble that buried their brethren.

As terrible as their loss was, however, we must never forget how successful the rescuers actually were. Nearly 30,000 people escaped before the towers fell, in large part because the omnipresent cops and firefighters made sure that their own sense of calm and order guided the evacuation. Some of the saved made it out just seconds before thousands of tons buried their saviors on stairs and in hallways.
The existence of these virtuous men and women, however, also owes much to the universal genius of American—Western—civilization. We are seeing in this tragedy and in these firemen and police, alive and dead, the flesh and bones of our entire culture laid bare: what it means to be both American and Western at the moment of our peril and need.
The rescuers are also free men and women, exhibiting all the associational skills that have made civil society so vibrant in Western history. The rescue workers do not first look to central government authority before plunging into their daily toil. Ingenuity, improvisation, and spontaneity are everywhere—the wonderful fruits of a free society. In addition, the police who ring the site owe allegiance to civilians and elected officials, not self-proclaimed authorities who hang and hector as they see fit
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink

July 10, 2010

Mortgage deadbeats too rich to live

Turns out  the rich are bigger deadbeats then the poor when it comes to walking away from their mortgage debts.    This is what happens when selfishness -  a bad investment for them  - trumps the moral obligation to pay their debts, a moral obligation owed not only to their creditors, but to the community at large, what we used to call, the civic good and it used to matter to most. 

Biggest Defaulters on Mortgages Are the Rich

Whether it is their residence, a second home or a house bought as an investment, the rich have stopped paying the mortgage at a rate that greatly exceeds the rest of the population.

More than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars are seriously delinquent, according to data compiled for The New York Times by the real estate analytics firm CoreLogic
“The rich are different: they are more ruthless,” said Sam Khater, CoreLogic’s senior economist.
The CoreLogic data suggest that the rich do not seem to have concerns about the civic good uppermost in their mind, especially when it comes to investment and second homes. Nor do they appear to be particularly worried about being sued by their lender or frozen out of future loans by Fannie Mae, possible consequences of default.

They do have their own set of problems though.  With the estate tax set to come back in January, they may be "Too Rich to Live"

It has come to this: Congress, quite by accident, is incentivizing death.
Not only will the top rate jump to 55%, but the exemption will shrink from $3.5 million per individual in 2009 to just $1 million in 2011, potentially affecting eight times as many taxpayers.

The math is ugly: On a $5 million estate, the tax consequence of dying a minute after midnight on Jan. 1, 2011 rather than two minutes earlier could be more than $2 million; on a $15 million estate, the difference could be about $8 million.
Advisers say the estate-tax dilemma is especially awkward for heirs. "At least in December 2009, people wanted to keep their relatives alive," says Ronald Aucutt, an estate-tax attorney with McGuire Woods in the Washington area. Now he and others are worried that
heirs may be tempted to pull plugs on Dec. 31. Economists might call the taking of a life to reap a tax advantage a "perverse incentive." District attorneys might call it homicide.
In New York the lapsing tax spawned a major family conflict, according to one attorney. As a wealthy patriarch lay dying at the end of the year, it became clear that under the terms of the will his children would receive more if he died in 2010, while his wife (not the children's mother) stood to benefit if he died in 2009. The wife then filed a "do not resuscitate" order and the children challenged it. The patriarch lived a few days into 2010, but his estate, like Mrs. Laub's, remains unsettled given the legislative uncertainty.

Mr. Aucutt, who has practiced estate-tax law for 35 years, expects to see "truly gruesome" cases toward the end of the year, given the huge difference between 2010 and 2011 rates

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 PM | Permalink

Tomatoes in the news

In Australia, a bizarre poisoning of 7 million vegetable plants at a seeding nursery.  Tomato shortage could double prices.

Police investigations found that a herbicide was introduced in late June into the irrigation system of the Supa Seedlings nursery, which sells its seedlings to farmers for planting. Workers noticed the wilting and dying plants between June 20 and June 25.

Townsville Police Acting Inspector Dave Miles said police were considering a range of motives.

"It could be a grudge, it could be competition based, it could be the result of time-established market share, or it could be an act of vandalism," Miles told reporters Wednesday.

He said 12 detectives were working on the case and would investigate possible links with three previous poisonings since 2002

While in India, six workers drown in vat of tomato sauce.

Investigators say the woman, named as Usha, was scooping up fermented vegetables from the vat when she slipped off her ladder and plunged into the raw material used to make the sauce.
As five colleagues dived in to grab her they were all overcome by fumes given off from fermenting vegetables and drowned, the newspaper said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:48 PM | Permalink

June 28, 2010

Treated to Death

Americans are treated, and overtreated, to death

The doctors finally let Rosaria Vandenberg go home.

For the first time in months, she was able to touch her 2-year-old daughter who had been afraid of the tubes and machines in the hospital. The little girl climbed up onto her mother's bed, surrounded by family photos, toys and the comfort of home. They shared one last tender moment together before Vandenberg slipped back into unconsciousness.
Vandenberg, 32, died the next day.

That precious time at home could have come sooner if the family had known how to talk about alternatives to aggressive treatment, said Vandenberg's sister-in-law, Alexandra Drane.

Instead, Vandenberg, a pharmacist in Franklin, Mass., had endured two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation for an incurable brain tumor before she died in July 2004.

"We would have had a very different discussion about that second surgery and chemotherapy. We might have just taken her home and stuck her in a beautiful chair outside under the sun and let her gorgeous little daughter play around her — not just torture her" in the hospital, Drane said.

Americans increasingly are treated to death, spending more time in hospitals in their final days, trying last-ditch treatments that often buy only weeks of time, and racking up bills that have made medical care a leading cause of bankruptcies.

More than 80 percent of people who die in the United States have a long, progressive illness such as cancer, heart failure or Alzheimer's disease.

More than 80 percent of such patients say they want to avoid hospitalization and intensive care when they are dying, according to the Dartmouth Atlas Project, which tracks health care trends.

Yet the numbers show that's not what is happening:

_The average time spent in hospice and palliative care, which stresses comfort and quality of life once an illness is incurable, is falling because people are starting it too late. In 2008, one-third of people who received hospice care had it for a week or less, says the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

I learned from my mother the immense gift of not letting your last weeks be torture, A Beautiful Death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:24 PM | Permalink

June 2, 2010

57% of children who lost a parent in childhood would trade a year of their lives for a day with their parents

Too little attention is paid to the psychological and emotional toll on  children who lose one or both of their parents at a young age, so kudos to the Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation who are helping terminal parents and their children build memories on a last vacation.

Families With a Missing Piece by Jeffrey Zaslow
A New Look at How a Parent's Early Death Can Reverberate Decades Later

When polled, 57% of adults who lost parents during childhood shared Mr. Herman's yearnings, saying they, too, would trade a year of their lives. Their responses, part of a wide-ranging new survey, indicate that bereavement rooted in childhood often leaves emotional scars for decades, and that our society doesn't fully understand the ramifications—or offer appropriate resources. The complete survey of more than 1,000 respondents, set for release later this month, was funded by the New York Life Foundation on behalf of Comfort Zone Camp, a nonprofit provider of childhood bereavement camps.

Among the findings: 73% believe their lives would be "much better" if their parents hadn't died young; 66% said that after their loss "they felt they weren't a kid anymore."
In the 2009 memoir "The Kids Are All Right," four siblings from Bedford, N.Y., orphaned in the 1980s, described the risks in harrowing detail. They wrote of
"growing up as lost souls," and turning to drugs and other troubling behaviors as coping mechanisms.

It's a common story. Gary Jahnke, 31, of Hastings, Minn., was 13 when his mother died of cancer. "I gave up on my good grades and dropped out of high school," he says. "I didn't do anything except drink, do drugs and be depressed. I was confused and angry, and adults didn't know how to help me. I had a good relationship with my dad, but he was also grieving."
Donica Salley, a 50-year-old cosmetics sales director in Richmond, Va., understands well the ramifications of losing a parent. When she was 13, her 44-year-old father drowned while on vacation in the Bahamas. "That was the onset of my depression," she says. "My mom tried to fill the void and the hurt by buying me things."

Two years ago, Ms. Salley's husband died after falling off the roof of their house while cleaning the gutters. He was also 44. Their 17-year-old son has since attended a Comfort Zone camp. "It's a safe haven for him," Ms. Salley says. "There's something about being with people who've been through it. When my father died, I didn't know anyone who'd lost a parent. I was alone."
Some activists say it's vital to start helping young people even before their parents die. To that end, the Georgia-based Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation provides free vacations to families in which one parent is terminally ill. The organization was founded by Jon and Jill Albert, shortly before Jill's 2006 death to cancer at age 45. Their children were then 11 and 13.

"When Jill passed away, people who lost parents when they were young told me it would be a 30-year impact for the kids," says Mr. Albert, 48. His organization, with the help of corporate sponsors, has sent 300 families on vacations.

"These trips allow families to build memories, and to take a lot of pictures and videos together," says Mr. Albert.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:51 PM | Permalink

May 31, 2010

The Solemn Trust

Having watched both Band of Brothers and the Pacific this spring, I've come to a far deeper realization of just how great the sacrifice of so many men has been.    We can never remember or thank them enough.

Here in Boston, the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund and Gold Star families  planted 20,000 flags on Boston Common in the show of the Sailors and Soldiers memorial to commemorate the 20,000 Massachusetts men who have died in American wars since WWI.

Uncommon valor on the Common.

-Flags Boston Common

Each represents someone who once breathed and lived on this earth,” says Melida Arrendondo of Roslindale, who lost her stepson Alexander, a 20-year-old Marine, in Iraq. “The most important thing for every Gold Star family, no matter where you are in politics or your background or rich or poor, you want your loved one remembered.”


BlackFive on The Solemn Trust

"The solemn trust."  "Ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us."

The quote above is from the order establishing a day in May to gather and present flowers upon the graves of the Fallen.  In other words, it is our duty to remember those who gave all on Memorial Day.  The General Order continues:

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.
Honor them by ensuring that our future was worth the sacrifice of their tomorrows.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 AM | Permalink

May 4, 2010

It's Electron Boy

The best story you'll read all day.

 Superhero For Day

Erik Martin, who is living with liver cancer, has always wanted to be a superhero. On Thursday, the regional chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted him that wish with an elaborate event that involved hundreds of volunteers in Bellevue and Seattle.

Local boy with cancer turns into a superhero for a day

Like any good superhero, Electron Boy kept his innermost thoughts to himself. But he did have one important thing to say:

"This is the best day of my life."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:33 AM | Permalink

April 28, 2010

Council of Dads

When Bruce Feller was told he had a rare and serious form of bone cancer, he immediately worried about his twin daughters.  How would they live without him?  How best to pass on his life lessons to his daughters at their different stages of life?

“Would they wonder who I was? Would they wonder what I thought? Would they lack for my approval, my discipline, my voice?”

Then he realized how he could give that to them even if he wasn’t there. He appointed a
Council of Dads, men from different stages of his life who would try to fill his role. He reached out to these men in a letter that spelled out his wishes.

“I believe my daughters will have plenty of opportunities in their lives,” he wrote. “They’ll have loving families. They’ll have welcoming homes. They’ll have each other. But they may not have their dad. Will you be their dad?”
Feiler set some early rules for his council: no family, only friends. No women, only men. He wanted council members to represent different elements of his personality. He wanted a dad to take his girls to a sporting event, a dad to buy them a ridiculous future gadget we can’t even fathom, a dad who would sit through the dance recitals.

He found six men to fill his many roles: a nature-loving dad, a travel dad, camp counselor dad. He also wanted them to come from different times his life: the childhood pal, the book agent, the college friend. They all accepted the challenge, sometimes poignantly. Feiler writes that one council member, who lost his own father when he was a child, said, “The most important thing a parent can do, I believe, is water a child profusely with love. I would water your children with love.”

Another told Feiler that by creating a council, he had ensured that his voice would never be forgotten because his girls would be surrounded “with voices that will, in the totality of symphony, create sounds of their father.”


Reading more about Bruce at his website, Bruce says the Council of Dads turns out to be less about parenting and more about friendship and closing the divide between close friends and children.

Now he wants to take his concept worldwide.  He's encouraging others to set up their own councils via his website
Council of Dads

He has partnered with the National Fatherhood Initiative and is working to put how-to pamphlets on 1,500 military bases for members of the armed forces.

“It resonates with them because they spend time away from their children and it’s a professional hazard that they might die,” he said.

USA Weekend interviews the six friends to learn what they have to share. It takes a village of dads.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:45 AM | Permalink

April 6, 2010

"Am I writing them off too soon?"

She was a palliative care doctor who came to regret some of the advice she gave her patients

Helping Patients Face Death, She Fought to Live

She said she thought of all the times that her own patients had argued that she was underestimating their capacity to get better. “Then am I writing them off too soon?” she mused. “When they do say, ‘Well, you don’t know me. I can, blah-blah-blah,’ that’s what I said, too, in my mind. ‘You don’t know me.’ You don’t know my husband, for sure.”

She died without ever learning the extent of her disease. Her husband said that she had tumors in both lungs, her liver, the lining of her small intestines, her colon and her bones.

Dr. Lim said doctors at Massachusetts General might have been right in offering palliative care a year earlier. “She passed away in unfortunately quite a painful scenario,” she said. “Many people would not have chosen that route.”

Yet she respected Dr. Pardi’s choice and was not ready to write off her stubbornness as denial. “She was very much in control of the situation,” Dr. Lim said.

Dr. Lim attempted, in her own mind, to reconcile Desiree Pardi the palliative care doctor who believed in a peaceful death, with Desiree Pardi the patient who wanted to keep fighting.

Dr. Lim said she believed that “somewhere deep inside, she knew this was not fixable.” But Dr. Pardi “knew exactly how much she was willing to endure,” Dr. Lim added. “And she was able to endure a lot.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

March 19, 2010

Check under the mattress for bedbugs and bodies

Missing mother found under hotel mattress in Memphis.  After two months! 

Even though the room had been cleaned 'numerous times' after being rented five times to unsuspecting guests of the Budget Inn.

Joseph Scott, Memphis police's deputy chief of investigative services, said. "It's stranger than fiction."

If that doesn't make your skin crawl, just wait until you read 6 Pieces of Advice for Hotel Guests from an Ex Housekeeper.

Tip: check under the mattress for bodies and bedbugs and never use the coffee maker in the room.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:03 AM | Permalink

February 27, 2010

"Dark waters are easy to drown in."

For those who may be contemplating suicide.  A prayer from the living world

You may be afraid to face the years ahead. You’re not the only one, and if you extinguish the light of your faith and wisdom, you consign others to darkness. You might see death by your own hand as the end of unbearable pain… but I ask you to think about Walter Koenig, facing a wall of cameras with quiet grace in the hours after finding his son’s body, and understand that it’s only the beginning of agony.

You might have decided your fellow men are rotten to the core, and you’re weary of their company. Listen to the music of Mozart, or look upon the work of Michelangelo, and consider the argument of those who profoundly disagree. Maybe part of your problem is that you’ve been listening to the wrong music, or looking at the wrong pictures.
Dark waters are easy to drown in. The judgment of the human race will not lack witnesses for the defense, and they will make their case to you, if you give them a chance.

Now, take the last few steps back to your home, and set aside one sorrow or terror with every footfall, until your mind is clear. If you’re thinking of incinerating the remaining years of your life, surely you can spare a few minutes for quiet reflection, and hear this prayer from the living world:

Please don’t leave us. We need you.

It is a quiet prayer, spoken in a soft voice, but it’s never too late to listen.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 PM | Permalink

February 26, 2010

The Grateful Dead in the "fields of less then nothing"

Caring for orphans, ransoming hostages, burying the dead - it's all in a day's work for Father Rick Frechette

The best - and the most horrifying -article I've read this  year, Love Among the Ruins by Matt Labash

Though it’s taking me a while to reach the land of newly minted loss (in 40 seconds’ time, at least 230,000 Haitians were killed on January 12, one in every 50), I’ve come to Hartford to collect a man who, no matter where he goes, can’t seem to escape the dead. Father Rick, as most call him, has lived in Haiti for 22 years. He is founder and director of the Haitian branch of the international children’s organization Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (“Our Little Brothers and Sisters”).

In the Tabarre section of Port-au-Prince, Frechette runs St. Damien Hospital, Haiti’s only free pediatric hospital. He also oversees an orphanage and the sprawling St. Luke missions, a boots-on-the-ground enterprise responsible for everything from its 18 simple street-schools in a country where fewer than 75 percent of children attend school, to running water and food to the city’s most ferocious slums.

Additionally, every Thursday—since long before the earthquake—Frechette and a band of Haitian volunteers trek to the city morgue and claim the nameless dead, who lie naked in bloated heaps on a blood-streaked concrete floor. “You’ve heard of Tuesdays with Morrie,” Frechette smiles, “this is Thursdays with the Krokmo” (a Creole pejorative term for undertaker. It translates as the “death hook,” meaning the show is over). The place is jammed and the dead often piled seven or eight high. The workers there are so inured to the stench and spectacle, that Frechette has seen a morgue attendant slaloming on roller blades around the bodies and workers eating their lunch while sitting on stacks of cadavers as though on breaktime in the office kitchenette.

In Haiti, even before the quake, dead bodies were nothing more than background music—as commonplace as they are unnoticed. If they didn’t end up in the stark death-cave that is the general hospital morgue, they were burned in the streets on the spot where they died (a pragmatic hygiene concern). The decency and sentimentality that a better-developed society affords are luxuries here. Father Rick and his men gather the bodies themselves, packing them into makeshift coffins fashioned from supermarket cardboard boxes. They then truck them outside the city, up a sun-bleached highway that runs alongside the Caribbean Sea, to the rolling wastelands of Titanyen, which translates from Creole as the “fields of less than nothing.” A New Orleans-style Haitian jazz-funeral band—all horns and drums—plays graveside. Father Rick, an irreverent sort, calls them “The Grateful Dead.” Then he and his men plant the cardboard coffins in large holes dug by their own gravediggers, endowing their cargo in death with a tiny modicum of the dignity that eluded them in life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 PM | Permalink

January 12, 2010

The Last Days

Why is it that we find it easier - and it's not an easy matter - to contemplate our deaths than to think we will ever become frail.

Overlooking the frail years

This kind of binary thinking — either I’m healthy and fine, or I’m outta here — and the reluctance to look at the frailty likely to occur in between seem to me quite common. Yet most elderly Americans – more than two-thirds of current 65-year-olds, according to a detailed 2005 projection by a team of health policy analysts — at some point will need assistance to cope with daily living, either paid help or unpaid, at home or in a facility.
You don’t have to be elderly to engage in binary thinking. “It’s the same phenomenon when you talk to smokers and very overweight people,” said Karl Pillemer, a Cornell University gerontologist. “They say, ‘I don’t care if I die young.’ But they’re not necessarily buying into early death. They’re buying into decades of very unpleasant chronic diseases.” By the same token, he noted, “lots of elderly people are not going to live happily and healthily into their 90s and then keel over.”
But this unwillingness to contemplate that possibility can have unhappy consequences, Dr. Gillick pointed out. It can lead fragile older people to undergo aggressive medical treatments they may later regret, for instance, especially when their physicians also engage in binary thinking, or at least binary explanations.

