About Nancy Valko, RN ALNC I have been a registered nurse since 1969 and currently I am a spokesperson for the National Association of Prolife Nurses (www.nursesforlife.org). I have also been a past President of Missouri Nurses for Life and past co-chair of the St. Louis Archdiocesan Respect Life Committee. In 2015, I was honored to receive the People of Life award from the US Catholic Conference of Bishops. After working in critical care, hospice, home health, oncology, dialysis and other specialties for 45 years, I am currently working as a legal nurse consultant (www.valkogroupalnc.com) and volunteer. I have served on medical and nursing ethics committees and give speeches and workshops around the country on medical ethics issues. I have also served on the board of the Saint Louis Down Syndrome Association in the past and I am still active in the field of disability advocacy. I have worked as a volunteer for children with disabilities, people with severe brain injuries, and bereaved parents. I have also appeared on many radio and television shows on various medical, ethical and pro-life topics and I have written on these topics for The National Catholic Register, The National Catholic Bioethics Center, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, First Things magazine, Magnificat and other publications. I have been a long-time contributing editor for Voices magazine, a publication of Woman for Faith and Family (www.wf-f.org) I have personally cared for many relatives with a variety of physical or mental disabilities, including my mother with Alzheimer’s and terminal cancer and a daughter, Karen, who was born with Down Syndrome and a severe heart defect. Although both are now deceased, the influence of my mother and daughter has positively motivated my activities in medical ethics and working for greater support for people and families dealing with such issues as disabilities, chronic illness and terminal conditions. In 1984 after our Karen’s death, I suffered a miscarriage at 10-12 weeks. My 7 year old son and 5 year old daughter were devastated and since we did not know the sex, I had them each pick a name. Naming Jeff Candy helped but then they questioned why that baby did not have a funeral like their sister. Good question! I brought this up to my mentor Fr. Joe Naumann (now archbishop of Kansas City) when he headed the St. Louis Archdiocesan Pro-Life Committee and the next thing I knew, I wound up on a committee. Now we have “The Order for the Naming and Commendation for an Infant Who Died Before Birth“ (copyright 1989). I am so proud of the results of my children’s long-ago question! I was divorced for 20 years (and after an annulment) before marrying my wonderful husband Kevin Scannell in June, 2008 and we live in St. Louis, Mo. Together, we are blessed with 4 children and 3 grandchildren. In 2009, I lost my beautiful 30 year old daughter Marie to suicide and in 2012, Kevin and I lost our 6 year old grandson Noah to a rare autoimmune disease called HLH.
In 1988 during the Nancy Cruzan case involving a young, non-terminally ill woman in a so-called "persistent vegetative state" whose parents wanted her feeding tube withdrawn so she would die, I was asked if I was going to feed my mother who had Alzheimer's disease. At the time, my mother had no problems with eating but I knew the real question was about a possible feeding tube later on.
Date posted: 2016-11-04
In the 1980s, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a progressive mental deterioration due to generalized degeneration of the brain. It was quite a shock to the family and at that time, there was an unfortunate stigma attached to Alzheimer's that led some family members to insist that mom's illness be kept secret.
Date posted: 2016-11-04
A new Illinois law was just signed by Governor Bruce Rauner with dire implications for pro-life health care providers.
Date posted: 2016-08-28
Trying to sell "neutrality" to doctors and convincing the media to change the term "physician-assisted suicide" to "physician-assisted death" cannot mask the inevitable and lethal damage done not only to individuals but also to our medical and legal institutions that can no longer ensure ethical protection for our lives.
Date posted: 2016-03-17
Do assisted suicide supporters really expect doctors and nurses to be able to assist the suicide of one patient, then go on to care for a similar patient who wants to live, without this having an effect on their ethics or their empathy? Do they realize that this reduces the second patient's will to live to a mere personal whim - one that society may ultimately see as selfish and too costly?
Date posted: 2015-01-20
After staying in the pro-life movement for now for more than 3 decades, I recognize the argument that legalized abortion would lead to infanticide and euthanasia was absolutely true. As a nurse as well as a mother, I have been horrified to see the ever increasing expansion of what we now call the Culture of Death to include the disabled, elderly, frail and seriously ill as well as the unborn.
Date posted: 2014-01-18
When abortionist Kermit Gosnell went on trial for the horrifying killings of late-term unborn babies who survived his abortions and the negligent death of at least one of the mothers, the mainstream media and others tried to ignore it. But thanks to some courageous journalists like those on the Fox network and an electronic outpouring of outrage from the pro-life community, the shoddy veneer of "safe, legal" abortion was stripped away - at least for a short while near the end of the trial.
