Catholic Book Review: The Death Panels by Michelle Buckman

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Death Panels: A Novel of Life, Liberty and Faith
Reviewed by Leticia Velasquez

Deep in the human heart is an innate sense of right and wrong. It guides our actions whether we were raised in the Amazon rainforest or in downtown Manhattan, whether we believe in God or not. It helps us tell right from wrong unless another influence supplants it.  This understanding of essential facts like the dignity of the human person and his right to live is so vitally important to society that it is inscribed in the Preamble of the Constitution. “All men are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We may not be aware of the presence of this Natural Law within our hearts; however, we do recognize when it has been violated, it causes a visceral sense of outrage, for example when a child is brutalized. Dictators and totalitarian regimes know this, which is why they invest so much time in re-shaping the consciences of their nation with propaganda.

In Michelle Buckman’s novel, that is precisely the kind of society America has become in 2042, when it has been absorbed into a worldwide government called the “Unified Order of the World”. The fundamental right to live is turned into a duty to kill “for the good of the nation, for the good of the world.” Decades of programming, dehumanizing the weak and deliberate obliteration of the family, and its primordial role in reproduction, has paid off for the leaders of the regime, which has gained absolute control of a populace that follows orders to kill the unfit and experiment on the ill. The leaders of the Unified Order, led by Axyl Houston, are about to implement their version of ‘The Final Solution,’ the extermination of the inhabitants of the Cloistered Dominion, the Christian ghetto, who pose the last threat to the complete takeover of the human heart.

Death Panels: A Novel of Life, Liberty and Faith, like its predecessor, Aldous Huxley’s prophetic Brave New World in the 1930’s, is a clarion call to those whose consciences have fallen asleep in a nation once considered the pinnacle of civilization and beacon of freedom to the world. GK Chesterton said that Brave New World was a revolt against Utopianism, rejecting materialism and loss of individuality, sexual promiscuity, and was written about America.

Death Panels was written about the America towards which we are heading if good people do nothing to stop it. It’s our last warning.

Death Panels is a compelling read, despite how fiercely the atrocities of this brave new America assault our sensibilities.  Although offended, we are tempted to proclaim that we are above such outrages in America, yet, in the absolute control the state has over health care, we are eerily reminded of certain legislation which was just rammed through Congress. Today’s politicians have decided what is “for the good of the nation, for the good of the world,” despite the will of the American public. The legislation has provisions for the same type of Death Panels we find in the Unified Order where those with genetic defects are eliminated as too expensive to receive care. Today, in 2010, it is accomplished by a voluntary 90% abortion rate; in 2042 it is accomplished by “dumping” whereby each birthing center has a drawer, where a defective newborn is strapped in, the drawer pushed in, and a button pressed, which gasses the newborn to death, and, in a coldly efficient manner, his corpse unceremoniously dumped into a waste bin.

This is too much for David Rudder, an outcast who, because of his refusal to abandon his Catholic faith, lives in the Dominion, a penal colony of Catholics carved out of the wasteland of Detroit’s inner cities. Even though he is a physician, his wife Elizabeth and newborn daughter Bethany languished and died for lack of updated medical equipment, which the government denied the Dominion in an attempt to slowly extinguish the remnants of the population resistant to indoctrination. David came to mainstream America seeking solace from his grief, determined to do some good and make contact with the Christian Underground when after assisting at a birth, a child with Down syndrome is born, and he encounters the horrific process of “dumping.” Rudder rebels, and along with obstetrician Markus Holmes, whose disgust at the outrage gives him a burst of courage, they run with newborn baby Frankie in a desperate quest to save his life. These reluctant heroes have no idea that their bold actions will bring about upheaval in a nation which seems to be sleeping. They inspire Jessica Main, who has been secretly yearning for a family of her own, and who contacts members of the Christian Underground who have been waiting to capitalize on such an opportunity to expose the heinous experiments conducted on sick children donated to the State in the Gift of Life foundation. In The Death Panels one small act of rebellion from a reluctant hero touches off a mass awakening which threatens the hold that the totalitarian regime has over its somnolent citizenry.

The tragedy is that in America in 2010, this downturn is already far advanced, and we as a nation are too blind to see how far down the slippery slope our apathy has allowed us to slide. Death Panels: A Novel of Life, Liberty and Faith may be our last chance to see the terrifying consequences of deeming one member of the human family ‘life unworthy of life,’ and thereby degrading the value of all life. This fast-paced, powerfully written novel may be the wake up call we have been seeking.

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Copyright 2010 Leticia Velasquez

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About Author

Leticia Velasquez is a wife and mother to three girls. Christina, her youngest, has Down syndrome. She is the co-founder of KIDS Keep Infants with Down Syndrome. Leticia blogs about daily life with Christina at Cause of Our Joy, and Causa Nostrae Laetitae. is her Culture of Life blog. She reviews books and films at Catholic Media Review. Her articles have been published in Canticle, Faith and Family, and Celebrate Life  magazines, and the National Catholic Register . You can find her work online at Catholic.net, Catholic Exchange, and Catholic Online. The Velasquez family lives in rural Connecticut.

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