Beyond the Cusp

June 17, 2014

Jerusalem Protests Over Force-Feeding Hunger Strike Prisoners

I was blessed to spend yesterday with a group touring Jerusalem (יְרוּשָׁלַיִם) and part of my visit took me in the vicinity of the Knesset Building. As we was about a block away making our way to take pictures and hear a presentation on the large Menorah, which is the official National Symbol of Israel, we passed one of the protest groups which one usually can expect to run into in the government center of any democratic and free nation. The current protest is against the forced-feeding of prisoners being held in Israeli detention facilities. The hunger-striking prisoners includes a mix of detainees and prisoners with most of them falling into one of three categories; convicted terrorists where their crimes span from attempting to perform a terrorist strike all the way to multiple murders, political prisoners who are mostly terrorist organizers who have committed any of a number of actions in support of terror, and security prisoners who have committed acts against Israel attempting to alter her political institutions and undermine the elected government. The reasons behind the hunger strikers vary depends on which group of such prisoners each hunger-striking prisoner chooses to commit themselves to. One of the main reasons currently given is to get one particular Hamas prisoner released from solitary confinement.

 

Be that as it may, the question before the Knesset is about whether to force-feed these prisoners once their health has deteriorated sufficiently that they have been transferred to a hospital. It currently appears that the legislation has sufficient support to pass providing there are no drastic changes of opinions. The main groups opposing the forced-feeding are many of the physicians including the Israeli Chairman of the Medical Association Dr. Leonid Idelman. Dr. Idelman has written a letter for all physicians who have hunger-striking prisoners under their care and has instructed them to choose not to force-feed these inmates. He wrote, “In recent weeks, many dozens of hunger striking prisoners have been transferred from the Israel Prisons Service to the hospital wards nationwide, and their number is growing daily. As you know, treating hunger strikers is a special challenge that the doctors are as yet unfamiliar with. The situation is unusual and requires unconventional measures.” Dr. Idelman adds referencing a recent conference which addressed this “complex situation” with Senior Officials from the Health Ministry, Hospital Directors and Assistant Deputies, along with ward directors, heads of scientific unions in the IMA and others participating where it was concluded, “A procedure of force feeding hunger strikers despite their objection involves a real danger to their health and is opposed to the overriding rules of non-maleficence and maintaining the patient’s autonomy over his body, upon which the doctors’ ethical code is based. Force feeding is forbidden in the ethical rules of the Medical Association, and those accepted worldwide, including Tokyo Declaration 1495 and Malta Declaration 1441 of the International Medical Association.”

 

Well, let me be clear, I have no reason to doubt Dr. Idelman when he quotes such esteemed issuances such as the Tokyo Declaration 1495 and Malta Declaration 1441, but I am certain there has to be something less dated and results from modern precedents. As it turns out, there are such issuances with the most recent being convened to discuss the forced-feeding of hunger-strikers in Guantanamo Prison, an American facility just off the southern tip of Florida on the Cuban Islands. The consensus was that such actions are forbidden unless two physicians determine that the prisoner, patient according to rulings, is determined to no longer be able to choose whether they should receive nourishment or not. Included in the determining factors to be weighed is the threat to the patient’s life or the determination of imminent death. The boards also realized that there could be cases where the patient never lost consciousness and refused food to the end and as a result dies due to their hunger-strike. According to the rulings where this has been discussed, every board I could find lays the blame for the prisoner’s death resulting from their choice to commit to a hunger strike lies with the prisoner and not the physicians or the nation holding the hunger-striking prisoner.

 

Now this is where the real fun begins. Let us simply take the few dozen demonstrators I saw about one block from the Knesset building carrying signs with most in Hebrew or Arabic but some of the largest signs were in bold red English letters. One can only wonder for whom the English letters were intended. Could it be their friends in America and the English speaking world which includes much of Europe or were they aimed at the local population many of which speak Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, French, Farsi, and virtually every other language in the world other than English. We know that those signs were for the international market, particularly CNN, FOX News, ABC, NBC, CBS, BBC and the rest of the international press. The real question is how long after a single hunger-striking prisoner managed to remain in control and starved themselves to death before those protest signs demanding that the prisoners’ rights be observed and their hunger-strike remain under their wishes and equating forced-feeding with torture were swapped out declaring the Israeli physicians and prison officials along with the usual Knesset and government officials including especially Prime Minister Netanyahu as murderers and insisting they be brought to trial before the Hague International Criminal Court on charges of prisoner abuse and human rights violations. The Israeli government is facing simply another lose-lose situation where no matter which path they choose, they are going to be condemned. If any single prisoner dies from lack of nourishment, then they were obligated to preserve this prisoner’s life and to have force-fed them but as long as they are alive they must obey the wishes of the prisoner and not force-feed them come whatever. So, basically the Israeli officials, government, physicians and everyone else involved in this situation must decide, do I go against international law and feed these prisoners to at the very least a sustenance level in order to cause them not physical harm and face charges of torturing them or do I allow them to waste away and die because that is their expressed desire and once they die face charges of inhumane treatment and murder warrants be sworn against me by much of Europe? Which would you choose?