Date posted: 2013-09-14
Our pro-life movement has many compelling stories that are based on unvarnished reality and promote a deeper understanding of the issues and the people involved. Some of our stories expose the frightening truth and expanding agenda of the "culture of death." Other stories are inspirational lessons on the value of true justice, compassion, and moral principles. These stories highlight what love, faith, hope, support, selflessness, and respect for life can accomplish. Such stories are all around us if we only look. By telling our stories and those of others, we are helping to push back the culture of death.
Date posted: 2013-06-13
The answer is that God is where He always has been when we grieve and suffer: with us and even carrying us through the roughest times, as the famous "Footprints in the Sand" poem depicts. But what does that really mean?
Date posted: 2013-02-24
At that time, Marie was wrestling with the choice between keeping her baby and adoption. Abortion was never an option because, as Marie said at the time, "I could never kill my baby. I know too much." I told Marie that the most important question was what would be best for the baby and I assured her that I would totally support her decision to either keep the baby or release him or her for adoption. But the decision had to be hers since she was an adult and she would be the one to live with her decision.
Date posted: 2012-11-07
Conscience rights for health care providers and religious organizations are being dismantled, most recently by the Obama administration's Health and Human Services department mandating so-called free birth control including contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients as "essential preventive health care" regardless of religious, moral, or even medical objections.
Date posted: 2012-09-18
Forty-three years later, the healthcare world around me has changed dramatically. On the plus side, I have witnessed the great advances in treating illnesses, pain, etc. However, on the minus side, I have witnessed an increasing rejection of traditional ethics that has turned the world I knew upside-down in so many ways. In 1969, I could never have imagined that the crime of abortion would be declared a constitutional right or that euthanasia in the guise of "physician assisted suicide" would become legal in any state. And could any of us ever have imagined a time when a US president would try to force even Catholic healthcare institutions into violating their conscience rights?
Date posted: 2012-05-15
Last October during National Down Syndrome Awareness month, a new test for detecting Down syndrome as early as 10 weeks into pregnancy was announced with great fanfare by many news organizations. Routinely mentioned was also the sad fact that around 90% of babies diagnosed with this condition are then aborted. Indeed, although more people than ever identify themselves as pro-life in public opinion polls, there is still majority support for abortions in the so-called "hard case" of birth defect.
Date posted: 2012-03-04
Linking the "right to die" with organ donation has opened a terrible Pandora's Box.
Date posted: 2011-10-11
Entirely too often, we Catholics and other people of faith find ourselves on the defensive when it comes to controversial issues such as abortion, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, etc. We can forget that Catholicism is based on natural moral law and the innate sense of right and wrong written in every rational heart. It's not surprising, then, when objective facts and consequences support what the Church teaches. The issue of "free" birth control is a case in point. Even without the strong moral, psychological and spiritual arguments against "free" birth control, the facts speak for themselves.
Date posted: 2011-10-02
At its dark heart, the euthanasia movement is primarily about a selfish insistence on avoiding suffering no matter what the consequences to others or to society. It is accomplishing its goal by trying to intimidate everyone - health care professionals, grieving relatives, the unsuspecting public - into accepting their lethal agenda.
Date posted: 2011-07-23
More than a decade ago I was approached by a non-Catholic nurse I'll call Melissa, who wanted to talk about an abortion that continued to haunt her. A young pregnant mother discovered she had breast cancer and was counseled to get an immediate abortion and then start chemotherapy and radiation. Melissa, a pro-life nurse herself, was reassured by the Catholic oncologist that this was a necessary and ethical abortion to save the mother's life. The mother reluctantly agreed but Melissa said that the abortion itself seemed to take a terrible toll on the young mother. The young mom died of breast cancer not long after the abortion. Melissa felt that somehow the abortion was wrong despite the doctor's reassurances. Knowing I was Catholic and involved in ethics, she wanted to know my opinion.
Date posted: 2011-03-09
In my 41 years as a nurse, I've seen many amazing recoveries that left doctors shaking their heads. "Katie", "Jim" and "Mike" are just some of the people I've written about in these pages over the years who regained consciousness after being labeled "permanently vegetative" or "terminally comatose". I have seen other patients who have come back from the brink of death when recovery seemed medically impossible. But the most amazing recovery I ever witnessed was not medical.
