In the final scene of Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, Emily is granted a special privilege. She is allowed to return from the grave to Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, and re-experience any particular day of her choosing.
She selects her 12th birthday. Emily agonizes over the recapitulation of this day since she now realizes that every moment of life should be treasured.
“It goes so fast,” she exclaims. “We don’t have time to look at one another! Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?”
“No,” replies the Stage Manager. “The saints and poets, maybe — they do some.”
One might add “lovers” to “saints and poets.” In a letter to his wife early in their marriage Dr. Eugene Diamond recalled their courtship period when their relationship advanced from “the hollow safety of banter to the stage where pilgrim souls communicated and each somehow knew that there had been a discovery. What had been discovered was the rest of one’s self.”
Eugene and Rosemary were married. The first two pregnancies ended in miscarriages. Then followed 13 healthy children, seven sons and six daughters, all of whom advanced to graduate education, four of them becoming physicians. A photo adorns the cover of Dr. Diamond’s book The Large Family: A Blessing and a Challenge, showing Mom and Dad surrounded by their children, in-laws and grandchildren, all 58 of them. One reviewer declared, “And you never saw such a lineup of beautiful girls, handsome young men and lovely children. What an achievement! Diamonds are forever!”
I was once a guest at the Diamonds’ home in suburban Chicago. Life in a large household can be complicated. One of the children inadvertently drove off with my luggage. Gene and Rosemary took me to a restaurant in Chicago where we were entertained by a performance, in a distinctively Italian accent, of I’m a Rhina Stona Cowboy.
Eugene F. Diamond was born in Chicago in 1932, the very worst time of the Depression. His father died when he was 6 years old. As a consequence, he was brought up in poverty. He entered the U.S. Navy at age 17 and eventually qualified for the GI Bill, which paid for his medical education.
As a doctor, he was involved in a multitude of activities, ranging from various pediatric responsibilities to sports medicine and bioethical concerns. He became a close friend of Dr. Herbert Ratner, who served as his mentor until the latter’s death in 1997. He credits Ratner for helping him to think about moral issues and lauded him as a “great Socratic teacher.”
Diamond received his medical degree from Loyola University and his pediatric training from the University of Chicago. He went on to enjoy a distinguished career as a pediatrician, as professor of pediatrics and past chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. He was visiting professor at Rush Medical College from 1967 to 1969 and a member of numerous medical associations. He held presidential positions at the Catholic Physicians’ Guild, Illinois Academy of Pediatrics, World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Life and other medical organizations.
He is also the recipient of a number of prestigious awards, including “Pediatrician of the Year-Illinois Chapter,” American Academy of Pediatrics, in 1980; the “George Award in Clinical Pediatrics” in 1981; and the “Summerhill Award” from Birthright International in 1995.
An accomplished writer, Diamond has published several books, including a novel. He served as editor in chief and executive editor of The Linacre Quarterly and was president of the Catholic Medical Association from 1979 to 1980.
Apart from his family and medical practice, Diamond also distinguished himself in the field of law. An Illinois law had been passed granting parents the right to notification in the event that a child (an unmarried minor) of theirs was about to have an abortion.
It passed both legislative chambers, but was vetoed by Gov. James Thompson. Nonetheless, it was passed over his veto, a clear indication that the law reflected the will of the people. Parents wanted to be notified if their minor child was seeking an abortion. Nonetheless, the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law, and the case went before a federal justice. When a district court found the law to be unconstitutional, Diamond, on the basis of his conscientious objection to abortions and his status as a pediatrician and parent of a minor daughter, filed a motion to intervene as a defendant of the law. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Diamond v. Charles, upheld the “unconstitutionality” of the law in 1986. The court argued that the notification provision “is not to be placed in the hands of ‘concerned bystanders,’ who will use it simply as a ‘vehicle for the vindication of value interests.’”
Diamond has been chastised for being “capricious” in defending the notification right. “Well,” Diamond would later state, reflecting on the actions of the courts, “how can I be capricious when I am representing a law that was overwhelmingly passed? But this is the kind treatment that you sometimes get in the courts that just absolutely boggles your mind. I was in the middle of trying to get kids through college and pay their tuition, and, suddenly, I get assessed $250,000.” In a statement that is a model of understatement, Diamond claimed, “We’re not getting a fair shake.”
Writing for the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly (Summer 2013), Diamond conveyed serious concerns about the consequences of the Patient Protection Care Act of 2010. He expressed his dismay that advisers to President Barack Obama demonstrated an overriding concern for cost over care. He was also critical of subtle encouragement of physician-assisted suicide in hospices and long-term-care facilities. At the same time, he argued that modern advances in medicine have made pain control an achievable right.
“Recognizing the right of patients who are terminally ill to obtain effective pain control,” he wrote, “is an important factor in the opposition to health care rationing and euthanasia.”
Eugene Diamond is a champion for the sick, the neglected and the marginalized.
His faith in God, together with the strength of his family, has been his powerhouse. Without that strength it is hard to understand how any person could continue to give so much while being opposed so strongly.
“Character is formed in the stormy billows of the world,” wrote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. That is the challenge.
But it is also formed in the warmth of a loving family. That is the blessing.
Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow of Human Life International,
professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Canada,
and an adjunct professor at
Holy Apostles College in Cromwell, Connecticut.