A prescription for death
The medical model and murder
by Cathy Ramey
There are any number of corresponding elements which can be identified when examining one evil age and another. This comparison-shopping points up similarities in the manner in which the Church, the individual, institutions, and society as a whole have responded in identical ways when experiencing crisis, even when the crisis is separated by many years. This 3-part series explores mass killing which is tolerated in society, and the unique medical paradigm which sustains it and allows for its growth.
Traditionally, we are accustomed to speaking of "war" as something that involves aggression from without. Babylon went to war against Israel. Britain went to war against the original American Colonies. Germany went to war against the world. And our view readily accepts that there can be conflict that cuts along internal geographical lines; the North against the South, whether in the United States, Korea, Vietnam, or Yugoslavia.
In addition to speaking of national or internal people groups who oppose each other, war-talk also involves discussions of weaponry, force, mediation efforts, and territory lost or gained. When we speak of war, these easily fit into our existing schema, the pattern our mind has learned to recognize as "war."
But how do we filter and organize information regarding an aggressor which belongs to no readily identifiable people group and attacks from within, and with non-traditional weaponry? What happens when a government takes on a personality as an independent entity which seeks to be protected from the very people and traditions which it was formerly equipped to protect?
In examining the medicalization of murder in America throughout the past two decades and more, we need to first examine our understanding of war. If we rely on the old schema, complete with army tanks, planes, rockets, and Generals, we must dismiss the idea that a war is taking place within the borders of this nation. These "tools" are not evident. Under these guidelines, all of the rhetoric of the pro-life movement, that there is a "war against the unborn," is empty of any real meaning.
But there is one haunting fact which does fit into our "war" schema and which members of the pro-life movement insist upon placing before us there are casualties. Often they are visible only in body fragments among a mass of bloody tissue, but arms and legs, small ears and human organs warn us that these too were once living persons.
When we examine mass murder in the way it is being carried out in today's culture, through the practice of abortion, understanding that these acts of aggression are sanctioned, promoted, and protected by the state, we need to create a new, more expansive view of war that allows us to consider an old friendour governmentas the enemy which is among us.
The object of protection
What happens when the State trades away its role as protector and now demands that it be protected from its own constituency?
The State, in effect, has the ultimate claim to a sacredness of life, and human life becomes subservient to State life.
And what happens when a specific group of people within a nation's borders are deemed to be a threat?
The State's life, we may argue, is to be preserved and it's distress or death to be combated with the strongest means available.
When this type of war happens, not all of the "enemy" are treated as openly, militantly, and hostilely as were the victims of Waco, Texas on April 19, 1993 when, after surrounding a complex of buildings and laying siege to the inhabitants inside, the government finally ended the resulting stand-off by creating an inferno which took the lives of over eighty men, women, and children.
Under our new understanding of war, where the State seeks above all else to preserve its own vitality and goals, persons within the State's geographical borders find themselves experiencing a role reversal. The State which at one time existed to facilitate the good of its citizens now demands that they work according to government needs and desires. The simplest example of this role reversal in action has to do with paying taxes. The average American worker spends approximately one third of his labor hours earning money for the State. Tax protests and legislation to reduce this burden, clear evidence of the will of the people to see change, consistently are undermined or ignored. The people who were once served now find themselves unwilling servants.
The empowered State also begins to provide for its own protection, and the foe that it competes against is any individual or group which threatens its resources. The unborn, and eventually others who are born but unable to act as contributors to society, are perceived as enemies. They are accused of straining our resources (over-population) and even poisoning society as a whole under the premise that "unwantedness" leads to abuse; which leads to deviant and harmful social behavior; which equals a threat to the State and society as a whole. As such, the unborn are a disease to be controlled.
Indeed, as corrupted government exploits corrupted medicine, "disease-cure" imagery becomes a vital part of creating a successful model for murder on a massive and public scale. "Health" is pursued for the State, not the individuals, who are suddenly human pathogens (agents which cause disease) which must be "treated" in order to assure the "health" of the State. A certain number of them must even be eradicated. Their existence outside of proposed guidelines makes them a "public health concern."