 

On a more somber note, the three abducted Israeli teenage children, Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, are still missing and the manhunt continues with the radius under suspicion continues to widen. While in Jerusalem the group visited the Kotel and the Western Wall, also called the Wailing Wall which is somewhat more appropriate at this time, where we all offered up prayers in private. There is a tradition of placing special prayer which we desire Heavenly assistance onto small strips of paper and wedging them into the Wall. My prayers on my piece of paper were for the health, safety and speedy return of these youths unharmed none the worse for wear. I also included a few other thoughts and opened my prayers with a short Hebrew phrase of praise to G0d. It is odd the feeling one gets when attempting to write even simple words while in the vicinity of such a holy place as the Western Wall which is literally a few tens of meters from where the Holy of Holies, the inner Sanctuary of the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem where the Ark of the Covenant was placed and where no mortal man would tread unless they were the Cohen Gadol, and even he feared for his life when treading within the one day each year he was required to enter this inner sanctum, was located during the times of the First and Second Temples. You find you are nearly paralyzed and frozen out from choosing mere words and you have to concentrate and focus one’s thoughts and slowly your note takes shape. Meanwhile, all your thoughts are known on High and this is the real and actual note which is received. Now if only my thoughts are able to convey the hurt which has fallen across all Israel with so many sharing the grief as if these young boys, Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, belonged to our own families. And once they are returned we will all celebrate because then we all will feel as if our own family has again been made whole.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

November 3, 2013

The Reality About Obamacare

Between the disastrous rollout of the Healthcare.gov website and the thousands upon thousands of people losing their health insurance over noncompliance, the truth of the real intentions behind Obamacare have gotten lost in all of the noise. Contrary to what everybody has been told, Obamacare is not about providing health insurance to every American nor is it about making sure everybody has access to quality healthcare. The truth of the design of Obamacare has little to nothing to do with insurance, providing coverage, providing healthcare, assisting people to receive affordable health insurance or anything else which has been either stated or implied. So, if Obamacare, or if you prefer the actual title, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and they are one and the same contrary to what some have claimed, is not about healthcare or providing affordable or even unaffordable health insurance, then what is it really about and why has it been kept a deep, dark, hidden secret never to see the light of day?

 

The reason it has been so guarded is because if the truth became well known then the people and much of the healthcare system and health insurance providers would all be up in arms carrying pitchforks and torches and heading for the closest HHS office. The end result for Obamacare is for it to be a dreadful and complete failure. The rollout was simply a precursor for the eventual effectiveness of Obamacare. The reason that the White House and everybody at Health and Human Services along with the companies who worked together to program the website have taken its failure in stride is they do not care if it works or not beyond image. They mind that they are receiving disapproving numbers but since after this term President Obama cannot run again, they all know that after a few more years they will be seeking new employment. The design of Obamacare was to force through regulations unnecessary coverage into each and every health insurance package in order to send prices through the roof. That is why an eighty year old single man must have prenatal coverage and a young single woman must have prostate cancer coverage or some other equally ridiculous set of terms. The entire aim is to make health insurance prohibitively expensive such that everybody ends up on the government exchanges. Even the exchanges are set up to fail and that will set in motion the populace demanding that the government repair the disaster the government foisted upon the public. The only other set of items in the Obamacare regulations and legislation are a series of new taxes on all sorts of things many not even remotely related to healthcare in the slightest of ways. The end result will be a series of individual new taxes some of which, like the tax on medical instruments are designed to make research into new medicines and procedures more expensive, actually are related to the healthcare industry while others are solely applied to items from investments, banking transactions and a myriad of other non-healthcare applications simply to feed the government coffers.

