In Euthanasia, History

In October 1996 the novelist Thomas Keneally told the BBC that Pauline Hanson had put Australia on the train to Auschwitz.*

You would, paraphrasing George Orwell, have to be an intellectual to say such a thing. No ordinary person would have said anything so stupid. Anyone could see Pauline Hanson was a silly, uneducated woman (though not without some praise-worthy physical courage) who won a seat in Federal Parliament by a fluke, capitalizing on various discontents, but whose political presence was going to be very transitory. Further, though her recent memoirs suggest that her senses of dignity and taste could do with improvement, and though her agrarian socialist-derived economic notions would have been disastrous, there is no evidence that she ever wanted to kill anybody.

Those who really seek signs of Australia being in some way on the road to Auschwitz need look no further than the constant bombardment of propaganda to legalize euthanasia, grotesquely miscalled “death with dignity.”

Experience all over the world has been that voluntary euthanasia, once admitted, steadily becomes less and less voluntary. In Holland, which like Nazi Germany instituted voluntary euthanasia with safeguards, there have now been a stream of cases where involuntary euthanasia – ie murder – has taken place, and the murderers have received token or non-existent punishment. Something similar seems to be happening in Switzerland.

Anyway, it is never possible to draw a clear line between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Lonely, confused and expensive old people could all-too-easily be pressured into it by doctors wanting the beds for other patients, relatives and heirs eager to inherit, and tax-payers unwilling to pay for their care. A certain religious figure actually claimed a few years ago that it would be ethical for old people to agree to euthanasia because their care was expensive. Even the mass-murderers of Auschwitz never tried to justify their behaviour with the argument that killing people saved money.

Euthanasia cannot be kept a private matter or “right” divorced from public consequences. Every private decision to receive euthanasia makes the voluntary and later the involuntary euthanasia of others that much easier.

As for the mantra that euthanasia allowed “death with dignity,” that is nonsense, and should be rejected absolutely. Modern medical science means death in a hospital or hospice is seldom painful, and that is perhaps as much as can be expected in these circumstances.

Death is not dignified. The Christian position, as I understand it, is that death cannot be made dignified, or compromised with or accommodated in any way. No, the Christian position is that death can be overcome, defeated and destroyed forever by Christ’s sacrifice. The Christian is not offered death with dignity but a final victory over it infinitely better, better beyond any mortal power to express.

  1. S. Lewis had a character in the last of the Narnia stories say that a noble death is a treasure no-one is too poor to buy. A truly noble death, for a person in such circumstances, would be to refuse euthanasia, not for his or her own sake, but for the sake of others who will inevitably be murdered if euthanasia is ever legalized.

* At the risk of stating the obvious, it may be helpful to some readers to note that Auschwitz, located in southern Poland, was the largest and most lethal of all Hitler’s World War II extermination camps. The Germans murdered close to 1.5 million people in Auschwitz, most of them Jews. (Ed)

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