Respect Life Apostolate

Respect Life Apostolate

Read the 2018 Gospel of Life Prayer Breakfast article.

Click here for the results of the 2018 Deacon Diaper Drive

Read the 2018 Respect Life Creative Writing Contest scholarship essays here.

The Respect Life Apostolate (RLA) promotes the Catholic Church’s teachings on respect for and legal protection of every human life from conception to natural death by coordinating educational, spiritual, pastoral, and public policy advocacy efforts with particular focus on those issues in the culture that threaten life - abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and unethical advances in scientific technology.

Upcoming Events

Project Rachel Support Group - Thursday, May 24

Project Joseph Support Group - Monday, June 4

Breast Cancer Healing Mass - Saturday, June 9

Naming & Commendation Rite - Saturday, June 9

Helpers Mass & Rosary - Saturday, June 16

National Pro-Life Women's Conference - June 22-24

National Right to Life Convention - June 28-30 (Kansas City)

Looking for options? We can help!

Project Rachel & Project Joseph Ministries 

Right START Educational ProgramSign-up for our e-mail newsletter

Latest News

Are We Not Dying Fast Enough?


Tom Grenchik When the hospice movement began to get traction in the United States in the 1970s, it brought a healthy attitude toward the treatment of patients who were nearing death.  Rather than focusing on curing what could not be cured, hospice care centered on making the dying patient as comfortable as possible.  Naturally, this included medications that kept the patient stable and comfortable, while providing food and fluids.  If the patient was dying from cancer, the family allowed the patient to die from the cancer, and not from starvation, dehydration or a treatable infection.  Throughout the dying process, good hospice care witnesses to the dignity of the human person.   Countless are the patient and compassionate hospice workers who teach us the sacredness of this holy time period when one transitions from this life to the next.       

Yet recent articles in the Washington Post are raising concerns about a possible growing trend in some hospice care.  The Post suggests that as hospice programs enroll more patients who are not actually near death, a pattern of life-endangering doses of pain killers is emerging.  Without delving into the accuracy of this charge, it does tend to coincide with other concerns over a perceived growing practice of “stealth euthanasia” in some hospitals, nursing homes and even hospice programs.

Reader responses to the articles fell into three categories: families that had a positive experience with hospice care; people working in hospice care who found the articles unfair; and suffering families who felt that the death of a loved one was indeed expedited.  The articles told of fairly stable patients enrolled in hospice for “pain management” or “respite,” who instead were taken off their normal prescriptions, such as diabetes or blood pressure medicines, and given excessive doses of pain-killers.  The pain-killers made them disoriented and unable to eat or drink, justifying even heavier doses of morphine to end their resulting discomfort.  Patients don’t live long when food, fluids and helpful medications are replaced by ever increasing doses of morphine.

StatueAs one family member commented in reaction to the Post article: “Right up until the day my mother began hospice ‘care,’ … she had been eating regular meals on her own, had no problems with swallowing, and was mentally ‘with-it.’ … She was convinced to go into hospice to ‘be more comfortable.’ Within 24 hours of beginning hospice ‘care’ she was in a severely tormented subconscious state and never regained consciousness. She was no longer able to eat or drink on her own and since this was hospice ‘care’ she was given no fluids or sustenance. She was dead in five days.”

 Catholic teaching certainly allows for the use of pain-killers, and in progressively higher doses if pain increases.  But ideally this is balanced against the patient remaining conscious if at all possible.  Preparing for death is often a time for healing relationships and restoring family unity.  This is greatly aided when the patient is kept comfortable  and conscious.  However, if there is a growing trend to cease comfort care and ramp up pain-killers, even for those whose pain is already under control, that would dramatically change what most would hope and expect from hospice care.  As one family noted, the response to any request was always more pain killers.

 What would drive such a trend?  Have the health care and insurance companies noticed  that sick and dying patients are very expensive, so shortening the dying process saves resources? Is there a  general fear of death that welcomes a lethal overdose, rather than the dying process?  Or could this be another inroad of the culture of death, which treats human lives as expendable when they are no longer productive?

 Whatever the extent or cause of this trend, as people of life we should do several things. First, we need to pray and work to build a culture of life. Second, we need to take care to make sure that our loved ones receive appropriate end-of-life care (and speak up if this isn’t the case).  Last, but certainly not least, we should go out of our way to thank the hospice workers, nurses and doctors who truly value their patients, all the way through the natural process of dying. The best solution to bad care is providing and encouraging good and loving care, enabling each of us to live even our final days with dignity.

Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Click here to learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities.

Action Alert: Save Two Missouri Pro-Life Bills

The Missouri General Assembly reconvenes on Sept. 10 for the 2014 veto session. This means there is less than three weeks left to contact your representatives about two very important pro-life bills.

The first, HB 1307, would extend the reflection period after consultation to 72 hours before a woman has an abortion. Abortion is a life-changing procedure – for both the baby and the mother. Women need time to review all the medical information and alternatives available. This bill provides that. 

The second, HB 1132, would provide a tax credit increase for pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes. The assistance these organizations help women to choose life for their unborn children by providing the necessary tangible support which she might not be able to receive otherwise. 

Both of these bills were passed, but were vetoed by Governor Nixon. In the veto session on Sept. 10, the General Assembly can override both of the vetoes of Gov. Nixon. Contact your representative today to explain why these laws are the right choice for Missourians and urge their support. 

For more information, click here.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Embryonic Stem Cells

Doing the Challenge

News anchors, movie celebrities, professional sports teams, teachers, kids.  We've probably all seen by now the viral videos of individuals taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.   Concerns about the research supported by the ALS Association have left some Catholics concerned. Here is a quick overview.

What is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?
The challenge involves recording yourself accepting the challenge, dumping a bucket of ice water on your head, and challenging others by name to do it as well.  Typically, those who accept the challenge donate $10 to the ALS Association; those who decline donate $100.   According to the ALS Association, from July 29 to Aug 20, it has received $31.5 million in donations (compared to $1.9 million during the same time period last year). 

What's the Problem with Donating to ALS Association?
Certainly, individuals suffering with ALS as well as their family and friends deserve our support and prayers for healing. We encourage all to continue supporting everyone who is suffering or in spiritual, physical, or financial need. The Church supports all morally licit efforts towards a better understanding of and treatment for ALS.

There is concern, however, that the money being donated to the ALS Association may be used for embryonic stem cell research.  In a July 2, 2014 email from ALS Association to the American Life League, ALS stated that while it primarily funds studies utilizing adult stem cells, it is funding one study using embryonic stem cells and that it may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future. 

Embryonic stem cell research is always morally objectionable because a human person must be destroyed to harvest his or her stem cells.  As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated: "The use of embryonic stem cells or differentiated cells derived from them - even when these are provided by other researchers through destruction of embryos or when such cells are commercially available - presents serious problems from the standpoint of cooperation in evil and scandal."  (Dignitas personae, no. 32).

Alternatives for Catholics
There is nothing immoral about raising awareness for diseases and ethical research towards curing diseases; there is no reason Catholics can't participate. The key, however, is to ensure that donations from participation are being utilized to support morally licit research.

As an alternative to the ALS Association, Catholics may wish to donate to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. The Institute is a secular, non-profit organization and chooses to engage in medical research that honors and respects the dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death. More information on the John Paul II Institute is available here.

Donations can be by clicking here or checks can be sent to:

John Paul II Medical Research Institute
540 E. Jefferson St., Suite 202
Iowa City, IA 52245

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