Date posted: 2010-09-30
Government tends to revolve around issues such as regulations, taxes, and spending for various programs. Medical ethics, on the other hand, is about caring for a patient's health and well-being. It is not surprising then that when government economics and medical ethics collide in something as momentous as health-care reform, there is bound to be trouble. In the case of the recent US health-care-reform proposals, one of the most contentious issues has been the specter of "death panels" - government committees that have the power to decide whether we live or die. I am no alarmist but especially as a nurse, I do believe there is cause for serious concern about the push for euthanasia "rights", whether or not some form of health-care reform eventually passes.
Date posted: 2010-03-21
Death panels are not the overwrought fantasy of right-wing nut cases. Real "death panels" are already at work. They have been created by apathy, misplaced sympathy, a skewed view of tolerance and an inordinate fear of a less than perfect life. Death panels? In the famous words of the comic strip character Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Date posted: 2009-11-29
One of those graces we have received is that so many people have contacted us offering their prayers. I know that saying "I'll pray for you" often seems inadequate; but, miraculously, I believe these prayers have allowed us to focus on the love and laughter we had with Marie instead of the tragic circumstances of her death. It is prayer that gives us our hope, our confident hope, that through God's great mercy Marie will, at last, receive peace - joyful peace - that she could never experience in this life.
Date posted: 2009-11-27
As a nurse, I believe that not participating in abortion is a moral and natural imperative, not a "choice". And also as a nurse, I've seen the effects of the "right-to-die" movement on health-care providers and their education over the years. Personally, I have become sick of hearing that this or that patient "needs to die" when the patient or family chooses not to withdraw basic care or treatment. Unfortunately, there are a lot of medical people and prominent ethicists who don't really believe in free choice when it comes to the "right to die" and who actually do think some patients are a drain on the health care system and society. Not surprisingly, many of them also support direct euthanasia.
Date posted: 2009-10-04
The stage was set several years ago, when a concerted effort was started by abortion supporters to force pharmacists to supply Plan B (the "morning after pill") without a prescription - despite some pharmacists' moral objections to this drug, which can cause an abortion shortly after conception (according to the manufacturers' own description of Plan B's actions).
Date posted: 2009-06-05
While organ donation is a worthy goal when conducted ethically, it is very dangerous when physicians and ethicists redefine terms and devise new rationales without the knowledge or input of others, especially the public. This has been happening far too often and far too long in many areas of medical ethics and the consequences are often lethal. Opinions about medical ethics affect all of us and our loved ones. And good medical ethics decisions are the foundation of a trustworthy medical system. We are constantly exhorted to sign organ-donor cards and join state organ registries but are we getting enough accurate information to give our truly informed consent? This question is too important to just leave to the self-described experts.
Date posted: 2009-03-04
Euthanasia supporters have been successful in getting some medical and nursing groups to change their official positions from opposition to assisted suicide/euthanasia to neutrality on the issue. And now, almost all of the mainstream media accepts death by withdrawal of treatment as humane and legal for the severely brain-injured. It was just a matter of time before that vulnerable group of people expanded to include people with lesser disabilities and now even the fully conscious but terminally or "hopelessly" ill person.
Date posted: 2008-09-18
The Pill has gotten a lot of press lately. With the shameful Connecticut law forcing even Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B (an overdose of the birth control pill) to all rape victims to the shocking disclosure that a Maine school board approved school nurses distributing the Pill to junior high students without parental consent or notification, the Pill is promoted as a panacea for all sorts of societal problems.
Date posted: 2007-12-19
Withdrawal of treatment, "living wills", terminal sedation, assisted suicide, organ donation, etc. Currently, it's virtually impossible to escape all the death talk in the media and elsewhere. For example, if you are admitted to a hospital for almost any reason, you or your relatives will be asked if you have or would like information about documents formalizing your "end-of-life" choices. But despite all the hype, not every situation involving end-of-life issues has to involve wrestling with big ethical dilemmas. Many times, there are relatively simple considerations or strategies that actually used to be commonly employed until the introduction of the so-called "right to die". Accurate information, common sense and a good understanding of ethical principles can cut through the "right-to-die" fog and make a person's last stage of life as good as possible both for the person and his or her family.
Date posted: 2007-09-07
Last year, I attended a lovely wedding where the bridesmaids wore an unusual shade of dark brown. Many people were perplexed by the color choice but one of the bridesmaids solved the mystery with one word: chocolate. Everyone smiled and nodded. This is a rather benign example of the power of words to change perceptions. In ethics, however, such semantics are often employed for a more disturbing purpose - to disguise reality by changing words in order to define the debate.
