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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Euthanasia Changes Culture



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I have a long article out in the current (May 2013) First Things magazine detailing the never-ending expansion of euthanasia in Europe, to the point that there are few medicalized killings that are not allowed. I get into Belgian organ harvesting after euthansia, the growth of psychiatric euthanasia in the Netherlands, and suicide tourism in Switzerland–far too much to detail here. And I come to some conclusions. From, “Medicinal Murder:”

First, once assisted suicide or euthanasia is legalized, it will not long remain a limited enterprise. This is not a “slippery slope” alarmist projection but a conclusion abundantly demonstrated by facts on the ground in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland…

Second, legalizing euthanasia changes culture. Not only do the categories of people eligible for euthanasia expand, but the rest of society generally ceases to think that it matters. This desensitizing, in turn, affects how people perceive the moral value of the seriously ill, disabled, and elderly–and perhaps how they view themselves.

Third, euthanasia corrupts medical ethics by mutating the role of doctors into purveyors of death rather than consistent enablers of life…

Fourth, once a person is deemed the member of a killable caste, it becomes easier to reduce his worth to that of a mere natural resource that can be exploited for the benefit of society.

Finally, I think widespread popular acceptance of euthanasia in Europe… is a symptom of cultural nihilism….Clearly, more is going on than just a desire to eliminate suffering.

The stakes in the debate are very high:

We all age. We fall ill. We grow weak. We become disabled. Life can get very hard. Euthanasia raises the fundamental question of whether our culture will retain the moral capacity to sustain a culture of care for those who have entered life’s most difficult stages. On that question, it seems to me, hangs the moral future of Western civilization.

The collapse of morality in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland around issues of euthanasia and suicide–abundantly detailed in the article (subscription needed–is a clarion warning to other countries to turn away from the “death with dignity” agenda before it is too late. 



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