 

Once the companies which offer health insurance finally realize that they have been forced into a corner through regulations demanding broad base coverage requirements pushing prices exceedingly high that they can no longer make any profit from their healthcare divisions and close them down and no longer offer healthcare insurance, then the government will be virtually the sole proprietor issuing health insurance which will facilitate government run healthcare as the next logical step. This will place the vast majority of the population onto the government exchanges which will also be a disaster already happening. Even the prices on the exchanges will end up rising as they struggle to bring in the needed funds through monthly charges to their members to cover the ever rising costs of healthcare. Eventually those people who do not receive financial assistance, and the threshold for financial assistance will be lowered each year forcing more people to have to pay the full price on the exchanges, will realize that the penalty for not purchasing insurance is far lower than the price of insurance and if you find yourself in need of insurance then you purchase it at that time and cannot be refused so they will simply run the risk of not having health insurance. This will be particularly true of those younger adults who can no longer remain on their parent’s insurance and who will balk at having to pay for longtime care for mental deficiencies which really means Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia which only usually afflict the most elderly along with other items forced into the base required insurance package.

 

Once the majority of the population has been forced onto the government exchanges and the few remaining health insurance providers are hanging by a thread then the regulations only need change a few items in order to force sufficient changes on the insurers that they cannot survive the costs and realize their customers will react adversely to yet another set of policy changes and rate hikes.  This is the point where the government exchanges will provide the final impetus to get the progressive plan to its final goal, a one payer government healthcare system. By this point things will have deteriorated that even the dreaded government run healthcare will actually sound good. The healthcare industry will be so broken that anything will sound appealing and a single payer government run healthcare system will be welcomed. Sure there will be those who will rail against this inevitability and their rally will be that it is not Constitutional. If they are able to get this before the Supreme Court let’s hope that Chief Justice Roberts has reread the Constitution and does not get cold feet and fold rather than stand on Constitutionally sound principles that can keep him grounded and end this nightmare.

 

The United States has had a healthcare industry that has been the envy of the world despite what propaganda you may have heard. The United States was among the top five nations in medical discoveries and new procedures every year for seemingly forever. The wealthiest from every corner of the globe have come to the United States and a very select few other nations such as Israel for their surgeries or other technically challenging, complex, or requiring extreme specializations medical procedures. I can attest to this as during my time as a biomedical equipment engineering technician I was fortunate to assist in adapting and utilizing equipment and be a part of three of the first ten RF Catheter Ablation Surgeries in which the patient’s heart has two distinct nodal nerve bundles which fire to stimulate the ventricle twice per cycle and the errant node has to be destroyed using RF waves to kill the nerves within the node in order to produce proper heart rhythm. Any further description would be tedious, boring and unnecessary. The only other point is that had a tax been levied on each piece of medical equipment used in such a procedure the price would increase significantly. These such procedures are pioneered in the United States even should the discoveries be made elsewhere as the United States has the funds, patient load and every other advantage necessary to further medical science. The big lie is that there are people being denied healthcare in the United States for lack of insurance. That is not true as by law any hospital which receives any forms of government funding, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Insurance or any other program, must treat anybody who seeks medical treatment without regard to their ability to pay for the services. This is part of the reason we find emergency rooms filled at times with people who have a bad cold, sprained ankle, or other minor affliction which could be treated in a physician’s office but being unable to afford such they go to the closest hospital and are treated.

 

The other lie is that the cost of medical care rises beyond all reason because doctors are getting wealthy on the larger fees. The reality is that between employer provided insurance and government provided payments for healthcare the prices face a similar upward pressure that has also sent college tuition prices skyward. Since close to eighty percent of Americans have some form of third party health insurance they are not concerned with the costs and thus do not shop for cheaper prices as it would make no difference to their bill for the care. The other force driving healthcare prices skyward is a combination of two very closely related items, the costs for malpractice insurance and other coverage required for any physician, hospital or healthcare provider to operate and the ever larger rewards given plaintiffs in malpractice cases and the unfortunate fact that there are lawyers who seek out any reason no matter how slim to bring such cases hoping that either the jury will be sympathetic and reward their client, and they take their percentage, handsomely or the caregiving victim of the suit will settle out of court for some easy money. Anyway we look at healthcare now it is too late, the die has been cast and we will sooner than later find the United States becoming simply another European style financial disaster with government provided single payer healthcare. Who cares if it has failed almost everywhere it has been implemented, the United States will get it right because they know what they are doing. Right, that’s just so believable.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

May 22, 2013

The ‘A’ Responses to Pregnancy

If the question was put to a thousand Americans what word beginning with the letter ‘A’ they associate with unwanted pregnancy the vast majority, if not every single one, would most likely respond abortion. As a Western society with what has come to be considered a metropolitan attitude in which anything that causes life to become troublesome must have an easy resolution which frees the citizen from any responsibility for their actions. In the case of what is euphemistically called an unwanted pregnancy, the easy, no fuss, no muss answer is to get an abortion and presto, no more pregnancy. Abortion was presented as the simple and neat way to avoid one of the consequences of having unprotected sexual encounters which, of course, are nobody’s fault as such can occur to any woman at a moment’s notice.

