Western society has truly become a “culture of death.” Three recent news stories illustrate this unfortunate development:
1. Charlie Gard is a ten-month-old with a rare genetic disorder that has put him in a coma. An American doctor offered the family a potentially life-saving experimental treatment for Charlie, and the family soon raised over $1.6 million to cover the expenses.
Charlie’s story took a turn for the worse when his London hospital refused to permit his parents to take him across the Atlantic for treatment. His doctors believed that since he would likely be disabled if the treatment were successful, “it is in Charlie’s best interests to permit Charlie to die with dignity,” a sentiment echoed by a British judge after Charlie’s parents sued.
According to the judge, “Although the parents have parental responsibility [in making medical decisions for their children], overriding control is vested in the court exercising its independent and objective judgment in the child’s best interests.”
Charlie’s parents fought valiantly for the right to secure potentially life-saving treatment for their child, appealing the decision to the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Justice was denied, however, when the ECHR refused to intervene earlier this week, allowing doctors to end Charlie’s life.
2. The parents of an Iowa boy (“Z.P.”) born with cerebral palsy successfully sued their doctor for failing to inform them that their baby would be born with the disability. They say they would have had their baby aborted if they had known about the disability.
Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents. As James Silberman accurately notes, “If the right to kill unborn children exists, it follows that a doctor’s failure to inform the parents of an unborn child about the presence of an undesirable trait would indeed be a violation of that right.”
3. The Oregon Senate passed a bill (SB494) earlier this month that would have allowed nursing homes to starve disabled patients to death. The bill was introduced after Bill Harris sued the nursing home caring for his wife, Nora, who suffers from dementia. Harris wanted the nursing home to stop spoon feeding Nora.
Although Nora is dealing with advanced Alzheimer’s, she is still conscious and wants to eat. SB494 would have allowed the nursing home to withhold food and water from Nora until she starved to death.
Thankfully, the legislation recently failed in the House Judiciary Committee. Although the mere fact that the bill passed the Senate is remarkable and frightening, it is unsurprising, considering that Oregon was the first state to allow doctors to kill terminally ill patients who want to die.
Why We Must Keep Fighting
Human life is sacred. Every person, regardless of his or her disabilities or circumstances, has dignity and is inherently valuable.
Human life is beautiful. Anyone who has met the inspiring and beautiful people living with disabilities knows this to be true.
Those with disabilities offer so much to the world; most importantly, they provide the opportunity for society to grow in its compassion for the weak and vulnerable.
Those who have disabilities are no less human than you or me. Their humanity demands the same natural rights we all share, the most important of which is the right to live.
We have not been given the authority to decide whose lives are “worth living.” Abortion, euthanasia, and suicide are so destructive because these things demean human life.
Our shared humanity enjoins us to fight against these evils. We must defend the defenseless. We must speak for Charlie, Nora, and “Z.P.” We must not permit judges and legislators to change and manipulate our laws to allow for the murder of the innocent.
Who will defend the most vulnerable if we do not? I pray that we may never forget that their lives are immeasurably valuable, and I pray that more good people rise up to restrain the evil that has convinced far too many people that some lives are more valuable than others.
Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito (Latin: Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it).
This article was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.