It was a startling headline in The Australian: "State-sanctioned death exposes West's moral decay."
The article that followed, from Paul Kelly, the paper's Editor-at-Large, was one of the most extraordinary, moving, and powerful I have ever read, and I thought it would be helpful to share some of the insights with Christian Today readers – especially as the national and devolved parliaments in the UK are yet again about to be pressured to change the euthanasia laws.
One thing I have learned over the years is that the elites who think that their moral values should be imposed on the rest of us, will never give up until they get their way. Having, as they consider, won the battle for public opinion, they are now doing their best to remove the remaining obstacles, mainly the medical profession and Christianity.
Their case is simple and is often simplistically put: tell the story of someone who is suffering terribly and then ask why they should not be allowed to 'die with dignity' and put out of their misery?
When it is put like that, it seems so obvious, but it's only when we step back and look at the wider picture – and tell other stories – that we realise that the situation is more complex, and that the simplistic solution offered by euthanasia is both dangerous and damming.
Besides which, what kind of argument is it to say that human beings should be put down like dogs? Which brings me back to Kelly's article.
"Two ideas consume us," he writes.
"Extreme steps are deemed essential to save lives from the virus, while we authorise the state to liquidate lives in the name of humanity.
"On the one hand we strive to protect life through the health system, and on the other hand we move to terminate life through the same health system.
"Only a secular rationalisation decoupled from moral social principle could fail to be embarrassed by the juxtaposition. Yet we do not notice it."
Kelly points out that technology, the State, and the health system are used for human convenience. On the one hand we use lockdown to save (mainly) the lives of the elderly, on the other we legislate in order to kill (mainly) the elderly.
When the Northern Territories in Australia legislated to make euthanasia legal, one woman was used as the poster child making her plea, 'Please let me die'. She didn't die and later she became an avid opponent of those laws.
Euthanasia is going to be the moral issue of the next couple of years. The first countries to legalise it were the Netherlands and Belgium in 2002 so we now have almost two decades' experience which indicate where this is going.
Another article from a more surprising source, The Guardian in January 2019, asks the pertinent question, 'Death on Demand, has euthanasia gone too far?'
"The article asks, "having begun with limited euthanasia will it inevitably expand?"
And it gives the unequivocal answer: yes – it must. The slippery slope is for real. It was reported that 5% of all deaths in 2017 in the Netherlands were induced – although others suggest the real figure is nearer 10%. Twenty per cent of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands were 'involuntary euthanasia' – in other words – state-sanctioned murder.
Some of the examples are almost unbelievable.
In 2016 it was reported that in the Netherlands permitted a young sexual abuse victim to be euthanized after doctors convinced her that treatment for her mental disorders was hopeless.
Also in that year, it was reported that a 41-year-old father of two was euthanized after claiming his alcoholism had made his life unbearable.
And in 2017, a doctor euthanized a patient even though the patient fought back, because the doctor didn't want the patient to get 'cold feet'.
The Dutch have even set up mobile death squads to kill sick and elderly people in their own homes.
What can we do? Let me suggest two things.
Then, we must campaign and inform. Use social media, letters to politicians, petitions, classrooms – anything we can to inform and warn. You may just be a small voice, a drop in the ocean, but you are not a lone voice....and many drops make a mighty river!
And we must cry out in prayer. Pray and pray again. Perhaps the Lord will have mercy and turn us back from our Hellish ways.
Those who have the ability should be prepared to stand up in public and argue that case. I have debated the issue several times at universities.
Of special interest for me are a couple of debates I did at the University of Abertay in Dundee. Unusually they had a vote before and after the debates and on both occasions, there was a significant shift to the anti-euthanasia position. One of the lecturers rather grumpily told me that I was very dangerous and was using facts, emotion and stories to influence his young people. He was dead right. Once people get the facts and the bigger picture, minds and hearts can be changed. We need to tell a better story.
And we also need to warn where this is going. At the risk of invoking Godwin's law, let me share this revealing quote from Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge. Speaking of Hitler, she stated:
"He was not a member of any church, and thought the Christian religions were outdated, hypocritical institutions that lured people into them. The laws of nature were his religion. He could reconcile his dogma of violence better with nature than with the Christian doctrine of loving your neighbour and your enemy. 'Science isn't yet clear about the origins of humanity,' he once said. 'We are probably the highest stage of development of some mammal which developed from reptiles and moved on to human beings, perhaps by way of the apes. We are a part of creation and children of nature, and the same laws apply to us as to all living creatures. And in nature the law of the struggle for survival has reigned from the first. Everything incapable of life, everything weak is eliminated. Only mankind and above all the church have made it their aim to keep alive the weak, those unfit to live, and people of an inferior kind." (Until the Final Hour, p 108)
Let's return to Paul Kelly's insightful and prophetic article:
"Australia is turning into a global leader in cultural arrogance thinking it can usurp God's role in human affairs without consequence. Once killing is authorised, the next steps are always easier – within the coming generation, people with dementia will be killed in this country."
The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher posed the question:
"If compassionately relieving suffering is what euthanasia is all about, we have to be honest with ourselves about where that leads. If the suffering of some people is to be resolved by killing them or assisting them to kill themselves, why not the chronically but not terminally ill, the mentally but not physically ill, those unable to consent because they are unconscious, too disabled, or infants? Why restrict this mercy to dying consenting adults? Yet our culture and moral order are being debased. The consequences may appear in the short-term or the longer-term, but they will come."
As Kelly and Archbishop Fisher point out, ultimately our society faces a choice. We can go down the road of "killing the weak, the unfit and the inferior" or we can go the way of Christ. Pray that it will be the latter.
David Robertson works as an evangelist with churches in Sydney, Australia. He blogs at The Wee Flea.