 

Abortion came to the fore as the responsible way to resolve the situation of an unwanted pregnancy replacing its predecessor, adoption. But the modern metropolitan answer to pregnancy in the new, no responsibility, fast paced, immediate resolution of all problems had to find an instant, microwave fast resolution to pregnancy that did not require actually going full term and giving birth to a baby then giving the child up for adoption. Adoption was too messy and required the consequence of carrying the pregnancy for the full nine months and might even cause the unthinkable, ruin a girlish figure. Not in this modern world was it even thinkable to make a woman carry a baby to term just because she and her interest of a moment had pleasured each other without bothering to take precautions which might have actually delayed such actions and possibly even ruined the mood which drove the desire for such actions. Thus, adoption was out and abortion was in. Everything was now sped up to keep pace in the no consequence, fast paced, modern metropolitan world.

 

The ghastly, repulsive, repugnant details of what abortion is in reality was glossed over by changing the argument to make pregnancy resolution simply a choice and the zygote or fetus, dependent on length of pregnancy before detection, was minimalized and dehumanized into being nothing more than a collection referred to as a cellular mass. Everything about the actual pregnancy had to be redefined into a non-humanized, new world, metropolitan denotation which masked the entirety of what was actually occurring. But that is all falling apart and in the coming months this wondrous clean metropolitan lifestyle is going to have to face some very unpleasant and grizzly truths. The first shot across the bow was fired by the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. The abortionist who kept jars with baby’s feet on his desk and other jars of various baby parts as mementoes decorating his clinic. Abortionist Kermit Gosnell ran a less than perfect clinic which lacked refinement, cleanliness, or observance of the law. Kermit Gosnell performed late term abortions beyond the legal limit, delivered live births and then performed what was referred to as clipping which severed the spinal cord at the base of the neck disconnecting the brain from the rest of the body. Every single horrific practice which one could imagine in their worst nightmare was a weekly occurrence in Kermit Gosnell’s clinic. Kermit Gosnell also preyed upon those women who really had nowhere reputable for them to turn to and were the most vulnerable in our society. This should make our indignation even more strident and purposeful for if our society does not protect the most vulnerable among us, what can be said to mitigate such callousness.

 

There are already the faint rumblings of even more Kermit Gosnells operating similarly grotesque abortion mills from other states. What we should fear but also prepare to face is a torrent of similar findings from numerous more cities and towns than we may care to admit, but that will not prevent witnesses from coming forward in the coming months. Initially the Kermit Gosnell case will be heard despite the near total media blackout and refusal to give this horrid and sordid case the attention deserved and that will start the first smattering of other such clinics being made known. The growing number of such clinics will force coverage from a reluctant media which will only serve to bring more cases into the light of day. We had best brace ourselves for the shocking horrors that are the truth about abortion as it will be coming into our consciences and there will be no way of avoiding the truth. The only honorable result of this entire sordid affair will hopefully be the awakening of our society to the actual truths about abortions and a return to a more sane approach to unwanted pregnancy and a return to the other ‘A’ answer, adoption. If the horrific witnesses testimony and horrifying evidence uncovered and brought before the courts and the public results in a renewed debate over the appropriateness of legal and easy abortion as an acceptable alternative for adoption, then some goodness may yet be salvaged from this shockingly graphic tale of criminal malfeasance. Maybe we as a society can demand that much of the needless expenses and overtly complicated legal forms and many layered administrative demands be streamlined and simplified and return adoption as the societal default answer to an unwanted pregnancy. Where our societal discussion went wrong was confusing the concept of an unwanted pregnancy with the fallacious concept that the child, which would result from the pregnancy going to term, would be equally unwanted. Nothing could be further from the truth as is witnessed by the long lists of people wishing to adopt and being circled around the system like an airplane at an overcrowded airport waiting for clearance to land. It is time our society weighed the truthful facts about abortion and gave equal consideration in the debate for adoption. If we prove to be half as civilized and removed from barbarism, then we will choose life over destruction, promise over regret and fulfillment of dreams over nightmares of hope dashed and kindness discarded.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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