Monday, December 12, 2022

Infant euthanasia. Is history repeating itself?

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The presentation by Dr Louis Roy for the Québec College of Physicians to The Special Joint Committee on MAiD on September 7 urging Canada's Federal government to adopt a protocol to permit infant euthanasia I wondered if our society has forgotten its history? Have we forgotten how eugenic attitudes led to the destruction of the lives of thousands of people with disabilities?

Many people believe that the German T4 Euthanasia Program was based on a unique evil Nazi ideology. However,the eugenic ideology was a socially and politically successful movement that existed throughout Europe and North America beginning in the nineteenth century. Books, such as "The Right to Death" (1895) promoted by the eugenics movement led to the writing of "The Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life" (1920) by Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche. Binding and Hoche justified the killing of people who were "incurably sick, feeble minded, retarded, deformed, etc." and became the handbook for the eugenics movement in Germany.

The Nazi euthanasia program was launched in 1939 after Adolf Hitler received a letter from Richard Kretschmar, the father of an infant (referred to as "Case K" or the 'Knauer child'). Historians now know that the child was Gerhard Herbert Kretschmar.

The letter stated that Gerhard was born on February 20, 1939, that he was blind, had one leg and part of one arm was missing and was described as "an idiot". Hitler sent his personal physician, Karl Brant, to see the child in a hospital in Leipzig. Brant testified at the Nurembourg trial that he had been instructed that if the father's letter was correct that the physicians at the hospital would be told that euthanasia could be carried out - in Hitler's name. Gerhard was euthanized on July 25, 1939.

History indicates that the German T4 euthanasia program began with a parent's request for euthanasia and in the end resulted in the deaths of 250,000 to 275,000 people with disabilities.

Further to that, the technique killing large numbers of people by gassing them to death was first developed in the psychiatric hospitals for the euthanasia program and later installed in the death camps for killing millions of people. According to the Holocaust Museum, T-4 staff were redeployed to the death camps.

The holocaust museum states the following:

Hitler's authorization
In October 1939, after Adolf Hitler authorized “mercy deaths” for patients deemed “incurable,” the murder program expanded from children to adults. Operation T-4—referring to the address of the secret program’s headquarters at Tiergartenstrasse 4, Berlin—mostly targeted adult patients in private, state, and church-run institutions. Individuals judged unproductive were particularly vulnerable. From January 1940 to August 1941, more than 70,000 men and women were transported to one of six specially staffed facilities in Germany and Austria and killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in gas chambers disguised as showers. Growing public awareness and unrest over the killings influenced Hitler to halt the gassing program. Euthanasia murders resumed in other guises; patients were killed by means of starvation diets and overdoses of medication in hospitals and mental institutions throughout the country. From 1939 to 1945, an estimated 250,000 persons were killed in the various euthanasia programs.

The eugenics archive provides some data on the T-4 euthanasia deaths.

The numbers killed in the initial phase, code-named “T4” (after the administrative office at Tiergartenstrasse 4), amount to (according to one set of records) 70,273 persons. The killings were ordered on the basis of medical records sent to the clandestine panel of adjudicating psychiatrists at the central office in Berlin. So-called schizophrenics made up 58% of the victims, and there was a slightly higher proportion of women killed. There were 6 gassing facilities in Germany and former Austria (Brandenburg – replaced by Bernburg, Grafeneck, Hartheim, Pirna-Sonnenstein, and Hadamar).

A New York Times article by Kenny Fries attempting to identify the first date for the mass killing states that the exact date of the "test killing" was not recorded and no records were kept for the first mass killing by gassing. This is an historical concern but Fries makes an interesting comment that:

Unlike the Holocaust, there are no T4 survivors. We know about T4 and its aftermath mainly through medical records and from the perpetrators. Aktion T4 does not have its Elie Wiesel or Primo Levi.

The eugenic T4 euthanasia program that began in 1939 was based on the same ideology as the Quebec College of Physicians justificed to The Special Joint Committee on MAiD.

To further my concerns, an article written by Michael Higgins and published by the National Post on November 22 clarifies the position of the Quebec College of Physicians concerning infant euthanasia. Higgins wrote:

The president of the Quebec College of Physicians wants to explore the prospect of euthanizing suffering babies and believes it’s nobody’s business but doctors’. 
To be fair, Dr. Mauril Gaudreault would let parents have a say as well, so he’s not being totally arrogant.

Gaudreault’s rather obscene suggestion illustrates just how far down the slippery slope we have plunged when it comes to mercy killing, euthanasia, Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID), call it what you will.

The concept of eugenics is sadly, alive and well. Peter Singer and Udo Schukelenk, for instance, are popular philosophers who promote a eugenic ideology.

It takes one bad case to approve a bad law. It takes a bad law to change a culture.

Once a culture decides that there are some lives that are not worth living and decides to kill those people, then everything changes.

Infants cannot request or consent to being killed. If infant euthanasia is approved it may lead to the approval of euthanasia for other people who cannot request or consent to being killed. People with dementia who never requested or indicated an interest in euthanasia could also be approved to be killed.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition opposes all forms of euthanasia and assisted suicide, nonetheless, it is clear that expanding killing to babies (infanticide) negates the "safeguard" that only people who can capably request to die can be approved for death.

The question we ask in society changes from - Is it right for one person to be given the right to kill another? - to When is it right for one person to be given the right to kill another?

This is a eugenic ideology that can only lead to the destruction of many lives which are deemed life unworthy of life. 

Is history repeating itself?

Learn more, visit the websites: United States Holocaust Museum, The eugenics archive, and the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team which shows that the propaganda portrayed support the same eugenic ideas and goals as the eugenic movement in the late 19th and early 20th Century promoted and led to the Nazi Euthanasia Program.


Anonymous said...

This is absolutely chilling.

Myra Hamilton said...

This is all too familiar to me . So heart breaking . Label it what you want, Murder is still Murder.