Date posted: 2007-05-04
"Dr. Goldberg said, for some couples 'losing a normal pregnancy secondary to the procedure is not as problematic as the birth of a Down syndrome child, so they're willing to take that risk.'" "Screen All Pregnancies for Down Syndrome, Doctors Say" New York Times, January 9, 2007. "'A very disabled child can mean a disabled family. If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making,' the college writes in a submission to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics". "Allow 'active euthanasia' for disabled babies, doctors urge", The Independent (UK), November 5, 2006
Date posted: 2007-03-03
How can the value and purpose of a life be determined? Can these be measured by longevity, intelligence or the productive contribution of an individual to the economic base of society? Even more important, who has the right or ability to make this judgment?
Date posted: 2007-01-27
The important thing to remember is that God is always on our side and that it is not so much what happens to us but rather how we deal with our experiences that can make the difference between being a survivor who thrives or just being a victim.
Date posted: 2006-12-21
But despite the danger of undermining public confidence in the worthy goal of organ donation, it is critical that the public be adequately informed about all the ethical issues and given an opportunity to have a voice in determining policies before just signing an organ donor card can be considered truly informed consent.
Date posted: 2005-04-08
Before 1972, when influential neurologists Drs. Fred Plum and Bryan Jennett coined the term "persistent vegetative state" (PVS) to describe a condition in which a person was presumed awake but unaware because of an injury or illness involving the brain, the idea of removing a feeding tube from a brain-injured person was simply unthinkable. The experience of the Nazi euthanasia program -- which used medical personnel to end the lives of the disabled, mentally ill and others characterized as "useless eaters" -- was considered the ultimate betrayal of medical ethics and still fresh in many minds.
Date posted: 2004-09-19
The allure of preempting any suffering by dying unconscious may well appeal to a great number of terminally-ill patients as well as the frail elderly, the disabled, the chronically ill, and others. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, some patients, families, and even medical professionals may still demand the right to choose a hastened death. In those circumstances, as with assisted suicide and euthanasia, the best and only answer should still be "No."
Date posted: 2004-06-02
We make a big mistake if we allow ourselves to be intimidated into silence on the issue of homosexuality. The physical, emotional and spiritual effects of homosexuality are devastating, not only to society but also to actual individuals.
Date posted: 2004-04-08
For the past several years, a little-known but disturbing revolution has been occurring in organ donation. In the understandable but sometimes alarming zeal to obtain more organs, the procedure called non-heart-beating organ donation has been quietly added to brain death organ donation in more and more hospitals all over the country.
Date posted: 2003-11-15
The importance of saving Terri cannot be overestimated, not only for her right to live but also to apply a brake to the current "right to die" movement that seems bent on terminating people with severe brain injuries or conditions.
Date posted: 2003-08-24
Pro-life healthcare providers are becoming a thin, white-coat line trying to protect both their patients and the public from an ever-expanding Culture of Death. And without such people of principle, there is no possibility of maintaining a pro-life movement.
Date posted: 2003-05-18
Over the years and unknown to most of the public, many ethicists have still refused to concede the choice of a right to live and instead have developed a new theory that doctors cannot be forced to provide "inappropriate" or "futile" care and treatment to patients deemed "hopeless". This theory has now evolved into "futile care" policies at hospitals in Houston, Des Moines, California and many other areas.
Date posted: 2003-03-13
A few years ago I was attending a concert at my daughter's high school when I asked her about a particularly lovely girl who played the violin beautifully. My daughter responded that she was considered the class "slut". At only 14 years of age! This horrible designation was not the result of boys talking but rather because of a secret abortion confided to a close friend who told others. Soon the story sped throughout the school, victimizing this poor child even more. But it soon became even worse.
Date posted: 2002-11-19
There are many ways to kill a sick or disabled person. Removing food and water is only one. Since Steven Becker's March operation to relieve pressure on his brain, discussion has revolved around eliminating food and water, provided through a tube into his digestive tract. This medically assisted food and water was correctly called "comfort care" in records at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in suburban St. Louis before the decision was made to end his life. Now the hospital as well as the media calls it "life support."
Date posted: 2002-09-29
Whether we are renewing our driver's licenses, watching the TV news or just picking up a newspaper, it's impossible to miss the campaign to persuade us to sign an organ donation card. We see story after story about how grieving relatives have been comforted by donating a loved one's organs after a tragic death, and how grateful the people are whose lives have been changed by the "gift of life". But are some ethical boundaries being crossed?
