Thursday, January 17, 2019

On the Principle of Double Effect Writ Large

A news item caught my attention in the last few days. (From NPR. If I say "I heard on the news," there's a very good chance that's where I heard it.) The story was Veterans Claiming Illness From Burn Pits Lose Court Fight. The gist of the story is that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have reported significant health problems that they attribute to trash burned close enough to barracks that troops experienced long term exposure breathing toxic chemicals in the smoke. They have sued the contractor who did the burning, and the federal courts have said they can't sue because the contractor was only following orders. Parallels to the Agent Orange fight of Viet Nam veterans have been noted.

And then in the story there was this comment: "That fight shifts to Congress, which is where burn pit veterans will have to turn next, now that they've lost in court." But, Congress has already made some changes that may well affect this case.

Congress has acted and the President Trump has ordered that veterans have more access to non-Veterans Affairs health care. That could, I think, be a significant difference between this case and Agent Orange. That could mean comment from a lot of physicians that the VA doesn't supervise, and whose comments the VA can't restrict. That could mean more research and more information on what these vets are actually experiencing, and what the likely exposures are. Ultimately, that could mean more information that an administration can't restrict, and that officials can't avoid.

I'm not a veteran of armed service, and I have great respect for those who are. More particularly, some veterans, and specifically Viet Nam veterans have been important people for me. I've also been in health care for 40 years or so. On both counts I've noted the Agent Orange issues over the years. There is too much history of an issue affecting veterans that officials wanted to avoid. By making it easier for veterans to seek care outside the VA system, they may well have made avoidance harder.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Thoughts Before Dawn


"You're getting ready to retire, and here you are!" the nurse said. I answered, "The Director still takes call."

So, here I am,  up before dawn, because even in my waning days in active chaplaincy, I still am taking call. That seems hardly of note, except that the calendar on my wall says that this morning so early starts an Ember Day, the third of the Advent season. Notably, the prayer on the Book of Common Prayer for the third day of any Ember Day series, is "For all Christians in their vocation."

Which has to say something to me in this early darkness. I am in the midst of my vocation changing, but that doesn't mean it's going away. I don't know just what it will look like, but I will continue to have a vocation. God will still be calling me, not just to ministry, but to the specific ministry of a specific moment.


That's hardly a new thought, to me or to anyone else. I have a long history of encouraging others by saying, "The question isn't 'To what is God calling me;' but 'To what is God calling me now'" That Pentecostal streak in me can even see that as a moment-by-moment question. That call that I hear in Brother Lawrence to "practice the presence of God" embraces that the call is constant, whether whispered, stated aloud, or grabbing me by the scruff of the neck.

And so we pray for all Christians in their vocation:

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen


even as I pray now to discover mine.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Buddhists Are Right...

and all things change.

I wrote last month to "watch this space." The reason is that I am retiring from my chaplaincy position at the end of January. I have been involved in ministry for almost 40 years, and for almost all of that in hospitals, either full or part time. I'm ready to pass this one to another.

So, what about chaplaincy? Well, I'll still be a resource person for AEHC, and should have more time. I'll still be active in APC, if not so often or so frequently. Beyond those thoughts, I haven't made any specific plans.

And what about this site? I'll still be sharing thoughts, and perhaps more than in the past few years. The fact is that as a System Director I've had less to say. Some of that was greater responsibility and less time for anything else. Some of it was that, as a System Director, it felt harder to be sure people knew they were getting my opinion, and not the system's director.

At the same time, I've continued to be opinionated and to do my best to stay informed. So, I'll still be communicating. Now, will this change this blog? I haven't decided. The name may need to change, as I won't be at the bedside (or at least not nearly as often). On the other hand, I may not feel the need.

In any case, things will change, as they always must. Hang in with me, and let's see how things develop.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Watch This Space

Siblings, I haven't been regular, much less frequent, for some time. Well, change is coming. A few of you know. More of you will know soon. By spring, many things in my life will be different.

This is good news, or will be once I've shared it more widely. It is good for me and for my Best Beloved, and we have been planning it literally for years. I haven't started something really new and (largely) unshaped in some time.

And time is part of my hope. I hope that I will have time to share more. It will shock no one to hear that over these past years I have continued to be opinionated. I have just felt reasons I couldn't share, chiefest among them time. So, I have hope that I'll have time to return to being noisy and thinking out loud.

So, watch this space.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

What I Did on my Summer Vaca.... General Convention: Responding to the Opioid Crisis 2

I wanted to give an update on my earlier post from before General Convention. Specifically, I wanted to update readers on C037 Responding to the Opioid Crisis.

As most of my readers know, each resolution addressed at General Convention requires public testimony to the designated legislative committee. As I noted in my earlier post, I was on Legislative Committee 8 Social Justice and United States Policy, and it was our committee that addressed resolution C037.

In the testimony we heard moving testimony about the impact of the opioid crisis on individuals and families, and about how the Church might be engaged. We also heard another issue addressed. We heard about the problems of patients with chronic conditions and especially chronic pain whose access to appropriate medications was being affected by legislative and regulatory responses to the opioid crisis. In fact, this is an issue I'm also aware of. The Center for Practical Bioethics, one of our great resources in Kansas City, has had among its programs the PAINS Project. (That project has recently transferred to the Academy of Integrative Pain Management [AIPM].)

It is important to realize both concerns are accurate. There is a crisis in the United States, and especially in more economically distressed populations, in addiction to opioid drugs; and while that has turned in the last year or two from abuse primarily of prescription drugs to problems with heroin and imported synthetic fentanyl, control and proper use of the prescription drugs is important. There is also a crisis of poorly managed chronic pain, and patients who need the prescription drugs, and sometimes in unusual dosages, not only to just manage from day to day but to continue to function, to work, to participate in life.

So, when you look at the link above to the finalized language of C037, you'll see we addressed both. We retained concern about the opioid crisis, and continued the request for a task force in the Church to address it. We also acknowledged the proper uses for those drugs and called on the Church to understand and to advocate for those who appropriately need them. Really, I think we did a pretty good job of recognizing both problems, and in speaking to the Episcopal Church about the two needs.

Take a look at the final resolution. Consider how both problems are appearing in your own community, even in your own congregation. Recognize as well that sometimes that's how resolutions get "perfected:" testimony changes how your Deputies and Bishops understand an issue, and how we see God's call to the Church.