One thing is sure we'll be looking at a lot of New Gizmos, some of which debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show last week in Las Vegas.

“When you have a growing market segment, everybody wants a piece of the action,” said Majd Alwan, director of the Center for Aging Services Technologies, itself just six years old.

That is before we become targets of teminal sedation,
a treatment that is already widely used, even as it vexes families and a profession whose paramount rule is to do no harm.

These are morally troubling grey areas we will likely face with our families and our doctors.

Discussions between doctors and dying patients’ families can be spare, even cryptic. In half a dozen end-of-life consultations attended by a reporter over the last year, even the most forthright doctors and nurses did little more than hint at what the drugs could do. Afterward, some families said they were surprised their loved ones died so quickly, and wondered if the drugs had played a role.
The medical profession still treats its role as an art as much as a science, relying on philosophical principles like the rule of double effect. Under this rule, attributed to the 13th century Roman Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas, even if there is a foreseeable bad outcome, like death, it is acceptable if it is unintended and outweighed by an intentional good outcome — the relief of unyielding suffering before death. The principle has been applied to ethical dilemmas in realms from medicine to war, and it is one of the few universal standards on how end-of-life sedation should be carried out.

The reality is when Facing End-of-Life Talks, Doctors Choose to Wait.

When is the right time — if there is one — to bring up these painful issues with someone who is terminally ill?

Guidelines for doctors say the discussion should begin when a patient has a year or less to live. That way, patients and their families can plan whether they want to do everything possible to stay alive, or to avoid respirators, resuscitation, additional chemotherapy and the web of tubes, needles, pumps and other machines that often accompany death in the hospital.

But many doctors, especially older ones and specialists, say they would postpone those conversations, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Cancer.
Dr. Nancy L. Keating, the first author of the study and an associate professor of medicine and health care policy at Harvard, said not much was known about how, when or even if doctors were having these difficult talks with dying patients. But she said that her research team suspected that communication was falling short, because studies have shown that even though most people want to die at home, most wind up dying in the hospital.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2009

Dutch turning against euthanasia

Euthanasia is not working that well in Holland. 

The Dutch turn against legalized mercy killing.

Legalised euthanasia has led to a severe decline in the quality of care for terminally-ill patients in Holland, it has been claimed.

Many ask to die 'out of fear' because of an absence of effective pain relief, according to a new book.

Even the architect of the controversial law has admitted she may have made a mistake in pushing it through because of its impact on services for the elderly.

Holland was the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia, in 2002.
Dr The, who has studied euthanasia for 15 years, said that palliative care was so inadequate in Holland that patients 'often ask for euthanasia out of fear' of dying in agony because care and pain relief is so poor.

This is barbaric.  There is no reason not to provide adequate palliative care to every dying patient.  Medicine has made great strides in palliative medicine and we can only hope for more.  After all,  Dying is the last great act of life and best to be pain-free and clear-minded.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

November 23, 2009


Patient trapped in a 23-year 'coma' was conscious all along

A car crash victim diagnosed as being in a coma for the past 23 years has been conscious the whole time.

Rom Houben was paralysed but had no way of letting doctors know that he could hear every word they were saying.

'I dreamed myself away,' said Mr Houben, now 46, who doctors thought was in a persistent vegatative state.

He added: 'I screamed, but there was nothing to hear.'
Mr Houben described the moment as 'my second birth'. Therapy has since allowed him to tap out messages on a computer screen.

Mr Houben said: 'All that time I just literally dreamed of a better life. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt.'

It was a high tech brain scan that revealed that Houben's brain was still functioning almost completely normally.

It's almost to imagine the extraordinary isolation of those aware but unable to communicate. 

They are The Undead.

On the Very Edge of Life and Death. 

There's More 'There' There.

The sensation surrounding the publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by the French editor Jean-Dominque Bauby was as much for the revelation of the existence of such a thing as  'locked-in syndrome' as for the courage and humanity of Jean Do, who wrote his memoir in his head and communicated sentence by sentence through the  blinking of his eyes.

Later, the artist Julian Schnabel made the quite extraordinary movie of the same name in 2007 which was nominated for four Academy awards. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:31 AM | Permalink

November 11, 2009

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

The Armistice between the Allies and Germany calling for the cessation of hostilities and ending WWI  took effect. 
Twenty million died.

 In Flanders' Fields

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 AM | Permalink

November 10, 2009

The Third Man

Near death, aided by ghostly companions

When Sevigny awakened, he could barely stand. His back was broken in two places, his knees were busted, and he had internal bleeding. He gave up hope of surviving and curled up in the snow to die. But then he felt an odd sensation. He felt someone behind him and heard a voice: "No, you can't give up. You have to live."

"It was right over my right shoulder," Sevigny said. "It was like if I would sneak up to you and put my nose a quarter of an inch from your neck. It was that kind of physical sensation."

What happened next was so profound that Sevigny, a scientist who disdains organized religion, says he couldn't talk about it for years afterward without crying. Sevigny still doesn't know who that voice belonged to, but another man does. He calls it "The Third Man."

Some people call them guardian angels.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 AM | Permalink

September 28, 2009

"I do not want to be bumped off"

If you are getting creeped out by the sudden surge of states decriminalizing assisted suicide, I'm with you.  That's why I salute Barbara Kay who, concerned over the bill pending in Quebec to decriminalize euthanasia, pens a memo to her children

I do not want to be bumped off. I can't state the case more unequivocally than that. I don't care if I am a "burden" to you (you were once to me, that's how life works); I don't care how long it takes me to die, and how inconvenient that is to the medical system; and I don't care how selfless an example other parents are setting in graciously exiting the world for their dependents' sake before nature intended.
M y deathbed physician should be familiar with a 2002 John Hopkins University study indicating that
although 45% of terminally ill cancer subjects voiced a wish to die (i.e., subjects meeting the standards of Bill C-384), the wish turned out to be transient in all but 8% of the cases. If all 45% had been euthanized, we wouldn't know that. So even if I say I want to die, take that as a cry for comfort, reassurance or pain relief, which it almost certainly will be.
Do not fall for any claptrap about what "your mother would have wanted." Read my lips: Your mother does not want to be made to feel it is her duty to die before nature decrees, so that others may be freed from care and responsibility, a subtle shift that inevitably follows upon an established "right."

Mind, your mother is no martyr. If it's hopeless, no heroic measures, please. Oh yes, and she wants to die as painlessly as possible. If this means raiding the entire arsenal of available analgesics and even sedatives whose side effect is to facilitate an easier death, so be it.

Intention is all. I want an unequivocal healer-patient dynamic with my doctor.
His or her intention should be to kill my pain, not me. Finally, my doctor should be well versed in palliative care techniques, improving all the time.

Parents in England might want to do the same. Oh, and parents in Oregon, Washington, Montana  New Hampshire,
you too.

While lawmakers call it assisted suicide for the terminally ill (aren't we all?), Wesley Smith calls it The Creeping Culture of Euthanasia

N.B.  The Hemlock Society  has rebranded itself Compassion and Choices.  This is the group who wrote the end-of-life planning tool, "Your Life, Your Choices" for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to hand out to veterans.  Jim Towey, the  lawyer who, after volunteering with Mother Teresa,  drafted Five Wishes about end-of-life decisions with over 13 million in circulation, called the VA guide  "fatally flawed" with the underlying message Your Life Is Not Worth Living

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:47 PM | Permalink

September 15, 2009

"Backdoor Euthanasia"

Report warns doctors snub families of the terminally ill amid growing use of 'death pathway'

More than a quarter of families are not told when life support is withdrawn from terminally-ill loved ones, a report has found.
Experts warn that growing use of a controversial 'death pathway' is seeing some patients killed off prematurely.

They say the system can lead to 'backdoor euthanasia' by encouraging doctors to deny fluids and drugs to those deemed to be in their final throes.

'Governments have got rid of respite care and geriatric wards, so we're left with a crisis. The Government has said let's develop a service to help people die at home - what they should be doing is helping them live. Only when death is unavoidable should you start withdrawing treatment.

'The problem is that there isn't enough discussion between doctors and patients and their relatives. Nobody is talking to them.'

The 'National Care of the Dying' audit also found that less than half of all terminally-ill patients and their relatives are offered religious or spiritual support.

And a quarter of doctors in hospitals are not properly trained in dealing with the dying

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 PM | Permalink

September 1, 2009

Skin to Skin

You may have seen this story, but it's so remarkable I just have to post it.

She thought she was saying a final goodbye to her premature infant Rachel who weighed only  20 oz and who was not breathing.

She said: "I didn't want her to die being cold. So I lifted her out of her blanket and put her against my skin to warm her up. Her feet were so cold.
"It was the only cuddle I was going to have with her, so I wanted to remember the moment." Then something remarkable happened. The warmth of her mother's skin kickstarted Rachael's heart into beating properly, which allowed her to take little breaths of her own.

Miss Isbister said: "We couldn't believe it - and neither could the doctors. She let out a tiny cry.

 Mom Kangaroo Save Baby

"The doctors came in and said there was still no hope - but I wasn't letting go of her. We had her blessed by the hospital chaplain, and waited for her to slip away.

"But she still hung on. And then amazingly the pink colour began to return to her cheeks.

"She literally was turning from grey to pink before our eyes, and she began to warm up too."

Four months later, Rachael was allowed home weighing 8lb - the same as a newborn baby - and she has a healthy appetite.

Mother's goodbye saves her baby

The skin to skin contact is called Kangaroo mother care and it's helped other premature babies survive.

Here's a site devoted to Kangaroo mother care

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:45 PM | Permalink

August 11, 2009

Undue influence at the end of life

People are legitimately worried about the end-of-life provisions in the health care bill.  While I am all for end-of-life planning with the necessary documents and I'm also against unnecessary medical treatments that can make the end of life a hell on earth, I believe these are private decisions by the person and the family involved.  When doctors are paid to initiate these conversations and have the ability to execute documents on the spot, I am very concerned that economic and political concerns will have too great an influence on a vulnerable population.

So is Charles Lane, a member of the editorial staff of the The Washington Post, who writes in  Undue Influence

About a third of Americans have living wills or advance-care directives expressing their wishes for end-of-life treatment. When seniors who don't have them arrive in a hospital terminally ill and incapacitated, families and medical workers wrestle with uncertainty -- while life-prolonging machinery runs, often at Medicare's expense. This has consequences for families and for the federal budget.

Enter Section 1233 of the health-care bill drafted in the Democratic-led House, which would pay doctors to give Medicare patients end-of-life counseling every five years -- or sooner if the patient gets a terminal diagnosi

Patients may refuse without penalty, but many will bow to white-coated authority. Once they're in the meeting, the bill does permit "formulation" of a plug-pulling order right then and there. So when Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) denies that Section 1233 would "place senior citizens in situations where they feel pressured to sign end-of-life directives that they would not otherwise sign," I don't think he's being realistic.

But Section 1233 goes beyond facilitating doctor input to preferring it. Indeed,
the measure would have an interested party -- the government -- recruit doctors to sell the elderly on living wills, hospice care and their associated providers, professions and organizations. You don't have to be a right-wing wacko to question that approach.

Mickey Kaus puts it more succinctly

Tip for Dems: If you don't want people to think that subsidized, voluntary end-of-of-life counseling sessions are the camel's nose of an attempt to cut costs by limiting end of life care, then don't put them in a bill the overarching, stated purpose of which is to cut health care costs! .

Meanwhile we learn more about Oregon health care from a newspaper in Britain than we do in our own press

The chilling truth about the city where they pay people to die

His body ravaged by cancer, lumberjack David Prueitt barely had the strength to raise the cup to his lips.

In it was a mix of apple sauce and dozens of crushed barbiturate pills, legally prescribed by the 42-year-old's doctor to end his life.

Within minutes, the drugs had started to take effect, the terminally-ill man slipping into unconsciousness as his wife sat by his side.

If all had gone to plan, David would have quickly and peacefully passed away, his breathing becoming more laboured until it eventually stopped altogether.

But it did not happen like that. Instead, after three days in a deep coma, David suddenly woke up. 'Honey?' he said to his wife. 'What the hell happened? Why am I not dead?'

For another 13 days, coherent but racked with pain, David survived before finally succumbing to the disease and dying naturally in his home near Portland, Oregon's most populous city.

In that time he would be transformed from just another death to be recorded under Oregon's policy of assisted suicide into a figurehead for opponents of the U.S. state's deeply controversial Death With Dignity Act.

'He took five times the amount of barbiturates that should kill somebody and he still didn't die,' his older brother Steve told the Daily Mail this week.

'If anything, he should have been brain-dead. But he told us that, while unconscious, he had found himself before God and been told: "Not this way, David." God chose David as his spokesman, absolutely.'

He adds: 'It definitely made it very clear to me that we are not supposed to determine our own deaths.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

August 6, 2009

"Negative Economic Unit"

 Euthanasia -Cashoforclunkers

graphic from American Digest

When Barbara’s lung cancer reappeared during the spring of 2008 her oncologist recommended aggressive treatment with Tarceva, a new chemotherapy. However, Oregon’s state run health plan denied the potentially life altering drug because they did not feel it was "cost-effective." Instead, the State plan offered to pay for either hospice care or physician-assisted suicide.
The answer is simple. Oregon state officials controlled the process of healthcare decision-making—not Barbara and her physician. Chemotherapy would cost the state $4,000 every month she remained alive; the drugs for physician-assisted suicide held a one-time expense of less than $100. Barbara’s treatment plan boiled down to accounting. To cover chemotherapy state policy demanded a five percent patient survival rate at five years. As a new drug, Tarceva did not meet this dispassionate criterion. To Oregon, Barbara was no longer a patient; she had become a "negative economic unit."

Physicians for Reform want you to know What This Means for You

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:12 PM | Permalink

August 1, 2009

"What goads one man to suicide goads another to renewed life"

After reading David Warren's latest column, I had to learn more about Tomas Masaryk the founder and first president of Czechoslovakia, a statesman, philosopher and sociologist, who had a most remarkable and exemplary life.

Karl Popper, The Prague Lecture 1994

60 years ago, there lived in the Hradcany Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the great founder of the Republic of Czechoslovakia, and its Liberator President. I deeply admire Masaryk. He was one of the most important pioneers of what I have called, one or two years after Masaryk's death, the Open Society. He was a pioneer of an open society, both in theory and in practice; indeed, the greatest of its pioneers between Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.
Never was a new state – after all, the result of a revolution – so peaceful and so successful, and so much the creative achievement of one man. And all this was not due to the absence of great difficulties; it was the result of Masaryk, s philosophy, his wisdom and his personality in which personal courage, and truthfulness, and openness, played so conspicuous a role.

According to Wikipedia, his doctoral essay at the University of Vienna, was on the phenomenon of suicide which became a book, Suicide and the Meaning of Civilization and that is what David Warren references in The killing fields.

suicide is the ultimate subjective act, and thus, in effect, the final act of narcissism, was among the striking observations of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk.
It was Masaryk's thesis that
suicide rates, already at historical highs, and climbing, in the more industrially advanced parts of Europe by the 1880s, would continue to rise through the decades ahead, with decreasing religiosity and increasing modernization.
This was not so much a question of religious denomination, as of religious practice. There would be a rough, inverse correlation between church attendance and the suicide rate. Later statistical studies have borne this out, and Masaryk thus stands among the few sociologists whose work retains any empirical value.

Masaryk grasped
the difference between depression and hopelessness, which we like to slur over today. Depression only makes one accident-prone; the real self-killer is the absence of hope for the future. This is a distinction that has been vindicated in psychiatric studies of the dying; it points directly to a dimension of human life that is irreducibly moral and religious.
People kill themselves for all sorts of stated reasons, but
what goads one man to suicide goads another to renewed life, and the only sound predictor is religious formation.

That's an astounding conclusion, "what goads one man to suicide goads another to renewed life"  and the only sound predictor is religious formation.  Without formation in and practice of  a religion, one has no tools to battle despair, meaninglessness and hopelessness. 

Warren himself concludes in a column whose main focus is euthanasia, the euphemism for murder.

The many symptoms of civilizational decay that lay partly concealed beneath the surface of society only recently came into full view, in the open pornography, the open nihilism, the despairing flippancy, visible throughout our contemporary public life. But the pond was long draining, and it is only now we see fish flopping in the mud.

Euthanasia is the final "life issue," the clincher for what the last pope called "the culture of death." Even when legalizing abortion, we agreed only to the slaughter of human beings we could not see. It was still possible to look away, to pretend we were not killing "real people," only "potential people." But when we embrace so-called "mercy killing," we embrace slaughter not only for the sick and old, but ultimately, the "option" of easy suicide for ourselves. It will be hard to go lower.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:38 PM | Permalink

March 18, 2009

Amortality or a well-lived life

Amortality: Time magazine calls it number 5 on 10 ideas changing the world right now. 

Catherine Mayer coined the term which she described thusly

It's about more than just the ripple effect of baby boomers' resisting the onset of age. Amortality is a stranger, stronger alchemy, created by the intersection of that trend with a massive increase in life expectancy and a deep decline in the influence of organized religion — all viewed through the blue haze of Viagra.
The defining characteristic of amortality is to live in the same way, at the same pitch, doing and consuming much the same things, from late teens right up until death.
They prop up the tottering music industry, are lifelong consumers of gadgets and gizmos, keep gyms busy and colorists in demand. From their youth, when they behave as badly as adults, to their dotage, when they behave as badly as youngsters, amortals hate to be pigeonholed by age. They're a highly sexed bunch. Viagra and its cousins help give elderly amortals a pleasurable alternative to aqua aerobics while blotting out those pesky intimations of mortality.Amortals don't just dread extinction. They deny it.

I think it was Alice Longworth Roosevelt who said, "The secret of eternal youth is arrested development."

There's a whole lot of talk by Glenn Reynolds, Ray Kurzweil, and Aubrey De Grey at about speeding up research to increase life spans indefinitely.  I look to Dr. Bob for more meaningful thoughts in A Life Not Long who recalls the death of a friend who died too young.

These questions, in some way, cut to the very heart of what it means to be human. Is our humanity enriched simply by living longer? Does longer life automatically imply more happiness–or are we simply adding years of pain, disability, unhappiness, burden? The breathlessness with which authors often speak of greater longevity, or the cure or solution to these intractable health problems, seems to imply a naive optimism, both from the standpoint of likely outcomes, and from the assumption that a vastly longer life will be a vastly better life. Ignored in such rosy projections are key elements of the human condition — those of moral fiber and spiritual health, those of character and spirit. For we who live longer in such an idyllic world may not live better: we may indeed live far worse. Should we somehow master these illnesses which cripple us in our old age, and thereby live beyond our years, will we then encounter new, even more frightening illnesses and disabilities? And what of the spirit? Will a man who lives longer thereby have a longer opportunity to do good, or rather to do evil? Will longevity increase our wisdom, or augment our depravity? Will we, like Dorian Gray, awake to find our ageless beauty but a shell for our monstrous souls?