Date posted: 2002-09-04
The euthanasia movement is nothing if not creative and persistent. Many people now mistakenly believe that tolerating just a little bit of deliberate death -- with safeguards, of course -- will give them control at the end of their own lives. But as the "culture of death" keeps seducing even well-meaning patients, families and medical professionals into making death decisions based on fear of suffering or diminished quality of life rather than following the traditional principles of not causing or hastening death, ultimately we are all at risk of being "compassionately" rationalized to death.
Date posted: 2002-08-08
The excuse that the only real issue is the patient's choice would be cold comfort to us doctors and nurses when we have to go home and face the fact that we helped kill another human being or had to remain silently powerless while some of us legally participated.
Date posted: 2002-03-13
Despite the best medical care, my Karen died at the age of 5 and 1/2 months, but the impact of her life has lived on. At her funeral mass, the priest talked about how this child who never walked or talked had transformed the lives of those who met her.
Date posted: 2002-03-12
Very few people signing "living wills" and other advance directives have any idea of how such documents became a universal aspect of health care today. The Culture of Death spawned the "living will" and it has been very successful in seducing society to increasingly ignore this difference, even to the point of accepting assisted suicide. We continue down this slippery slope at our own peril.
Date posted: 2002-03-11
"Mom, I'm pregnant." When these words are uttered by your unmarried teenage daughter, it's a heart-stopping moment for any parent. When the parent is a committed pro-lifer, the shock is often overlaid with stunned disbelief, shame, and guilt. "Hasn't she been listening?", "This isn't supposed to happen to MY daughter!" and "How did I fail her?" are common first reactions.
Date posted: 2002-03-10
I was told by the off-going nurse that Katie was indeed totally unresponsive and I was warned that no one wanted to hear me say that she wasn't. You see, for many years, both in ICU and this unit, I had been an advocate of talking to comatose patients and many of them unexpectedly "woke up" or improved. I just believed that hearing was probably the last sense to leave a person and so I always talked to apparently comatose patients as if they were awake.
Date posted: 2002-03-09
Moral and Pastoral Considerations, rightly emphasizes that the omission of nutrition and hydration intended to cause a patient's death must be rejected and that, while giving careful consideration to all the factors involved, the presumption should be in favor of providing medically assisted nutrition and hydration to all patients who need them. To blur this distinction is to introduce a source of countless injustices and much additional anguish, affecting both those already suffering from ill health or the deterioration which comes with age, and their loved ones.
Date posted: 2002-03-08
To use human embryos or fetuses as the object or instrument of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings having a right to the same respect that is due to the child already born and to every human person.
Date posted: 2002-03-07
New knowledge of the brain has shown that "new connections can be made between brain cells where connections have been lost. Parts of the brain can take over the function of other parts that have been lost." Doctors' predictions are often wrong -- patients who did not seem badly injured might never recover, but patients with greater injuries could awaken.
Date posted: 2002-03-06
A woman who finds out that her unborn baby has a severe brain abnormality has the pregnancy terminated in the second trimester. A hospital goes to court for permission to remove a feeding tube from a brain-injured, homeless man. Cases like these are so commonplace today that they barely raise an eyebrow. But they have rarely involved Catholic institutions. However, in a trend that worries the pro-life movement, some Church-supported health care institutions and Catholic ethicists have begun to challenge Church practice and teaching.
Date posted: 2001-12-05
"Comprehensive" sex education is not really about giving information but rather about a politics of despair where the sex "experts" hope for some damage control in the areas of teen pregnancy and disease. But we are already seeing the failure of such an approach in the proliferation of new sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, divorce, unwed moms, deadbeat dads, child abuse, etc., as well as a growing cynicism about relationships in our young people. If sex is seen as little more than recreation with consequences to be avoided, how will our children later be able to handle the temptation to cheat on a spouse or the sacrifices involved in raising a child?"
Date posted: 2001-12-04
We need to counteract the prevailing attitude that it is better to be dead than disabled, and that people in need are burdens to themselves and others. True dignity is inherent in us all and is not extinguished by dependence on others.
Date posted: 2001-12-03
A procedure for the age of multiple pregnancies gains acceptance and contributes to the mentality that 'inconvenient lives are disposable'. ... Most women facing multiple births of four or more babies opt for a procedure called "fetal reduction", an abortion procedure which eliminates one or more unborn babies in the hope that this will give the surviving babies a better chance of survival.
Date posted: 2001-12-02
Should parents have absolute power over their children's lives or do the state and society have an obligation to ensure that everyone, disabled or able-bodied, has a right to necessary care and treatment?
Date posted: 2001-12-01