While it is difficult to convince Americans to eliminate innocent persons within our nation's borders as a military exercise (though events at Waco and another event at Ruby Ridge, Idaho may indicate that desensitization is rapidly occurring), it is significantly easier to compel them to accept the killing of unseen, "unwanted" infants through medical means. After all, the medical model is one which has been trusted for many, many years. It is this model which worked to bring polio under control and has provided all of us with antibiotics aimed at saving our lives from other unseen pathogens.
Of course there are other societal systems which might be utilized; the legal system comes most readily to mind. Within that system there is certainly authority to carry on killing not allowed in general. A police officer may use deadly force even if, tragically, that force results in the loss of innocent life.
In 1993 Portland, Oregon police, responding to a call about a late night burglary, surrounded a house. As the now alerted burglar attempted to get away using an innocent 12 year-old boy as a hostage and shield, police shot at the man through a window. Unfortunately, their bullets went astray and killed the child. No disciplinary action was taken. We accept that lives may be forfeited or lost under the legal paradigm. Beyond the officer on the street, there are also laws which allow for killing to be ordered by a judge as a retribution-response to certain capital crimes, and we accept that killing (called self-defense or defense of another) may even occur as one individual seeks to protect another innocent individual from an unjust attack.
Since killing at least to some degree is part of the normal operating paradigm of the legal system, one might assume that this would be a logical place for institutionalized mass murder to be carried out. Instead, we understand that this sort of killing requires an extremely high degree of trust. Unlike the legal or military systems, the medical model has earned a greater degree of public confidence. Therefore, if something as contrary as mass murder is to occur, this model, corrupted, provides a more accepted system under which innocent life might be systematically taken without what would be normal concern for that process.
And using the medical model to assure elimination of large numbers of people has worked in the past. Over fourteen million non-combatants were systematically killed by using a medical model in Nazi Germany during the late thirties and up to the middle of the nineteen-forties. William Brennan writes, "A milestone on the road to genocide under legal auspices occurred in 1936 when the highest court of Germany, the Reichsgericht, deprived Jews of civil rights by equating them with sickness and death."
We are accustomed to seeing the "extermination" of inmates in concentration camps as part of the military history with which it is interwoven, but, in fact, the system which enjoyed the trust of the civilian population and which was exploited in a chilling way throughout the period when nations were at war with each other was the medical model.
Then, and now, all that is required is that the model be modified with the target pathogen-population in mind, and to eliminate or discredit those aspects of personhood which ordinarily convince us of that population's humanity. Persons in the class to be limited or exterminated altogether are increasingly referred to by terms which are crafted to allow for a process called distancing (for a list of distancing terms used against Jews and unborn persons, see chart A).
Providing a mechanism for murder
Distancing is a process of emotional and intellectual withdrawal which gradually results in less and less of a feeling of connectedness between one individual and another or one class of people and another. As connections are severed, the disenfranchised are referred to in impersonal terms meant to reject their humanity. Jews were transformed into "vermin" (animals which bring diseases upon otherwise healthy populations), and "unwanted" unborn infants are referred to as "POCs" or "products of conception." These "POCs" are described in disease terms in textbooks as merely a process (pregnancy) which places a mother "at risk."
Once the language for creating distancing is in place, the next step is to insure that those physical mechanisms by which murder will take place also allow for this emotional and intellectual detachment. This means that the process must include a means by which components of the killing process can be spread among various members of the cooperative killing team.
Triaging and the "already-dead"
The process for identifying needs and prioritizing medical care which is called triage was first formally used in treating casualties of war. Often the number of injured soldiers far exceeded medical resources both in terms of personnel and supplies for treating them. With many badly wounded patients requiring attention, this process involved, by necessity, doing a very cursory examination to identify each patient's injuries. Then, treating patients based upon the severity of those wounds meant that the more life-threatening their condition was, the sooner they would be cared for.
Triage under war-time conditions also means more than simply defining who is most badly in need of care and attending to that person first. It also means the medical practitioner makes an assessment as to whether-or-not the person is likely to survive even with medical care. If the impression is that he will not survive, then the practitioner may make provision for "comfort-care" and move on to the next patient without rendering more than pain relief. In this way he hopes to assure the survival of the maximum number of patients. Perhaps the next man's chances for survival will be boosted because the worker did not lose time offering unsuccessful treatment to a man expected to die anyway, is the thinking.
