Euthanasia and Euphemisms

by Christopher White, CBC Director of Research and Education on February 24, 2016

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A recent article in a Dutch newspaper exclaimed: “Euthanasia Patient Saves Five Lives with Organ Donation.” After suffering a stroke, the man decided he no longer wanted to live and asked to be euthanized. The article went on to note, “He gave his last breath in an operating room at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, while five other patients lay waiting in five other operating rooms.”

In the view of many of his fellow Dutch citizens, this man should be hailed as a hero or a saint. Isn’t euthanasia such a noble cause? This man gave his life willfully so that others may continue to live! What a country!

But here’s the problem (or rather, one of the many problems related to euthanasia): What would happen if following the stroke the gentleman’s doctors decided that while he could be expected to have a full recovery at age seventy-five, he didn’t have much life left anyhow, and they could really use his liver for a patient a few doors down? Most people, I suspect, wouldn’t want to be treated by doctors with such instincts. But once the practice of euthanasia is introduced into the realm of medicine, even if ‘voluntary,’ it’s not too long before the practice is utilized involuntarily.

Just last week the Netherlands celebrated “Euthanasia Week,” marking 15 years since the practice first became legal in the country. If a country is so elated that it can use the powers of medicine to kill off its own citizens, it’s not too far of a stretch to predict that it’s only a matter of time before they utilize the same practice to justify involuntary organ harvesting as well.

Image by ben_salter via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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