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The culture of death creeps forward

Here comes physician-assisted suicide for children

The culture of death creeps forward

Roe v. Wade has been cast down from its governing heights and destroyed. But down here on the ground, the culture of death is deeply rooted and widely accepted. In the midterm elections, ballot measures in several states subverted the sanctity of life, three enshrining an unlimited right to abortion, and one allowing denial of lifesaving care to infants born alive after an abortion attempt. A CNN exit poll revealed 59 percent of those surveyed supported the right to abortion in most or all cases compared to only 36 percent against.

While abortion is an evil not only tolerated but celebrated by millions of Americans, it is not evil’s outer limit. America is just getting started when it comes to “the right to die.”

Legalization of physician-assisted suicide in America began when Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act went into effect in 1997. Today, ten states and the District of Columbia allow some form of the practice. Two other states allow it with a court order under narrow conditions.

As we have seen with other progressive social innovations, physician-assisted suicide is an evil hilltop looking down a slippery slope to even more profound evil. It starts with rare cases that elicit public sympathy, but quickly becomes a commonplace solution for any-and-all hardships. It passes from being a right into a social expectation.

Abortion rights followed this pattern. The pro-abortion movement began with mental images of desperate young girls seeking sometimes fatal back-alley abortions and traumatized victims of rape and incest. President Bill Clinton campaigned on making abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” Now it is Democratic Party orthodoxy to support unrestricted access to the procedure for any reason up to the point of birth, and perhaps beyond. Women are exhorted to “shout your abortion!”

So too with transgenderism. We have passed from sex transitioning as an intervention in cases of rare suffering to one of those decisions every person must make the way one looks within and discovers one’s favorite color. Opposition to the LGBTQ revolution marks you as a sociopath. And all of this is pressed on the very young in their emotional confusion, and all without parental permission or perhaps even parental awareness.

There are no limits to the culture of death, to the monstrosity once released, so the only sane act is to slam this right-to-die door closed.

But we are told that this slide would never happen with physician-assisted suicide. Allowing children the right to die by their own choice with medical supervision would be madness! And yet there it is, emerging in our northern neighbor, usually a few steps ahead of us in the slide to “social progress.”

In 2016, Canada approved what they call “medical assistance in dying” (MAID). It was initially restricted to those with “a reasonably foreseeable natural death,” but this limitation was quickly struck down as unconstitutional. Subsequent legislation not only affirmed this expansion but also removed the 10-day reflection period and required only one independent witness instead of two, perhaps an attending nurse, as sufficient to verify a request to die. MAID is now a routinely offered procedure. A military veteran suffering from PTSD was casually offered a legal euthanasia option by a Veterans Affairs Canada service agent. He was appalled. VAC apologized. In 2021, euthanasia accounted for 3.3 percent of deaths in Canada.

Once the mentally and emotionally unstable are respected for their “autonomous” choices, they become easy to exploit, for example, by budget-conscious bureaucrats. When government is the sole or major provider of healthcare, cost-cutting inevitably becomes a priority over patients. Government comes to have an interest in promoting easy suicide for the suffering. It’s cheaper to kill than to cure. An Ontario man with a degenerative brain disorder was offered a comfortable death so often he began recording the conversations. After the hospital tired of his refusals, a hospital ethicist pressured him with news that his care was costing the hospital “north of $1,500 a day.” A 2020 government report found that “each MAID death represented approximately $17,000 in savings on ‘end of life costs.’”

Activists are now pushing for access to this service for “mature minors,” defined as children under 18 deemed capable of making a responsible decision in the matter. This may mean without parental consent. One scholar sees conflicting government obligations to the welfare of children as a vulnerable group and to “child self-determination.” As we have seen, once an autonomy issue becomes a topic of debate, it’s only a matter of time before the boundaries are erased.

There are no limits to the culture of death, to the monstrosity once released, so the only sane act is to slam this right-to-die door closed. The problem is that it is the same door in all these cases. It opened long ago, and progressives have been oiling its hinges like good modern people. It is not neutral liberalism. It is not warm humanitarianism. It is radical human independence, “autonomy,” indeed the denial of God’s divine government of his creation. It is self-devouring, pagan idolatry. “All who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:36).

Keep that in mind as you see the culture of death doing its deadly work.

David C. Innes

David C. Innes is professor of politics in the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program at The King’s College in New York City. He is author of Christ and the Kingdoms of Men: Foundations of Political Life, The Christian Citizen: Faith Engaging Political Life, and Francis Bacon. He is also an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

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