Saturday, August 8, 2015

Why the Planned Parenthood “Sale of Baby Parts” isn’t the story that matters?

The pit-in-your stomach, heart stopping agony at seeing a tiny, severed arm being picked up by a pair of tweezers is truly indescribable and the farthest corners of my vocabulary cannot begin to explain the sorrow in my soul as I witnessed it, even on screen it was devastating.  The tiniest of hands that only a few years from now could have waved cheerfully from a window like that of my 3 year old nephew when I come for a visit, the smallest of little feet that could have one day traveled the world, a teeny pair of lungs that never had the chance to breathe air, and an almost inconceivably small eye that was never able to see the smile of someone who loved him, all a bloodied, muddled mess in a petri dish being picked through like pieces of chicken on a butcher’s block.

Looking at the shattered pieces of that little boy my mind immediately went to what could have been.   What was that man destined to do?  Who was he to be?  Now, some of you may dislike my use of the word “man,” but that is ultimately what we are talking about here right?  The precious, little, soul attached to those now wretched limbs was meant to grow into a man, to experience and live life, to be shaped by his childhood joys and traumas, have dreams, ambitions, and passions to chase.  But, this man wasn’t allowed any of it, every chance and choice was stolen from him and in a moment that must have been pure hell he was literally ripped limb from limb.  Now to add insult to the highest of injuries this man’s organs are being picked through for usefulness, given a market price and sold.  Does it make a difference to you to think of the little being as a man rather than a fetus?  It shouldn’t…

At one point we were all in the place of that fetus, anyone in my generation or those since should count him/herself blessed to have made it out of that prenatal war-zone alive, that their foxhole wasn’t stormed, and they were granted safe passage into the world.  Many were not so lucky and our world is changed because of it. 

Maybe we lost the great leader of nations who would help guide America back to her glory days or the brilliant scientist with a mind built to discover great feats of medical advancement.  Maybe there are now fewer Average Joes: hardworking, family types, who are the foundation of middle class America.  Or maybe, we kept a few homeless off our streets, or cells empty in our prisons.  In truth, even though we often use these arguments it doesn’t matter what that life would have amounted to, the cost of the loss is equally and utterly devastating.  Every chance that little being had to grow and change and choose was stolen and our world is a darker place because of it.

Human worth is not dependent on what you do, how much you make, your contribution to society, or any other arbitrary factor.  It is simply granted by being human, as soon as the sperm tunnels into the egg you are a chasm of untapped potential, potential that is uniquely you and will never be duplicated.  Whether or not you meet this potential does not affect your inherent worth.

It is no wonder that as adults so many of us believe love must be conditional, that our worth is dependent on how good we are, how smart we are, or how much we are wanted.

As I scroll down my facebook feed on almost any given day I can see pregnancy announcements, gender reveal party pictures, or descriptions of the size of the unborn child as compared to fruits and vegetables.  All of these “fetuses” have one thing in common, they are wanted.  So that begs the question, are these children inherently more valuable than others because they are desired?  Certainly not, but somehow we treat them as such.

Nothing in the child is different between the one blessed to be in the womb of the woman who excitedly opens a box and dodges pink or blue balloons as they flutter past her smiling face, and the one whose mother feels helpless, alone, and unable to continue on the road she has found herself.  Yet, we treat them so differently.  We are willing and ready to celebrate with one family and shrug off the removal of an unfortunate accident for another.  Until we resolve this within ourselves, we will never have peace or rest in our society on this issue.  So what is the answer?

Love! And yes I know how cheesy that sounds.  In fact, as I type this I am hearing The Beatles “All you Need is Love” running through the back of my head and my inner voice is gagging on the gigantic cheese puff I just offered you.  Unfortunately though, sometimes the truth is cheesy.  No one ever came to Christ because you beat them with a Bible, called them names, or yelled in their face.  We absolutely should be excited with our “expecting” friends, we should rejoice over the new life at every opportunity.  And the broken, sad woman on the way to the abortion clinic?  Love her too!  She may need and appreciate it more than your friend on facebook.

