Why legal euthanasia results in sick, elderly being pressured to die

Jeanne Delpierre requested euthanasia. She did not have advanced cancer, nor any other “serious and incurable disease,” a requirement required by Belgian law. Her incurable disease was old age (88 years) and the “multiple pathologies” associated with it: osteoarthritis, loss of sight and hearing…

Jeanne Delpierre was killed.

In Holland, Senator Brongersma was killed in a case that received significant media coverage in 1998 because he had been one of the first to request euthanasia for “psychological suffering.” In his case, it was loneliness: “No one is left alive that interests me.”

In Benelux (Belgium/Netherlands/Luxembrug), a beacon of euthanasic progress, there are more and more people who ask for and obtain death to avoid simple emotional disorders, or to prevent future suffering (for example, people who are diagnosed with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease but are still in the early stages).

In our aging societies, the number of elderly people facing physical and mental decline, depression, and loneliness will grow rapidly: the generation that started during the family-sexual revolution in the ’60s is reaching old age, with its sequelae of divorces and low birth rates. Many Baby-Boomers have had no children, or have had very few: a very sad old age awaits them in hospices or empty homes. The burden they represent to the economic and health care systems is grave, indeed.

Let’s say it bluntly: there is a definite risk, more or less subtle, that more and more of the elderly will be pushed toward euthanasia. It will be enough to convince them that the final stretch of life, with all of its difficulties, is “lebensunwert,” “unworthy of being lived” (yes, it is the term that Nazi legislation used to justify the extermination of the deficient in the Aktion T4 program). They will also be pressured with the idea that they are a drag on young people. When the notion that “the dignified choice is not to impose one’s own decay on others” is incorporated into the cultural environment, the burden of proof will fall on the one who wishes to continue living beyond a certain age.
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The “slippery slope” of the government

Our progressive government is willing to embark society on this formidable advance. Of course, it will say euthanasia is going to be allowed only in extreme cases of incurable and unbearable suffering… This is what the government has already done with abortion. Experience shows that, once the principle of inviolability of life is demolished, public opinion and jurisprudential drift lead to an increasingly lax interpretation of legal requirements. Inevitably, it leads to a “reform” of the law, to accommodate the permissive praxis that is a fait accompli. The “slippery slope” is confirmed time and again in bioethical matters.

The Netherlands has already served as a laboratory for euthanasia for 40 years (tolerated by the courts since the ’70s and regulated since 2001), and Belgium for 20 years (regulated in 2002). The evolution in both countries is the one synthesized by Herbert Hendin in Seduced by Death: “From euthanizing terminally ill patients they have progressed to euthanizing those with chronic illnesses; from accepting euthanasia for physical illnesses they have evolved to euthanizing people with psychological illnesses; from allowing euthanasia only for voluntary cases, it is now accepted practice to euthanize people without their express permission.” Therefore, the number of cases shoots upward like an arrow: in Belgium, from about 200 annually at the beginning to about 2,500 today. In the Netherlands, it has been estimated that 15% of deaths are already caused by euthanasia. The control is ex post facto: doctors must inform the Control Commission…when the patient has already been “passported.” In addition, the commission consists mostly of supporters of euthanasia.

The alternative to euthanasia is not horrible agony. We live in a time when almost all sufferings can be attenuated by legitimate medicine. Supporters of euthanasia try to muddle everything, confusing it with palliative care within the blurry concept of a “dignified death.” But palliative care seeks not to cause death, but to improve the quality of life in the final phase of a painful disease. Nor should terminal sedation be confused with euthanasia: it seeks not to cause death, but to lessen the agony of death.

But palliative care is very expensive. In Spain, which is a pioneer in this field, investment in palliative care has been frozen for decades. Although the Bologna Plan provided for European universities to develop palliative care as another specialty of medical studies, only 6 of 43 Spanish medical schools teach it on a mandatory basis. There is a national palliative care strategy that has clearly been given up for dead since the commission has not met for three years, and the national plan has not been created. In Spain alone, some 75,000 patients are in need of palliative care and cannot receive it.

The culture of death, with its 100,000 abortions a year and the substitution of family stability for a libertine lifestyle, has led us to senile societies, with an inverted demographic pyramid. Every aging society must decide whether to invest in palliative care and health care for the elderly or euthanasia. Our socialist-communist government seems to have decided that the progressive way is the second. In the “Happy World” of Aldous Huxley, there is no old age.

Editor’s note: Francisco José Contreras is a lecturer in legal philosophy at the University of Seville and is a representative in the Spanish congress from the conservative VOX party.

This article was first published at El debate de hoy. It is republished here by permission.

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