In Matt’s short life he brought more good into the world, touched more people, changed more lives, than I could ever hope to do were I to live a century more. It boils down to purpose: mere years are no substitute for a life lived with passion, striving for some goal greater than self, with transcendent purpose multiplying and compounding each waking moment. This is a life well-lived, whether long or short, whether weakened or well.

Like all, I trust, I hope to live life long, and seek a journey lived in good health and sound mind. But even more — far more indeed — do I desire that those days yet remaining — be they long or short — be rich in purpose, wise in time spent, and graced by love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 PM | Permalink

March 9, 2009

Forgetting a child in a car

The bewildering lapses of memory in otherwise good parents who think such a thing could never happen to them.

Forgetting a child in the back seat of a hot, parked car is a horrifying, inexcusable mistake. But is it a crime? asks Gene Weingarten in Fatal Distraction

"Death by hyperthermia" is the official designation. When it happens to young children, the facts are often the same: An otherwise loving and attentive parent one day gets busy, or distracted, or upset, or confused by a change in his or her daily routine, and just... forgets a child is in the car. It happens that way somewhere in the United States 15 to 25 times a year, parceled out through the spring, summer and early fall. The season is almost upon us.

Two decades ago, this was relatively rare. But in the early 1990s, car-safety experts declared that passenger-side front airbags could kill children, and they recommended that child seats be moved to the back of the car; then, for even more safety for the very young, that the baby seats be pivoted to face the rear. If few foresaw the tragic consequence of the lessened visibility of the child . . . well, who can blame them? What kind of person forgets a baby?

The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.
These are heartbreaking stories made even more so by how the parents were demonized.

One clinical psychologist said

Humans have a fundamental need to create and maintain a narrative for their lives in which the universe is not implacable and heartless, that terrible things do not happen at random, and that catastrophe can be avoided if you are vigilant and responsible.

In hyperthermia cases, he believes, the parents are demonized for much the same reasons. "We are vulnerable, but we don't want to be reminded of that. We want to believe that the world is understandable and controllable and unthreatening, that if we follow the rules, we'll be okay. So, when this kind of thing happens to other people, we need to put them in a different category from us. We don't want to resemble them, and the fact that we might is too terrifying to deal with. So, they have to be monsters."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:28 PM | Permalink

February 9, 2009

The Undead

40% of coma patients in a 'vegetative state' may be misdiagnosed.

Ttrapped inside their own bodies, apparently switched off to the world, but still alive: they are the undead. 

Adrian Owen’s first experiment on Kate involved presenting her with photographs of her mother and father, followed by fuzzy, meaningless pictures, while her brain was being scanned. “We found,” he says, “that areas of Kate’s brain burst into activity when pics of her family were shown that accorded perfectly with the brain locations of healthy volunteers doing the same task.”

This did not necessarily mean that she was fully conscious. It has been established by David Menon’s research that an anaesthetised patient’s brain can respond to certain stimuli without being actually aware. But Owen’s first experiment revealed that Kate’s brain was not entirely devastated: there were islands of activation. In fact, Kate has no memory now of seeing the pictures. And as she returned to consciousness, she remembers people speaking without understanding what they were saying. The first words she understood as meaningful words, and not just noise, were spoken by her mother. Kate remained in hospital for a further six months, returning gradually to responsiveness in fits and starts. The scan had given her parents and the medical staff confidence that her brain might begin to heal itself slowly with systematic stimuli. They were right.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

January 20, 2009

Surviving a Plane Crash with 'Deliberate Calm"

One in ninety million.  That's your odds of dying in a plane crash.  Even if you are in a plane crash, your chance of survival is 95.7%.

Yet many people believe "if this plane goes down, we're all dead and there's nothing we can do about it."

Why do people perceive the danger to be so great? Barnett studied the front page of The New York Times and found the answer. Page-one coverage of airplane accidents was sixty times greater than reporting on HIV/AIDs; fifteen hundred times greater than auto hazards; and six thousand times greater than cancer, the second leading killer in America after heart disease.

Ben Sherwood explains in The Great Plane Crash Myth.

One dangerous consequence of the Myth of Hopelessness is that when people believe there’s nothing they can do to save themselves, they put themselves in even greater peril.

The crew of the US Airways Flight 1549 behaved quite differently

'Deliberate calm' guided crew

In recent years, neuroscientists have been able to see what happens inside the brain when people, like Sullenberger, are forced to make decisions under pressure. Though the typical assumption is that some people don't feel fear -- that they are somehow less scared than the rest of us -- that assumption turns out to be false. The fear circuits in the brain, such as the amygdala, generate their response automatically; it's almost certain that everyone on board Flight 1549 was terrified.

What, then, allows people like Sullenberger to make effective decisions in harrowing circumstances? How do they keep their fear from turning into panic? Scientists have found that the crucial variable is the ability to balance visceral emotions against a more rational and deliberate thought process, which is centered in the prefrontal cortex. This balancing act is known as metacognition -- a sort of thinking about thinking.

Pilots have a different name for this skill: They call it "deliberate calm," because staying calm under fraught circumstances requires both conscious effort and regular practice.

The important lesson of US Airways Flight 1549, however, is that no matter how difficult or unprecedented the problem, we have the ability to look past our primal emotions and carefully think about how we need to think. Metacognition allows a person to remain calm when every bone in his body is telling him to panic. It

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 AM | Permalink

December 14, 2008

In Holland, "people carry cards that read, "Please don't kill me."

Why the 'right to die" is  fashionable nonsense.

This is why in the Netherlands, the supposedly enlightened pioneer of euthanasia, more than a quarter of “physician-assisted” deaths occur without any request from the patient-victim and people carry cards that read: “Please don’t kill me.” Some persist in calling this “dignity in dying”, but the Dutch health ministry recently admitted that a third of “physician-assisted deaths” had “complications”, such as delays in the poison taking effect, vomiting and even patients waking up afterwards. Dignified, it is not.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence given to the House of Lords came from Dr Bert Keizer, who worked as a geriatrician in Amsterdam for a quarter of a century and carried out many “physician-assisted suicides”– the basis of his book Dancing with Mr D. Dr Keizer told our legislators: “It is useless to worry about the slippery slope.
Once a society has decided that euthanasia is allowed in certain cases, one is on it. Thus in Holland we have given up the condition that a patient must be in a terminal situation. Next, mental suffering was allowed [as a reason]. Then one’s future dementia was suggested as a reason for a request for death . . . I believe, on the grounds of the more than 1,000 deathbeds I attended, that euthanasia is a blessing in certain exceptional situations, yet I would rather die in a country where euthanasia is forbidden but where doctors do know how to look after patients in a humane manner.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:07 PM | Permalink

October 21, 2008

Increase in suicides by middle-aged women

What is driving middle-aged white women to kill themselves?

U.S. suicide rates appear to be on the rise, driven mostly by middle-aged white women, researchers reported on Tuesday.

They found a disturbing increase in suicides between 1999 and 2005 and said the pattern had changed in an unmistakable way -- although the reasons behind the change are not clear.

The overall suicide rate rose 0.7 percent during this time, but the rate for white men aged 40 to 64 rose 2.7 percent and for middle-aged women 3.9 percent, the team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found.
"The results underscore a change in the epidemiology of suicide, with middle-aged whites emerging as a new high-risk group," Baker said in a statement.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

September 29, 2008

"Dying is more homework that I was counting on"

One of the funniest writers around, P.J. O'Rourke faces an embarrassing, but curable, cancer.

I looked death in the face. All right, I didn't. I glimpsed him in a crowd.
I still cursed God, as we all do when we get bad news and pain. Not even the most faith-impaired among us shouts: "Damn quantum mechanics!" "Damn organic chemistry!" "Damn chaos and coincidence!"

But God, Sir, in Your manner of teaching us about life's consequential nature, isn't death a bit ... um ... extreme, pedagogically speaking? I know the lesson that we're studying is difficult. But dying is more homework than I was counting on. Also, it kind of messes up my vacation planning. Can we talk after class? Maybe if I did something for extra credit?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:31 AM | Permalink

September 6, 2008

"Being read your death sentence...

Robert Novak on his Brain Tumor

The first sign that I was in trouble came on Wednesday, July 23, when my 2004 black Corvette struck a pedestrian on 18th Street in downtown Washington while I was on my way to my office.
I promptly suffered another seizure in the ambulance, the second of three seizures that day. I gained admittance to the high-quality Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, which has an excellent oncology staff. A biopsy was performed, which showed a large, grade IV tumor. In answer to my question, the oncologist estimated that I had six months to a year to live.

Being read your death sentence is like being a character in one of the old Bette Davis movies.

I believe I was able to withstand this shock because of my Catholic faith, to which I converted in 1998.
My dear friend, the Democratic political operative Bob Shrum, asked Sen. Kennedy's wife, Vicki, to call me about Dr. Friedman. I barely know Mrs. Kennedy, but I have found her to be a warm and gracious person. I have had few good things to say about Teddy Kennedy since I first met him at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, but he and his wife have treated me like a close friend. She was enthusiastic about Dr. Friedman and urged me to opt for surgery at Duke, which I did.

The Kennedys were not concerned by political and ideological differences when someone's life was at stake, recalling at least the myth of milder days in Washington. My long conversation with Vicki Kennedy filled me with hope.
There are mad bloggers who profess to take delight in my distress, but there's no need to pay them attention in the face of such an outpouring of good will for me. I had thought 51 years of rough-and-tumble journalism in Washington made me more enemies than friends, but my recent experience suggests the opposite may be the case.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:58 PM | Permalink

Court orders girl, 10, to see dying father

Court orders girl, 10, to see dying father

In an extraordinary Family Court judgment, the girl - who has said she wishes that her father would die - was instructed to see her father who is dying from liver cancer and has up to 12 months to live.

The girl, who is almost 11 years old, lives with her mother and has not seen her father since late 2003.

The mother has an intense hatred of the father and doubts that he is ill, despite doctors' statements that the man has inoperable cancer.

An expert told the court that if the father dies without he and the child being able to say goodbye, the child will come to regret this later in life when she has emotional independence from her mother and "has had time to reflect on the appalling way in which she was drawn into the conflict between her parents".

Justice Le Poer Trench said he had agonised over the decision but felt the child should be given an opportunity to see her father.

A court officer will supervise the once-a-month visits and determine their duration.

It was also suggested to the father that he might write a letter to the child and make her a DVD to view in the future should she want to learn more about her father in the future.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

July 18, 2008

How would you choose to go?

How would you choose to go?  Cancer, heart attack or just old age?

That's the question posed by geriatrician Dr. Joanne Lynn 'How Many of You Expect to Die?'

In the fine New Old Age blog by Jane Gross in the New York Times. Don't miss the comments.

What got me was the excellence of the graphic by Joanne Lynn.

 3 Ways  To Die

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:08 AM | Permalink

July 1, 2008

Forty percent in a 'vegetative state' are misdiagnosed

John Cornwell writes about those trapped inside their bodies, apparently switched off to the world, 40% of whom are misdiagnosed in The Undead.

here’s at least one mordantly amusing and true story told to me by a psychologist at Putney’s Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability. “Young man with motorbike head injury in a coma. His mum, a keen evangelical, comes every day with friends to sing Onward, Christian Soldiers by his bedside. She’s hoping to stimulate his brain into action. It works: he comes round, but he can’t speak. So they fit him up with one of those Stephen Hawking-type laptops, and the first words he speaks are: “For God’s sake, Mum, shut it!” That’s about as funny as it gets on a brain-injury ward, but there’s a serious take-home message. Even minimally aware patients can retain emotions, personality, a capacity to suffer – and, as the young biker showed, attitude.

Cornwell writes about a small group of colleagues, Owen, the Prof,  Pickard Menon  and Coleman who are collaborating on innovative techniques for brain-damaged patients, the Impaired Consciousness Group.

The biggest, most tragic clinical myth about brain injury today is that PVS can be reliably diagnosed by bedside observation alone. It has in fact been known for at least a decade, ever since a key survey of brain-injured patients, that misdiagnosis of the condition runs at more than 40%, a statistic originally calculated by Professor Keith Andrews, former head of the Putney hospital, and confirmed by recent surveys in Europe and North America.

It's essential that we do the necessary imaging and brain-scanning to get the true information about patients before pulling the plug.    The demand for fresh organs for transplant is too great.

According to Steven Laureys, professor of neurology at Liège University, there is constant pressure in many parts of the developed world to withdraw sustenance from vegetative patients in order to allow them to die so that their body parts can be harvested. In a recent study, Laureys reports, “slightly less than half of surveyed US neurologists and nursing-home directors believed that patients in a vegetative state could be declared dead”. His remarks should be set against the background of widespread shortages of organs and body parts for transplantation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 PM | Permalink

June 23, 2008

A Blessing with every Breath

If I had died in 1975, without faith, without family, without love, I would have gone with a bitter curse on my lips.

Now, my heart raises a blessing with every remaining breath.

Lawrence Harvey while awaiting a third kidney transplant,  the first lasted for 20 years, the second for two.

Deliver Me or Take Me

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:33 PM | Permalink

June 2, 2008

"It's an awful story"

On leave from the violence he had survived in the war in Iraq, a young Marine was so wary of crime on the streets of his own home town that he carried only $8 to avoid becoming a robbery target.

Despite his caution, Lance Cpl. Robert Crutchfield, 21, was shot point-blank in the neck during a robbery at a bus stop. Feeding and breathing tubes kept him alive 4 1/2 months, until he died of an infection on May 18.

"It is an awful story," said Alberta Holt, the young Marine's aunt and his legal guardian when he was a teenager determined to flee a troubled Cleveland school for safer surroundings in the suburbs.

Crutchfield was attacked on Jan. 5 while he and his girlfriend were waiting for a bus. He had heeded the warnings of commanders that a Marine on leave might be seen as a prime robbery target with a pocketful of money, so he only carried $8, his military ID card and a bank card.

"They took it, turned his pockets inside out, took what he had and told him since he was a Marine and didn't have any money he didn't deserve to live. They put the gun to his neck and shot him," Holt told The Associated Press.

Home from Iraq, Wary Marine Fatally Wounded.

An awful story and tragedy.  Condolences to his family

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:53 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2008

"When Death is near, how do we show our love?"

After the extraordinary reception to the Beloved Professor Delivering His Last Lecture Jeffrey Zaslow teamed up with Randy Pausch to co-write the new book,

"The Last Lecture" (Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow)

Zaslow reports that Pausch is finding more difficult to say goodbye to his family  than he did to his colleagues at work.

Zaslow asks "When death is near, how do we show our love?" in  A Final Farwell

For many of us, his lecture has become a reminder that our own futures are similarly -- if not as drastically -- brief. His fate is ours, sped up.
People wrote about how his lecture had inspired them to spend more time with loved ones, to quit pitying themselves, or even to shake off suicidal urges. Terminally ill people said the lecture had persuaded them to embrace their own goodbyes, and as Randy said, "to keep having fun every day I have left, because there's no other way to play it."
Years ago, Jai had suggested that Randy compile his advice into a book for her and the kids. She wanted to call it "The Manual." Now, in the wake of the lecture, others were also telling Randy that he had a book in him--

"Well, you also need emotional insurance," the minister explained. The premiums for that insurance would be paid for with Randy's time, not his money. The minister suggested that Randy spend hours making videotapes of himself with the kids. Years from now, they will be able to see how easily they touched each other and laughed together.

Randy also made a point of talking to people who lost parents when they were very young. They told him they found it consoling to learn about how much their mothers and fathers loved them. The more they knew, the more they could still feel that love. To that end, Randy built separate lists of his memories of each child. He also has written down his advice for them, things like: "If I could only give three words of advice, they would be, 'Tell the truth.' If I got three more words, I'd add, 'All the time.' "

The advice he's leaving for Chloe includes this: "When men are romantically interested in you, it's really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do." Chloe, not yet 2 years old, may end up having no memory of her father. "But I want her to grow up knowing," Randy said, "that I was the first man ever to fall in love with her."
As he later explained it: "I am maintaining my clear-eyed sense of the inevitable.
I'm living like I'm dying. But at the same time, I'm very much living like I'm still living."

And so despite all his goodbyes, he has found solace in the idea that he'll remain a presence. "Kids, more than anything else, need to know their parents love them," he said. "Their parents don't have to be alive for that to happen."

The Last Lecture website.

Cross-posted at Legacy Matters.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 PM | Permalink

April 14, 2008

Renowned oncologist changes position on euthanasia after contracting cancer

For many years, the renowned European oncologist Sylvie Menard was a supporter of euthanasia.  Now that she's contracted bone cancer, she's changed her mind.

Menard told the magazine that she always believed that each person should decide his own fate, but ‘when I became ill, I changed my position radically.”

“When you get sick, death ceases to be something virtual and becomes something that is with you every day,” she said.  “So you say to yourself: ‘I am going to do everything possible to live as long as possible.”

Menard, who is married and has one son, acknowledged, “Today anything that means a new chance at life is valuable to me.”
She said that those who promote euthanasia do so for two reasons: they don’t want to suffer and they don’t want to lose self-sufficiency, thus becoming a burden for others.

She agreed that people who are ill “do not want to experience pain” and that “they have a right to alleviate it”. She also emphasized that “pain therapy has advanced considerably in recent years.”

“Even if you do not have complete use of your faculties and you cannot get up because you are confined to bed, but you still have the affection of your family members, in my opinion, even in those conditions, it’s worth it to keep living,” she said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

April 7, 2008

End of life, alone or at home

One third of all federal spending on health care is spent caring for elderly people in the final two years of life.

One reason, I believe, we spend so much is a societal denial of the inevitability of death.  When most people now die in hospitals, it's natural to think that death is a medical failure.

"When you're looking at end-of-life care, too often the care that is delivered is simply a shotgun approach: This person is really sick, so let's try this, this, this, and this," said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, Massachusetts' health secretary. "People don't understand the limits of technology and providers don't, in a way that is understandable to people, discuss the risks and benefits of certain interventions.

"We are operating in an era where for the most part, the public thinks that consuming more healthcare is better for your health, and that's simply not true."

End-of-life care costlier in Boston

I do not think that government regulations can solve this problem unless there is a rationing of care for the elderly.  An elderly person should be able to get whatever medical treatment he needs or she wants.

As death approaches, it's usually the family that insists on whatever it takes to help grandma.  What grandma wants is the presence of loving family and friends.

Rocco Palmo loves his 93 year-old grandmother who is constantly surrounded by the presence and love of her daughters and other family members; but, when she was hospitalized last Christmas Eve with pneumonia, he saw what was happening in the other hospital rooms.

Walking to Gram's room, I couldn't help but look in the other doors along the way and notice so many patients all alone in their beds, almost writhing with a loneliness and heartbreak you could feel a full ten feet away and almost cut with a knife. In the eeriest of ways, the usually-frenetic hallways felt like a ghost-town, filling the place with a sense of despair, of sadness and pain that was, in a word, brutal, especially given all the lights and celebrations going on in the streets outside and streaming over the TVs.

Thinking about it later, I couldn't help but try to figure out what it was that they were looking for.... And, well, the answer was right there: it might've been 24 December, but in the purest sense of it, they were still waiting for Christmas -- not wrapped gifts, lavish rituals, beautiful music or decorations on trees, but simply the loving, comforting presence of God in a human touch.

