Euthanasia: Naturalism vs the Sanctity of Life
Is Truth Relative? Do we have a “right” to do as we please?
This discussion is not about abortion, but let me lay it out as an example to make a point. Everyone has heard the abortion arguments before: the argument for life and the argument for choice. Is abortion wrong because the child is a human being and no one has the right to kill a child? Or should abortion be considered a valid option because it is in the right of the mother to determine whether they can or want the child? How about the right of a person to kill oneself? Do old sickly people have the right to end their own lives? Can other people assist them? Stop them? The debates continue but underlying these discussions is a much deeper battle: the battle in the validity of the sanctity of life.
Morality vs Rights?
Our current culture emphasizes tolerance and rights. The “right” of a person is held on a high pedestal, I dare say even above morality. What happens when someone chooses to say someone is wrong? They are labeled intolerant and someone not considerate of the “right” of a person to do and believe what makes them happy. We are told truth is not absolute, it is relative. It is all about what feels right to a person and the “right” for a person to hold onto his or her version of truth. Thus over time, “rights” have become a touchy subject but an issue we need to tackle when discussing the sanctity of life.
Are Humans any Different from Animals?
- Is there such a thing as the “sanctity of life” when it comes to human beings?
- Is there something innate about human beings that sets them apart?
- If so, under what basis?
Naturalism says there is nothing in life outside of what we see in nature- there is no spiritual world, there is no god, there is no supernatural. Thus from a strict naturalistic perspective, humans are no different from animals. Why is that? Naturalist have to believe that humans were born out of bunch of atoms that by chance led to who we are today. From a naturalistic perspective, the only explanation for our seemingly unique ability to reason, make decisions, or have a moral conscious, is simply determined by our chemical makeup. The very reason you are reading this article is due to chemical reactions in your body – you did not chose to read it, it was set to happen. There is no “free will” or “choice”, we just do as our chemical agents leads us to do. Thus if there is no free will, there can be no choice of doing what is right or wrong, or any extra “value” in us. Hitler did what he did due to his all the chain reactions from the beginning of time. Mother Teresa did what she did, not by choice, but due to her chemical makeup. You can’t blame one or honor the other – it’s was all determined. In this worldview, there is nothing that separates us from other animals let alone plants. There is no special “sanctity of life”.
Some might be tempted to say that one believes we are mere chemicals, but still believe humans are valuable. Most would agree to that, but again, under what basis? If we are indeed just a chance product of nature (this including our ability to reason, our emotions etc), what basis do we have any “sanctity” versus some other animal?
“It seems we demand humans to live with indignity, pain and anguish whereas we are kinder to our pets when their suffering becomes too much. It simply is not logical or mature…” – Dr. Philip Nitschke
Who is Dr. Philip Nitschke?
Dr. Philip Nischke is an Australian medical doctor and founder of pro-euthanasia group called Exit International. He has campaigned for legal euthanasia and was successful in passing a law in Australia’s Northern Territory. He helped four people end their lives before the law was overturned by Australia’s Federal government. He has also provided advice to others who ended up ending their lives. He has also been in the news for his willingness to accompany several New Zealanders to Mexico to help them purchase potentially life-ending drug Nembutal and also for presenting the idea of a “death ship” which he would take people to international waters to circumvent local laws.
Dr. Philip Nitschke’s Worldview
Nitschke’s worldview is a natural result of naturalism. Since what we see in nature is all there is to life, there is nothing innate about human beings that makes them any more valuable than a dog, a cat, or even an insect. He argues in the quote above, if we kill our own pets when they are suffering, why can’t we “dignify” people in doing the same. The question is, are humans innately different than animals? Are humans more valuable or are they the same? Is killing a dog or an insect different than killing a human being? To Dr. Nitschke, we are all the same.
Check out this article from Breakpoint regarding the Sanctity of Life:
Euthanasia & the Sanctity of Life
Regular BreakPoint listeners have heard me speak about the impact of declining birth rates around the world. One consequence is that older people comprise an increasing percentage of the population in places like Japan and Western Europe.
This increases economic pressures on these countries since an aging population requires more services while having fewer young workers to pay for them.
