By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. Wesley J. Smith and Alex Schadenberg are teaming up to address the American and Canadian experience with euthanasia and assisted suicide at the 2023 National Right to Life Convention. For more information, go to https://nrlconvention.com/product-category/2023-registration.
We repost many, many stories written by pro-life bioethicist Wesley J. Smith. Perhaps not surprisingly I revisit his stories often. That’s what happened this morning.
Back in October 2021, we reposted a story — “Doctors Kill 10 Percent of All Babies Who Die in Flanders”—which sent a chill up and down my spine then as it does again today.
His first paragraph read
Belgium has no age limit for its euthanasia. Now, a letter published in a British Medical Journal publication reports that 10 percent of babies who died from 2016 to 2017 in Flanders — up to age one — were given drugs by their own doctors with “an explicit life-shortening intention.”
Should I have been shocked? What would it say about me if I wasn’t?
The moral of the tale? There is no such thing as a little euthanasia. Granting doctors (and, increasingly, nurses) a license to kill eventually corrupts medicine — from the beginning of life to the far reaches of old age.
What doctors do with those who are defenseless and entirely at their mercy has profound repercussions.
The great Pope John Paul II in 1995 famously described Western society as a “culture of death.” Read what he prophetically said carefully.
On a more general level, there exists in contemporary culture a certain Promethean attitude which leads people to think that they can control life and death by taking the decisions about them into their own hands. What really happens in this case is that the individual is overcome and crushed by a death deprived of any prospect of meaning or hope.
We see a tragic expression of all this in the spread of euthanasia–disguised and surreptitious, or practiced openly and even legally. As well as for reasons of a misguided pity at the sight of the patient’s suffering, euthanasia is sometimes justified by the utilitarian motive of avoiding costs which bring no return and which weigh heavily on society. Thus it is proposed to eliminate malformed babies, the severely handicapped, the disabled, the elderly, especially when they are not self-sufficient, and the terminally ill.
Nor can we remain silent in the face of other more furtive, but no less serious and real, forms of euthanasia. These could occur for example when, in order to increase the availability of organs for transplants, organs are removed without respecting objective and adequate criteria which verify the death of the donor.
Wesley defined this culture as referring “to a civilization that endorses lethal omissions and even outright killing by doctors to alleviate suffering or resolve life crises.”
Human solidarity is priceless. A student asked the late anthropologist Margaret Mead what she considered
to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about clay pots, tools for hunting, grinding-stones, or religious artifacts.
But no. Mead said that the first evidence of civilization was a 15,000 years old fractured femur found in an archaeological site. A femur is the longest bone in the body, linking hip to knee. In societies without the benefits of modern medicine, it takes about six weeks of rest for a fractured femur to heal. This particular bone had been broken and had healed.
Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, you cannot drink or hunt for food. Wounded in this way, you are meat for your predators. No creature survives a broken leg long enough for
A broken femur that has healed is evidence that another person has taken time to stay with the fallen, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended them through recovery. A healed femur indicates that someone has helped a fellow human, rather than abandoning them to save their own life.
“Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts,” Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”