By Dave Andrusko
For years NRL News Today has closely tracked the euthanasia/assisted suicide juggernaut. Many times and in many places, a broad coalition, led in many instances by the Disability Rights Movement, has thwarted the best laid plans of men and Compassion and Choices. That battle will never end because the ideology that undergirds the anti-life movement will never settle for “half-way” measures that are legal only in a “few” jurisdictions. People are “assisted” for the best of reasons–and who are we to say there is any reason that is not a sufficient reason to exit this vale of tears?
One of a dozen different compelling reasons to read the updated version of Wesley J. Smith’s, “Culture of Death: The Age of ‘Do Harm’ Medicine” is to trace the origins of this campaign whose contemporary guardian angel/advance guard is the Bioethics Establishment.
But because they operate out of earshot of the average citizen, most of us have never encountered the ideas of men (they are mostly men) and women which have served to grease the skids for the agenda of the likes of the aforementioned Compassion and Choices.
“Once you breach the firewall of Hippocratic morality, only bad things can happen.” Thus spoke Dr. Michael Franzblau in 1993 when the “Culture of Death” was still barely a gleam in the eyes of people such as Peter Singer, Tom Beauchamp, and James Childress (to name just three).
What Wesley helps us understand (alas) is that “what was shocking in the 1970s is shocking no longer.” And while the academics did the intellectual heavy lifting, the day-to- day implementation was left to the likes of Compassion and Choices and “Dr. Death,” Jack Kevorkian.
We really do live in the age of Jack Kevorkian. The ghoulish ideas that motivated him–about which Wesley was virtually the only one to write–reflected the utilitarian mindset that is the bedrock of the way almost all bioethicists think. They proposed and Kevorkian disposed.
The most significant point I’d like to emphasize from Wesley’s book today is the strong parallels between the eugenics movement and contemporary bioethics. And how the former paved the way not only for the latter, but represented a kind of half-way house that ended in the Holocaust.
The anti-sanctity of life thinking that took root in the medical community in Germany in the first 30 years of the 20th Century paved the way–“set the table”– for “the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of disabled people,” which Wesley aptly describes as the “opening overture of the Holocaust.”
What were the underpinnings of this early expression of “medicalized killing”? That there is a life unworthy to be lived. Once that assumption is accepted, however tentatively, the dominos (the lives of powerless people) will begin to fall.
Hugely noteworthy is that long before Hitler began his murderous campaign that killed six million Jews, he instituted policies that began with a lethal assault on the weakest of all: children with disabilities. He planted the seeds found in “Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life,” the 1920 book written by two of the respected academics in their respective fields: Karl Binding, a renowned law professor, and Alfred Hoche, a physician and humanitarian.
Drawing on Robert Jay Lifton’s invaluable book, The Nazi Doctors, Wesley explains how these two pillars of the community promoted euthanasia as “purely a healing treatment” and a “healing work”–justified as a splendid way to relieve suffering while saving money spent on caring for the disabled.
Get it? Everybody’s better off, money is saved, and, oh, by the way, there are many fewer “useless eaters.”
Let me conclude with one of the most powerful passages in “Culture of Death”:
“Adolph Hitler did not blaze the road to medical depravity. He just goose-stepped with full fascist regalia down the boulevard already paved by Binding and Hoche with their advocacy that there is such as thing as a human life unworthy of life.”
You can purchase “The Culture of Death” wherever books are sold. If a store doesn’t carry, it can be special ordered. It’s in stock at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online and is available in Kindle, Nook, Applebooks, etc.