"It is really not cold-hearted or poor care," notes Fremont, Michigan coroner, Dr. Ronald Graeser. "The attempt is to avoid the situation where resources that could certainly save two patients are not wasted attempting to save only one patient. The one severely injured patient can easily tie up providers and consume supplies that would otherwise be available for two or more patients or less severe injuries."
This medical triage model is an important aspect of the killing paradigm which operated in Nazi Germany, and it is a vital element in the selling of abortion today. There is a certain "situation ethic" which demands the sacrifice of one for others. But before we look at triage in more detail, we will examine an assumption that each individual carried into the concentration camp with him, and which each unborn baby carries into a "clinic" with him. It is an assumption that psychiatrist and holocaust researcher Robert Jay Lifton called "already dead."
To Lifton, "already dead" meant there was a foregone conclusion that any person entering Auschwitz was sentenced to death. Their extermination was so completely assured (since the State's policy was to eliminate those seen as useless or undesirable), that officials and guards at the camp actually viewed them as dead already. Such a view made it possible to participate in actions that might otherwise result in enormous moral conflict. Since they were "as good as dead," it was unnecessary to worry about the ethics of punishments, questionable or downright immoral medical "treatments," or research experimentation upon them as living human beings. The fact is, they were going to be dead, so they were viewed by their captors as "already dead."
Though we will discuss the issue of "experimentation" separately, it is worth noting here that Lifton concludes that experiments done by physicians and researchers in the camps "reflect the Nazi image of 'life unworthy of life,' of creatures who, because less than human, can be studied, altered, manipulated, mutilated, or killedin the service of the Nordic race, and ultimately of remaking humankind."
In the same way, abortion facility staff appear to view the unborn child as already dead. His or her rights are irrelevant. In fact, personnel will often quibble over vague definitions as to when life actually begins despite credible biological evidence that it begins at conception. For some it begins with "viability," whenever they determine that to be; for others it is at that point when the mother first feels flutterings of movement; still others look for a more clinical determinant and opt for a trimester breakdown; while another group will point to the birth moment as the indicator of when life begins.
The existence of human life at all stages is slowly being conceded by abortion advocates. However, issues surrounding "quality" of existence now come to the fore in an attempt to distinguish this human life from other human life. Degree of physical and cognitive development may be the litmus test for some, while projections of what the future might hold for the individual, or what service the individual might contribute in the future become determinants for others.
Whether we are talking of Jews dehumanized into "vermin" and "gangrenous appendix," or speaking of unborn infants translated into developmental terms like "embryo" or "fetus," the measurements of human life become increasingly miasmic. Until the subjective criteria is met, the child is not "alive" in their way of thinking.
Now, if a there is no living child to consider, it makes it all that much easier to go about the process: counseling, lab work, insertion of dilators, etc., to assure its death. In fact, based upon this idea of "already dead," it is perfectly reasonable then to subject the tissue, either before, during, or after the abortion procedure, to what would be considered to be unspeakable practices of experimentation under any other circumstance.
March of Dimes advisor and abortionist, Dr. Kurt Hirschhorn, in seeking permission to engage in "non-therapeutic research" on living unborn babies in order to test the impact of drugs on the child, appealed to New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital and Medical School. His intent was to experiment with "defective" unborn infants who were going to be aborted. He said, "It is not possible to make this fetus into a child," because the intent is to kill it and the legal mechanization is in place to allow it, "therefore we can consider it as nothing more than a piece of tissue."
Suzanne Rini, in her well documented book, Beyond Abortion, cites two researchers who "argued that any intrusion on the fetus to be aborted could not be logically agonized over, considering its ultimate fate." In other words, since the unborn baby whose mother opts for abortion is as good as dead, why all the fuss over invasive or harmful experimentation?
Ethicist Joseph Fletcher, who is responsible for promoting situation ethics, comments in his book entitled Research on the Fetus, "Common sense, in any case, does not allow that a fetus which is inviable or to be terminated can be 'harmed' or 'injured' or 'insulted,' since acts of battery and mayhem presuppose a living, independent individual biologically. . . . An injustice predicates a person."
