By Marty Duren
Grandma might not get run over by a reindeer, but if influential Canadian doctors have their way, she may end up just as dead.
Canadian physicians are now ready to debate the merits of euthanasia according to Gaétan Barrette, president of the Federation of Quebec Medical Specialists and the Quebec College of Physicians. Testifying before the Quebec government’s legislative committee on the “right to die with dignity,” Barrette reported that euthanasia is already being practiced in the province.
Barrette “asked for the province to develop clear policies on how doctors can bring about a patient’s death, stating that currently doctors believe they could be charged with murder for giving a ‘palliative sedative’ to a patient before they have reached the point of death,” according to a report February 16, 2010, on lifesitenews.com.
At issue is the difference between palliative sedation (the use of drugs to ease pain near the end of life) resulting in death from an accidental overdose and euthanasia, which is the purposeful ending of a patient’s life. Some Canadian physicians see this debate on par with the abortion debate of decades ago.
In 1979, C. Everett Koop and Francis Schaeffer published their monumental work, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, warning that the legalization of abortion would inexorably lead to euthanasia. The authors state, “How did the concept of euthanasia get such a head start in the seventies? We must keep referring back to abortion — because it is the Supreme Court decision on abortion (1973’s Roe v. Wade) that stated that ‘only viable human beings who have the capability for meaningful life may, but need not, be protected by the state.’ That statement could be a death warrant for many in a few years.”
How many? As it turns out, quite a number. In 1984, the Netherlands legalized euthanasia. Critics objected, asserting that once physicians were given the option to kill at a patient’s request, they would soon discover reasons to kill them on a whim. This is exactly what happened.
David Berlinski, in his book, The Devil’s Delusion, notes, “The Journal of Medical Ethics, in reviewing Dutch hospital practices, reported that 3 percent of Dutch deaths in 1995 were assisted suicides, and that of these, fully one-fourth were involuntary” (emphasis added). In other words, someone else made the decision for the patient to die. Most cultures have a medical word for that particular act: murder.
Sanitized by the medical establishment, “murder” is now translated, “mercy killing.” This turn of events leads Berlinski to say sardonically, “What moral philosophers have called the slippery slope has proven in recent decades to be slippery enough to seem waxed.”
In November, Quebec College of Physicians Secretary Yves Robert reported positively jubilantly, “We are saying death can be an appropriate type of care in certain circumstances. This is a major breakthrough.” It sounds much like the same kind of breakthrough Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche had when introducing into the euthanasiast lexicon the phrase “death with dignity” in their book, The Release of the Destruction of Life Devoid of Value. That particular volume was published in Germany in 1920. Need it even be mentioned that, within two decades, millions of lives nationally defined as “devoid of value” by Germany had met their end?
For almost 40 years, opponents of abortion in the United States have waited for the 20th century’s Dred Scott decision to be overturned and have been chagrined that no significant progress has been made to that end. With another human-rights debate potentially in the offing, we dare not bury our heads in the sands of indifference while we have an ability to engage in the marketplace of ideas. One important point of progress in the last 40 years is that more Americans are now opposed to the idea of abortion for convenience. This reveals that we can have an impact on the hearts and minds of many through meaningful dialogue.
Though the Fall distorted the image of God in humanity, his most cherished creation, the Scripture still upholds the dignity of all humans. We are instructed to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, come to the defense of the defenseless (Prov. 31:8) and to choose life whenever a choice is available to us (Duet. 30:19). Surely those who view these words as divine will recognize the evil that is upon us in euthanasia — an evil that must be addressed by Christians.
If we do nothing, we will have no one to blame but ourselves when the doctor steps around the curtain and, with a mischievous gleam in his eye, says, “Oh, Mr. Duren, you’re not looking well today. I have just the thing for you.”