We must continue to be vigilant against the tragedy of euthanasia


Beware. If we think legalized abortion is the only insult to human life in today’s culture, we may have another thought coming. Euthanasia, or the deliberate ending of one person’s life, legally, by someone else, is gaining ground in Europe.

The history of Western culture has been that practices and attitudes that originate in Europe somehow have a way of crossing the Atlantic. It may very well come to be an issue in the United States. So, beware.

Everywhere, this practice begins with the argument that the person selected for euthanasia would be better if he or she were taken out of their misery — the person in painful stages of an incurable disease, or the person unable to get around, or the person whose reasoning is failing.

They “deserve” relief. Conditions indeed can be bad. Pain, hardship and the absence of any remedy, under any circumstances, therefore, are strong incentives simply to end the person’s life.

The complexity of modern medicine, as blessed as it is in the beneficial management that it does provide for serious illness, in a way leaves some cases hard to evaluate. When, finally, must it be recognized that no hope remains? Let nature take its course.

This is the point. Nature is not the only force. Instead, it is the willful termination of a person’s life. Someone is deciding.

Insidious in this process is that people, even well-meaning, can be led into thinking that for another life is not worth living. Criteria for drawing this conclusion may be weakened.

What is “quality of life”? Can it be shortchanged? In Europe, for example, the criteria in some cases are being lowered to a ridiculous level.

A worrisome part of the story, already heard in Europe, is that money is raising its ugly head. Health care across Europe is funded by governments with funds obtained through taxation. Providing care beyond the ordinary costs money. Additional care costs more. Is added care worth the cost? The burden on public resources will be heavier.

It is not cold-hearted, but practical, so the story goes.

If this issue comes to this country at the federal level, the same story will be heard. Who will finance additional demands on Medicare? Or private insurance? Or families?

Perhaps the greatest problem, ultimately, is the development of a public mindset. This mindset already is here, in the willingness of so many Americans, if polling is believed, to tolerate, and to turn to, abortion. The child would be unwanted. So, eliminate the child.

The position of the Church on all these matters is, and has been, abundantly clear, so it is saddening to see ancient Catholic cultures, such as those in Belgium, Ireland and Spain, enact laws, in free and open democratic processes, that allowed abortion on demand, and that now permit euthanasia.

In these societies, political figures all too often are bad enough, yet not one of them serves without having been elected by a majority of citizens explicitly voting to place them in office.

This mindset is taking hold in the United States, even among Catholics. Add to this fact the reality that so many mainline Protestant denominations in America not only allow abortion on demand, but advocate for it. Their views on euthanasia can be predicted.

American Catholics have the duty not only of respecting human life in their own personal decisions but also of convincing others that, in all circumstances, life is precious.

How to make the point? Catholic condemnation of the death penalty rests on the belief that it is not needed. First and foremost, choose life. Look for alternatives. Make alternatives effective. This caution should be applied in discussions regarding euthanasia. Is it the only way? How pure are demands for it? Do they give due reverence to the majesty of human life? Where is God in it all?

For 50 years, Catholics have fought abortion. A new battle may await them.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


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