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Friday, October 25, 2013

Unhappy? Euthanasia?

Today's article is a guest post by Daniel Rodger, who runs a blog called Mind the Evangelical.

Some people are sceptical of slippery slope arguments, and rightly so because very often they are based on some irrational fear. However, some slopes are slippery and to argue that starting from a certain premise one will one day arrive at a certain conclusion is sometimes actually justified. A case in point would be Belgium's ever more liberal requirements for being able to be put down by a doctor. Being intentionally killed by another person used to be called murder but alas we now call it euthanasia.

Nathan Verhelst was a transsexual who unhappy with the outcome of sex-change surgery later decided autonomously of course that he was in such a dire psychological state that the only 'treatment' was death by euthanasia. It is a sad state for any culture (and an individual) where treatment for those with serious mental illness now includes having the option to be legally killed by your physician. Doctors are no longer there to heal their patients but also to kill them, I'm sure Hippocrates would be rolling in his grave.

Euthanasia in Belgium (and the Netherlands) is proof that some ethical slopes are slippery, no longer is euthanasia something reserved for those with a terminal illness. If euthanasia is predominantly about pain and autonomy, why must that pain be connected with a terminal illness? Why must it be physical and not psychological? Why must it be autonomous? Surely the compassionate thing to do would be to put someone our of their 'misery' especially if you had previously euthanized a patient in a similar state. This has become the logic of many physicians who have been practising euthanasia for many years in these places, the result of a conscience numb and no-longer sensitive to the inherent value of the human person.

It is now the case that for every five people euthanized in the Netherlands one is euthanized without giving explicit consent. In Belgium euthanasia without explicit consent (involuntary and non-voluntary) is shockingly three times higher than in the Netherlands.

Pereira astutely summarises the slippery yet 'enlightened' journey places like the Netherlands and Belgium have taken:
'In 30 years, the Netherlands has moved from euthanasia of people who are terminally ill, to euthanasia of those who are chronically ill; from euthanasia for physical illness, to euthanasia for mental illness; from euthanasia for mental illness, to euthanasia for psychological distress or mental suffering—and now to euthanasia simply if a person is over the age of 70 and “tired of living.” '
Once a culture starts viewing life as only instrumentally valuable life becomes nothing more than the sum of ones happiness and therefore unhappiness becomes a legitimate reason to end ones life. Nathan was the victim not only of his own mental anguish but of a society that subtly persuaded him that he wasn't worth any further investment, a lost cause who could benefit from being put down. It once again demonstrates the dehumanising power of a number of our moral 'advancements'.

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