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By Richard Weikart
“What is our society becoming? It’s a quality society. Only the best will survive.”
Many interviews therein strip away the sugar-coated rhetoric that is increasingly tempting us to embrace euthanasia and assisted suicide as supposedly compassionate alternatives to agony and suffering. Mortier, however, knows something about the more sordid reality: without his prior knowledge his physically healthy mother was legally killed by a physician because she suffered from depression.
Belgium, which legalized euthanasia almost fifteen years ago, is the focus of much attention in “The Euthanasia Deception,” because it serves as a powerful warning to us. Physicians in Belgium are allowed by law to administer lethal injections to patients, even to children (with parental consent), if they say they are suffering in any way and want to die. They do not have to be suffering any physical pain, nor do they have to be physically sick in any way.
"The Euthanasia Deception” illustrates that though the law supposedly requires the patient’s consent, now that euthanasia has been accepted by Belgian society, some physicians are killing patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia without their consent. Though technically illegal, the government is turning a blind eye to these frequent cases of involuntary euthanasia, thus de facto sanctioning it.
What has brought about this “massive cultural shift” in the past couple of decades that has caused some countries (as well as some states in the United States) to jettison the ideals of the Hippocratic Oath, which forbade physicians from helping people kill themselves?
|Tom Mortier's mother.|
This comes through poignantly in an interview with “Lionel,” a Belgian man whose twenty-year old daughter is severely disabled. He explains that many people, including strangers on the street, have asked him over the years why he did not euthanize his daughter, whom he loves as dearly as his other children.
Another man, “Mark,” who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 30, explains that at one point in his life he was very depressed and wanted to die. Now, many years later, he is extremely thankful that assisted suicide was not legal at that time.
|Mark Pickup with Kevin Dunn|
The film dismantles three key deceptive ideas used to promote euthanasia. First, euthanasia proponents try to take the moral high ground by presenting it as a compassionate alternative to pain and suffering. However, as several physicians and palliative care specialists explain, pain is rarely the reason for euthanasia. Rather patients usually request euthanasia because of fear of disability, or because they feel they will be a burden to others.
The really compassionate choice for us as a society is to care for people with disabilities and dying, loving them until the end. Indeed the word compassion derives from root words that mean to suffer along with (someone). Killing is not compassion.
Second, euthanasia advocates claim that euthanasia is an individual right that provides the individual with “autonomy.” As one person being interviewed astutely remarked, euthanasia may end pain for one individual, but it does so by transferring much pain to the next generation.
I was disappointed that no one in the film mentioned another obvious problem with the autonomy argument: suicide brings one’s autonomy to a screeching halt. We should ban assisted suicide for the same reason we ban slavery: because it is the antithesis of personal liberty. We don’t let people choose to become slaves.
Finally, fans of euthanasia insist that safeguards will protect the vulnerable. Belgium is a powerful counterargument, as they have fairly quickly allowed more and more forms of euthanasia for almost any ailments, even purely psychological problems. Worse yet, physicians are admitting that they do not follow the law, but nothing is being done to constrain their unfettered killing.
If you want to understand the perils of the “culture of death” that is gaining ground in our society, you owe it to yourself to watch this video. It not only confronts the false arguments, but it portrays the ways that euthanasia hurts all of us—the victims and the survivors.
“The Euthanasia Deception” is directed by Kevin Dunn and produced by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in association with DunnMedia & Entertainment. Information about “The Euthanasia Deception” is available at vulnerablefilm.com.
Editor’s note. Richard Weikart is professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus, and author of “The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life and Hitler’s Religion.”