The tide is turning against euthanasia in Europe. Now is the time for those who value human life to press forward to ban the kind of misconceived “mercy killing” that afflicts the Netherlands.
The problems of euthanasia and end-of-life issues are extremely
complicated ones, and trying to solve these problems through legislation is often
difficult. While the intentional killing of an innocent human being is
always morally wrong, one cannot deny that there are real-world cases
where the line blurs between what is permitted and what is not.
That being said, there are certain things that should always be
prohibited. Murder is always wrong — euthanasia is clearly
murder. And nations that accept euthanasia (like Holland or Belgium)
quickly land on the slippery slope toward a more generalized
disrespect for life.
For instance, in the Netherlands (where euthanasia has been legal
since 2002) it is now legal to kill
babies and children with certain neurological disorders, like
spina bifida. When I attended the Pontifical Council for Life in 2008,
I met Dr. T.H.R. de Jong, who spoke at length about the Netherlands
and the inhumanity he found there. He talked about how easily he could
demonstrate that the diseases that these children were being murdered
for were not terminal.
Many children with spina bifida, de Jong contended, are able to lead
productive and comfortable lives. According to him: “There is no reason whatsoever for active
life-termination of these newborns.” Dr. de Jong was intensely
frustrated by the fact that, in his own country, no one was even
remotely interested in listening to him on these matters.
But now he has a new hope. Last January, the Parliamentary Assembly of
the Council of Europe (PACE) approved a Resolution against euthanasia.
According to the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ): “this is the
first time in recent decades that euthanasia has been so clearly
rejected by a European political institution.”
According to European Dignity Watch, “… this
is a third major victory for life and dignity of the weakest, after
the 2010 resolution that strengthened freedom of conscience for
doctors and medical staff and after the European Court of Human Rights
asserted last year that there is no right to euthanasia or assisted
suicide under the European Convention.”
The Resolution defines the principles that should govern the practice of
“living wills” or “advance directives” in Europe. It also emphasizes
obligation that physicians have to take into account the desire of the
patient when life-saving procedures are being decided. The directives may
apply, for example, when there is doubt about whether to resuscitate a
patient or to continue to use extraordinary means to maintain his or her
life, according to the news agency Zenit.
To prevent abuses, the Resolution employs extremely clear and precise
language: “Euthanasia, in the sense of the intentional killing by act or
omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit, must
always be prohibited.” (n. 5)
This is very good news.
Additionally the Resolution strongly defines the exact life principles that
the legislators need to take into account when discussing “living wills.”
First off, they are to only be drawn up for adults (thus prohibiting the
Dutch practices of creating them for children) and secondly, “… prior
instructions contained in advance directives and/or living wills which are
against the law, or good practice, […] should not be applied”.
And lastly, in the words of pro-life Italian legislator Luca Volantè:
“Surrogate decisions that rely on general value judgements present in
society should not be admissible and, in case of doubt, the decision must
always be pro-life and the prolongation of life.”
But the road has just begun.
This Resolution is not binding. Pro-life leaders across Europe now
need to pressure their respective governments to actually make
legislative change. But now they have a new powerful weapon for do
But the moral victory is there, to be sure. In the words of Grégor
Puppinck, Director of ECJL: “This resolution is a clear indication that the
growing majority of Europeans are opposed to euthanasia. The many abuses
occurring in the countries allowing euthanasia are alarming and constitute
violations of true human rights. It is convincing that euthanasia must
always be prohibited. The small number of European States allowing
euthanasia shall review their legislation according to the principles set
forth by the PACE.”