The Hospice movement is active all over Utah, but there still are medical professionals who will not inform patients or care-givers about the availability of help for the terminally ill. Flo Wineriter told the May meeting of Humanists of Utah why and how that help can be given. Part of his speech is reproduced here
First let me ask you to think about this question: If you had less than six months to live, would you want your doctor to tell you the truth? Secondly, if you were given such information, what would you do with the time you had left to live?
With those thoughts in mind, let me tell you something about the Hospice movement.
Hospice has a philosophy rather than a place. The goal of the Hospice program is to provide comfort, purpose, and understanding to patients with terminal illness and their families.
Our culture has difficulty dealing with the dying process. We seem to be able to accept death when it occurs, but we have a lot of trouble handling the process of getting there. The reluctance to recognize and accept the reality of a condition that is terminal seems to be as common to professionals in the medical field as it is with lay people. Doctors are trained to cure disease and to maintain life. Because of their training doctors generally regard the death of a patient as a failure on their part.
To some degree this is understandable. Life is precious, it is short and we all want to remain as conscious part of the life experience just as long as possible. We are willing to accept a certain amount of deprivation, pain and suffering to stay with the known. There is ample evidence of this when you consider the number of people living in various stages of restricted lives such as hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, detention camps and poverty. Few of us “give up” life without a struggle, as you can see from appealing death row inmates, and World War II death camp survivors. The “will to live” seems to be instinctual. All levels of life display survival instincts when confronted with life-threatening situations.
Hospice is designed to step in and begin working with patients and their families when the patient’s life expectancy is six months or less. The sooner we can be called in the better an opportunity we have to help patients and their families come to terms with death and, even more important, to get the most quality of living into the remaining time they have left.
Our major challenge is to convince medical doctors to recognize and accept the reality that death is highly probable within six months. Doctors are trained to extend life and, like the rest of us, they are inclined to maintain an overly optimistic attitude. They want to try every tool available to cure a cancer or at least put it into remission.
Doctors tend to be more concerned about the “quantity of life” than they are about the “quality of life.” They urge cancer patients to try chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatments to prolong life as long as possible. Frequently treatments are suggested and recommended even when death is likely within a few weeks. Doctors appear to be “hoping for a miracle” as much as possible. We in the Hospice movement feel such an attitude is unfair because it simply delays death rather than prolonging life.
Active treatment of death-causing disease is in conflict with Hospice Care. When a patient is found to be terminal, and willingly accepts Hospice care, all active treatment of the disease stops. Hospice care, in contrast to medical care, is intended to improve the quality of life. We do this by removing pain as much as possible, helping patients to clarify what will make the rest of their lives meaningful, and helping them to find ways of implementing those goals and desires. Those goals can be as adventurous as riding a hot air balloon, or as tame as finishing a hobby project.
We encourage patients to resolve outstanding conflicts with family members, to clarify distribution of assets and responsibilities. Our goal is to help patients and families have a peaceful and conflict-free death. Family members are taught how to care for the patient; how to bathe them, how to give pain medication, how to help them out of bed and into bed, how to communicate openly, in general, how to make the patient comfortable.
The Origin of a Religion
Not long ago, I identified myself as a humanist, and recently joined the A.H.A. and the local chapter. There was an important question I wanted to answer before I left Mormonism: “How Did It Happen?”
The biography of Joseph Smith by Brodie is the most famous book on the beginnings of Mormonism, and is widely read by most people wanting to know about the church. Mormons do not read it, and I hadn’t until now; but I knew about it, which Mormons don’t. The book does answer the question about how Mormonism happened as well as it can be answered. No one will ever know absolutely, and books, articles and studies continue.
The other book, by B.H. Roberts, is more interesting because it chronicles the efforts by Roberts, known as the Defender of the Faith, to prove the validity of the Book of Mormon, which is central to the claims of the LDS Church. He made an exhaustive research of all available information of the time, and although his studies were completed in 1927, they were only recently published.
Roberts begins his study with just a few questions, and as he piles one piece of evidence upon another he becomes a skeptic, then a doubter, then he pokes fun, and in the end he becomes a disbeliever, but he does not renounce his faith.
The book speaks for itself, it did answer my questions, and I now know how it happened.
James Madison – A Strict Separationist
According to a recent Salt Lake Tribune Poll, 79% of Utahns want to maintain the tradition of graduation prayer in school. And most people are under the impression that the majority opinion should rule. But should the majority rule? James Madison, author of our Constitution, was considered a strict separationist who respected both religious liberty and civil government equally. He had the following thoughts on majority rule and the appropriate relationship between church and state.
There is no maxim, in my opinion, which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs more education than the current one, that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong…it only reestablishes force as the measure of right
The civil government possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success by total separation of the church and state.
It is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation.
In some parts of our country there remains a strong bias toward an old error — that without some sort of alliance or coalition between government and religion, neither can be duly supported … Where there is a tendency to such a coalition, corruption influences both government and religion, and the danger cannot be too guarded against.
