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Summary: Sanctity of Life Sunday sermon that addresses more than the abortion issue.

A Sacred Life?

Job 10:8-12

According to a Washington Post article by Marc Kaufman, dated Nov. 3, 2003, a young California woman went to a Planned Parenthood office in September looking to end her unwanted pregnancy. Because she was still early in her pregnancy, the clinic offered her the choice of taking the "abortion pill" or having a surgical abortion. The woman, Holly Patterson of Livermore, chose the medical route and took the first pill, mifepristone, better known as RU-486, at the clinic. She was given a second drug, misoprostol, to take at home the next day. Within four days, Patterson, 18, was at a hospital emergency room, complaining of severe pain and bleeding. She returned three days later, vomiting and in great pain, and died that afternoon. On Friday, the local coroner concluded that she had died from "septic shock, due to endomyometritis [inflammation] due to therapeutic, drug-induced abortion." The report does not describe exactly how and why the medical abortion caused Patterson’s death -- that information is expected later this month -- but the coroner’s conclusion will increase the stakes in what has already become an emotional landmark in the long-running struggle over abortion. For abortion opponents, Patterson’s death is proof that medical abortion is hazardous. As soon as the death was reported, they began a campaign to spotlight the case as another reason the Food and Drug Administration should embrace their citizens’ petition to ban the drug. Abortion rights supporters reply that if Patterson did die of complications from her abortion, it would only underscore that the procedure is remarkably safe. More than 200,000 women have successfully used the drug in North America since it came on the market three years ago, they say, and Patterson’s death would be the first directly attributable to a medical abortion administered to a woman without other health problems.

In 2002, 71 inmates in this country were executed, 5 more than in 2001. Of those executed in 2002, 53 were white, 18 were black. Lethal injection accounted for 70 of the executions; 1 was carried out by electrocution. At year end 2002, 37 States and the Federal prison system held 3,557 prisoners under sentence of death, 20 fewer than at year end 2001. All had committed murder. Among persons for whom arrest information was available, the average age at time of arrest was 28; 2% of inmates were age 17 or younger. Approximately 90 percent of those on death row could not afford to hire a lawyer when they were tried.—American Civil Liberties Union. "We have enormous protections, the best by far, but we’re never going to have a system that will never execute an innocent person." Statement of Chairperson of the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee made while supporting the death penalty in 1997.

The case of Michael Martin, a 41-year-old Michigan man who suffered head injuries as a result of a 1987 car-train accident, is currently before the Michigan Court of Appeals. Oral arguments are scheduled for 5/6/93. Michael is conscious, alert, appears happy, plays card games, and loves country-western music. He has communicated through a computer-augmented device that he wants to live. Mary Martin, his wife and legal guardian who has been in contact with the Hemlock Society, wants to have his food and fluids (provided by gastrostomy tube) withdrawn. She says that, years before the accident, Michael had made statements indicating that he would never want to be maintained as a vegetable. Michael’s mother and sister are fighting for his right to live and want Mary removed as his guardian, but have been unable to establish legal standing. According to his sister, Pat Major, "Brain-injured is not brain dead…. This is euthanasia -- get rid of anyone who needs care." [The Detroit News, 10/25/92: 1B] Mary Martin is currently appealing a 11/12/92 ruling by probate Judge George Grieg which rejected her request (to have Michael starved and dehydrated to death) on the basis that Michael’s statements prior to the accident were not written. But the judge indicated that he would have granted the wife’s request if Michael were terminally ill or unconscious. The fact that Michael currently expresses the wish to live was ruled irrelevant by the judge because of Michael’s "impaired condition." Yet Michael has been assessed as a level five on the Los Amigos Ranchos scale, a scale used by rehabilitation doctors to assess a patient’s improvement. A level five means that the patient is interactive and ready for intensive rehabilitation. Court testimony also indicated that Michael has an I.Q. (after the accident) ranging from between 61-73 -- the range fore someone mildly retarded. Judge Grieg’s ruling raises serious questions regarding the autonomy of disabled patients and just how "impaired" a person has to be before he or she no longer has rights and interests. The Michigan Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor to Michael’s wishes after his accident.

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