It's Time to Stop the Commerce in Death

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It's Time to Stop the Commerce in Death One of the symptoms of a society in the grips of moral crisis is a tendency to refer to reprehensible acts by soft-sounding euphemisms, by names that do not directly excite human qualms or agitate scruples and that evade precise reflection on the reality of certain situations. For example, in our modern lexicon, abortion is called "freedom of choice," sexual libertinage is dubbed "alternative lifestyles," and certain forms of genocide-in-slow-motion can be made to seem more acceptable under the name "family planning." Such are the mental tricks and the "word magic" employed to quiet the normal functioning of our consciences. Sadly, they work on a great many people for long periods of time. Like certain narcotics, they dull the moral senses and can eventually blot out such feelings completely. This being so, let us examine a concept that is very old, that disappeared from civilized life for almost two millennia, and that has now begun its return, lifting itself ever higher on the distant horizon, like a huge, menacing, black cloud. That concept is known as euthanasia. "Good Death" The English word euthanasia is derived from the Greek and means, literally, "good death." According to its oldest meaning, it signifies merely the relatively painless, gentle passage of someone from this life to the next, without necessarily any human inference or intervention. Even in the Christian tradition, we sometimes hear the term "good death" used in the sense that the departed person died at peace with himself, with his family, and with God. However, an alternative definition, more in accord with contemporary usages, generally suggests something quite different: It indicates the bringing about of the death of a human being, either by suicide or killing, ostensibly to prevent extreme physical pain or mental anguish. Euthanasia, according to the teaching of every traditional Christian group, is looked upon as suicide or murder, plain and simple, and, until recently, was universally condemned in all societies whose roots grew out of Christianity. This teaching holds that a supposedly worthy end, in this case the termination of pain and suffering, never, according to traditional moral norms, justifies immoral or unethical means. With the rise of revolutionary ideologies in the late 18th century, Darwinistic philosophies in the following century, and the concomitant decline in fidelity to Christian teaching, especially among educated

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