One doctor has come up with a way to address the imbalance between pensioners and workers—that is, fewer pensioners.
What Dr. Philip Nitschke has in mind isn’t raising the retirement age—his goal is fewer pensioners.
Nitschke is the founder of Exit International, a self-described “world-leading Voluntary Euthanasia” organization. As part of his mission, Nitschke, who is from Australia, travels to different countries teaching people “how to end their lives safely.”
One of his methods is a dose of the barbiturate Nembutal. While in Britain, he told Reuters that “almost every 75-year-old I meet now sees merit in having their own bottle of Nembutal in the cupboard as an insurance policy, in case things get bad.”
Every 75-year-old? Clearly the Kevorkian from Down Under runs with an atypical crowd. As Reuters put it, “Nitschke’s is an extreme view.” Extreme, but unfortunately not unthinkable, especially given the trajectory of our culture.
At the same time Nitschke was speaking to Reuters, Britain was awaiting new guidelines for cases involving people who help family members commit suicide. The guidelines are the result of litigation involving a woman with multiple sclerosis who plans to go to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal. She wanted assurances that her husband wouldn’t be prosecuted for helping her kill herself. Britain’s law lords ruled that she was entitled to such assurances.
While assisted-suicide is still illegal within Britain, attitudes are changing. For example, the Royal College of Nurses has gone from being opposed to assisted-suicide to a position of neutrality. You don’t have to be an alarmist or even a pessimist to guess what the next change will be.
These changes coincide with the graying of the British population. Currently, 20 percent of Britons are over 65, and that is projected to rise to 30 percent by 2020. Pro-euthanasia advocates scoff at the idea that the elderly will be pressured to die by society, but British officials acknowledge the possibility. One told the BBC that he wouldn’t want to live in a society that pressured its elderly to kill themselves to make life easier for their families.
The government’s way of preventing that is laws that “strike a balance,” he said, between “sympathetic” cases and protecting the elderly. But you and I know where the road paved with good intentions leads. Without a bright line around the sanctity of human life, the extreme inexorably becomes the mainstream.
The so-called “right to die” can become, as one American politician suggested, a “duty to die,” especially as the costs associated with an aging population crowd out other priorities.
There is only one insurance policy against this nightmare—an unqualified commitment to the sanctity of life.
Euthanasia vs. the Sanctity of Life: It has only just begun.
Healthcare has become one of the biggest discussion topics in Congress and this issue of the sanctity of life is soon going to be a very real topic every person will have to grapple with. The large “baby boomer” population are slowing entering into the later stages of life.
How will the government deal with the limited resources available?
If an old frail 80 year old needs special treatments that will require expensive procedures and medicines, should we make them fully available? Or is it more “practical” to use those limited resources on someone younger who has more years to live and has a better quality of life?
The discussion on euthanasia and the sanctity of life has only just begun…
Where do you stand?
If one asks you..
- Do you believe a person has the right to kill oneself if they are old and sick? (By the way, let’s not sugarcoat this, it’s basically committing suicide).
If you answered yes, the next question would be,
- Does a person have a right to kill oneself even if they aren’t old and sick?
- Does the person have the “right” to do that?
It’s a slippery slope folks. If we deem it the “right” of a person to take one’s own life because they are sick (or assist someone), we will have to allow a person to kill themselves in any situation. Ultimately it comes down to this:
- Do you believe in the sanctity of life?
- Do you believe people innately have value and are set apart from animals, insects and inanimate objects? Or do you believe humans have no intrinsic value?
Intrinsic Value or No Intrinsic Value?
- If you believe in the sanctity of life, then under what basis?
- What gives people intrinsic value versus other things of nature?
If Dr. Philip Nischke is right and we are no different from animals, then he has every right to believe it is ok to kill a human being. We kill animals all the time, so why not people?
If you believe that people have intrinsic value and that life is sacred, first you need to figure out under what basis? Where does the value come from? Secondly, issues like euthanasia and abortion should be crystal clear. No one is allowed to kill any other human being under any circumstances. Nobody has the “right” to do that.
So where do you fall?
Leave your comments below.