When does allowing someone to die turn into encouraging someone to die? Always.
Last November, Colorado became the sixth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. It was and is a terrible idea.
Among the arguments my colleague John Stonestreet and others made was the fact that the so-called “safeguards” in these kinds of laws are illusions. Experience in Europe shows that once you concede the principle that some lives are not worth living, the definition of what kinds of lives are not worth living expands.
As one Belgian law professor put it, “What is presented at first as a right [to die] is going to become a kind of obligation.”
Proponents of physician-assisted suicide dismiss these arguments as “alarmist” and deny that any such thing could happen.
And then, it happens.
Case in point: Last month, Julie Allard and Marie Chantal-Fortin, ethicists at the University of Montreal, argued that the organs of those who submit to physician-assisted suicide shouldn’t go to waste.
Writing in the Quebec Journal of Medical Ethics, Allard and Chantal-Fortin said that “MAID (medical aid in dying) has the potential to provide additional organs available for transplantation. Accepting to procure organ donation after MAID is a way to respect the autonomy of patients, for whom organ donation is an important value.”
The words “autonomy” and “important value” are window dressing for this ghoulish proposal. And I mean “ghoulish” in the original sense of monsters who live in graveyards and consume human flesh.
While in this case the consumption takes the form of organ transplantation, in both instances the most vulnerable members of our society are viewed as potential forms of sustenance for the rest of us.
Think of the Planned Parenthood videos: Human beings, made in the image of God, treated as the flesh-and-blood equivalent of a coal mine.
And in case you think that Allard and Chantal-Fortin are wacky outliers, think again. In May of last year, both Transplant Quebec, which coordinates the organ donor process in the province, and an ethics committee of the Quebec government took similar positions.
Allard and Fortin do acknowledge that “patients might feel that they are a burden and could only be useful if they were to give their organs,” and that “this would constitute a subtle form of coercion.” They also concede that “It will be difficult to disentangle patients’ motivations for requesting MAID.”
Still, they’re confident that what they call the “complete separation” of the decision to end one’s life and the decision to donate one’s organs should be a sufficient safeguard.
This, folks, is a delusion. As John mentioned on BreakPoint last November, the first thing that elderly Canadian patients were asked after receiving a cancer diagnosis was, “Do you wish to be euthanized?”
No pressure there!
Canadian ethicists may not see the potential for abuse, but the Australian journal Mercator.net did. For instance, “What if organ donation organizations promoted a standard advance directive which instructs your next-of-kin to arrange for organ donation euthanasia if you become seriously demented? There is no reason why this could not happen. In Belgium, demented people can be euthanized and organs are being accepted, even from elderly people. That would clean out the nursing homes and shorten the kidney waiting list.”
Put simply, “the potential for exploiting vulnerable people is immense.”
And the only way to safeguard against this is to not concede the principle that some lives are not worth living in the first place. Anything short of that turns people into strip mines.
Eric Metaxas is the host of the “Eric Metaxas Show,” a co-host of “BreakPoint” radio and a New York Times #1 best-selling author whose works have been translated into more than twenty languages.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by BreakPoint.