Logically, this mindset is what contributed toward the March of Dimes funded Helsinki, Finland experiments in which Dr. Peter J. Adam aborted babies and then decapitated the still-living infants for research purposes.
More recently, former abortion facility staffers participated in a conference in Chicago, Illinois in which one of them referred to the methods used by her clinic to market abortion. Clients were "counseled" that there was "no baby." And for one woman, while she was actively engaged in this form of medical killing, the possibility that human beings were being murdered was not an issue. She laments, "I saw dead babies every day for three years, I played with many of them. I never saw a human life, and I never cared."
Murder by compassion
Physicians and other medically trained personnel in the concentration camp setting routinely rationalized the aggressive killing there. They coupled the triage idea of the "already dead" with the reality that concentration camp inmates were targeted for elimination. In fact, they saw the entire camp setting as an element of the larger war their nation was engaged in.
Under that schema, all of the inmates were viewed not only as enemies of the State, they were also casualties who were straining existing resources. As such, it was assumed that, in the immediate sense, some were more fit to live, and others were more fit to die. Eventually they would all die, so all that was left to the medical overseers was to determine when, and what "benefit" could be derived from them prior to, during, or after their deaths became a reality.
Lifton engages the triage model in describing how individual physicians became ensnared in killing:
"Performing selections (which determined who was sent to the gas chamber) was constantly compared to being in combat. The message from Himmler, from the camp commandant, and from the medical hierarchy was that this difficult assignment had to be understood as wartime duty."
Later he notes, "the extensive killing prevented overcrowding; and the selections, by providing stronger inmates, eased the doctor's task of maintaining the health of the inmate population." Again, maintaining the health of the larger community or State is of greater importance than maintaining the health of the individual.
A prisoner-physician at Auschwitz described the tension felt over committing killings as an act of compassion:
"You saw them arrive. . . . and I said [to myself], 'Oh, will they come into the camp, or will they go to the gas chamber? If they come to the camp, how awful. No beds, no sheets, no food, nothing. It will be more and more.' You see? And we couldn't stand it. We always said, 'Oh if we are [able to stay at] the number we are now, . . . it's tolerable. But one more is already too much for us.' So [at] the time you hope that they won't come [t]here, though you know that if they don't, . . . there was no alternative besides the gas chamber."
Medical supervisors within the camp routinely expressed this corrupted brand of compassion, actively selecting to kill, by annihilating entire blocks of prisoners all at once in order to stop lice, typhus, and flu from spreading throughout the camp. Even "nature" could not over-ride the physician's right to "select" who would live and who would die.
It is easy to see that there is really not much that distinguishes the rationale for abusing and killing "unwanted" Jews and Gypsies, and the rationale applied to the "unwanted" unborn of our own day. While Nazis pointed to a military conflict consistent with the traditional schema of war and used a medical model to annihilate innocent civilians, the State today speaks of a "war on poverty," a "war on crime," "war on drugs," and, ironically, even a "war on child abuse."
In all of these "war" analogies advanced by the State, there is one consistent class of persons on the "casualty list," the unborn, and it is therefore reasonable to deduce that at some level war has been formally declared against this portion of the population. Certainly, abortion is part of the resolution or cure established in these "war" analogies so that, we are told that by combating "over population" we are easing the planetary struggle over resources; that babies born into poverty are frequently "unwanted" burdens; that "unwantedness" leads to abuse and crime; and finally, that it is a kinder and gentler person who will agree to have a child killed in utero, rather than birth a baby addicted to drugs.
These ideas about what is best for society are couched in noble terms, no less for us than they were for the Nazis. They too could explain away much of the killing as an act of compassion which spared the starving and diseased masses inside the camps.
A higher cause and incentives to kill
Rudolph Hoss, first commandant of the Auschwitz facility, in an autobiography written after his arrest, and while awaiting trial in Nuremberg, said, "I had been given an order, and I had to carry it out.
"Whether this mass extermination of the Jews was necessary or not was something on which I could not allow myself to form an opinion, for I lacked the necessary breadth of view" (emphasis added).
Earlier, Hoss was summoned to a meeting in the office of Reichfuehrer Himmler where he was apprised of the so-called threat the Jews posed to the nation. "If we cannot obliterate the biological basis of Jewry, the Jews will one day destroy the German people," he recalled being told (emphasis added).