Do family members realize that leaving grandpa in the hospital for "whatever it takes"  subjects him to tubes and drops and continuous pokes and prods for yet another test, depriving him of what he wants most, the assurance that only a loving human presence can give him?  Who wants to die in a hospital if it can be avoided in any way.

Death is a profound mystery.  People who have developed a solid Christian faith and who believe in the risen Christ can face death with serenity.  Those lacking faith still want loyal companions to accompany them to the gates of death.  I wish families would consider hospice soon for their elderly relatives who are terminally ill.

As I learned when my mother was dying and all my brothers and sisters came home to be with her, our time together in her last month was wonderful, full of love and laughter, stories and visitors.  Her death was beautiful , at home in her own bed, without tubes, with all the pain medication she needed, surrounded by the children and grandchildren who loved her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 PM | Permalink

March 7, 2008

Saved by air trapped in his hat

Saved by air trapped in his plastic safety helmet, that plus Buddhist meditation techniques  saved the life of Chinese construction worker who was buried alive.

Chinese Man Buried Alive Saved by Air Trapped in His Hat

“I had my back to the wall and didn’t know it was falling until it was on top of me. It was suddenly dark and I realised what had happened and found that there was a small air pocket in front of me,” Mr Wang said. That was when the Buddhist turned to meditation to control his intake of oxygen. “I knew it would not last, so I made myself relax and concentrated on slowing down my breathing by meditation.”

Doctors were astounded, saying that a person could normally not live longer than five minutes in a similar sealed space. One local doctor said: “It’s a miracle that he’s alive after being buried for two hours.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:32 PM | Permalink

February 23, 2008

"A bloody good rollicking"

After being told that her newborn son had died during a traumatic birth, the mother suffering from blood poisoning, fell into a coma.  Yvonne Sullivan was only 28 when she was taken to intensive care where her husband kept vigil for two weeks.

Two weeks in a coma is just about how long you've got with the U.K.'s national health insurance.
The doctors told the husband they might have to switch off the life support machines.

That's when Dominic started berating his wife,

When the doctors told me to think about turning off the life support I got angry," he added. "I grabbed her hand and began shouting at her. I gave her a bloody good rollicking.

You start fighting, don't you dare give up on me now. I've had enough, stop mucking around and start breathing. Come back to me."

"I'd already had to explain to Ryan that his brother Clinton had died, and that his mummy might not survive.

"He said he'd be cross with the doctors if they let mummy go to heaven. I kept telling her to pull through. Then I left the room to get some air." 

Two hours later she started breathing on her own, five days later she recovered consciousness.

"I can't remember exactly what he said but I never liked getting told off by Dom," she recalled.

"Something inside me just clicked and I began to fight again.

"I had been on 100 per cent life support and I was deteriorating, but within two hours of him ordering me to get better I'd regained 5 per cent of my breathing.

"When I first came round I'd thought he'd been gone a few minutes, then he told me I'd been out for two weeks. It's a miracle really. I owe him so much."

Coma woman woken by husband's 'rollicking' as doctors were about to switch off life-support machine.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 PM | Permalink

February 11, 2008

Break into your car, save your life

If you are hiking in the woods and come back to your car only to find that your keys are locked inside, pick up a stone and break the window so you can drive away alive.

Sandra Order didn't. She locked her keys in her SUV and died next to it in the cold and the rain of hypothermia.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:11 AM | Permalink

December 10, 2007

Why are college kids mocking the dead?

When two Penn State students dressed themselves as Virginia Tech shooting victims at a Halloween party, one explained later

"We are notorious and infamous as the state college, and very popular,  so we have to do things that push the envelope just for shock value"

Aaron Hanscom thinks its another example of young people treating murder as a victimless crime.

Christina Hoff Sommers, who has taught ethics courses, has written about colleges’ responsibility to provide students with what the philosopher Henry Sidgwick called “moral common sense.” Sure, young people hear their professors’ opinions on capital punishment, abortion, stem cell research and, yes, suicide bombings, but “they learn almost nothing about private decency, honesty, personal responsibility, or honor.”

Until they do, we shouldn’t be surprised to see college students dressed up as suicide bombers or shooting victims. After all, one person’s monster is another’s hero who just wanted to go out with a bang.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 PM | Permalink

November 18, 2007

Deterrent real in death penalty

Well, this is a surprise, the death penalty saves lives.  If so, the question than becomes only a moral one. 

Rethinking the Death Penalty in The New York Times

According to roughly a dozen recent studies, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented.
“I personally am opposed to the death penalty,” said H. Naci Mocan, an economist at Louisiana State University and an author of a study finding that each execution saves five lives. “But my research shows that there is a deterrent effect.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 PM | Permalink

October 31, 2007

A Sleeping Beauty and Jesse Ramirez

Amy Pickard spent 6 years in a coma until a sleeping pill woke her up.

"When she takes the pill, I see her face relax and the old sparkle return to her eyes. It truly is remarkable," said Mrs Pickard.

She is one of 360 people taking part in a worldwide trial of Zolpidem as a treatment for people in comas. Sixty per cent of patients taking part in the study have started showing signs of life.

More Awakenings

On October 19, only months after being nearly dehydrated to death when his feeding tube was removed, Jesse Ramirez walked out of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix on his own two legs. Ramirez is lucky to be alive. Early last June, a mere one week after a serious auto accident left him unconscious, his wife Rebecca and doctors decided he would never recover and pulled his feeding tube. He went without food and water for five long days. But then his mother, Theresa, represented by lawyers from the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, successfully took Rebecca to court demanding a change of guardianship on the grounds that Rebecca and Jesse's allegedly rocky marriage disqualified her for the role.

The judge ordered that Jesse be temporarily rehydrated and nourished. Then Jesse regained consciousness. Now, instead of dying by dehydration, he will receive rehabilitation and get on with his life--all because his mother rejected the reigning cultural paradigm that a life with profound cognitive dysfunction is not worth living.
In this climate, Jesse Ramirez-type stories can become more numerous, yet still barely penetrate the public consciousness. Increasingly, we hear about sustenance being withdrawn within days of a serious brain injury. And now that these helpless people are deemed dehydratable, there is a growing clamor in the professional journals to transform them into natural resources to be exploited like a corn crop--as sources of vital organs and subjects for experimentation. To show how far this line of thinking has already gone, bioethicists writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics recently advocated transplanting pig organs into people diagnosed with PVS to determine the safety and efficacy of xenotransplantation (the transplantation of animal organs into human patients).

Be careful who you give your health care proxy to, especially if you are in a rocky marriage. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:39 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2007

Back from the verge of death because of brave men

Channing Moss was impaled through the abdomen with a rocket-propelled grenade and left on the verge of death in Afghanistan.

His fellow soldiers, a helicopter crew and a medical team would risk their lives to save his.

An extraordinary story Do or Die via Technicalities

“It was an extremely unusual set of events. He should have died three times that day,” said Maj. John Oh, 759th Forward Surgical Team general surgeon.

Three months after the attack, Moss attended the birth of his second daughter, Ariana.

He expects to be discharged from the Army on medical disability by October.
“I don’t think there has been a day in the last year and a half that I haven’t thought about them, that I haven’t prayed for them. They saved my life,”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:38 PM | Permalink

July 31, 2007

Felony Doctor

I predict this won't be the first.  A doctor with the power of life and death, prescribe the latter

Surgeon charged with trying to hasten patient's death

A San Francisco transplant surgeon was criminally charged Monday with excessively prescribing drugs to a 25-year-old disabled man last year to hasten his death and harvest his organs more quickly.

The felony charges are believed to be the first against a physician for his role in a transplant.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:41 AM | Permalink

July 30, 2007

Believe it or not, Immortality

Is there life after death?  Eternity for Atheists?

Reports The New York Times, some very good scientists are saying yes, arguing that the signal continues even after the radio is broken.

Each of us, Leslie submits, is immortal because our life patterns are but an aspect of an “existentially unified” cosmos that will persist after our death.
The mind or “soul,” as they see it, consists of information, not matter. And one of the deepest principles of quantum theory, called “unitarity,” forbids the disappearance of information.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

July 23, 2007

"Don't tell me I just killed my fiance"

If you try to prevent a friend from driving home drunk and the friend ignores you, don't hang on to the car window, or like this poor fellow Louis Wiederner, you could end up being dragged along until you lose you grip and fall under the wheels to your death.

New York Man Trying to Stop Girlfriend from Driving Drunk Run Over, Killed

Jay Steiner, 60, a retired nurse, who lives near the scene, rushed to the man's aid.

"Oh, my God," Steiner recalled Vega telling him. "Don't tell me I just killed my fiance."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:46 PM | Permalink

July 17, 2007

"It seems to be a male trait to put their head in the sand where their health is concerned."

Says Maggie Chapman, now a widow, about her husband Nick, 51,  who refused to see a doctor despite terrible stomach pains.  He died of pancreatic cancer, which if discovered earlier may have been treatable.

Man who was killed keeping a stiff lip.

I say again, if you don't take care of your body where will you live?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:41 PM | Permalink

July 5, 2007

Stay Away from Tanning Beds

Teen-agers feel invulnerable and often go too far to look good.  I mean, who in the right mind, would use a tanning bed twice a day.  That is apart from George Hamilton.

Zita started doing just that when she was 14, giving them up when she was 21.  But already that was too late.

Last August she found a mole on her leg and was diagnosed with melanoma.  Doctors who treated her said they believed the excessive use of sunbeds caused her cancer. 

Nine months later she was dead, just three days before her daughter's first birthday.

Her partner Phil said that the sunbeds had destroyed the family's life.

Tanorexic young mother dies of skin cancer after seven years of sunbeds.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:30 PM | Permalink

June 26, 2007

A Beautiful Death

I would have posted more frequently during my mother's last days if only the server which hosts my blogs had not migrated and upgraded to a new server and address causing all sorts of problems getting the blogging software to work and appear.    I did write several posts that never appeared because I hadn't realized that I had such a problem for several days.

I didn't have the wherewithal to take the time to get help and figure out how to fix it.  After all, my mother was dying.     

We hear so much of horrific and painful deaths that it's hard to imagine death can be beautiful.  Yet, such was my experience of my mother's death.    She was in her own house, in her own bed, surrounded by love.    Every one of us believe that it was a great privilege to be with her and with each other,  our bond as a family greatly strengthened.

Ruth Fallon 2005 Facing Front-2

My mother was very independent, used to doing things the way she wanted.  She didn't want chemotherapy, she didn't want to be in a hospital.  Too often, elderly people fall, break a hip and end up in a hospital where they are poked,  prodded and fitted with all sorts of tubes and IVs and other devices to preserve life for a few more days.  But if you have cancer and know that you will die if you do not treat it, hospice is an extraordinary resource because they are skilled in palliative care, meaning they know what drugs should be given to a dying person to relieve pain, yet keep the mind alert and focused on the life still to live.

Even as she grew more frail and weak, my mother's last days were happy ones, spent receiving visitors, sitting at the dinner table with all of us, taking very short walks outside with someone on each side making sure she didn't fall, watching the leaves, paying her bills, doing her crosswords, and playing with her newest grandchild, 5 month old Adia Moxie. Even as she began sleeping most of the day, too tired to go downstairs even in the elevator, we gathered more in her bedroom and from time to time, she would sit bolt upright and beam at all of us, radiant. 

The last five days she was unresponsive, eating nothing, drinking nothing.  The hospice nurse put her on a morphine drip and told us she thought she would die Friday.   My sister Colleen, a nurse, gave her anti-anxiety medication periodically whenever she saw the slightest indication of a furrow on my mother's brow.  She grew tinier in her big bed, her strong heart using every last bit of her substance so she could be with us and us all together in one room just a little bit longer.

Because all of seven children came home to be with her, someone was always with her, reading, saying prayers, playing music or lying down beside her.  Downstairs, meals were made,  dishes cleared and washed, laundry done, bike trips taken, gardens weeded, flowers planted and beer drunk.

Monday, the last day, my brother Robby brought up my mother's favorite wine, Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio and we all - me, Kevin, Billy, Colleen, Robby, Julie and Melinda toasted our mother and put a tiny drop of wine on her lips, the last thing she tasted.

A few hours later she died.  A half hour after that, her mouth relaxed into a smile and we knew she was in heaven.

Over at Legacy Matters, I've posted the eulogy for my mother
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:45 PM | Permalink

June 1, 2007

My Mother is Dying

This is a hard post to write because the words themselves have a certain finality that's not here yet.    My 85-year-old mother last fall had abdominal pains that,  after a visit to the emergency room and a CAT scan, turned out to be colon cancer.  Surgery followed a couple of days later and we were encouraged to think that the tumor blocking her colon had been completely excised and her colon stitched back together.

Recovery was slow but seemed complete and while she had lost lots of weight despite my cooking, she was back bopping around in her sports car.  About a month ago, she began having abdominal pains again.  It was the cancer back.  She doesn't want chemotherapy at her age which seems to me to be quite sensible, so the focus has been on reducing her pain.

My sister Colleen is a nurse and immediately took medical leave from her job to come out for the duration which she counts as a privilege and a blessing to be able to do since her two daughters, my nieces Jessica and Chrissy are away from home, in college.  My brother Kevin,  his wife Melinda and two daughters, Taylor and Lucy, live in the same town as my mother as do I just two blocks away.  For Mother's Day, Colly's husband Robin came, brother Billy came from Switzerland and brother Robby and his wife Jennifer with their two baby girls, 21/2 and 4 months, Zoe and Adia from California.

We all had a lovely time, my mother included, playing with the babies and looking at old family and childhood photos,  about 1200 of them that I had digitized so every one could have a copy and telling stories.  Now numbering about 16, we had a delicious Mother's Day lunch at a local restaurant.

In many ways we are very blessed.  Mom - we call her Ruth - is completely herself, if much more frail and more tired.  She laughs, makes jokes, gives orders, goes through her mail, makes calls, gets her hair done, and is forever putting Vinny her beloved Jack Russell terrier  out when he's in and bringing him in when he's out and making sure he gets all three of his dinners.  She carried long term care insurance for in-home care because she hates being in the hospital even though she too is a nurse and never wanted to go into a nursing home.  Now the benefits are apparent because she's home where she wants to be and Colly is even being paid, making up for some of her lost income.  Colly got a new MacBook, put in wireless, got a new bike and is testing some of Ruth's best, baking recipes and I'm going to make a book out if it.

We have an elevator in the house which my parents put in about 15 years ago when my sister Debby, wheel-chair bound with multiple sclerosis, was living at home.  So Mom still uses her bedroom and bath but can come down easily to the kitchen, the living room, office and yard during the day.  Heat gives her the most tactile relief for her abdominal pains so she sits with a heating pad at her back, holding a hot water bottle against her stomach, a heat sandwich.

Two weeks later it's a different story.    Hospice has started and they have been wonderful, delivering my mother's exponentially increasing pain medications, an assigned nurse, Peggy, who visits  several times a week to check on her status and making sure we have everything we need.  Since Ruth was only eating about 300-500 calories a day, she was becoming even thinner although her  pain does seem to be under control.

"Two to four weeks" we were told in one of Colleen's daily emails to all concerned.  In just a few days, Robby was back from the West Coast, Billy from Geneva, and Julie, my youngest sister, due in Tuesday.

Her affairs and finances are all in order so there's nothing to be done there.  My mother is enjoying lots of visitors, family and friends alike, basking in all the love and banter, sometimes glowing.  The weather is beautiful.  My brothers have found projects to do around the house and yard.  Patty, Colleen's dear friend from Florida is visiting for week and cleaning up gardens, planting the window boxes, and impatiens in every corner.    We all eat dinner together that one of us makes or takeout and we have cases of beer in the garage so we'll never run out.  These are wonderful times for the family.  The loss will come soon enough.

This is the way to go, a vigorous old age and a fast decline, at home surrounded by family and people who love you.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 PM | Permalink

May 31, 2007

My Mother is Dying

This is a hard post to write because the words themselves have a certain finality that's not here yet. My 85-year-old mother last fall had abdominal pains that, after a visit to the emergency room and a CAT scan, turned out to be colon cancer. Surgery followed a couple of days later and we were encouraged to think that the tumor blocking her colon had been completely excised and her colon stitched back together.

Recovery was slow but seemed complete and while she had lost lots of weight despite my cooking, she was back bopping around in her sports car. About a month ago, she began having abdominal pains again. It was the cancer back. She doesn't want chemotherapy at her age which seems to me to be quite sensible, so the focus has been on reducing her pain.

My sister Colleen is a nurse and immediately took medical leave from her job to come out for the duration which she counts as a privilege and a blessing to be able to do since her two daughters, my nieces Jessica and Chrissy are away from home, in college. My brother Kevin, his wife Melinda and two daughters, Taylor and Lucy, live in the same town as my mother as do I just two blocks away. For Mother's Day, Colly's husband Robin came, brother Billy came from Switzerland and brother Robby and his wife Jennifer with their two baby girls, 21/2 and 4 months, Zoe and Adia from California.

We all had a lovely time, my mother included, playing with the babies and looking at old family and childhood photos, about 1200 of them that I had digitized so every one could have a copy and telling stories. Now numbering about 16, we had a delicious Mother's Day lunch at a local restaurant.

In many ways we are very blessed. Mom -we call her Ruth - is completely herself, if much frailer and more tired. She laughs, makes jokes, gives orders, goes through her mail, makes calls, gets her hair done, and is forever putting Vinny her beloved Jack Russell terrier out when he's in and bringing him in when he's out and making sure he gets all three of his dinners. She carried long term care insurance for in-home care because she hates being in the hospital even though she too is a nurse and never wanted to go into a nursing home. Now the benefits are apparent because she's home where she wants to be and Colly is even being paid, making up for some of her lost income. Colly got a new MacBook, put in wireless, got a new bike and is testing some of Ruth's best, baking recipes and I'm going to make a book out if it.

We have an elevator in the house which my parents put in about 15 years ago when my sister Debby, wheel-chair bound with multiple sclerosis, was living at home. So Mom still uses her bedroom and bath but can come down easily to the kitchen, the living room, office and yard during the day. Heat gives her the most tactile relief for her abdominal pains so she sits with a heating pad at her back, holding a hot water bottle against her stomach, a heat sandwich.

Two weeks later it's a different story. Hospice has started and they have been wonderful, delivering my mother's exponentially increasing pain medications, an assigned nurse, Peggy, who visits several times a week to check on her status and making sure we have everything we need. Since Ruth was only eating about 300-500 calories a day, she was becoming even thinner although her pain does seem to be under control.

"Two to four weeks" we were told in one of Colleen's daily emails to all concerned. In just a few days, Robby was back from the West Coast, Billy from Geneva, and Julie, my youngest sister, due in Tuesday.

Her affairs and finances are all in order so there's nothing to be done there. My mother is enjoying lots of visitors, family and friends alike, basking in all the love and banter, sometimes glowing. The weather is beautiful. My brothers have found projects to do around the house and yard. Patty, Colleen's dear friend from Florida is visiting for week and cleaning up gardens, planting the window boxes, and impatiens in every corner. We all eat dinner together that one of us makes or takeout and we have cases of beer in the garage so we'll never run out. These are wonderful times for the family. The loss will come soon enough.

