Pro-Life nurse battles back against ‘culture of death’

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

FALL RIVER, Mass. — If you had asked Nancy Valko, R.N., back in the 1970s if the legalization of abortion in the U.S. would gradually lead to acceptance of things like physician-assisted suicide, she would have balked at the notion.

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“I always tell people, I was one of the skeptics,” Valko recently told The Anchor. “I remember people saying it would lead to an increasing acceptance of euthanasia, and at the time I was in my 20s and I was a trauma nurse, so I thought that seemed kind of extreme.”

But having encountered many difficult situations in her personal and professional life that would eventually convince her otherwise, Valko confessed she had her “road to Damascus moment in 1982,” which led to her becoming a staunch and vocal advocate for the Pro-Life movement.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of personal and professional losses, and there have even been times when I’ve had to put my job on the line,” Valko said. “I’ve almost been fired from a job for refusing to do something which was basically like a self-euthanasia. I kind of run the whole gamut from abortion to assisted suicide.”

For nearly 40 years now, the St. Louis, Mo.-based nurse has dedicated herself to the Respect Life movement and in 2015 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recognized her valiant efforts by giving her the prestigious “People of Life” award. 

As the current spokesperson for the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses, Valko will be coming to the Fall River Diocese to present “Fighting Back: One Nurse’s Battle with the Culture of Death,” during two sessions on September 23.

The first will take place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Holy Name Parish Center, 850 Pearce Street in Fall River, sponsored by the Holy Name Respect Life Committee and the Greater Fall River Chapter of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. Then from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. she will offer the same program in the parish center of Corpus Christi Church in East Sandwich.

“I gave a similar talk at Georgetown University, when I was asked to speak at the Cardinal O’Connor Life Conference,” Valko said. “A lot of people don’t know the history. I’ve been involved in this for decades, so I try to explain how it went from abortion to assisted suicide to self-euthanasia.”

Valko speaks from personal experience, recounting “true stories” about members of her own family.

“I once had a priest I was debating tell me: ‘Don’t you ever tell those stories again. Talking about your mother, and your daughter, and your patients,’” Valko recalled. “And without thinking, I just blurted out: ‘Isn’t that the way Christ taught? With parables to illuminate a principle? And some of His stories were hypothetical, but mine are all true.’ And (the priest) got so mad.”

Valko has shared many of these deeply personal stories on her weekly online blog, including her own struggle with facing end-of-life issues with her mother.

“I had a mom with Alzheimer’s and we didn’t kill her,” Valko said, bluntly. “She also had terminal cancer. For some reason, I think this was all God’s plan in my life. I’ve worked with some of the most difficult cases imaginable and, like I said, I’ve never been tempted to kill anybody.”

One of the most painful and tragic experiences that Valko faced was in dealing with the suicide of her 30-year-old daughter Marie in 2009.

“It was a 16-year struggle when she first got in trouble with drugs and alcohol — for 16 years she was in and out of rehab,” Valko said. “She was just a fantastic girl and a mechanical engineer — very bright. But it got bad. She would do well for a while. Then she had a daughter out of wedlock who she released for adoption because the father was a drug addict and she didn’t want any problems with visitation — she didn’t trust the court systems.

“She would get suicidal and she would tell me: ‘Mom, I feel like a burden on the whole family.’ She told me she had gone on the Internet and went to the assisted suicide website and she wound up reading the book ‘Final Exit’ by Derek Humphry. When she died, we thought it was an overdose and it wasn’t. I don’t give the technique for a lot of different reasons, but the detective told me the medical examiner said something kind of funny about your daughter — he said the way she died was textbook ‘final exit.’ And I found out later that she did use a technique he espouses (in the book). I was just shocked. I had no idea until then.”

Since that time, Valko has made it her mission to inform people about the dangers associated with physician-assisted suicide and to make sure such procedures are not legally sanctioned.

“Once we explain how dangerous this law is — there’s no protection against coercion, and family members do not need to be notified — they’ll realize how scary it is,” Valko said. “I’ve worked with so many suicidal people (and I know) it’s so important to have families involved.”

Noting that new physician-assisted suicide bills are up for consideration in her state each year, Valko has pledged to keep hammering home the dangers of going down this slippery slope.

“One of the big things I want to talk about is what the laws actually say about physician-assisted suicide,” she said. “Most people don’t know. It gives total immunity — civil, criminal and disciplinary — to doctors involved and to the other medical professionals, too. No other medical intervention is like this. No other doctor has total immunity from malpractice. All they have to do is claim ‘good faith’ compliance.”

Valko is also disappointed that national suicide organizations won’t address the issues with self-euthanasia.

“We have two standards and, amazingly, the suicide prevention organizations do not want to touch assisted suicide, and that’s a real shame,” she said. “It’s like they want to be the association for the prevention of some suicides.”

As a registered nurse, Valko is also concerned with protecting conscientious objectors in her profession who refuse to participate in abortions or assisted suicides.

“I’m not only for conscience rights, I’m also for whistle-blower protections, which we don’t have,” she said. “I think you have to have both of them together. Hospital groups are extremely influential and I have seen people harassed out of a job — they weren’t terminated, they were just harassed until they left. That’s another tactic that they use. And with nurses, the hospital is not going to back you up.”

Valko said the nursing guidelines currently in place don’t even allow them to make any “judgmental comments” to the person under their care or anyone taking care of them.

“They’re always pushing the limit and in Canada they are doing lethal injections now in Quebec,” Valko said. “I have friends in Canada who sent me the articles that (reported) the second largest province in Canada is starting to make up lethal injection kits because they had talked to people in Holland and they said: ‘The pill overdoses don’t always work, so we’re just going to go ahead and do lethal injections.’ And they’ve made these kits up for every doctor in the province.”

In anticipation of her talks in this diocese, Valko said she tries to make her presentations “as simple as possible” so that attendees can be better informed about the growing “culture of death” in the U.S.

“I don’t get into everything, I just want them to see what the progression was (and that) people weren’t making the right decisions,” she said. “It’s really kind of scary the things people will do. People need to know how we’re being manipulated — and my daughter is the collateral damage.”

“Fighting Back: One Nurse’s Battle with the Culture of Death,” will take place on September 23 from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Holy Name Parish, 850 Pearce Street in Fall River, and from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Corpus Christi Church in East Sandwich. For more information, call Barbara Wenc 774-263-4117.

For weekly updates, visit Nancy Valko’s blog at

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