The message which Hoss incorporated into his operating world view was that his cooperation was necessary for the "health" and survival of the State. Since there are intrinsic barriers to engaging in the murder of innocent people, he adopted an elevated perspective surrounding the order to kill Jewish inmates. In fact, the breadth of the crisis was so great, the need for drastic measures so enormous, that it was beyond his ability to understand and apply conventional morality. Of course, there were also incentives.
"My family, to be sure, were well provided for in Auschwitz," he wrote. Prisoners acted as household servants and gardeners, and "[e]very wish that my wife or children expressed was granted them."
We see this same process of ennobling going on with abortion today. Society's "health" is used as a motivator, whether it is to curb the numbers of people availing themselves of "limited resources," to erradicate "child abuse," or bring balance to an inequity that exists.
Carol Everett, a former abortion clinic owner and administrator, speaks of her own rationale for entering the abortion business:
"Women were talking openly to each other about the injustice of a male dominated society that saw women as being inferior to men. They were decrying their emotional weakness . . . which kept them from winning."
Bernard Nathanson, an obstetrician/gynecologist who performed thousands of abortions before withdrawing from the abortion industry often cites what he considered an inequity between women of wealth and women of poverty. The rich were able to eliminate a pregnancy with ease, while poorer women lacked the financial resources to circumvent the law and hire an illegal abortionist.
Now deceased, abortionist Ruth Barnett wrote in her autobiography of many individual cases of abortion which she handled. There are stories of war-time brides, women caught in affairs, frightened teen-agers, and mothers with several children and little money. Her own ennoblement of the act of killing unborn infants caused her daughter to comment years later that she "had her halo screwed on too tight."
Ruth Barnett writes, "Of all my thousands of cases, there is one that stands out for its depth of poignancy. In one respect the case was unique. It was brought to me by 'Baron.'
"Baron, you must understand, was a Seeing-Eye dog. His mistress had been given my name by a mutual friend. Desperately in love with her man, she had become pregnant. To her, in her darkness, marriage was unthinkable."
Barnett goes on to tell of the gratitude that Baron felt for the assistance she rendered to the blind woman in "terminating" the life of her unborn baby. With this tale and others, Ruth Barnett speaks of the act of killing as one of noble service.
As with Hoss, for people who engage in killing unborn infants there are also incentives. Again, Everett writes, "In my wildest imaginings I could never fathom the door that would be opened to meone that would make me rich, would enable me to do all the things I ever dreamed of doing for my children and myself."
In a newspaper interview with abortionist Barnett's daughter, Maggie St. James, the reporter quizzed her about the family's prosperity, largely due to involvement with abortion. St. James characterized herself and her mother, during the 1940s and through the early 60s as big spenders, "two women who squandered $10 to $15 million. I think my clothing account was around $5,000 a month," she responded.
Later in the same interview she remarked that even after leaving home, her mother's abortion wealth facilitated her lifestyle. "I had three live-in helpa nursemaid, a housekeeper, a cook and a gardener who came in every day. Mother would come over once a month, sit down at my desk and shuffle through my pigeon holes to see what my bills were. Then she'd take them off to pay."
The analogy of incentives is one which we construct with caution. In fact, the incentive for many who participated in the murders of innocent people in the concentration camp setting was that they might themselves survive the war.
Lifton records the unusual resistance demonstrated by one physician who was sent to assist in the killings at Auschwitz.
"At the first selection he was taken to, Delmotte became nauseated and returned to his room quite drunk; what was unusual, however, was that he did not leave his room the next morning." The following day he was found there in a state of catatonia.
"When he finally emerged in an agitated state, he was heard to say that he 'didn't want to be in a slaughterhouse' and preferred to go to the front, and that 'as a doctor his task was to help people and not to kill them.'" Eventually, Delmotte did opt to participate in "selections" after he was assigned a personal mentor, Joseph Mengele.
The point here is that under Hitler's regime it was assumed that a higher degree of risk, perhaps death, might be an outcome of refusing to engage in the killing process. This life-saving incentive is not an element which we can document through the American abortion experience. However, in both periods the availability of an incentive, negative or positive, is important in the medical-killing model.