This is the way to go, a vigorous old age and a fast decline, at home surrounded by family and people who love you.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:03 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2007

While there is still time

Last year for a poetry jam I memorized The Mower by Philip Larkin.  Today, Eamonn Fitzgerald writes that the horror and tragedy of the Virginia Tech killings drives home the  urgency of its command. 

The Mower

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

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April 19, 2007

Thoughts on Passivity on Patriots Day

Bravery is a virtue; helplessness is not.     

Long ago, way before 9/11, when airline hijackings were the craze, I thought then and still do that every citizen is a foot soldier in the fight against terror.  Most days, I drive through Lexington Center and see the statue of the Minuteman, an ordinary man,  ready in a minute to defend home and others.

Still none of us know what we would do if faced with a mad killer with a gun. 

Kathy Shadie says
Remember: when we say "we don't know what we'd do under the same circumstances", we make cowardice the default position. At least show a smidgen of bravery and say "I", rather than "we."

I don't know what I would do if faced with a mad killer with a gun. 

I like to think that I would be brave, push past my fear, not run away, save lives.  You see as a young girl, I grew up on the stories of martyrs, often young girls just like me.  When I wasn't playing cowboys and Indians with my best friend Kathy, we played martyr, practicing how to fight back and die well  if the Russian Communists ever took over the country.  How many children play like that any more? 

From Meditation on Death of the Young
The quarterback of the football team was just outside the hall when the shooting began. He said, in an article in the Washington Post, that he
"I couldn't tell whether people were hurt or not, "I was kind of on the move. The whole time, I wasn't really trying to figure what was happening or where the shots were coming from. I was just kind of on the move,

No one made a move to attack the killer or throw something at him.  No one. 

Did it all happen too fast?

What if they had been warned that a double murder had occurred and a killer was loose on the campus?

Jack Dunphy who's been present at over 1000 shooting scenes in his police career writes
This would have given them the chance to make an informed decision on how best to proceed with the day.  After all, the difference between what happened on Flight 93 and on the other doomed flights of 9/11 was that the passengers on Flight 93 had been warned of what awaited them.  Had students and faculty at Virginia Tech been told that a murderer may be stalking the campus, some of them might have been alert to the danger and steeled themselves to fend off the killer.

Nathanael Blake asks Where Were the Men?
College classrooms have scads of young men who are at their physical peak, and none of them seems to have done anything beyond ducking, running, and holding doors shut. Meanwhile, an old man hurled his body at the shooter to save others.

Something is clearly wrong with the men in our culture. Among the first rules of manliness are fighting bad guys and protecting others: in a word, courage. And not a one of the healthy young fellows in the classrooms seems to have done that.

Dr. Sanity says Feminishness is a Word Whose Time Has Come for  a society with too much yin and not enough yang and quotes John Derbyshire, "PC is fem and its consequences are femmer..."

Mark Steyn writes A Culture of Passivity is an existential threat to our society
They’re not “children.” The students at Virginia Tech were grown women and — if you’ll forgive the expression — men. They would be regarded as adults by any other society in the history of our’s deeply damaging to portray fit fully formed adults as children who need to be protected. We should be raising them to understand that there will be moments in life when you need to protect yourself — and, in a “horrible” world, there may come moments when you have to choose between protecting yourself or others. It is a poor reflection on us that, in those first critical seconds where one has to make a decision, only an elderly Holocaust survivor, Professor Librescu, understood instinctively the obligation to act.

Have we become too passive, too afraid, too nice?  Is even the talk of self defense politically incorrect?  Where is it decreed we always have to wait for the police or the firemen when lives are in danger?

Michelle Malkin says
You want a safer campus? It begins with renewing a culture of self-defense—mind, spirit, and body. It begins with two words: Fight back.

The Anchoress  discusses with her son the various ways a random shooter could be taken down in "Throw a desk, a heavy book, make him flinch."

While Varifrank has the best guidelines of all in More Sparta, Less Athens.

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April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre. Why weren't students notified?

Back from being way all day and far from the Internet, I just learned about the horrific killings at Virginia Tech.  How terrified the students must have been.  How awful for the victims' families.  I can't imagine the shock their parents must feel after thinking their children were safe at college.  I can't imagine the shock and pain their friends and fellow students are going through.   

I join everyone in sorrow at this tragedy and in prayers for those touched by the shootings.

32 killed!  I don't understand the 2 hour lag between the first murder and the classroom murders. 

How  a heavily armed man could walk around campus without people noticing and calling security is beyond me. 

Why after bomb scares last week and a double murder at about 7:15, did it take 2 hours for school officials to warn students to "be cautious".

Two people killed and the gunman at large seems to me to warrant more than a "be cautious."    What was campus security doing?

We've seen Columbine.  We've been horrified at the Bestlan massacre.  Now we're seeing Virginia Tech.

How many more?

In an emergency being connected is more important than ever.  Why wasn't there an emergency communications plan for all  the students? The elements are all in place.  All students have phones and computers.  Why weren't all the students on a email, phone text message alert?

Any plan could have saved lives.

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April 12, 2007

"Eventually - what a luxurious word"

'Two to three months," the doctor said, almost reluctantly, when I finally posed the question. That's eight to twelve weeks. Sixty to 90 days. Or 2,160 hours, if you want to get right down to it.

Eventually - what a luxurious word.

A 39-year -old columnist, living with cancer,  says Focusing on present matters most.

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April 1, 2007

Horrifying Persecution of Christians

Little reported in the coverage of the Iraq war is the internal war by Arab and Muslim islamists on the Assyrian Christian community.  They are Assyrians, speaking Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, sometimes called Syriacs or Chaldeans.   

This is what the Islamists or Muslim militants, righteous and violent murdering gangs of men, have done to the Iraqi Christians since the Iraq war began.

They have bombed 28 churches.
They have murdered hundreds of Christians.
They have beheaded a priest in Mosul.
They have crucified a 14-year-old Christian boy in Basra.
They have kidnapped a woman's baby in Baghad and, when she couldn't pay the ransom, they returned her child, beheaded, roasted and served on a mound of rice.

Read Ed West's We must not let this ancient Church slide into oblivion 
just to be aware of what's happening.

From Palestine, to Iraq, to Iran and Pakistan, Christians who have  lived in the middle East are leaving for fear of their lives in ever increasing numbers.

Via Little Green Footballs

American Catholic bishops have called for asylum for Iraqi Christians

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March 29, 2007

Visions of Hell

Last night I watched the Sopranos, the episode when Christopher, in hospital after being shot and considered clinically dead for about a minute, reports that he had a visited his father in hell where he was told he was going.

Many people were discomfited by the Pope's speech the other day in which he said God's love is great, but hell 'exists and is eternal.'

Have there been near-death experiences of hell?  Time to check out which I found less reliable than the Wikipedia entry on near-death experiences.

Not all near-death experiences are those of a brilliant white light and indescribable love; some experience what they could only call hell.

Two of the most famous are Dr. George Rodonaia and Howard Storm.
If you think that hell has gotten a bad name, you might want to read Fr. James Schall on The Brighter Side of Hell who concludes that Hell exists so that we might be free. 

"The road to Hell," it is said, "is paved with good intentions." It is also paved with many insights into the very nature of our being that guide us to the truth of things and the importance of our existence.

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March 17, 2007

The Great Hunger and Nine Famous Irishmen

I wrote this post last year for Third Age, and thought why not repost it this year because so few people know about the Great Hunger.  The Irish who fled the famine emigrated around the world and were such successful immigrants, so completely integrating into the mainstream culture  wherever they landed, they lost touch with their own history. 

Some say the potato first arrived in Ireland when they washed up on shore following the shipwreck of the 130 ships of the Spanish Armada in 1588 in a violent storm.  It didn’t take long for the potato to become popular as a healthy and reliable source of food and soon the mainstay of the Irish peasantry.  Grown underground, it was plentiful even during times of war, surviving when other crops and livestock were destroyed.  The population of Ireland soared with more than two thirds living on the land, dependent on a potato harvest that, unlike grain, could not be stored.

When the potato blight appeared in 1845 and spread in 1846,  people were left with nothing to eat, with no way to make money to support themselves.  By the end of the worst years of the potato famine, 1847-1849, more than one million Irishmen women and children died of starvation in "The Great Hunger."  Another 1.5 million emigrated.

About a half million were evicted by their landlords, many sent away in overcrowded "coffin ships" to Canada with little food, almost no water and no doctors.  Already weak and sick, often more than half died.  It was said that sharks could be seen following the ships because so many bodies were thrown overboard.

Remember now, Ireland was part of Great Britain and in this time of greatest need, the English government washed their hands of the "Irish problem" by dumping the entire cost and responsibility of famine relief upon the Irish property owners.  They closed down the public works programs and soup kitchens which were a "temporary solution" for the first crop failure.

With the passage of the Poor Law, anyone seeking relief who owned more than a quarter acre in land had to forfeit their land.

Men could only get relief if they went as destitute paupers to workhouses already overfull with widows, children and the elderly.  People were turned away in droves. They wandered the countryside, living in holes and under bridges, eating grass and dying in ditches.

In Donegal Union, ten thousand persons were found living "in a state of degradation and filth which it is difficult to believe the most barbarous nations ever exceeded," according to the Quaker, William Forster. His organization, the Society of Friends, had refused to work in cooperation with the new Poor Law.

Still, it was not enough as the British Government called for maximum pressure to collect taxes and tax collectors seized livestock, furniture, clothes and tools from homeless paupers.  As a matter of policy they would not supply food to the starving people who were considered feckless and reckless for depending on the potato.  In 1861 in The Last Conquest of Ireland, John Mitchel wrote: "The Almighty indeed sent the potato blight but the English created the famine."

  Irish Famine

Little wonder that intense hatred grew against the British.  Unrest by a group of Irish nationalists known as ‘Young Ireland’ caused the British government to send in troops to quell any sort of popular uprising.  Habeas corpus was suspended and the Treason Felony Act was passed that made speaking against the Crown or the Parliament punishable by deportation to Australia for life.

Ireland was forced to pay for its own relief.  Landlords tore down houses so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes, evicting tenants in the winter with nowhere to go.  Men and women who had never committed any crimes deliberately committed crimes so they could be deported.  The horrors of the Great Hunger are unimaginable to us today and deeply shameful to those who survived it.

Michael Shaughnessy, a barrister in Ireland, described children he encountered while traveling on his circuit as "almost naked, hair standing on end, eyes sunken, lips pallid, protruding bones of little joints visible." In another district, there was a report of a woman who had gone insane from hunger and eaten the flesh of her own dead children. In other places, people killed and ate dogs which themselves had been feeding off dead bodies.

So shameful is the memory of the famine that those who survived rarely spoke of it.  Those of Irish descent now living in the U.S or Canada or Australia are only beginning to learn about the Great Hunger, through contemporary Irish bands like Black 47, recent books like the National Book Award winner, Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett and the PBS series on the Irish in America.

What’s most often told is the glory of a new life in a new land.  The most famous of which is the story of "Nine Famous Irishmen’ reprinted on countless restaurant placemats.

In the Young Irish disorders, in Ireland in 1848 the following nine men were captured, tried, and convicted of treason against Her Majesty, the Queen, and were sentenced to death: John Mitchell, Morris Lyene, Pat Donahue, Thomas McGee, Charles Duffy, Thomas Meagher, Richard O’Gorman, Terrence McManus, Michael Ireland.

Before passing sentence, the judge asked if there was anything that anyone wished to say. Meagher, speaking for all, said, "My lord, this is our first offense but not our last. If you will be easy with us this once, we promise, on our word as gentlemen, to try to do better next time. And next time - sure we won’t be fools to get caught."

Thereupon the indignant judge sentenced them all to be hanged by the neck until dead and drawn and quartered.  Passionate protest from all the world forced Queen Victoria to commute the sentence to transportation for life to far wild Australia.

In 1874, word reached the astounded Queen Victoria that the Sir Charles Duffy who had been elected Prime Minister of Australia was the same Charles Duffy who had been transported 25 years before.  On the Queen’s demand, the records of the rest of the transported men were revealed and this is what was uncovered:

    THOMAS FRANCIS MEAGHER, Governor of Montana

    TERRENCE MCMANUS, Brigadier General, United States Army

    PATRICK DONAHUE, Brigadier General, United States Army

    RICHARD O’GORMAN, Governor General of Newfoundland

    MORRIS LYENE, Attorney General of Australia, in which office
    MICHAEL IRELAND succeeded him

    THOMAS D’ARCY MCGEE, Member of Parliament, Montreal, Minister of
    Agriculture and President of Council Dominion of Canada

    JOHN MITCHELL, prominent New York politician. This man was the father of John
    Purroy Mitchell, Mayor of New York, at the outbreak of World War I.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:17 PM | Permalink

March 15, 2007

Too many dead bodies

He was brought in to take over one of the worst state medical examiner's offices in the country, but the increase in autopsies has brought its own problems now that there is only one fully staffed office in the state. 

Too few body bags, an overwhelmed plumbing system, long delays in picking up bodies at scenes of crimes  and too little space with some bodies being stored in refrigerated trucks parked behind the building is causing a "review of the situation" in Boston.

Autopsies overwhelm medical examiner staff says the Boston Globe.

The Boston Herald has by far the more vivid report.  Morgue backlog 'nightmare'.

One morgue technician walked off the job and flung his badge at his supervisor.  Now on administrative leave while the office processes his complaint, he emails the Herald that:

• Bodies stacked three high on shelves and gurneys in the main cooler, many decomposing and dripping fluids onto others through leaky body bags.
• At least five infants have remained in the cooler for upwards of two years because the office has not been able to arrange burials.
• Poor ventilation leading to a constant stench of decomposition and the routine presence of flies in the autopsy areas.
•  Several cases in which improper drainage and a heavy caseload have caused blood and bodily fluids to back up and pool onto the floor of the autopsy suite.

“These bodies all have names. They are just lying there decomposing with mold forming on them,” said Kelley, a father of four. “It shows a total disregard for human remains.

One shudders to think what would happen in a disaster.

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March 7, 2007

No greater love

Teen's survival in Gulf 'pretty amazing'.

A 13-year-old boy survived 28 hours in the chilly Gulf of Mexico because the three adults with him kept him propped above the water line on a part of the sunken pleasure boat that protruded above the water, U.S. Coast Guard officials said Tuesday.

Melquisedec Acevedo of Houston was found Monday clinging to a line from the partially submerged boat that sank Sunday about 10 miles south of Galveston Island. Two bodies were recovered and the search continues for a fourth man.

"For that little boy to survive is a strong indication that his family members did everything possible to ensure that he at least had a fighting chance at survival," Petty Officer Adam Eggers said.

What heartens me is the realization that these three men, even as they knew they were dying, did all they could to save the life of the youngest among them whose birthday it was.    Extraordinary bravery and love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 5, 2007

Dolphin Dying of a Broken Heart

Dolphin ‘dying of a broken heart’ after trainer is killed.

When the young dolphin was rescued from the Adriatic Sea, distressed and bruised, she was nurtured back to health by a dedicated trainer who took responsibility for her care.

Now the trainer is dead, the victim of a frenzied attack by her neighbour — and the dolphin, apparently, is dying of a broken heart.

The dolphin is refusing her daily diet of milk and squid and has lost 50kg (110lb) since Ms Monti’s murder. Her weight has fallen to just 160kg (350lb) and she has failed to respond to medication for a gastric infection.
The extraordinary story of love emerged yesterday as keepers at the Oltremare water park in Riccione appealed for international help to save the life of their dolphin.

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January 29, 2007

Missing on Cruises

It seems there's an awful lot of people who go missing on cruises.  The cruise industry reported  to a  U.S. subcommittee that 24 passengers had disappeared between 2003 and March 2006.  Since then there's been ten more.

These are not known suicides and something suspicious seems to be going on.    Going on a cruise is the perfect way to commit a perfect crime said Congressman Christopher Shays who warned of a

"growing manifest of unexplained disappearances, unsolved crimes and brazen acts of lawlessness on the high seas". Like small cities, he said, cruise ships experienced crimes. "But city dwellers know the risks of urban life - and no one falls off a city never to be heard of again.

Death on the High Seas, a special report from the Guardian.

Out at sea, there are no police.

It is extremely difficult for any detective to piece together a murder case without a body, and chances of finding a passenger dumped into the ocean are slim indeed. And while all cruise ships employ security officers, they do not always seal off crime scenes, detain suspects and interview witnesses in the manner that might be expected of them.

"The cruise companies just want it to go away," says Randy Jaques, an American security officer. He claims personally to have dealt with more than 50 complaints, and says hundreds of women have signed "Jane Doe agreements" - meaning they have reached an out-of-court settlement with the cruise lines and signed a confidentiality clause.

Passengers can find themselves in a complex legal situation, potentially under numerous jurisdictions when sailing abroad. With many cruise ships registered under flags of convenience with relatively slack tax and labour regimes, the relevant laws might be those of Panama, the Bahamas or Bermuda. Prosecuting, say, a sacked crew member who has returned to his own country brings a whole new dimension of complexity. Charles Lipcon, a Miami lawyer who has built a 30-year career on suing cruise lines, says his firm does not normally take on cases without a clear jurisdiction. "What I've seen over the years is that it's a hot potato for everyone, and nothing much gets done," he says.

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January 24, 2007

Feeling Relief When Someone Dies.

Feeling relief when someone dies is rarely admitted, but more common than you think.

Jennifer Elison does in My Turn - The Stage of Grief No One Admits To: Relief.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

December 26, 2006

Gift of Organs

A real Christmas story

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong schoolboy who died in a traffic accident has brought festive hope to at least seven other patients through the rare mass donation of a large number of his vital organs.
The mother said
"Even though I'm devastated, I want to do something for society,"
"(My son) is very great. Even though he's left us ... we can still hear him breathe, and his heart beat. He's already become an angel."

Doctors hailed Miu's case as an example to others in Hong Kong where organ donorship is traditionally frowned upon given the Chinese belief in keeping bodies whole to allow the deceased to rest in heavenly peace.

"This is a very encouraging event... we're desperately in need of organs," said Dr. Choi Kin, president of the Hong Kong Medical Association.

Last year, only 4.2 of every million people in Hong Kong donated organs to science upon dying, a fraction of the rate in the U.S., according to the Apple Daily.

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November 19, 2006

Suffering under the National Health Service

Diagnosed with terminal cancer, Patricia Bolsom is writing a diary of her final days

It's a horrifying look at Britain's National Health Service where nothing is co-ordinated,  no one is in charge and care is rationed.

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November 17, 2006

Public lawyer, public fool

Brian Hathaway, 20, was accused of having sex with a dead deer, but  he found a public lawyer willing to defend him by arguing that because the deer was dead, it was not considered an animal and the charge should be dismissed. 

Lawyer argues sex with dead deer not crime.

The statute does not prohibit one from having sex with a carcass,”
the Webster’s dictionary defines “animal” as “any of a kingdom of living beings,” Anderson said.