We are teaching the world the great truth, that governments do better without Kings and Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson–that religion flourishes in greater purity without rather than with the aid of government.
Or religious sentiments are based on depositions and inclinations of the human mind and spirit. To apply state power and sanction in support of these kinds experiences is absurd.
Madison also spoke of “the tyranny of the majority” and felt they were to be feared. He also objected to those people who were enslaved by religious dogma.
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unites it for every noble enterprise and every expanded prospect.
Religion is not infallible. It may become a motive to oppression as well as a restraint from injustice.
Even in its coolest state, religion has been more often a motive to oppression than a restraint from it. A majority, when united by interest or passion cannot be restrained from oppressing the minority.
Madison believed that in a democracy religious views should not be forced upon any citizen by the minority. And his remedy to prevent the majority from dominating was to make government responsible for protecting all groups.
How do you cure the “mischiefs of factions” in society? First you openly recognize and accept the existence of human diversity. Second, you control conflict by making government protect each interest or faction. Government can best do so by preventing any one group or party from invading the rights of any other. Government itself must remain neutral.
It is essential that government be derived from the great body of society, not from a favored class of it. The only remedy is to enlarge the sphere of varieties of people so the majority will not be likely to impose their common interest on the minority, and unite in pursuit of it.
The author of our Constitution saw a need for a large number of divided and balancing interests which would result in just decision-making. Madison was endowed with an innate and acquired sense of justice and he continually sought balance and harmony in his quest for good government. The Constitution reflects his sense of equilibrium for it gives the Federal government most of the power, but at the same time protects minority interests and individual freedoms in the Bill of Rights.
An honorary member of the American Humanist Association, I participated in the 50th annual meeting at the Bismark Hotel in Chicago, in May. As a lonely survivor of the organizers in 1941, I was used symbolically in the celebration. At the Chicago meetings Lloyd and Mary Morain presented the deed to our headquarters building in Amherst, New York, appraised at over $200,000, as a gift to AHA.
For me, the most gratifying event was ceremoniously receiving the charter for Humanists of Utah. Among other things, the charter brings us under the tax exemption umbrella of the A.H.A. so that whatever you donate to Humanists of Utah in fiscal 1991 and after will be federally tax deductible. Our chapter is now an integral part of the national organization, and through it we are related to the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).
We have done very well on the start-up donations of our members. Those who newly joined A.H.A. have made their start-up donation by a $10.00 rebate on each member we recruit. We have been sending the Utah Humanist to all AHA members in the state and to all Utah subscribers of AHA’s magazine, the Humanist. Any who send a start-up donation of $5.00 or more will still be enrolled as chapter members. To all who have not yet made a start-up donation as generous as possible we say “We need your membership and support.”
Sometime soon we will have to decide our minimum annual dues. We are not suggesting anything like tithing, but we hope that most will give as generously as their wallet and conscience require.
There is much initial work to do. We need to establish our fiscal year, and also define our goals, or “mission” if we may use that word. We need to establish a program that will make it worthwhile for distant members to make the trip to Salt Lake City for the monthly meetings. A two day annual meeting is a suggested goal. We all can help us grow. The initial goal of 200 members seems reasonable, with the 77 names on our charter application almost reaching the half-way mark. We need to know whether our members want their names mentioned in the Utah Humanist. Names can be a sensitive issue in some cases.
What Is Missing In This Picture?
It can be hard to see what is not there. Here is a small-print puzzle.
The following is a quote from the “New Standards and Objectives for Junior High School and High School” for consumer and personal health, as revised by the Utah State Board of Education. I didn’t change anything in it. Honest.
7150-02: The students will demonstrate an understanding of human sexuality, its psychological, social, emotional and physical implications of developing and maintaining a Responsible Healthy Lifestyle.
7150-0201: Discuss the physical and emotional aspects of relationships and the impact they have on dating, the family, marriage, love and infatuation.
7150-0202: Discuss the anatomy and physiology of the male and female reproductive systems.
7150-0203: Discuss maturation and the stages of sexual development throughout the cycle.
7150-0204: Discuss responsible sexual behavior, stressing the short- and long-term benefits of strong families, abstinence, and fidelity.
7150-0205: Develop skills that promote responsible principle-centered, decision making when responding to peer, media, societal and negative family influences that encourage high risk behaviors.
7150-0206: Recognize the impact of sexual behavior on one’s goals, and self-esteem.
7150-0207: Discuss contraception, fetal development, birth defects, the risk factors involved in pregnancy, and the birth process.
7150-0208: Recognize the impact teen pregnancies have on quality of life, incidence of child abuse, and changes in lifestyle.
7150-0209: Discuss the legal, social, and emotional implications associated with pornography, prostitution, sexual abuse, incest, and rape.
There’s no one solution to this puzzle, of course. Words I missed myself were: family planning, condoms, abortion, safe sex, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, homosexuality, and pleasure.