From a Slippery Slope to an Avalanche

For all the horror stories we've heard about euthanasia in recent years, there are still many people who think of it as "mercy killing." Those people need to take a long, hard look at what's happening in the Netherlands right now. It's very difficult to find anything merciful about what Dutch doctors are doing to children and infants. According to Wesley J. Smith in the Daily Standard, Groningen University Hospital in the Netherlands now officially allows doctors to euthanize children under twelve, "if doctors believe their suffering is intolerable or if they have an incurable illness." That includes non-fatal illnesses and disabilities. Whether or not the child can consent is irrelevant -- what child under twelve would have a clear idea of what he or she was consenting to? As Smith writes, "For anyone paying attention to the continuing collapse of medical ethics in the Netherlands, this isn't at all shocking. . . . Doctors were [already] killing approximately 8 percent of all infants who died each year in the Netherlands. That amounts to approximately eighty to ninety per year. Of these, one-third would have lived more than a month. At least ten to fifteen of these killings involved infants who did not require life-sustaining treatment to stay alive. The study found that a shocking 45 percent of neo-natologists and 31 percent of pediatricians who responded to questionnaires had killed infants." Smith adds that at least a fifth of the killings were performed without parental consent. Remember those gruesome statistics the next time someone tries to tell you that euthanasia doesn't hurt anyone, that it's just a way of helping people die with dignity. That argument is flawed in itself -- because killing destroys a human life created in God's image. No matter how "humanitarian" the reason, killing is by definition harmful. But the harm caused by euthanasia goes beyond that. It inevitably changes our attitude toward all human life. In fact, our attitude toward the weakest members of our society is the real test of how we view life. If we don't see any inherent value in their lives, we soon and necessarily lose sight of what makes all lives sacred. Wesley Smith puts it this way: "Why does accepting euthanasia as a remedy for suffering in very limited circumstances inevitably lead to never-ending expansion of the killing license? Blame the radically altered mindset that results when killing is redefined from a moral wrong into a beneficent and legal act. If killing is right for, say, the adult cancer patient, why shouldn't it be just as right for the disabled quadriplegic, the suicidal mother whose children have been killed in an accident, or the infant born with profound mental retardation?" There can be little doubt anymore that the "slippery slope" of euthanasia has turned into an avalanche. As I've said before, once this kind of attitude starts to spread--as it did in Germany in the 1930s, to the world's horror, and as it is spreading in America as well as Europe today -- no one is truly safe. It can be only a matter of time before lawmakers and doctors determine that none of us needs to have any say in whether we or our loved ones live or die. For further reading and information: Wesley J. Smith, "Now They Want to Euthanize Children," Daily Standard, 13 September 2004. Rita L. Marker and Wesley J. Smith, "Words, Words, Words: Terms used in the euthanasia debate -- their use and abuse," International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide., "Doctors Criticize Euthanasia of Children,", 6 September 2004. "Slippery Slope of Euthanasia for Children," interview with bioethicist Father Gonzalo Miranda,, 6 September 2004. BreakPoint Commentary No. 030113, "Who Killed Grandpa?: 'Therapeutic' Death in a Dutch Nursing Home." (Free registration required.) BreakPoint Commentary No. 030114, "Coming Soon to a Hospital Near You: 'Futile-Care' and the Culture of Death." (Free registration required.) "'Terri's Law' struck down,", 23 September 2004. Gina Dalfonzo, "Copying from the Same Script," BreakPoint Online, 10 November 2003. Charles Colson and Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Human Dignity in the Biotech Century (InterVarsity, 2004). Arthur J. Dyck, Life's Worth: The Case against Assisted Suicide (Eerdmans, 2002).


Chuck Colson


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