If you include carcasses in that definition, he said, “you really go down a slippery slope with absurd results.”

Anderson argued: When does a turkey cease to be an animal? When it is dead?

When it is wrapped in plastic packaging in the freezer? When it is served, fully cooked?

A judge should decide what the Legislature intended “animal” to mean in the statute, he said. “And the only clear point to draw the line in that definition, I believe, is the point of death.”

I wonder if he had any idea that he made himself and his client  a laughing stock across the nation.    Sometimes, it's better to take your lumps and not make a public fool of yourself.

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November 6, 2006

Microsoft Previews Gears at Cemetery

I have no doubt that a number of people at Microsoft thought it was a terrific idea to hold a preview at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery,  for their newest video game, Gears which is apparently so violent that even its maker calls it 'horrific'.    I think both the preview and the game sounds appalling.

"Gears," which puts you in the role of a grizzled soldier fighting off alien invaders, has tantalized gamers with graphically realistic faces, explosions and blood.

The game carries an "M" rating, meaning it is for "mature" gamers aged 17 years and older.

Attendees at a "Gears" preview party held at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery last week were eager to try the game.

"It's gorgeous, isn't it?" one gamer remarked as another pumped bullets into a dead body dangling from a chain.

"Gears" doesn't so much incorporate violence as revel in it.

A chainsaw mounted on your rifle quickly fillets enemies amid fountains of gore, and when an enemy goes down in a hail of hot lead, you can finish him off with a gruesome move the designers gleefully call the "curb stomp."

"It's pretty graphic because it's not just visually that you understand a head is being stepped on and squashed like a watermelon, you also hear it as well," said Dan Hsu, editor-in-chief of "Electronic Gaming Monthly."

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October 5, 2006

Plain Evil and Plain Good

  Amish Women At Schoolhouse-1

I've been thinking a lot about good and evil since I heard of the horrific deaths of five innocent schoolgirls, shot to death execution style, in a simple one room Amish school in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The killer, 32 year old Charles Carl Roberts IV, came into the schoolhouse, armed to the teeth, ordered the boys and adults out, barricaded the doors, tied the young girls feet, lined them up in front of the blackboard and shot them in the head, before shooting and killing himself.

Roberts, a milk tank driver, who wrote suicide notes to each of his three children, before arming himself with an automatic handgun and shotgun, and driving to the school which he apparently chose just because it was close by and had young girls.

The suicide notes suggested that he was acting out of revenge for an incident that happened 20 years earlier when he was 12.    Nothing can explain such a horrific death.  To say that he was obviously  "sick" seems to minimize the tragedy.  This premeditated crime was evil and there is no better word for it.    Sometimes, I think the personification of evil as the devil as more subtlety than is generally given credit.  And I don't mean "the devil made me do it."    That there are dark forces around us and in us with which we do battle is something we all know.  We continually choose between good and bad, every one of us. 

Today, four girls will be buried,  Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7; Marian Fisher, 13; Mary Liz Miller, 8; and her sister Lena Miller, 7. The funeral for the fifth girl, Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, is scheduled for tomorrow. Each girl laid to rest in a white dress, a cape, and a white prayer covering on her head.

That there are good forces as well we can see from the Amish themselves.  Their actions humble all of us.  In the aftermath, they reached out to the family of the gunman, comforting them and extending forgiveness.    Said Gertrude Huntington, a Michigan researcher who wrote a book about Amish children, they are quietly accepting of God's will. 

"They know their children are going to heaven. They know their children are innocent ... and they know that they will join them in death. The hurt is very great, but they don't balance the hurt with hate."

One pastor who stood next to the body of a 13-year-old girl heard her grandfather tell his young boys, "We must not think evil of this man."  Such forgiveness said pastor Rev. Robert Schenck,  "Was one of the most touching things I've seen in 25 years of Christian ministry."

Descendants of Swiss and German immigrants, the Amish are Anabaptists and no strangers to tragedy which they accept as the will of God, an approach to life they call yieldedness.  They derive their strength from their faith and the mutual aid of their community.   

The Amish surmount hardship through mutual aid. When a barn burns, they do not call the insurance company. They have a barn raising, said Kimberly D. Schmidt, associate professor of history at Eastern Mennonite University, in Harrisonburg, Va., who has studied Amish women.

“For the families who lost children, there will be a tremendous community outpouring of love and support,” Ms. Schmidt said. “They will not suffer alone in their grief at all. People will bring in meals for weeks. As devastating as this is, there’s so much strength they can draw from their community.”

The Amish are self-insured and pay for all their own medical bills.  There are young girls, severely injured still in the hospital who will require long term care.    They may not be able to shoulder all the costs themselves.  They generally do not accept help from outside their community.  Said one Amish bishop, " "We are not asking for funds. In fact, it's wrong for us to ask. But we will accept them with humility."

The local newspaper reports that funds have been set up to cover the expenses of the victims and their families, including the family of the gunman.

Donations may be sent to Nickel Mines School Victims Fund, HomeTowne Heritage Bank, 100 Historic Drive, P.O. Box 337, Strasburg, PA 17579, or at any division of National Penn Bank.

Another fund is being set up through Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite Disaster Services. According to MCC’s Web site, contributions may be sent to the MCC U.S., 21 S. 12th St., P.O. Box 500, Akron, PA 17501-0500.

Donations may also be made by phone by calling 859-1151 or (888) 563-4676 or online at

If you wish to send a card or letter of condolence, address them to Bart Township Fire Company, P.O. Box 72, 11 Furnace Road, Bart, PA 17503.

Herman Bontrager, the secretary/treasurer of the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom, said the Amish are “very appreciative” of the outpouring of help.

“They feel so humbled by it,” he said.

The Amish sometimes refer to themselves as "plain people".  What we've seen in the past week is plain goodness.

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August 14, 2006

Poor baby, UPDATED

It's hard to imagine but a husband and wife arrested in the British terror raids planned to take their six month old baby with them on their suicide mission to bomb planes in mid air.    Their baby's bottle would have hidden the liquid bomb.

Just in case you wondered how far the anti-life ideology of the islamo terrorists would go. 

Bottle and baby used as bomb

With his parents in jail, I  hope that the poor baby will be placed in a good foster home with a chance at a normal life

UPDATE:  Dr. Sanity says we have moved into a time beyond wisdom and points to a discussion she calls heart-breaking and she's right  at Blackfive, On the virtues of killing children.

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August 9, 2006

Learning to Die, Learning to Live

Learning to Die is quite a remarkable essay by Brother David Steindl-Rast.

on awareness of death
In the rule of St. Benedict, the momento mori has always been important, because one of what St. Benedict calls “the tools of good works” – meaning the basic approaches to the daily life of the monastery – is to have death at all times before one’s is a seeing of every moment of life against the horizon of death, and a challenge to incorporate that awareness of dying into every moment so as to become more fully alive.

on purpose and meaning
With purposes, we must be active and in control. We must, as we say, “take the reins,” “take things in hand,” “keep matters under control,” and utilize circumstances like tools that serve our aims....But matters are different when we deal with meaning. Here it is not a matter of using, but of savoring the world around us. In the idioms we use that relate to meaning, we depict ourselves as more passive than active: “It did something to me”; “it touched me deeply”; “it moved me.”

on life.

Life, if it isn’t a give and take, is not life at all. The taking corresponds to the active phase, to our “purpose” when we do something; while the giving of ourselves to whatever it is that we experience is the gesture by which meaning flows into our lives. It must be stressed that this is not an either/or; life is not a give or take, but a give and take; if we only take or only give, we are not alive. If we only take breath in we suffocate, and if we only breathe out we also suffocate. The heart pumps the blood in and pumps it out; and it is in the rhythm of give and take that we live.

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August 7, 2006

Cowardly lifeguard

The lifeguard on duty at Houghton's Pond in Milton didn't have his mouthpiece to protect himself so he refused to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a three-year-old boy.

Fortunately, there were bystanders who were CPR certified and they didn't have any qualms about germs.  They saved the young boy's life.

Bystanders Save Boy, 3, from Pond Drowning.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:10 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

The pressure of 'death with dignity'

How Faith Saved the Atheist  or how to handle the pressure of 'death with dignity'.

On Father's Day, we packed my father's hospital room: his wife, daughters, grandchildren, each of us regaling him with our successes large and small.

"Life's not so bad, after all," the atheist said. I wanted to go back to ICU, find Dr. Death, drag her to my father's room and say: "This is the life you wanted to end." But if I'm really to be a person of faith, I'll have to tackle forgiveness.

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June 17, 2006

Death Vans

China is now employing death vans used for lethal injection executions, mobile execution chambers, that travel from village to village. The designer says lethal injections are a sign that China promotes human rights.

Amnesty international says from 2000-8000 are put to death each year.

China makes ultimate punishment mobile

China's critics contend that the transition from firing squads to injections in death vans facilitates an illegal trade in prisoners' organs.

Injections leave the whole body intact and require participation of doctors. Organs can "be extracted in a speedier and more effective way than if the prisoner is shot," says Mark Allison, East Asia researcher at Amnesty International in Hong Kong. "We have gathered strong evidence suggesting the involvement of (Chinese) police, courts and hospitals in the organ trade."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:08 PM | Permalink

June 9, 2006

Respected Doctor now alleged murderer

Why did Karen McCarron, a respected physician and advocate for autistic children, smother her three-year-old daughter with a plastic bag?

The toll of autism has a lot of people in heated discussion.

Her husband has filed for divorce. Grandfather Michael McCarron said

Karen McCarron had a lot of resources and help with Katie, whom he described as a happy, endearing child who loved to swing and play in the grass and would line up her Teletubbie dolls so they could "kiss" each other.

"This was not a question of there's no place to turn, there's no support," Michael McCarron said. "This was not a murder about autism."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:21 PM | Permalink

June 4, 2006

When ordinary moments become holy

When faced with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, ordinary moments become holy.

So Harry Lehotsky writes in the Winnepeg Sun

Being told you only have a short time to live has a way of sharpening your senses and adjusting your priorities and perspectives on life.

Many of the most ordinary events and encounters in life are infused with fresh meaning and significance.

A sunny day. The smell of lilacs. A good day at work. Greetings, hugs, goodbyes. We take too many people and things for granted.

Time simultaneously speeds up and slows down. It's hard to explain. It's like you're aware of how quickly hours and days speed by. But you're more determined than ever to juice the most out of every minute.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:05 PM | Permalink

May 25, 2006

Too goal oriented to help dying man

More than 40 climbers ascending Mt Everest passed a British mountaineer who lay dying and didn't stop to help.

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the summit said

"I think the whole attitude toward climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. The people just want to get to the top," he told the newspaper.

Hillary told New Zealand Press Association he would have abandoned his own pioneering climb to save another's life.

"It was wrong if there was a man suffering altitude problems and was huddled under a rock, just to lift your hat, say 'good morning' and pass on by," he said.

He said that his expedition, "would never for a moment have left one of the members or a group of members just lie there and die while they plugged on towards the summit."

Too focused, too goal-oriented, too selfish to be authentically human.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:33 AM | Permalink

May 13, 2006

I always leave the window open

A nurse writes I have seen people die.

The most sobering thing about doing what I do for a living is this: it means that I have done something that, as far as I know, the rest of my immediate family has not. I've done it enough that it's become, at least in the outlines, fairly routine.

.... I've answered the call bell or the person who comes out into the hall with *that tone of voice* or *that look* that means that the person in the bed has quit breathing. I've caught up another nurse on the way to the room to verify the lack of a heartbeat. I've called more residents than I care to think about to verify our verification and chart time of death. I've walked them through the paperwork and told them where to sign.

And, more than that, I've been alone with a number of dead people. The dead are peaceful; they don't ask for cups of coffee when they're NPO or talk politics. I've bathed bodies, removed tubes and wires and IVs, wiped off things I couldn't identify and would rather not think about. I've talked to those people as I've done it, hoping that maybe my persistence in treating them as a living person would speed their souls on to wherever souls go.

I always leave the window open when I do this, no matter the weather. If I have a soul, and if it leaves my body after I die, I do not want to have to work to get outside and fly away. No elevators for me; give me an open window. Supersitious, yes, but part of the private ritual I have.
Those of us who midwife the dying are a weird group; we're not generally skeeved out or frightened by the thing that is most taboo in our culture. Most of us have dissected at least portions of bodies; all of us have talked to those still living about the process of dying. It's hard work, as hard as having a baby, and with much the same rhythm as birthing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:20 PM | Permalink

April 2, 2006

Ready to Set Sail

Far from his home and family in the Dominican Republic, M'ximo Cid Ortiz has been in Washington, an outpatient at the NIH and is now dying of a bone marrow disease with only weeks to live, in his words, "ready to set sail."

He couldn't go home so his family came to him and his eldest daughter, a 14 year old pianist, performed a special concert to a packed hall, including a piece she composed in honor of her father, "Mi Alma" (My Soul). All because one friend Grace Rivera-Owen said, "That's something I could do." It was Music to a Father's Ears.

At night's end, friends and strangers approached Cid Ortiz. Many didn't know what to say.

"I can't describe the amount of gratitude I have," he said again and again.

His wife wiped drops of blood that dripped from his nose, tucking the stained tissues into a plastic wine cup as Cid Ortiz made his way out of the hall.

Cid Ortiz donned his surgical mask, stepped outside and boarded a waiting car. He returned to the hospital with Castillo and the girls, who have decided to stay by his side until he's ready to set sail.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:53 PM | Permalink

March 31, 2006

Good Sense to Question Authority

When it comes to a disaster like Katrina or 9/11, it's often better to question authorities especially when your gut tells you to.

The release of the tapes of 911 calls from September 11 is heart-breaking because

No more than 2 of the 130 callers were told to leave, the tapes reveal, even though unequivocal orders to evacuate the trade center had been given by fire chiefs and police commanders moments after the first plane struck. The city had no procedure for field commanders to share information with the 911 system, a flaw identified by the 9/11 Commission that city officials say has since been fixed.

I wrote in Good Sense and Preparation that

You have to depend on your own good sense and preparation to survive if something terrible happens, a terrorist attack, a fire, or in what seems increasingly likely next year or the next two or three, a pandemic of avian flu.

You have to depend on your own good sense and preparation to survive because the federal government, state and local governments are not prepared as they should be and never will be.

This used to be commonly accepted.

Civil engineers who studied the collapse of the World Trade Center towers said some 2500 people saved their lives because they disobeyed authorities who told them to stay put and instead engaged in "reasoned flight". They didn't flee in a panic but stopped to help the injured and assist the disabled. They knew more than the authorities because they had better access to what was happening than the authorities did.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:51 PM | Permalink

March 27, 2006

The Market for Zombies

It may seem strange, but there's a resurgent market in Zombies, the walking dead.

Books, films and video games about zombies are speaking to the deep and pervasive fear many have.

Most zombie zealots seem to agree that the zombie renaissance has something to do with the anxieties of life after Sept. 11.

"People have apocalypse on the brain right now," Mr. Brooks said. "It's from terrorism, the war, natural disasters like Katrina." Several zombie aficionados said there was a zombielike quality to the spread of the bird flu.

If you need to brush up on zombie lore, a little background. Zombies have their origin in Caribbean voodoo; they are thought to be reanimated corpses, under the control of the witch who reanimated them.

In modern literature and films, zombies are typically mindless, slow-moving creatures (due to the stiffness of necrotic tissue, Mr. Brooks writes) with but one aim: to eat flesh. And they're not particular about whose flesh they eat.

Seems to me, there's enough walking dead out there. What we need are more people waking up and becoming more responsible for the world around us.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:01 PM | Permalink

March 23, 2006

Little Arties and Ariannas

Art Buchwald makes me laugh out loud. Take Low-Interest Loan

He read the same piece I wrote about in Sperm Online but he "decided it was a sign. Why not me?" so he calls the sperm bank, offers a deposit, and spends the rest of the column in a reverie about his possible children in his room at a hospice where he is spending his last days as the man who wouldn't die.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

March 9, 2006

Wars vs Cars

Since the start of the American Revolution in 1775, about a million Americans have died in wars. Since Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1913, more than 2.5 million Americans have died on the road.

The comparison is stunning says Marilyn vos Savant.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:33 PM | Permalink

March 2, 2006

Disgraceful firing

Bernard Chippie was fired because took time off to be with his wife who was dying from brain cancer.

Earlier, Chippie said he notified his employer on Feb. 13 that he would not be able to finish his weekly route because he had just learned his wife had between two days and a week to live. He went to Kathleen Chippie's bedside at a hospice that day.

"There was never a question of where I needed to be," Chippie said.

He said that three days later, his boss demanded that he show up at work the next day. He said he was fired when he said he couldn't.

Three days after that, Kathleen Chippie died at the age of 56.

In 13 years, he had never taken a full week of vacation from the Rug Doctor.

The company's behavior is disgraceful.

While the company did an about-face and offered him his job back, it was probably to avoid a law suit.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:40 PM | Permalink

February 28, 2006

Checklist for the Business of Life

The Financial Planning Association and the National Endowment for Financial Education have teamed up to create an online life-stages financial planning tool.

  Life Events And Financial Decisions

Life Events & Financial Decisions is definitely a site to bookmark if only for as a checklist for the Business of Life™.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 PM | Permalink

February 27, 2006

Black Cadillac by Roseanne Cash

Roseanne Cash's new album Black Cadillac "mines the grief" Cash experienced after she lost three parents in two years - her mother, father and stepmother, Johnny and June Carter Cash. She says in a Beliefnet interview "Each song is about a different place on the map of loss."

Do you see this album as a love letter or a farewell to your parents?

No--it's not a tribute record, it's not a farewell, it's not a goodbye note. It's about what I discovered in the mourning process about my relationship to them, which I believe continues, about re-negotiating the terms of those relationships, because they're not over, although I'm the only one talking. And about the emptiness, the silence that comes when you're the only one talking. It's about an attempt to connect and find what survives death—the ancestral thread, and love.

I am the wall protecting my children from their own mortality, so therefore my mortality is acutely present. I have a sense that I'll get past this phase I'm in right now where I feel like it's so present, that death is imminent, because I'm not old yet, and I know that it's all there because so many people died in such rapid succession. I'm trying to figure out how to integrate that sense of mortality into a graceful way to live in the present. It's hard.


I have written above my desk—"When you sing, you pray twice." Somebody told me that they knew this psychic who when he saw musical notes around a person, he knew they prayed a lot. I thought that was so great, like prayers go out as musical notes, and maybe vice versa.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

February 25, 2006

She's been there

From Pamela Bone, one year after being diagnosed with myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow, and retiring.

The best advice to people suffering a terminal illness I've read was this: 'Yes, you are going to die, but until you do, you are alive.' So that's what I'm doing: being alive.

And goes on to talk about the butter, the Danes and Prince Fredrik.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:55 AM | Permalink

February 15, 2006

When death is the country for children

We forget how ever present death was for all the generations before us, especially death of young children.

As he reads Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, Callimachus ruminates at Done with Mirrors

We tend to think of death as a country for the old. It was not so then. People of all ages were vulnerable, the cold calculus of contagion meant that often if a disease got into a household parents would lose some or all of their children in a matter of days.

