Euthanasia Essay: Assisted Suicide and Killing Cripples


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Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide and Killing Cripples

 

This desire to get rid of mentally and physically different people runs like a thread through human history. The Alaskan Inuits killed impaired kids at birth, as did the Masai of Africa and the Woggeo of New Guinea. Greeks in the fourth century BC used to expose (leave out in the weather to die) their disabled infants.

 

China's rulers are soon to impose laws to "stop the prevalence of abnormal birth." This is not about stopping the birth of able-bodied people capable of performing massacres in Tiananmen Square. No, apparently that is quite OK. By "abnormal," they mean disabled people. "China," says the Xinhua News Agency in Beijing, now has "10 million disabled people who could have been prevented through better controls."

 

The Bible doesn't help much either. In Leviticus 21:18 for example, some twelve impairments - from restricted growth to ruptured testicles, are listed as being unacceptable to God whilst in 2 Samuel 5:8 He orders that those who are blind and lame "shall not come into the home."

Darwin's theory of evolution and the survival of the fittest gave these ancient attitudes a new lease on life. In the capitalist jungle of Victorian England, social Darwinism and eugenics were soon invented to scientifically prove that, if the weakest went to the wall, such was the inevitable price of progress. Why bother to change society for the better when you had a scientifically legitimate way of getting rid of those who couldn't keep up, who fell by the wayside?

 

In 1907 Indiana was the first of 30 American states to legalize the sterilization of a variety of disabled people and other "undesirables," and similar laws were passed in Germany (1933-4), Canada (1928), Denmark and Sweden (1929), Finland (1930) and Iceland (1930). It was of course in Germany that the lust for our blood was taken to its logical conclusion. Under the National Socialist Party, the 1933 Law on the Prevention of Congenitally Impaired Progeny and the 1935 Marriage Health Law legalized involuntary sterilization and required doctors to report known disabled people to the Sterilization Courts.

 

But it was Hitler who really set the ball rolling to sweep us off the face of the earth. On September 1, 1939, he issued a directive giving authority to "certain physicians to be designated by name in such a manner that persons who, according to human judgement, are incurable can, upon a most careful diagnosis of their condition of sickness, be accorded a mercy death.

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"

 

In effect, this legalized the so-called "euthanasia programme" under which, by 1941, some 200,000 disabled Germans had been systematically exterminated by doctors in six killing centers across the country, by a variety of means including poison gas, starvation and lethal injections of morphine or scopolamine. The bodies were incinerated; some centers installed conveyor belts to permanent on-site coke- or oil-fired furnaces, others used mobile furnaces later mobilized for use in the Holocaust. Disabled people were thus the guinea pigs which enabled eugenic "science" to find its fullest expression in genocide.

 

Doctors today dress up methods of selecting out crips, methods like amniocentesis or ultrasound screening, as a form of reproductive choice for parents, even as being for our welfare. So-called sex selection techniques offer parents the choice of whether to bring males or females into their world.

Disabled people are always at risk of fancy scientific ideas which allow old prejudices to strut around in the clothing of compassion, of new and desirable social advances. China's recently-announced sterilization laws are just an old way, borrowed from the West, to shift attention away from social, economic and political problems. Such problems, coupled with "scientific advances" and the general drift to the right in world politics, create the climate where the morally upright can openly campaign for the morally repellent.

 

This can be seen as much in the freedom with which people campaign for euthanasia - as recently in the states of Oregon and Washington - or in judicial rulings permitting the switching off of food, water, and air to people in coma, and in the impunity with which Parliament feels that it is able to sacrifice disabled life in the form of potentially impaired fetuses in the passage of laws governing abortion.



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