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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What is euthanasia?

On November 22, 1998, CBS's 60 Minutes ran a 14 minute segment that featured
retired pathologist Dr. Jack Kevorkian killing 52 year old ALS suffer Thomas
Youk. It was the top rated program for its time slot, according to Nielsen
ratings. A lethal injection of potassium chloride was administered by
Kevorkian on September 17 in Youk's Michigan home and it was video-taped.
The American Medical Association issued a news release calling Youk's death
"an outrageous violation of medicine's code of ethics." Kevorkian
acknowledged assisting in 130 suicides since December 1990. He has been
prosecuted 10 times, eventually being convicted of taking life in November
of 1998. As a result of Youk's death, Kevorkian was charged with first
degree murder. He stated that what he did could not be considered a "crime
in any society which deems itself enlightened." We will see at the close of
this article exactly how "enlightened" a society is that takes such a
position.

In 1973 the Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand. The baby boomers had
cast off all restraints and as a consequence there was a "boom" in unwanted
out-of-wedlock pregnancies. In order to eliminate these unwanted children
and/or cover up the sin of fornication, abortion was legitimized and the
wholesale slaughter of the unborn began. Since that infamous decision by the
high court more than 54 million babies have been destroyed at the hand of
doctors who were willing to cast off their Hippocratic oath in exchange for
the almighty dollar. Little did the Supreme Court realize that their
decision would pave the way for other "bioethical issues" that would follow
in the years to come. On that cold day in January 1973 the value of life
itself was diminished, and the consequences would be far reaching. While
abortion demonstrates a flagrant disrespect for life in the womb, euthanasia
does the same for life outside the womb. If euthanasia is permitted, what
age or physi cal condition shall we allow the cessation of life to take
place? Who is to decide? Politicians? Doctors? Proponents of euthanasia such
as Peter Singer, Princeton University professor of ethics, have entered the
metaphysical realm to seek justification, openly and boldly asserting that
being homo sapiens is not the crucial factor in whether a person should be
allowed to live or be put to death by society. In his words, "It is, rather,
characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make
a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore,
cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other
self-conscious beings" (Practical Ethics, 2nd edition, page 182). Any
rational being knows full well that if such a view is accepted with regard
to infants and/or children, the application at the other end of life's
spectrum is inevitable. Robert Bork, in his book Slouching Towards Gomorrah,
made this astute observation:!

The systematic killing of unborn children in huge numbers is part of a
general disregard for human life that has been growing for some time …
It is permissible to kill the unborn human for convenience, it is surely
permissible to kill those thought to be soon to die for the same reason. And
it is inevitable that many who are not in danger of imminent death will be
killed to relieve their families of burdens. Convenience is becoming the
theme of our culture. Humans tend to be inconvenient at both ends of their
lives" (page 172).

So far the advocates for euthanasia have limited their attempts to make
euthanasia to those who are suffering and wish to end their own lives in
some form of "easy death" treatment. Dutch pediatrician Eduard Verhagen,
however, goes beyond the personal approval of killing someone who is
suffering to allowing doctors to make the decision. In an article from
'Catholic World News,' May 2, 2005, this particular doctor suggests that
"Death can be more humane than continued life if (life) involves extreme
suffering." To be more frank, he is suggesting that the doctor is actually
more caring and humane if he takes it upon himself to end a patient's life.
This doctor even admitted to having lethally injected four newborns. I would
not want this man to be my doctor in my declining years of life, would you?

Perhaps it would be good to provide a definition of euthanasia. A synonym
that is being bandied about is "mercy killing." Our English word euthanasia
comes from the Greek words, 'eu' and 'thanatos,' and literally means "good
death." Of course some have blurred the issue by using such euphemisms as
"death with dignity," "right to die," and "mercy killing." But regardless of
the language, the act is the same and the right or wrong of that act must be
measured in the light of God's word. The key word here is "killing." There
is a vast difference between "mercy killing" and allowing someone to die if
that person is already dying. On occasions a patient may request that no
treatment be given that might artificially extend his life. That is not
euthanasia. Some years ago former Surgeon General Everett Koop said, "The
whole thing about euthanasia comes down to one word: motive. If your motive
is to alleviate suffering while a person is going through the throes of
dying, a nd you are using medication that alleviates suffering, even though
it might shorten his life by a few hours, that is not euthanasia. But if you
are giving him a drug intended to shorten his life, then your motivation is
for euthanasia."

One need only to examine the record of King Saul's death to determine the
Bible's view of "mercy killing." David was horrified at the manner in which
an innocent bystander took it upon himself to end Saul's suffering, albeit
at Saul’s request (see 2 Samuel 1:5-6). Job never sought to bring
relief to his suffering by euthanasia, either self inflicted or at the hands
of another. Of course Job's wife is another story for she told Job to "curse
God and die." While she would go the route of euthanasia to alleviate pain,
Job trusted in God.

I will close this week's article with an observation from Henry Farrar,
M.D.:

I did not go to medical school to learn how to kill, In fact, I do not know
one physician who goes to medical school to learn how to kill. Physicians go
to learn how to preserve life. Euthanasia is an obscure word invented to
soften the hammer thud of murder. Supporters of euthanasia, such as Dr. Jack
Kevorkian and today's physicians who follow in the train of Adolf Hitler,
have forgotten their reaons for becoming physicians. God joined together
flesh and spirit and created life, and a man has no right to burst it
asunder. The gradual increase of murders in Nazi Germany started with forced
sterilization in 1933. In 1934 abortion of undesirable unborn children
began. In 1939 euthanasia began for deformed children, then mass killing of
the insane. Mass killing of the Jews began in 1941. Atheistic and
materialistic professors and physicians followed Hitler's program of hate
and murder of those who stood in his way. Will the United States slide down
that same slippery slope to murder of all the useless, socially unproductive
people and the elderly?" (Gospel Advocate, January 1999, page 27).

by Tom Wacaster

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