Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Fear the Culture of Death

Nat Hentoff is one of the best individual rights columnists still working today. Here is a column he wrote in 2003 about the sanctity of life and its threats from the "death with dignity" brigade among medical "ethicists" who no longer stress life, but believe life is not worth saving unless it can attain a certain quality.

I have debated bioethicists who are true believers in the "duty to die" when care is "futile." These exchanges have been on college campuses, radio, and television. When I bring up the history of "futile care" in pre-Hitler Germany (as I did in last week's column), the "duty to die" advocates become deeply offended. Nonetheless, they are sincerely continuing a lethal legacy.

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[As medical ethicist] Nancy Valko emphasizes, "with the rise of the modern bioethics movement, life is no longer assumed to have the intrinsic value it once did, and 'quality of life' has become the overriding consideration. Over time, the ethical question, 'what is right?' became 'who decides?—which now has devolved into 'what is legally allowed?' "

Simply stated, reducing the intrinsic value that a society places on "life" is the first step down the road to deciding that certain people are expendable, certain lives are not worth living, certain levels of disability or impairment take so many societal resources that it would be beneficial if . . . down these roads lie the evils of eugenics.

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