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Affirming Dignity: The Dangers of Euthanasia Laws
Particularly in Europe, euthanasia laws are on the rise.
But the dangers of these laws are not limited to ending the lives of the infirm or terminally ill, as many believe.
Let's take a look.
Consider the case of Tom Mortier:
One person’s choice affects so many others, as Tom Mortier, a teacher in Belgium discovered. He once supported the country’s liberal euthanasia laws for the reasons that many do: it seemed to him if a person wants to end their life, it’s their choice. But one person’s tragic decision changed all that.
“My mother had a severe mental problem,” Mortier explains. “She had to cope with depression throughout her life. Psychiatrists had treated her for years, and we lost a little bit of contact. It had never been an easy relationship. A year later, she received a lethal injection,” he pauses. Neither the oncologist who administered the injection, nor the hospital, had informed him or any of his siblings that his mother was even considering euthanasia.
“And the day after, I was contacted by the hospital, asking me to take care of the practicalities following the euthanasia of my mother.” His anger and sadness are palpable. “You see how terribly this injustice has impacted his family and how terribly he feels betrayed,” says Robert Clarke, an English barrister and Director of European Advocacy for ADF International, who represents Tom Mortier before the European Court of Human Rights.
Tom Mortier's mother's life was ended without him even hearing about it. She did not have a terminal disease. Despite early promises that euthanasia would be for those with unbearable, incurable, and untreatable diseases, Belgium has slowly moved to laxer standards. In 2014, Belgium legalized child euthanasia.
In light of this and other cases, ADF International has launched the Affirming Dignity campaign. Here's the summary:
A humane society cares for its sick and old. What does this look like and what role should law and policy play in shaping a culture that values all life? What does ‘dying with dignity’ really mean? In Belgium and the Netherlands, the phrase has become a synonym for euthanasia. In countries where euthanasia is legalized, it is done not only in cases of terminal illness, but also in non-terminal situations and for psychological suffering, such as depression. Euthanasia without an age limit is legal in Belgium, and has been legalized for minors over 12 years of age in the Netherlands.
It doesn’t stop there. New legislative proposals are under review in both countries that aim to: allow euthanasia for people who are simply ‘tired of life’ (Netherlands); perform euthanasia on patients who are unable to express their will (Belgium); oblige doctors refer patients to other doctors where they do not wish to perform euthanasia (Belgium).
The law is vague and experience shows it inevitably leads to abuses. It leads to a slippery slope that has no logical stopping point. In countries that legalize the practice, there is a growing demand in an increasing number and types of situations. A fading willingness to care for the sick and the old, and a growing culture of impunity for euthanasia performed outside the law are all concerning symptoms of this trend.
The reality is this: There is a growing trend in culture and law that suggests that autonomy is the greatest good. Not life, not liberty, not happiness. We see this in euthanasia laws: If a person says they wish to die, who are we to tell them they should live? We also see this in other areas. If a woman wishes to have an abortion, who are we to tell her otherwise? If a same-sex couple wish to get married and celebrate, who are we to raise an objection? If doctors wish to end the life of Charlie Gard, what role do the parents have anyway? Nevermind that life is intrinsically valuable, that the unborn child has a right to life, that creative professionals in the wedding industry are being forced out of their jobs if they object to celebrating same-sex marriage, or that parents have a unique moral duty to their children. No, under this new cultural wave, we can provide no objection.
This is why you should affirm dignity. Every life is valuable. Every person matters.
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