Parental bereavement came not only by the sudden stroke of a gunshot or accident; with tragic frequency they had to watch, desperate and powerless as death took its agonizing time with their children, who writhed as parasites dissolved their bowels or languished delirious in parching fevers. Nowadays, parents who lose a child have to go in search of support. No one, it seems, really knows how to talk to them. Parental bereavement is alien to most of us. But 150 years ago, death of a child was a common denominator among American families.

He says

It's remarkable that a tragedy so pervading, and so intense, has not been more considered by historians in examining the temper of the times. This grim fact of life seems to me to explain so much about the shape of 19th century American minds, especially where they seem different from ours: The determination to make something of oneself, the importance of family.

As Haines's letters suggest, not just the intensity of American religion but the form of it, so full of resurrection and the need to keep in God's good graces at every moment, seems to have been guided by the realities of death in that era. The hope of meeting in another world and knowing one another in the flesh again was the only solace.

We are no doubt a blessed and fortunate people but death still comes to all of us. May the certain fact of our death inform our lives in this 21st century and draw us to a more expanded consciousness so we live more abundantly and with true compassion.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:45 PM | Permalink

February 1, 2006

When gender, ethnic differences count

When it comes to end-of-life care, there are distinct gender and ethnic based differences in people's choices, according to a study, admittedly small. Gender, Ethnicity Sway Choices for End-of-Life Care.

"For Arabs, going to a nursing home is the worst thing that could happen to you. The strong expectation is that your family takes care of you," Duffy said. "But African-Americans were more comfortable going to a nursing home, as they did not want to 'burden' their families."

When it comes how you want to be treated if you had only six months to live...

"The men generally did not want extensive intervention done. Dying with dignity was very important, and they didn't want to be a 'vegetable,' " she said.

Duffy added that many men appeared to feel that being dependent at the end of life was a threat to their masculinity.
By contrast, "women were more hopeful that God might intervene and things might change."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 AM | Permalink

January 31, 2006

Kicking the Addiction to Life

Jerry Fensterman I see why others choose to die

I am approaching 50, recently remarried, and the father of a terrific 13-year-old young man. By every measure I enjoy a wonderful life. Or at least I did until April 2004, when I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Surgery was my only hope to prevent its spread and save my life. The discovery of a new lump in December 2004 after two surgeries signaled that metastasis was underway. My death sentence had been pronounced.

Life may be the most intense addiction on earth. From the moment I first heard the words ''you have cancer" and again when I was told that it was spreading out of control, I recognized my addiction to life almost at the cellular level. I have tried since then, as I did before, to live life to the fullest. I also committed myself to doing everything within my power to extend my life.
Mine has been a long, difficult, and certain march to death. Thus, I have had ample time to reflect on my life, get my affairs in order, say everything I want to the people I love, and seek rapprochement with friends I have hurt or lost touch with. The bad news is that my pain and suffering have been drawn out, the rewarding aspects of life have inexorably shrunk, and I have watched my condition place an increasingly great physical and emotional burden on the people closest to me. While they have cared for me with great love and selflessness, I cannot abide how my illness has caused them hardship, in some cases dominating their lives and delaying their healing.

Perhaps the biggest and most profound change I have undergone is that my addiction to life has been ''cured." I've kicked the habit! I now know how a feeling, loving, rational person could choose death over life, could choose to relieve his suffering as well as that of his loved ones a few months earlier than would happen naturally.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

November 12, 2005

When Terrorism Hits Home

Terrorist attacks are mighty different when you know one of the victims.

My brain unconsciously processed the information: Statistics from half a world away... Thank God I don't know anyone over there... Are there any Diet Cokes in the refrigerator?

But in my daily AM-induced trance I was shocked into sharp focus when the newsman reported that the lone American death, at the time, was
"34-year old Rima Akkad". In that instant I knew it was my friend, the beautiful and jovial younger sister of my high school classmate Malek, who I think saved me (at least from something) by getting me over the Mexican border in a wheelbarrow after a drunken night in Tijuana in 1985.

Al Qaeda Killed My Friend by Andrew Breighbart, guest blogging over at Roger L Simon's blog

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 AM | Permalink

November 5, 2005

Chinese activist protesting brutality of forced abortion is kidnapped

Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life or somewhere in between, I can't believe that any American woman or man supports the forced abortions that are going on in China.

In the last few months, some 7000, maybe many tens of thousands, forced abortions have been performed in Shandong province, outside Shanghai. One blind activist, Chen Guangcheng, traveled to Beijing to complain to the central government, journalists and other activists of the "bizarre" brutality of the forced abortion campaign by local government officials in Shandong. According to the San Francisco Chronicle,

Chen was ambushed on the street by plainclothes security officers from Shandong who bundled him into a car and took him back to Linyi. There, Chen found himself under de facto house arrest, where he remains.

It's a horror story of kidnappings, ransoms and brutality against women by local officials that may have widespread consequences to the stability of China. Public protests against corrupt local officials numbered 74,000 last year, up 50% from two years ago. Some of the terrible stories is in the extended entry.

A former employee in the Linyi family planning department, who asked that he be identified only as Cao, said such astonishingly cruel measures were usually carried out by "overzealous" local officials.
Zhu Hongying, 40, and her husband, Xia Jiandong, 40, who are farmers in Zhai Tian Zhuang village near Linyi, and who already have one son, said they had first heard of the forced abortions in March, when Zhu was five months pregnant.

"We panicked and ran into (Linyi) to hide," Zhu said during an interview that was conducted by telephone because local police had sealed off her area in the wake of Chen's detention. "But to get to us, about a month after we left, they arrested three of my sisters-in-law. So we felt very guilty and went home."

What happened next went beyond her deepest fears, Zhu said: "The people from the family planning department were waiting for us. They demanded 700 RMB (about $90, two months' wages for Zhu) to release my sisters-in-law, and then they pushed me into a van and took me to a local family planning clinic."

There, a group of eight people surrounded her and harangued her to have an abortion.

What they were doing was illegal. By law, only financial and other penalties can be levied against parents who break China's one-child policy. But Zhu said there was no way for her to protest.

"I just kept sobbing and begging, but no one listened," she said. "Finally, I was so weak, I just said 'yes.' Then a doctor came in and gave me an injection in the stomach. After I took the shot, the whole day I didn't feel anything. The second day in the early morning blood and water all flowed out of me. Then the baby came out, but it was dead. It was a boy."

Zhu said gazing at her dead son was the most heartbreaking moment of her life.

After she aborted, her husband said, a nurse came into the room and dumped the baby's body into a black plastic bag, along with all the other discharge.

"She told me to go throw it into a truck, which had a large container kind of thing at the back," said Xia, his voice quavering. "When I opened the door and looked in, it was full of black bags and blood."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:07 AM | Permalink

October 31, 2005

A Flash of Light

An Italian poet said, "We live in a flash of light; evening comes and it is night forever." It’s only a flash and we waste it. We waste it with our anxiety, our worries, our concerns, our burdens."

- Anthony de Mello, 20th century Jesuit priest

via Zaadz and Brian Johnson, Philosopher & CEO who offers more from de Mello -

"The way to really live is to die. The passport to living is to imagine yourself in your grave. Imagine you’re lying in your coffin….Now look at your problems from that viewpoint. Changes everything, doesn’t it?"

"You’re not living until it doesn’t matter a tinker’s damn to you whether you live or die. At that point you live. When you’re ready to lose your life, you live it."

"Life is for the gambler, it really is."

"So love the thought of death, love it."

If you haven't read his thinkarete.the manifesto, you will love it - What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 PM | Permalink

October 29, 2005

Radical Life Extension

I wish nothing more than people living long, healthy, happy and productive lives so I'm excited about the extraordinary medical and technological advances we are seeing.

Joel Garreau, the author of Radical Evolution, showed me how how we are riding on a curve of exponential change in genetics, robotics, information and nano (GRIN) technologies that is unprecedented in human nature.

Much as being made of Ray Kurzweil's, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology which I haven't read. But when it comes to radical life extension advocates, I get the creeps. Why does living to 140 or 350 years sound so unappealing? I couldn't put my finger on it until I read an interview of Bioethicist William Hurlburt on the dangers of radical life extension.

It's like stretching out a symphony, playing it at half speed so it goes on longer–it wouldn't have the same beauty or meaning. We get a taste of each relational category–being a child, a parent, and a grandparent. And our direct family lineage is connected by both genetics and personal experience, not so attenuated by time that relatives feel unrelated. If people lived to be 140, as some scientists suggest we will through technological intervention, a child could have 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents whose names he or she could never remember. In our natural lifespan, there is a harmony of proportion between the cycles of birth, ascendancy, and decline–phases of generation, nurture, and dependency that give a sense of meaningful connection within the journey of our lives.

For the most part, I'm not afraid of dying because Life Will Always Continue. If you see yourself as inter-connected to all life, then dying is far more of a natural process, part of a Great Harmony.

My greatest concern is not how long we can live, but the rapidity of technological advances that is not being matched by similar advances in our wisdom or our ethics.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:06 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2005

Third Age Blog

I'm one voice in a group of talented people each with a distinctive voice, experience and expertise: Connie Goldman, Jacqueline Marcell, Jed Diamond, Lisa Haneberg, Rinatte Paries, Ronni Bennett, Sharon Whiteley, Susan Anderson, Susan Mitchell, Tom Blake and Yvonne Divita.

I write about many of the same things I do on Business of Life and Legacy Matters but often in a more personal way.

Until I can get me on of those doohickies that signifies a new post on another blog, I'm just going to periodically round-up a group of posts and link them here in reverse chronological order.

Rules of Life
Responding to Suffering
Make Haste for a Neighborhood Barbecue
Lessons of Katrina
Afraid to Get Prepared?
Intensely Alive While Dying
Why Can't We Talk About the Important Things?
A Gift of Stories
Good enough is good enough
Learning from Life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2005

Post-Post Modern Moment

Many years ago, I was in a plane with my then boss when we were told the landing gear appeared to be stuck. Somehow, I wasn't afraid though my boss was terrified.

We circled around Logan Airport for about two hours before we were told to assume the crash position with the pillows every airplane used to carry. A runway was sprayed with foam before we landed which we did easily.

So yesterday's drama on Jet Blue was a familiar one. I eagerly searched for reports by the passengers and found this.

Mrs. Jacobs said "We couldn't believe the irony that we might be watching our own demise on television. It just seemed a bit post-post-modern if you will."

Read the full report by McCannta, Post-Post Modern on Jet Blue

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:15 PM | Permalink

September 11, 2005

Comparison of Death Tolls

The Astute Blogger says Mortality Comparisons Reveal US Response to Katrina Excellent.

While no one knows what the final toll will be, it looks as though the death toll will be far less than the 10,000 expected.

By comparison the 2003 heatwave in Europe killed 35-40,000 according to wikipedia.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 AM | Permalink

August 30, 2005

New Orleans is Devastated.

The levees have been breached.  The mayor of New Orleans says that water is flowing into New Orleans, flooding it beyond recognition.

From Major Breech Flooding and Destroying New Orleans.

80% of the city is under water, in some sections the water is 20 feet deep.  Both airports are underwater.  The Twin Span bridge is totally destroyed.  All of Slidell is under water.  The I-10, the major highway into the city is under water.

Brendan Loy says, "Lake Pontchartrain is entering the city and becoming Lake New Orleans."

The breach is at the 17th Street canal and the water is flowing so fast, there are whitecaps on Canal St.  The main hospital is being flooded and is considering air evacuation of patients.

This is terrible.  This is catastrophe.    My heart weeps at the devastation of lives and property.  It will take years to recover.

UPDATE:  The KatrinaHelp Wiki is up

Many thanks to Terry Teachout for creating the first manual aggregator of Katrina related blogs.

Technorati Tags: ,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:15 PM | Permalink

August 21, 2005

Emotional Midwife

In the secret world of surrogacy,  where older women buy eggs from other women or arrange for other women to carry and bear their child,
Melanie McGuire was an "emotional midwife", available at any time to talk with her clients.

A client of Reproductive Medical Associates, Jennifer Calise, is quoted in the Style section of Sunday's New York Times

The entire process is a leap of faith.  As a parent who is entrusting strangers with your DNA - your eggs, your sperm, your future children - it's really a scary prospect.

The emotional midwife has been arrested for murder.    Prosecutors charge her with shooting her husband, dismembering him, putting the cut-up pieces into black garbage bags, then into suitcases, throwing them off a bridge, before carrying on her life and career for over a year before her arrest.

Murder Stirs Surrogacy Network

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:15 PM | Permalink

August 8, 2005

Congratulations and condolences

Was there ever such a story that combined tragedy with hope, sadness with love? 

Is there any doubt that this is what Susan Torres would have wanted?  Her dying body, riddled with cancer, was yet suffused with love sufficient to bring a healthy baby to life - Susan Anne Catherine Torres.

Brain dead mother taken off life support from the Washington Post .

After her husband and parents said their last goodbyes and after a priest offered a prayer -- words about weeping in a valley of tears -- Susan Torres, her improbable mission accomplished, was unhooked yesterday morning from the machines that sustained not only her body but that of her baby for the past three months.

The 26-year-old Arlington woman, who was felled by cancer and declared brain-dead in May, but who gave birth by Caesarean section Tuesday to the girl she had hoped for, died shortly thereafter. It was the end her family knew was inevitable, but it was no less difficult to fathom.
Jason Torres, who slept by his wife's side for three months, whose cell phone still carries her voice and who made the final decision to unhook the machines, stayed away from the cameras and crowds of reporters who had come to the hospital to find out, among other things, how his new daughter, Susan Anne Catherine Torres, was doing.

Strange happening on the night of Susan Torres' tragic collapse.

On the night of Susan’s collapse, May 7, said Sonny, he returned home with his wife Karen at about 3:00am, and went to bed, exhausted. At about 4:15am, without any warning, he awoke and sat bolt upright. Karen also awoke and asked him what the matter was.

“What it was,” he said, “it wasn’t a dream…This was so different from a dream…so…so powerful. It was words that came to me. It was a woman’s voice; my wife made me write it down. It wasn’t a request, it was a command.”......

“.......Sonny said that although it struck him at the time as a singular and unusual experience, he put it down to overwrought nerves, still barely coming to terms with the tragedy of his daughter-in-law’s sudden collapse only a few hours before. It wasn’t until the following day when he began to tell his son what happened that he was given a palpable reason to think of it as something more than imagination.

“I went to my son later that day,” continued Sonny, “and I began to tell him about it and he said ‘Stop! Let me tell you what I had.’ We compared notes, and it happened about the same time—4:15 in the morning. And his is almost word for word of mine.”

The words that both Sonny and Jason believe they heard, before the life-affirming story of Susan ever reached the ears of a journalist or a newsman, are the following:

“You and others will tell the world of a fight to save a precious life, not to change hardened hearts, but to give hope to those who believe, so that they know that there is more than what they see and hear. Let them come and see for themselves.”

Congratulations and condolences to the Torres family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 AM | Permalink

August 5, 2005

Babies in flower pots

Is Communism to blame for baby deaths?

Brandenburg Interior Minister Joerg Schoenbohm thinks so to the consternation of his party, the Christian Democrats.

Police arrested a 39-year-old German woman in the eastern state of Brandenburg on Monday and charged her with killing nine newborn babies between 1988 and 1999 after finding their bodies buried in flower pots at her parents' home.

The deaths, described as Germany's worst post war series of child killings, have sparked shock and disbelief that the woman identified as Sabine H could conceal so many pregnancies.
He added the communists' compulsory collectivisation of farms 50 years ago in the largely rural state had led people to lose their sense of personal responsibility and to a decline of moral values in society.

It has the ring of truth to me.  Nine pregnancies.  Nine births.  Nine babies buried in flowerpots and no one noticed?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:15 PM | Permalink

July 26, 2005

Spammer murdered

I fight spam every day, sometimes deleting up to 300 trackback pings, so I've finally installed a new plug-in that closes off trackbacks after 30 days.   

While I fumed death to spammers, I never thought of murder.

Someone in Russia did. Russia's biggest spammer was brutally murdered in his apartment, dying after repeated blows to the head.

What do the police do when there are millions of suspects?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 AM | Permalink

July 22, 2005

Slavery, what you didn't know

From the things I never knew department, these shocking numbers.

A.  11 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic during the days of the slave trade.  95% went to South and Central America, only 5% of the slaves went to the United States.

B.  At least 28 million Africans were enslaved in the Muslim Middle East.  At least 80% of those captured by Muslim slave traders were estimated to have died in treks across the desert.  The death toll from 14 centuries of Muslim slave traded into Africa could have been over 112 million.  Add that toll to the number sold in slave markets and the total number of victims of the Trans Saharan and East African slave trade could be higher than 140 million people!

This must be one of history's best kept secrets.

From The scourge of slavery, the rest of the story which was highly recommended by Joe Katzman at Winds of Change

Katzman points out that in the U.S, we had the great fortune of the 18 and 19th century Abolitionists.  Just a few dedicated people, inspired by their Christian faith, opposed slavery, crusaded against it and changed the world.

No such abolitionists arose in the Muslim world where slavery still exists in many places, albeit secretly.  In my hometown, a suburb of Boston, the wife of a Saudi prince was arrested earlier this year for keeping slaves!


Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2005

Paralyzed and not depressed

If you were to name diseases that seem terrifying to just about everyone, Lou Gehrig's disease would be at the top of the list.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is incurable.  It destroys the brain's ability to control muscles through neurons, gradually causing physical decline until the patient is unable to breathe.  Some 30,000 Americans live with ALS and about 5600 are newly diagnosed each year.

Yet, remarkably, ALS patients with advanced ALS who have trouble breathing and probably only six months to live are not greatly depressed even though death is very much on their minds.

Steven Albert, associate professor at Columbia University and co-author of a study published in the July 12 issue of Neurology says,

"The broader message is that even when people are dying, they can have satisfying lives and appreciate a lot of things."
Death was on the minds of many of the patients, however. Of the 53 who died during the study period, 23 reported thinking about ending their lives. Three asked caregivers for relief from pain even if it hastened their deaths.
"For those people who are able to exercise this control over dying and report very high levels of suffering, their mood improves when they realize they could work out an arrangement and control the time of death," Albert said.
Dr. Catherine Lomen-Hoerth, director of the University of California at San Francisco's ALS Center, said the findings reflect what she sees on the job. "Most patients are quite comfortable with death," said Lomen-Hoerth, who wrote a commentary accompanying the two new studies.
"It comes with having a lot of time to prepare, and from clinics and hospice professionals addressing the issue with patients and families."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:30 PM | Permalink

July 15, 2005

Tell ill elderly about Hospice

A lot of people are dissatisfied with the way their relatives in nursing homes are treated at the end of their lives.  With one in four Americans dying in a nursing home, that's a lot of unhappy people.

Too often they don't get pain medication.  Some 25% of those with cancer don't get daily pain medication and many are sent to hospitals where they receive aggressive treatment in the last weeks of life

Many Elderly Not Aware of Hospice Value

Providing information can enhance end-of-life experience, a new study finds.    Just by giving elderly people straightforward information makes them more likely to enter hospices for their end of life care.

