Whenever contentious social changes are promoted by various activist groups, we are always assured that adequate safeguards will be set in place, and that things will not spiral out of control. Whether it is abortion, drugs, prostitution, or pornography, we are always assured that these things will be kept in check.
Consider the issue of euthanasia, and consider one assisted suicide support group, Dignitas. The group was formed in Switzerland in 1998. Back then it insisted that this would not open the floodgates, but simply help those with a terminal illness die with “dignity”.
Of course that was just the beginning. Soon people with mental illnesses were allowed to make use of their services – thanatoriums, they are neatly called – but with “proper” medical safeguards, such as a psychiatric report. But as many pro-life advocates have pointed out over the years, if we are going to head down the path of legalising euthanasia, then that means people have a right to take their life. Why stop at the elderly or severely depressed. Why not anyone for any reason?
And that is exactly where Dignitas has come to. The group’s founder, Ludwig Minelli, has just recently said that suicide is a marvellous human right, and that it should not be denied to those seeking it. Here is how one press write-up explains the situation:
Minelli “is seeking permission from the courts in Switzerland to assist the suicide of a perfectly healthy woman. The woman is the wife of an unnamed and ill Canadian man who may seek suicide at the Dignitas facility; she has said that if her husband commits suicide, then she would want to commit suicide at the same time, though she is suffering from no illness.”
“Minelli told BBC Radio 4 that everyone has a right to kill themselves, whether they are healthy or sick, and that there should be no legal restrictions whatever on physician assisted suicide. He called assisted suicide a ‘marvellous, marvellous possibility for a human being.’ ‘It’s a right, a human right, without condition except capacity of discernment.’ Minelli, who has argued that assisted suicide should be legally available for people with severe depression, said, ‘Suicide is a very good possibility to escape a situation which you can’t alter’.”
So much for safeguards and limitations. This is open slather on assisted killing. This is the logical outcome of the pro-death advocates who have sought to put human autonomy and freedom of choice above all other considerations.
And as mentioned, rights demand obligations. If we have a right to kill, then we have an obligation to kill. If the state says there is a legal right to die, logically, anyone can bring suit to ensure that governments comply. Indeed, once legalised, it is possible that doctors may one day face lawsuits if they violate someone’s rights by not killing them. As one commentator put it, “Imagine doctors purchasing malpractice insurance that covers ‘denial of death’ suits. That day may not be far away.”
For all the talk about choice, about freedom to choose, about giving people options, the legal and social legitimisation for assisted suicide will effectively eliminate one option, namely, staying alive without having to justify one’s existence. With legalised euthanasia, the burden will be upon people to justify being alive – we will have to prove that we ought to be allowed to live. Lest that sound too far out, recall the comments made some years ago by the then Governor-General Bill Hayden who, thinking of his own advancement in years, spoke of “unproductive burdens” which we need to be “disencumbered” of via euthanasia.
What a lousy message legalised euthanasia sends out to the wider community. It has nothing to do with human dignity. This is about treating human beings as mere animals, with no inherent worth and value. Minelli made this clear when he spoke of some crass financial benefits of suicide. As the news item relates, “Minelli also emphasised the cost-benefit aspect of suicide, saying that the health system saves the costs of protracted health care with every successful suicide.”
But this kind of thinking is not new. In 1994 the Economic Planning Advisory Commission (EPAC) discussed the rising costs of health care for the elderly. In its publication EPAC actually looked at the issue of euthanasia as one option in the whole discussion. There was no talk about alleviating suffering or being compassionate – the whole proposal centred on cost-cutting measures.
And if human beings have no more moral value than a dingo or an amoeba, then I suppose concerns about money can be raised. But because we are special and unique, deserving of respect, putting mere market value on human lives is disgusting and dehumanising.
This reduction of the human person to naked choices and financial considerations is part of the general war of the worlds going on – a war of worldviews. On the one hand is the Judeo-Christian worldview which puts a very high value on the human person. On the other side is the secular humanist worldview which is hard pressed to come up with a logical reason why humans should be treated any differently than amoebas or weeds.
The former speaks of the sanctity of human life. The latter speaks of the quality of human life. If we do not have inherent and unalienable dignity and worth, then arbitrary notions of quality will be substituted instead. This has devastating repercussions.
Indeed, as I type these words a television news item is reporting on a 16-year-old girl who committed suicide after visiting a pro-euthanasia website. The site contained graphic information on how to take one’s life. The latest ravings of the Dignitas founder are simply the logical – and ugly – outcome of the pro-euthanasia push.
We must slam this door shut now, and never open it an inch. The slippery slope is far too dangerous.