We will never win the abortion battle if our strategy is judgement and anger.  Love, compassion, and understanding are the only tools that matter.  To the mother of the little boy in that dish, I don’t hate you.  If you weep, I weep with you and for you.  It breaks my heart to think that you may have felt you had no other option and I want all women in your shoes to know how deeply loved they are and their great worth in the eyes of their Heavenly Father.  I want them to feel empowered to face the road ahead of them, no matter how utterly terrifying life may seem.

We often do this very well in the pro-life movement, there are so many crisis pregnancy centers with volunteers willing to listen with love and help where and when they can, there are programs to give pregnant women in crisis housing and support through the pregnancy and birth, as well as charities whose heart is with single mothers throughout their child raising years.  We know how to win with love and do so daily in little ways.  It is when these scandals appear that we sometimes forget.

The church, the pro-life movement, the world is filled with imperfect people doing our best in an imperfect world.  We cannot let anger fill our hearts and judgement leave our lips, especially when the control of it is most difficult.  Why would Mary Magdalene change her life and follow Christ?  Love.  Why would Peter walk away from his livelihood?  Love.  Why would a man allow himself to be nailed to a cross for sins the rest of us committed?  Love.

It is ok, appropriate even to be devastated by the loss abortion has brought upon this country.  Allowing love and sadness to replace judgement and anger in our discussion of abortion and Planned Parenthood seems small, but it is vital to appropriately help the suffering women and allow our country to understand our heart and hurt where abortion is concerned.  Anger is easy…and when was the easy road really the best road?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

An Unexpected Hero: My Take on Pixar’s Inside Out

I don’t go to movies in the theater often…hardly ever actually.  Recently though, I saw the new Pixar movie “Inside Out” and I would highly recommend it.  I know what you are thinking: “That’s a kid’s movie…why on earth would Theresa write a post on her bioethics blog about a kid’s movie?”  Well, it is a kid’s movie to be sure, but I am convinced that a psychology student could write their dissertation on the film.

The movie has a definitively adult level and a message that is desperately needed in our society.  It opens at the birth of the main character, Riley.  Inside Riley’s mind we meet Joy, a vivacious and enthusiastic little emotion ready to tackle life alongside Riley.  Within seconds, Joy is joined by another, less vivacious emotion, Sadness.  We follow Riley through her first decade of life quite quickly and along the way we meet our final three emotions, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.  These 5 emotions run the control panel inside Riley’s head, most of the time Joy is in control, so Riley is a generally happy kid.  Along the way we see Riley form many memories including 5 core memories that make up the fundamental parts of her personality (goofiness, love of family, love of friends, honesty, and love of hockey).

When Riley is 11 her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, and this move comes at a high emotional cost for our little heroine.  Through a series of events, Joy and Sadness get tossed out of the control panel and have to find their way back through the deepest corners of Riley’s mind.  During this adventure Joy, who has always been annoyed and put off by Sadness, realizes the important role Sadness actually plays in Riley’s life.

The most prominent theme in the movie for me, is an illustration of the importance of sadness and suffering in our life.  Sadness can help temper our other emotions, allow us to experience true joy, and help us process through the sufferings in our life.  This is not a new idea certainly and there have been scores of books and motivational speakers who have tread this path time and again.  What I loved though was seeing this idea so brilliantly illustrated in a kid’s movie.  Teaching our children (and their parents) that sadness has a place and makes us grow.

As Americans we often think there should be no suffering, no death, no pain or hurt of any kind.  Our primary goal in life becomes avoiding pain and hiding the hurt whenever some suffering sneaks through.  This type of life isn’t healthy or fulfilling, but many people don’t realize what their life is missing until they allow themselves to enter the suffering and deal with their sadness on a real level.  It seems counter intuitive that sadness leads to joy, but understanding and accepting the sadness and loss helps us to better understand and appreciate life’s joys.

Outside of this counter-cultural understanding of sadness, the movie also had an extremely wholesome family message.  At one point Joy and Sadness are recalling the same memory, the loss of a hockey game.  They each reflect on how this is a good memory for them (i.e. the memory is both sad and happy).  A few scenes later, Joy finds the memory and watches it from the beginning, seeing how the devastation of losing the hockey game is changed to joy when Mom and Dad come to comfort Riley.  Joy is surprised by this realization and remarks (something to the effect of) “Mom and Dad make the pain go away.”  This idea is profound in our culture: Mom and Dad are right?  They have wisdom?  They can solve problems for their children? 

