byFaith | 3.26.14
By Alan Dowd

“The best parents are the ones who let their children go.” That’s certainly true when it comes to those turning-point moments in life: graduation day, moving day, wedding day.

But this quote comes from a parent who’s speaking not about life, but rather about death—specifically, how she’s explained to her 10-year-old son his options for ending his life through euthanasia.

“I didn’t put my children in the world for me,” she explains, as if to educate the rest of us. “It’s their life and their death.”

This awful story of moral darkness masquerading as enlightened thinking comes from Belgium, which is expected this year to become the first country in the world to remove age limits on euthanasia. The Belgian senate overwhelmingly approved a bill in December that would allow state-sanctioned, medically-assisted suicide for any child, as long as he or she is diagnosed as terminally ill. Belgium’s lower house is expected to approve the bill sometime this spring.

“What’s next?” asks a Belgian woman who opposes the law. “Euthanasia for people with dementia? Then for handicapped people?”

Well, yes.

Jan Bernheim, a Brussels-based professor of medicine and a euthanasia-for-youth advocate, matter-of-factly tells Newsweek, “The end of life with dementia is a gradual process of involution in which most attributes of personhood end up being lost.Already now, almost everywhere, such patients are not resuscitated or given antibiotics…Their blighted life is not considered deserving of the degree of protection that is given to other human life.”

Don’t skim over that last line. Read it again and let it sink in: a blighted life not deserving of the protection given to others.

What a cold, clinical, care-less way to describe a masterpiece knitted together by God.

It seems these “blighted lives,” these lesser people, can be found everywhere in Belgium and indeed all across Europe.

A Belgian doctor, for example, recently euthanized a pair of 45-year-old deaf twins, “who feared they were going blind,” according to a New York Times report.

An elderly Belgian couple was euthanized because they were “tired of living,” according to another Belgian doctor.

In fact, more than 1,400 people are euthanized annually in Belgium.

Further down the slippery slope, people are being euthanized for their organs, as Wesley Smith of the Discovery Institute details. “The joining of voluntary euthanasia and organ harvesting in Belgium first came to light in 2008,” he writes, noting how doctors openly describe “euthanasia accompanied by organ harvests from disabled patients” in medical journals. “Euthanasia and organ donation has now expanded to include at least one patient with a severe mental illness,” he grimly adds.

But Belgium is not the only European country that has started down the slippery slope. As the New York Timesreports, “Luxembourg permits euthanasia for adults, and Switzerland allows doctors to help patients die but not to actively kill them.” The Netherlands—the first country to legalize euthanasia—allows doctors to help patients as young as 12 kill themselves.

Government studies in the Netherlands estimate that so-called “involuntary euthanasia”—otherwise known as “murder”—claims more than a thousand patients each year, including children. Bernheim blithely notes that pediatricians in Belgium end the lives of “quite a few children.” And as the Associated Press has reported, doctors at the now-notorious Groningen Academic Hospital in the Netherlands admit that they have been euthanizing infants for well over a decade. In fact, Smith founda study of Dutch doctors concluding that “45 percent of neo-natologists and 31 percent of pediatricians who responded to questionnaires had killed infants.”

The dilemma of putting someone out of his misery—especially someone who cannot confirm that he is miserable—forced doctors to develop guidelines on which infants should be euthanized. Thus, they came up with the “Groningen Protocol”—aptly, it sounds like the title of some horror movie—to justify, explain, defend, excuse, rationalize the dark frontier they have unearthed at the bottom of the slippery slope. The protocol allows for euthanasia of infants who are extremely premature, who could only live on life support, who have severe spina bifida or who have no chance of getting better.

Once governments started to condone euthanasia, all the rest of this was inevitable. Any place that starts down the slippery slope of mercy killing is bound to distort the definition of both mercy and killing.

Faith leaders in Belgium argue that the euthanasia-for-all law is premised on “a logic that leads to the destruction of society’s foundations.” And they’re right. Civilization is founded on an unspoken promise that the strong will protect the weak, sacrifice for the weak, even die for the weak. The euthanasia-for-youth and euthanasia-for-organs movements turn that promise on its head.

But before puffing up our chests and thinking we are morally superior to our European cousins,  we should remember the case of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist found guilty last year of murdering a patient and several babies “accidentally” born during abortion procedures. It pays to recall that if Gosnell’s infant victims had succumbed to his wares before they were born, the crimes he was convicted of would not have been considered crimes. How far we have fallen: major media outlets ignoringa case of macabre mass-murder; a taxpayer-funded organization refusing to say whether a newborn “struggling for life” deserves emergency care; prominent policymakers quibblingover how much of a child can be born to justify partial-birth abortion, a procedure too gruesome to describe here. Abortion in all its awful forms has claimed some 50 million since the 1973 Roe v. Wadedecision.

All of this is terrible—the Belgian euthanasia-for-youth law, the organ-harvesting trend, the Groningen Protocol, the Gosnell case, Roe’s ghastly toll, the justifications and euphemisms—but none of this is new. There’s a reason Jesus called His oldest enemy “a murderer from the beginning.”After all, Abraham lived in a time when fathers sacrificed their infant children to please the gods. Pharaoh, to borrow a phrase, saw Hebrew life as “blighted” and “not deserving of the protection given to others.” He used up humans like so much machinery and ordered the killing of all newborn Hebrew males to keep his slave army manageable. Herod killed the most innocent of life for the most selfish of reasons.

But God illustrated how different He was—and His people were to be—by forbidding the “profane” and “abominable” practice of child sacrifice, by commanding Moses to “choose life,” by whisperingthrough David that He sees our unformed bodies in that secret place where the Creator creates, by taking on this temporary tent and entering into our humanness, by lovingthe “blighted” and broken, by fightingfor life.

Dowd writes a monthly column exploring the crossroads of faith and public policy for byFaith.