Bob Brown’s version of social justice is to kill people from womb to tomb. In the perverted and dysfunctional morality of the Greens, compassion means to kill people. Talk about a brave new world where evil becomes good, and good evil.
Let me then look at one area where the rhetoric of compassion clearly gets lost in a sea of intellectual and moral confusion. Consider the debate about euthanasia. Not even in power for two weeks and Greens’ leader Brown informed us that the nation’s number one priority must be euthanasia.
And of course this is all somehow part of the Greens’ concern about justice, fairness, and compassion. So it is worth looking a bit more closely at the euthanasia issue, and how the notion of compassion has wrongly been appealed to in this contentious debate.
One of the most common arguments used for euthanasia is that it is the compassionate thing to do. After all, we put animals down to get them out of their misery, so why not do the same with human beings? There are a number of problems with this.
The most obvious point to make here is that we are not animals, so we should not be treated as animals. Life in all of its grandeur and complexity, including the end of life, is part of what it means to be human. While no one wants to suffer, a rich moral and conceptual heritage has developed over the centuries on the redemptive purposes of suffering.
Because we are different from animals, we deserve to be treated differently from animals. Human beings and animals are not moral equivalent, and therefore how we deal with people should be radically different from how we deal with animals.
Ethicist Leon Kass puts it this way: “It is precisely because animals are not human that we must treat them (merely) humanely. . . . But when a conscious human asks us for death, by that very action he displays the presence of something that precludes our regarding him as a dumb animal. Humanity is owed humanity, not humaneness.”
Or as Geisler and Turek state: “Since we believe human life has a higher value than that of animals, we do not treat humans like laboratory rats. Moreover, human beings don’t lose their value when they lose their health. People are valuable because of their humanity, not because they lack an infirmity.”
And Wesley Smith reminds us, “Most dogs and cats that are put to sleep are not killed because they are sick, but because they are abandoned. Thousands of pets are euthanized each year simply because they are unwanted. To follow this euthanasia argument to its logical conclusion, then, would be to countenance the mercy killing of despairing homeless people because society is unwilling to care for them – a ridiculous notion.”
Also, it is a very strange kind of compassion which says that the way to relieve suffering is to kill the sufferer. We should be concentrating on removing the suffering, not the sufferer. That is why the many advances in palliative care and the treatment of pain are so important: it really is quite unnecessary to argue for the legalised killing of patients, even if done in the name of compassion.
As Rita Marker states in her important book about Derek and Ann Humphry and the Hemlock Society, “The idea of killing the incurable, once before, was advanced as a remedy that has come to be known as part of the Final Solution. We pledged, ‘Never again!’”
And the real problem today is not that of over-treatment, but really one of under-treatment. That is, we have become all too willing to allow loved ones to die, without always looking at all the options, or exhausting all the alternatives. Resources should go into those avenues, and not into the quick fix “solutions”.
As Doctor John Ling states, “The truly compassionate person seeks to heal and restore, and bring hope and justice to the situation. The falsely compassionate euthanasiast just wants to end it all, and move on. True compassion and euthanasia do not mix.”
Indeed, we need to be honest about all this. When people talk about “I can’t stand to see Aunt Martha suffer so” they are really saying that they can’t stand their own suffering. They want the patient to be euthanised so that their own suffering can come to an end. It is, in other words, a fairly selfish concern.
The concern, in other words, is not so much to put the patient out of his or her misery as to put us out of our misery. We don’t like what we see, or feel, so we want the patient to no longer be around so that our own bad feelings can quickly go away.
As John Kilner rightly notes, “The statement of so-called ‘mercy killers’ in the past have often been telling in this regard. ‘I killed her because I could not bear to see her suffer’ may literally mean what it says – that first and foremost the action reflected the killer’s need to be free from his or her own discomfort. Barriers to killing patients not only protect society in general and the patient in particular but also protect caregivers from their own weaknesses – from subtly self-centered decisions that may well haunt them for the rest of their lives.”
So all this talk about compassion today is really quite misleading. As Nigel Cameron says, “It is hard to believe that those who cared for the sick in past ages were less compassionate than those who care for them today.” He continues, “The compassion argument entails a judgment made not by the self but by another in respect of the suffering of one who may or may not have an opinion as to the continued worthwhileness of life and/or the appropriateness of action to bring about death.”
He continues, “The point is that the compassion argument fixes the criteria for death decisions squarely and candidly where every suicide-euthanasia public policy proposal has perforce to recognize them to be: in hands other than those of the person who suffers. The compassion case is not about autonomy and the right to die, but heteronomy and the right to kill.”
Gilbert Meilaender takes this thought further. Maybe it is in fact a good thing to be a burden to others: “Is this not in large measure what it means to belong to a family: to burden each other – and to find, almost miraculously, that others are willing, even happy, to carry such burdens? Families would not have the significance they do for us if they did not, in fact, give us a claim upon each other. At least in this sphere of life we do not come together as autonomous individuals freely contracting with each other. We simply find ourselves thrown together and asked to share the burdens of life while learning to care for each other. We may often resent such claims on our time and energies. We did not, after all, consent to them….
“It is, therefore, understandable that we sometimes chafe under these burdens. If, however, we also go on to reject them, we cease to live in the kind of moral community that deserves to be called a family. Here more than in any other sphere of life we are presented with unwanted and unexpected interruptions to our plans and projects. I do not like such interruptions any more than the next person; indeed, a little less, I rather suspect. But it is still true that morality consists in large part in learning to deal with the unwanted and unexpected interruptions to our plans. I have tried, subject to my limits and weaknesses, to teach that lesson to my children. Perhaps I will teach it best when I am a burden to them in my dying.”
The compassion and justice being promoted by the Greens is a deadly compassion and a diabolical justice. It knows nothing of real care, real concern, or real compassion. Real justice and real compassion is about loving the sufferer while dealing with the suffering, not killing the sufferer.