The ideas of honoring your father and mother and submitting yourself to their wisdom and love often are presented as old school in our culture.  Our society tends to play into the idea that Mom and Dad are stupid, their experience is useless to teach children anything, and kids probably know more than their parents do anyway.  My home is not immune to this societal influence, the idea that I have gained wisdom from my experiences and want the best for him is battle I fight with my 18 year old on a daily basis. 

It was wonderful to see a different narrative in this movie.  In almost all cases, Mom and Dad desperately want what is best for their children, they want to share their wisdom and experience, protect their children, and show them love.   I absolutely adored seeing this reality on the screen in Inside Out, it was refreshing, wholesome, and heartwarming.

I could likely go on and on about this movie and I am sure that each time I watch it new revelations will arise from its depths, but I will stop for now, with a strong endorsement of the film as one of the most family friendly I have seen in a long time.  It is well worth your money and support of the filmmakers.  If you haven’t gone to see it, please do and if you already have, see it again!

Monday, May 11, 2015


Hello Everyone,

My mom and I are embarking on a new journey and we are requesting your help.  Our hope is to design a website that will be a resource for people with disabilities and their families.  As many of you know, our family has personal experience with disability.  My father lost his battle with ALS in October of 2013 after years in a power wheelchair as a result of the disease.

While sick, my dad made the journey to upstate New York to attend my Master's graduation.  It was important to him that he be there for me, and he was willing to move heaven and earth to make it happen.  His effort and determination touched my heart and is a constant reminder of how much he loved me and how important my successes were to him.

As any one who travels with disability knows, it is a constant challenge in creative thinking and physical exertion.  On our trip, Mom, Dad, and I discussed how useful it would be to have a web resource with details about hotels and disability access.  Even though most of these hotels meet the specific requirements for handicap accessibility, there are often little surprises here and there that it would be best to prepare for ahead of time.  Mom and I were revisiting this idea and decided to give web design a try.

The greatest challenge when talking about disabilities is that their are countless types of disability and needs to help those people.  With this project we are trying to catch as many specific needs as possible in an organized and controlled environment.  To do this in the best possible way we need some help from our friends...namely you dear reader.

So, what do we need?

1) Feedback on our hotel assessment form.  Please follow this link (, we have done our best to capture all of the needs we could think of but are definitely looking for feedback and input.  We are particularly looking for feedback on vision or hearing impairment needs and anything else you feel we have missed in our form.  Please leave a comment below with your thoughts.

2) Please share this article on your social media sites.  We are looking for a lot of feedback and help.  The more people who hear about this project, the most experiences we can gather, and the better our results.  Please, please, please 
tell your friends and share this post, we want as much involvement as possible.

3) Help assessing!  Once we have finalized our assessment form we will be looking for people to visit hotels (either in your local area or on your travels) to assess their accessibility and return the completed form to us so the data can be entered onto the website.  The more hotels we can assess, the more helpful the site will be to disabled travelers and their families.

4) We need a name! We want a catchy name that will also express our mission of helping people travel more easily and successfully when dealing with disability.  Please leave your suggestions in the comment area.

Thank you all for your help and support with this idea!  I look forward to working on this with you and seeing it develop by the grace of God.

Please remember to share this post and leave your feedback in the comments!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ALS Walk and Roll 2014

As many of you know my father passed away from complications of his ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) last October.  For the past three years my family has participated in the ALS of Michigan Walk and Roll.  We are participating again this year on September 28th at Stoney Creek.

Walk 'n Roll for ALS: 2009

ALS of Michigan is a fantastic organization that aims to meet the immediate needs of ALS sufferers.  When my dad was living with ALS they let him borrow a scooter, wheelchair, ramps, arm chair, and shower chair as needed.  They have an extensive lending closet to meet the needs of pALS (people with ALS) in Michigan.  The organization also provides respite care to patients in need, filling a vital need for many ALS families.