Helping the Dying to Live

HospiceNet for patients and families facing life-threatening illness

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:26 PM | Permalink

June 28, 2005

..And a time to die

Sharon Kaufman, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of California, San Francisco, has written a deep, quite remarkable book on how American hospitals shape the life at the end of life.

"And a Time to Die : How American Hospitals Shape the End of Life" (Dr. Sharon Kaufman)

For over a thousand years, death was a public event, not the private family matter as we understand it.  The art of dying well provided the model for the deathbed scene when it unfolded in public view,  the passage into the unknown seen as a spiritual one.

By the 18th century, the art of medicine made death more visible and the dying person was transformed into the patient.  Today we experience the "problem of dying" because new technologies allow a new state of being - "death in life".  The Karen Quinlan case began a new way of speaking about death - "a matter of deciding when a person should die and when a person should be considered dead."

We've gone from death watch to billable treatments.

The notion of  patient autonomy is actually applied only within a narrow sphere-decision-making about specific medical treatments offered by individual doctors.  Patients and families are given choices only among the options made available by hospital rules, reimbursement mechanisms and standards of care.  Death is rarely spoken until shortly before it occurs.  Until then tests and treatments continue.  There is a huge conflict between aggressive medical care and palliative care with every instinct of the hospital pushing people towards lifesaving treatment.

Old age as a disease rather than a developmental process that includes decline toward death has become a more compelling truth that drives hospital practice today.  Since 1913, the last year one could die of "old age,  the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) requires a bureaucratic listing of a discrete disease for every death.

The idea of a good death as one that gave the dying an opportunity to say farewell and to prepare to cross the threshold to the afterlife has morphed into a death that is quick, unconscious or at least painless.  More recently, the emphasis is on the individual patient's control of the style of death and " 'good' mostly indicates a death that is "aware, pain-free and in which psychological and worldly business are completed."

"The pervasive quest for an emotionally satisfying death exists uneasily with the fact that dying has become a technical endeavor, a negotiated decision and a murky matter biologically.  Potential litigation hangs over and even guides health practitioner activity.  These developments have an enormous impact on how life at the end of life is made and interpreted."

A difficult book and an important one.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

Zombie Dogs

SCIENTISTS have created eerie zombie dogs, reanimating the canines after several hours of clinical death in attempts to develop suspended animation for humans. 

US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.

-----......this should be enough to save lives such as battlefield casualties and victims of stabbings or gunshot wounds, who have suffered huge blood loss.

The results are stunning. I think in 10 years we will be able to prevent death in a certain segment of those using this technology," said one US battlefield doctor.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:29 PM | Permalink

June 8, 2005

Terminally Ill

"The prospect of hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully," - Samuel Johnson

While the adage "life is short" may seem true for everyone, no one understands this better than those facing a terminal illness

Who can they talk to about the serious matters weighing on their minds?    Doctors and nurses are too busy.  Family and friends are often too uncomfortable with unsettling reflections. 

At the same time, terminally ill individuals face very pressing, end-of-life issues. "Major transitions like these are inherently spiritual, and people start asking questions such as 'What is the meaning of my life?' 'What's my legacy here?' 'Where am I going to next?' " Miller said. "All of these issues come into play. And it's those three areas, in particular, that aren't being addressed."

Support groups seem to work.  Makes sense.  Who knows better what  a terminally ill person is going through than someone else facing the same prospect?

Talking Together Brings Comfort to the Terminally Ill

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 PM | Permalink

June 2, 2005

The Green Genocide

This is such a stunning article by an atheist in Africa that I simply must point to it, The Green Genocide by Andrew Kenny or why religion works better than ideology in the overall scheme of things. 

Previously, religion had served mankind's deep needs for explanation, order, spiritual comfort and transcendental meaning. Now a new and hideous thing was summoned up to serve the same needs. The thing was ideology, and in a few decades it caused more bloodshed than millennia of religion. It was darker and more irrational, and contained within it something unknown to all the Religions of the Book: a death wish. Religious leaders, however bad they may be, however prone to hubris and hatred, are generally constrained by fear of God above and by ancient tradition and wisdom.

Ideological leaders have no such constraints.

Ideology comes in three colours: Red, Brown and Green, representing Marxism, Fascism and environmental extremism. Judged on sheer evil, the worst crime in history was brown, the Nazi genocide, although the reds slaughtered more people. The death toll (difficult to measure) is roughly: Hitler's holocaust, six million; Stalin's famine and terror eight million; and Mao's famine 30 million. But the Greens have topped them all. In a single crime, they have killed about 50 million people. In purely numerical terms, it was the worst crime of the 20th century. It began in the United States in 1972. It was the banning of DDT.

I have heard not one word of pity or regret from any Green organization about the vast loss of human life caused by the ban on DDT. On the contrary, they seem to regard it as a glorious triumph. The likely reason was spelled out with chilling clarity by Charles Wurster of the Environmental Defence Fund in the United States in 1971, when it was pointed out to him that DDT saved the lives of poor people in poor countries. He said: "So what? People are the main cause of our problems. We have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them and this is as good a way as anything."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:23 PM | Permalink

May 28, 2005

What's a Guy to Do?

My father's death was the envy of all his friends.

He hit a perfect drive off the eighth tee one spring morning and fell over dead of a heart attack. He was 73 and had never spent a day in the hospital. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of so-called procedures he ever had to endure.

Of course, given the outcome, we all might have been better off if he had submitted to a few more of them after that day of nausea a few months before his death. Dad's doctor decided it had been a teeny-tiny heart attack.

I might give the same advice to myself.

Dennis Overbye writes  Anti-Doctor and Anti-Death - What's a Guy to Do. 

If you're one of those guys - and you know who you are, avoiding doctors  - or married to one, this is a funny must-read piece.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

May 13, 2005

Extra credit if grandma dies

From the Annals of Improbable Research, the Dead Grandmother / Exam Syndrome

The basic problem can be stated very simply: A student's grandmother is far more likely to die suddenly just before the student takes an exam, than at any other time of year.

And in Britain, extra credit given if a pet dies on day of exam, more if parent or grandparent, as reported by the BBC.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:42 PM | Permalink

February 25, 2005

Anxiety at the End of Life

Nearly half of the relatives whose loved ones died of cancer wish that hospice care had started earlier. They wanted palliative care - treating the physical, spiritual, and psychological needs of a patient at the end of life sooner.

No doubt they saw the acute anxiety that afflicts some people as they realize the end is near, making their last days more difficult than they need be.    Harvard University recognizes that such anxiety is often treated with sedatives that leaves the dying  disconnected from reality at a time when most want to connect more deeply and lovingly with their family and friends.  The Boston Globe reports Harvard seeks to test ecstasy drug on the dying.

Harvard researchers are preparing for the first time in three decades to conduct human experiments using a psychedelic drug, a study that would seek to harness the mind-altering effects of the drug ecstasy to help ease the crushing psychic burdens faced by dying cancer patients.

In the experiment, 12 terminal cancer patients would be given MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, to determine whether the drug helps alleviate their anxiety. If the results are positive, the Harvard scientists said, they will push forward with large-scale tests that could make end-of-life ecstasy treatments generally available to terminally-ill patients.

....''We're trying to avoid sedating people, to allow them to maintain a good quality of life so they can enjoy the time they have with family and friends," said Shuster, who will select patients from Lahey for the experiment.

Typically, dying patients are given drugs such as valium, which can cloud their minds, or antipsychotics that leave them edgy. In any of these states, said cancer specialists, it becomes difficult to resolve family issues, arrange financial matters, or approach death with a sense of peace and understanding.

....Ethics boards at McLean and the Lahey Clinic, which will provide the patients, have already approved the experiment, as has the US Food and Drug Administration. The Drug Enforcement Agency still must approve the experiment, and Harvard officials said they expected to hear from the agency within weeks.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:48 PM | Permalink

February 18, 2005

A Flood of Light

The near death experience has been described by many as total bliss accompanied by a flood of light.  This mystical joy is what saints and yogis have experienced using prayer and meditation to close down the mind and still the senses.  Stephen Ruppenthal has lots more at "Spiritual Awakening and the Near-Death Experience,"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:03 PM | Permalink

February 8, 2005

Can Someone in a Coma Hear?

I've always been told that one of the last senses to go is hearing.  When my husband lay dying for the longest 24 hours of my life, I talked and cried and swore and talked some more as I rubbed his growing colder feet.  I could only hope that he heard how much I loved him

Today, brain imaging technology can show that some people in comas respond to their loved ones speaking recalling shared experiences much as healthy people do.  From The New York Times, Signs of Awareness Seen in Brain-Injured Patients.

Thousands of brain-damaged people who are treated as if they are almost completely unaware may in fact hear and register what is going on around them but be unable to respond, a new brain-imaging study suggests. 

....."This study gave me goose bumps, because it shows this possibility of this profound isolation, that these people are there, that they've been there all along, even though we've been treating them as if they're not," said Dr. Joseph Fins, chief of the medical ethics division of New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:14 PM | Permalink

February 1, 2005

Homicide Detective

Your chances of getting away with murder are 3 out of 4 according to a real homicide detective in Chicago who deals with 50 or so murders a year.  Fascinating look at a profession we only know from cop shows on TV.

I do love my job. I believe in silly old-fashioned ideas like justice, integrity, and law & order.  No one, no matter what they have done, deserves to be murdered. ... I ended up in this profession quite by accident and I can't think of anything else I would rather be doing. ... Being a homicide detective has had one personal drawback. I have an overwhelming sense of my own mortality. It is mildly depressing.  ....  On a side note; never trust a detective who dresses like one of those TV characters.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:12 PM | Permalink

January 22, 2005

Time to Ride?

"Enough Dreaming.  It's Time to Ride." Are you an aging boomer with an unsatisfied lust to take to the open road on your Harley?  Well, slow down.  The over 40 motorcycle deaths have tripled in the past decade to 1674 in 2003 at the same time deaths of riders under 30 have dropped  slightly to 1161.  Safety experts suspect older motorcycle riders with a lot of money to spend are buying more and more powerful machines than their aging bodies can handle.

"It's really kind of astonishing. The ages of these fatalities are so high. You would think it would be all of the young kids on those fast bikes, but it's not," said Carl Hallman, highway safety coordinator with the Maine Department of Public Safety.

   Combo Harley

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 PM | Permalink

January 19, 2005

Why People Love Hospice

Over at Grandrounds 18, a collection of the best medical posts in the past week, a wonderful one about why people love hospice.   Did you know that 49% of the population has had experience with hospice and 98% of them had positive experiences according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization?

When people stop me on the street tell me how wonderful hospice is and how much we helped one of their family members or friends, I usually say, “We’re the experts at the one thing that nobody wants to be an expert at.” I believe that simple statement is why hospice is so well received. 

If you have a decent sized family, odds are someone in your family is going to go through a terminal illness in your lifetime. If you have many friends, again, odds are one of them is going to be sick and eventually die. Morbid I know, but that does not mean it’s not true. Now, when that happens, will you know everything you need to know to help? Will you know who to call to get medical equipment? Will you be able to get the doctor to make the seemingly daily medication changes as the illness progresses? Will you be able to give them their bath and change their clothes? Will you know what to say when they get scared? Do you know about the resources in your community that can help in this tough situation? The answer to most or all of these questions is probably no, and that makes you normal. Why would you know these things? Why would you want to? How many times in your life will you need to know these things? Once or twice, three at the most. Few people are an expert at the dying process, and even fewer want to be. Hospice workers are experts at the one thing nobody wants to be an expert at. 

Part of this is the team concept. Every hospice patient gets a nurse, an aide, a social worker, and a chaplain. All of them (unless they are new to the job) have done this before. There is very little you can ask for or say to a hospice worker that they have not heard before. I’m sure it will be the first time you have said it, but it’s not the first time they have heard it. It is the nature of hospice that what you are experiencing for the first and possibly for the last time the hospice team will experience twice that day or week. People need answers to their questions. They need someone who can help when it is needed. They need someone who understands. That is what hospice does. 

We are the experts at the one thing nobody wants to be an expert at, and for that reason people love hospice and the people who do it for a living.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 AM | Permalink

December 29, 2004

Waves that change everything.

It's quite impossible to take in the immensity of the tragedy of the tsunamis in Southeast Asia.  The numbers boggle the mind.  It may be over 60,000 lives lost now.  There are few things we can do.  First, contributions of course to pay for emergency relief of water, clothes and shelter.  Click on How to Help  for a list of organizations accepting contributions to help the victims.

The stories are heart-wrenching and there so many. The people lost and the people left behind. 
From The Guardian

"My house collapsed and I had my daughter's hand in mine as we ran back from the water," said her distraught father, Raja. "But the wave took her from my hands."    From the same spot Shiva Prakashan, 26, saw his father swept away by the waves."He was sitting by the street and suddenly the water came," he said. "I looked back and he was gone."

From The Age in Australia

This was the worst day in our history," said Sri Lankan businessman YP Wickramsinghe as he picked through the rubble of his dive shop in the devastated southwestern town of Galle.  "I wish I had died. There is no point in living."

From the New York Times

Mulyana, a 24-year-old housewife, had just sat down to a wedding party on Sunday morning when the tsunami struck. She ran and held on to a coconut tree. But the water pulled her away anyway, far out to sea.
"I was alone in the middle of the ocean," she said from her hospital bed in this town on the northeastern coast of Aceh Province, the area of Indonesia hit hardest by the disaster. "I was afraid of being pulled all the way to India."
Mulyana, who cannot swim, grabbed to a coconut tree floating nearby and clung to it. With the weight of her clothes pulling her down, she ripped off everything but her bra and prayed to God to help her. Four hours later, a group of fishermen found her as they were pulling bodies from the water.

Norm Geras at Normblog has a terrific post  Perspectives on the calamity.  He quotes Simon Day at the University of California

As a scientist working on the causes and effects of tsunamis, I find editorialising along the lines of "a readiness to accept the hardness of our condition is the only proper attitude" quite excruciating. For me, the deepest horror of the event lies in the one to three hours between the recording of the earthquake on the worldwide seismic network and the arrival of the tsunami waves on distant coasts, while their victims lived out the last hours of their lives all unawares.

With less than an hour of warning and a simple lesson in advance on what to do, most would have been able to simply walk a mile inland to safety and the death toll would have been counted in the hundreds rather than the tens of thousands. Providing these things is not advanced science.

The most thought-provoking  is Waves by 'Cicero'  at Winds of Change. 

Living consists of enduring tsunamis -- unexpected waves rising out of the sea, changing everything. If asked only a minute before the first wave hit, “what threatens you the most,” the bin Laden bystander might have postulated that George Bush was his greatest threat, or American capitalism. Or perhaps he would have lamented diminishing fish supplies, or pointed at a deforested tropical coastland. Maybe he would have expressed fear for Tamil rebels, or government army men. Then, only one minute later, the sea’s horizon would tilt upwards, sweeping away the expected.

Change tends to come in waves -- deep, silent swells that knock every atom of presumption aside, overturning accepted prejudices, ideas, fears and dreams. 9/11 was one such wave. It was a great surge that overcame our meticulously constructed reality, seemingly impervious to the dark motives of bearded men living in 12th century Afghanistan. That wave rose out of the sea, on a beautiful, sunny day. And a new world was born in its wake.

In this last nod to 2004, we should remember waves. We can look back on human history and see that fundamental change rises from nowhere, and is revolutionary. Waves like the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, or the 1929 Crash; waves such as Pearl Harbor and Trinity, or a crumbling Berlin Wall, or the World Wide Web. In retrospect, there were impending signs, and surely their coming could have been foretold if anyone was attuned and heard. We should recognize that our greatest asset as living beings is our capacity to absorb waves. In so doing, we transform ourselves, and move ahead. The waves of this world make us a better people. We will endure only if we create opportunity from the abrupt realities that rise from the sea.

Change comes in waves.  Being prepared, being resilient, being compassionate is what we all must do as we endure the Business of Life and the waves that change everything.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

Ecstasy Study for Cancer Patients

Dr. John Halpern, a Harvard psychiatrist, has won FDA approval, authorization from the Lahey Clinic and McClean hospital for a pilot study to see whether the recreational drug Ecstasy or MDMA "can help terminally ill patients lessen their fears, quell thoughts of suicide and make it easier for them to deal with loved ones," according to the Associated Press.

Halpern said anecdotal reports of people dying from cancer who take Ecstasy and were able to talk to their family and friends about death and other subjects they couldn't broach before.  Unlike other pain medications, Ecstasy does not make people foggy but reduces their stress and increases their empathy. 

"I'm hoping that we can find something that can be of use for people in their remaining days of life,"  Halpern said

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:02 AM | Permalink

July 12, 2004

Doctors recognize Faith's role in recovery

The loss of a child has to be one of the most wrenching of human experiences. Doctors and nurses who work at neonatal intensive care units face daily the inexplicable loss of tiny babies and the devastating impact on their parents. Dr. Robert White of Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana, realized that caring for the families of premature infants included matters of the sprit.
White heads a group of Memorial doctors who encourage physicians to recognize the spiritual needs of patients both in the hospital and in their private offices. They are now championing what they see as a legitimate spiritual dimension to modern medicine as David Rumbach writes in "Doctors recognize faith's role in recovery" in Science and Theology.

The reaction to the soft sell approach of the Spirituality Committee's efforts has been quite positive. Says Dr Ferguson, an obstetrician and president of Memorial's staff of 580 physicians says, "I've been pleasantly surprised. It's not like we're pushing this on people and saying you have to do this."

    Another reason for the lack of resistance might be that medicine’s traditionally strict wall of separation between body and mind has been eroding steadily. Ironically, the change has been driven by scientific evidence.

    In a 2002 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Harold G. Koenig, of Duke University and editor-in-chief of Science & Theology News, said 724 studies have been conducted on religious coping this century, and about two-thirds have shown a positive association between religious activity and better mental health, greater social support and less substance abuse.

    White said the mountain of studies not only justifies physicians in paying attention to spirituality, but also compels them to do it.

    “Even if you’re a totally nonreligious physician, this means you have to pay attention to spirituality because it’s going to help your patients get better,” he said.

The reaction to the soft sell approach of the Spirituality Committee's efforts has been quite positive. Says Dr Ferguson, an obstetrician and president of Memorial's staff of 580 physicians says, "I've been pleasantly surprised. It's not like we're pushing this on people and saying you have to do this."

    Another reason for the lack of resistance might be that medicine’s traditionally strict wall of separation between body and mind has been eroding steadily. Ironically, the change has been driven by scientific evidence.

    In a 2002 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Harold G. Koenig, of Duke University and editor-in-chief of Science & Theology News, said 724 studies have been conducted on religious coping this century, and about two-thirds have shown a positive association between religious activity and better mental health, greater social support and less substance abuse.

    White said the mountain of studies not only justifies physicians in paying attention to spirituality, but also compels them to do it.

    “Even if you’re a totally nonreligious physician, this means you have to pay attention to spirituality because it’s going to help your patients get better,” he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:45 PM | Permalink