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Sanctity-of-life ethic takes hits in Europe, United States


WASHINGTON (BP)–The sanctity-of-human-life ethic has undergone assaults in both Europe and the United States recently.
The Netherlands moved a step toward legalizing euthanasia when legislation to permit physicians to perform so-called “mercy killings” even on children as young as 12 years of age was introduced in the European country’s parliament.
In England, a 9-year-old girl dying of heart defects has been rejected for a heart-lung transplant by her local health authority because she has Down’s syndrome, a London newspaper reported.
German authorities have approved the sale of RU 486, the French abortion pill, and seven other European countries have taken steps to authorize the distribution of the drug, according to the July/August newsletter of the International Right to Life Federation.
Two university professors in the United States, meanwhile, have proposed legalized abortion is the reason for the decline in the crime rate in the 1990s. The study said the crime rate is lower now because the legalization of abortion in the early 1970s reduced the number of people most likely to commit crimes. Unwanted babies of young, poor, minority mothers were aborted at a higher rate than those from other segments of the population after abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court in 1973.
Southern Baptist bioethicist Ben Mitchell criticized the developments and their global reach.
“Clearly the juggernaut of secularism has spawned a very powerful child — the culture of death,” said Mitchell, who is a professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.
“If these events don’t show us how grotesque is the culture of death, what will? If Christians don’t resist and seek life-saving alternatives, who will?”
Euthanasia has been practiced in The Netherlands for more than a decade even though it has been technically illegal. The new bill would provide doctors with immunity from criminal prosecution if they follow specific guidelines when putting their patients to death, according to a Reuters News Agency article in The Washington Times. The proposal also would permit doctors to perform euthanasia on 12- to 15-year-old, terminally ill patients when the parents refuse to consent if the physician “is convinced this would prevent serious detriment to the patient,” the article quoted the country’s Justice and Health Ministries as saying.
If The Netherlands legalizes euthanasia, it would be the only country to do so. Euthanasia was legalized in Australia’s Northern Territory in 1996, but the law was overturned in 1997, according to Reuters.
“The Dutch are making themselves honest. Now their law matches their practice,” said Mitchell, a consultant with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “It’s a sign of very bad medicine, indeed, that the Dutch don’t seem to be able to offer comfort care to dying patients. Instead, healers become killers.”
The parents of Katie Atkinson of Sheffield, England, have been told she is not eligible for any donor organ because she has Down’s syndrome, The Sunday Times reported, according to the Web site of the Pro-life Infonet. The parents said Leeds General Infirmary told them Down’s syndrome children are not considered for transplants because their “quality of life” is not good enough, according to the newspaper.
In some other parts of England, however, health authorities in the nationalized health system approve Down’s syndrome children for transplants. Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London have given the go-ahead for two Down’s syndrome children to have heart-lung transplants, The Sunday Times reported.
“Sadly, we live in an age of scarce medical resources and a shortage of organs for transplant, but the decision not to transplant because a child has Down’s syndrome carries a price tag almost too grave to imagine,” Mitchell said. “Who decides what a life worth living is? Who or what condition will be next? This is a very, very slippery slope.”
The abortion-crime rate link proposed by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and Standford University law professor John Donahue drew sharp criticism from not only pro-lifers but editorial writers as well. The study said as much as half of the decline in the U.S. crime rate between 1991 and 1997 could be attributed to abortion.
“The twisted logic that sees abortion as a cure for crime is absurd,” Mitchell said. “This is a return to the eugenics of the turn of the century. It smells like smoke, and it comes from the pit. It’s merely a way of rationalizing away our collective guilt for nearly three decades of abortion on demand.”
The National Right to Life Committee said in a written statement:
“It seems odd to assert that killing unborn babies in the ’70s led people in the ’90s to do less shoplifting. One could just as easily argue that an increase in the respect for human life has led to a decrease in both the abortion rate and the crime rate. The true effects of the over 40 million lives lost [through abortion] since 1973 may never be known. Our society not only has lost future artists, scientists, musicians and teachers but also has accepted a mentality that targets for destruction the vulnerable, whether they be children of poor parents or, with assisted suicide and euthanasia, the elderly and disabled who have ceased to be ‘useful.'”
According to the Pro-life Infonet, The London Independent wrote: “[E]ven if — and it is a very big if — this research were in some sense perfect, it seems a very weak underpinning to derive policy from. We could, after all, end human hunger, poverty and misery as well as crime by making abortion compulsory. It is that absurd.”
RU 486 already is used in France, Great Britain, Sweden and China. It has been reported in recent months the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve RU 486 for marketing in this country before the end of the year.