ALS of Michigan has been a wonderful organization for my family, particularly with the support groups they sponsor for pALS and their caregivers.  I am asking you to please consider donating to this great cause, every little bit helps.  Please follow this link to donate:

Thank you in advance for your support!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chill Out: A Response to “Taking the Icy Plunge”

It’s not every day I have the opportunity to articulate a cogent argument against my brilliant former professor, so when it comes I just can’t pass it up.  Recently, in “Taking the Icy Plunge (or not)” Sean Philpott-Jones argued against the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.  For those of you unfamiliar with this challenge, it is a campaign to raise money for research and awareness of a devastating disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  The idea is: one person posts a video of him/herself having a bucket of ice water poured over their head, they then challenge three friends to pour a bucket of ice water over their heads and/or donate $100 to an ALS charity.  The challenge has gone viral and has likely filled your facebook newsfeed as it has mine.

ALS is a devastating disease that slowly immobilizes its victims striking their muscles in any order: arms, legs, voice, diaphragm, any muscle can be affected.  People afflicted with the disease lose control of their muscles and at its climax are entombed in their own body, unable to move or talk, a condition referred to as “locked in syndrome.”  ALS claimed my dad last October, so my family has a very personal connection with this horrible disease.

In “Taking the Icy Plunge” the author argues that the #ALSIceBucketChallenge has two major flaws:
1.       The challenge does little to raise ALS awareness long term with videos containing little substance.
2.       In a fundraising campaign charitable donation should not play second fiddle while public humiliation takes the first chair.

Ok, so to the first point, certainly the videos aren’t classy, but (this year at least) they seem to be effective.  At this time last year the Ice Bucket Challenge had raised approximately $32,000 for ALS charities, this year $5.5 million has been raised.  Clearly, something is going right for them in 2014.  They are raising awareness of this disease and hopefully sparking an interest in people to search and learn more.  Awareness and education are very different, while the videos are hardly educational, I think the buzz they are generating is positive and could have lasting effects.  Putting more substance into the videos isn’t a bad plan however, and I would encourage anyone accepting a challenge to talk a bit about ALS, why it is important to support charities that help victims of the disease, and post a link to a specific charity with you video.

To the second point, I ask you to look at our society.  We are a culture of sound bites, flashmobs, and thoughts not exceeding 120 characters.  Anything (within the realm of moral of course) that gets people involved and inspired to donate to a good cause is a worthy endeavor.  It is difficult to inspire people to lighten their wallets these days, even for a good cause.  Wise challenge participants have been asking for those challenged to play as well as donate and those not challenged to consider making a donation.
On a personal note, the Ice Bucket Challenge has been a fun diversion for my family this year, as I mentioned above we lost my dad to ALS in October.  For the last 3 years around this time I would call Dad and ask “when are you going to start the walk donation page?”  You see, during Dad’s illness an organization called ALS of Michigan really helped my family.  They have equipment closets filled with tools for ALS patients to borrow and return.  When you have ALS you need a lot of expensive equipment and depending on your disease progression you can go from one piece of equipment to another quite quickly.  For instance, ALS patients can go from cane, to walker, to scooter, to wheelchair within the span of a few months. 

ALS of Michigan lends these tools to pALS (people with ALS) and they exchange or return them as necessary.  The wonderful workers at ALS of Michigan even helped my mom find and figure out a portable shower chair in 2012.  This chair allowed my dad to travel to New York for my Masters program graduation.  You can’t really put a price on that can you?

Each year ALS of Michigan hosts an event called the “Walk & Roll.”  It is their biggest fundraiser of the year and The Joyful Jaywalkers (my dad’s name was Jay…cute huh?) begin fundraising as a team at the beginning of August for the walk on the last Sunday of September.  This year the early days of August ticked by and my fingers ached to dial up Dad and ask “when are you going to start the walk donation page?”  Sadly, he isn’t there to answer and though we are all committed to fundraising this year, no one was very motivated to step into Dad’s place and start up our 2014 team.  The 2013 walk was two weeks before my dad passed away.  It was the last place many of our friends and extended family saw him alive and it will be the last of our “firsts without dad” in this horrible year of adjustment.  Starting the fundraising, whether or not we admitted it to each other or ourselves, was a daunting and emotional task.  Denial was the way we all chose to handle these emotions, until about 2 weeks ago.

This was when our friend Vince was challenged to dump ice water on himself and dedicated his video to my father’s memory, and it went from there, friends challenging friends: everyone talking about my dad, how great he was, how much they miss him, and asking for donations to fight ALS.  It may sound silly, but watching friends and family take an ice shower in honor of Dad really warmed my heart.  It was also the perfect catalyst for our campaign, my siblings all accepted when my brother was challenged, and decided to dedicate our video to all of the wonderful people we lost this year to ALS and those still fighting.  When your family is personally impacted you meet and grow to love many others with the disease, so the list was long.  My sister set up our team fundraising page and we told everyone about the walk in our video.

The challenge is certainly silly, but what are we Americans if not silly right?  And is there anything wrong with being silly for a good cause?

My hope is that this challenge will inspire people to learn more about ALS and support great organizations that help patients and families.  ALS of Michigan is one of those organizations, if you are inspired please click the link below and support the Joyful Jaywalkers in 2014.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Big Bad Ebola

Please click the link below to read my latest article on bringing Ebola to the United States and the use of the experimental Ebola antiserum.  This article has been written for The Bioethics Program.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Continuity of Care or a Culture of Kickbacks?

Recently, I did something I almost never do…I went to the doctor for a physical.  Yes, yes, I work in the medical world and know how important it is to have regular checkups, but unless/until it becomes necessary I steer clear of the doctor’s office.  Unfortunately, this past April going to the doctor became necessary…
You see, about a year ago I had to switch from my cushy PPO plan to a less-than-satisfying HMO plan.  With this switch I now have to play the referral game.  This wouldn’t be an issue except that my glasses were disintegrating before my eyes.  Therefore, it was imperative that I brave the primary care physician’s (PCP) office for an Ophthalmology referral.

To do this I needed to find a new PCP, so I picked Dr. Mary Murphy on a recommendation.  She saw me as a new patient and I let her know about the referral I was seeking, she said that since her computers were currently down I should call the office in a few days for the referral, but it shouldn’t be a problem. 

When I called the office a few days later, I was told that I would be unable to go to my Beaumont doctor because of the “continuity of care” policy at St. John Health System.  The conversation went something like this:

Referral specialist (RS) – “You must see a St. John’s affiliated physician for continuity of care.  For instance if you were to be admitted to the hospital by this doctor, you would not be admitted to a St. John’s facility and the medical records would not be in our computer system.”

Me – “If I were to be admitted to the hospital directly from my Ophthalmology follow up visit???  And just how likely is that, do you think?  Besides, I could have the records sent to your office.  I understand that you are concerned about your continuity of care, but how about mine?  This physician has been treating my vision issues for the past 20 years.  I have a complicated history with my eyes and am not willing to switch specialists.  Can Dr. Murphy make an exception in this case for my continuity of care?”

RS – “Ma’am this is a policy of your Blue Care Network (BCN) insurance.”

Me – “I don’t believe it is, I looked up my Ophthalmologist’s office and it is within the BCN network.”

RS – “Ma’am I suggest you call your insurance company.”

Needless to say I hung up and promptly called BCN.  They informed me their policy states that the physician chooses where the patient will be referred and that BCN has no involvement in this choice.  So, I called Dr. Murphy’s office back and clarified the BCN policy for them, since they seemed confused, the response I got was unpleasant at best.

RS – “Ma’am I never said that it was BCN’s policy.”

Me – “Yes actually you did, you just told me to call them.”

RS – “Dr. Murphy will not give you that referral, we suggest you find another PCP.”

I took their recommendation.  I usually try not to use this blog as a venting platform, but feel this policy claiming “continuity of care” as a reason to trap patients in a certain health system is patently bad for the health of the patient and something should be said.

I think you should seek care from the best available specialist for your disease or condition.  I don’t live a life tied to one health system, in my opinion it isn’t wise.  Even though a health system may be “best in the area” at one thing it won’t be best for everything.  And if you are sick, don’t you want the best?

When Dad was sick we went to all three of the area ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) specialists, they were in three separate health systems and we were able to maintain “continuity of care” for his PCP just fine.  In fact, going to the different specialists allowed us to have a more complete view of Dad’s disease and explore all treatment options.

So, is the quest of St. John’s Health System really for “continuity of care” or is it ultimately a treasure hunt?  For each patient kept in the system St. John’s makes more money, so it seems to me they are more concerned with the good of their pocket book than the good of their patients.

I single out St John and Dr. Murphy because I had this experience with them, but I don’t think this is an isolated problem.  Savvy patients beware, lest you become trapped in a mediocre health care system when you have a serious illness.