In his weekend editorial, Chris Lane of The Washington Post outlined how the once truly unthinkable has now become reality: The mentally ill are now being regularly euthanized in the developed countries of Belgium and the Netherlands in Europe.
Writes Lane, on a recent report from Belgium’s Federal Commission on the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia:
In the 2014-2015 period, the report says, 124 of the 3,950 euthanasia cases in Belgium involved persons diagnosed with a “mental and behavioral disorder,” four more than in the previous two years. Tiny Belgium’s population is 11.4 million; 124 euthanasias over two years there is the equivalent of about 3,500 in the United States.
The figure represents 3.1 percent of all 2014-2015 euthanasia cases — and a remarkable 20.8 percent of the (also remarkable) 594 non-terminal patients to whom Belgian doctors administered lethal injections in that period.
Belgium, of course, became the first country in the world to do away with age restrictions for euthanasia and passed the so-called “right to die” for patients suffering “unbearably” from “untreatable” conditions, regardless of whether or not the condition is terminal. In 2014, there were a reported 1,800 cases of euthanasia in Belgium.
This includes mental conditions like autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, and even depression. Meanwhile, The Netherlands (the first country to legalize euthanasia) are trying to further relax its euthanasia policies.
Of course, similar trends are already starting in the United States, upending the popular narrative of assisted suicide that Brittany Maynard tried to craft in 2014, when she became the new face of America’s “right to die” and “death with dignity” movement.
In 2008, Barbara Wagner, a 64-year-old cancer patient in Oregon, was denied coverage of her lung cancer medication by her insurance company. Rather, Oregon Health Plan (the state’s Medicaid program) offered to pay for the $50 drugs necessary in a doctor-prescribed death.
More recently, Stephanie Packer, a 33-year-old terminally-ill mother of four in California received similar news. Rather than cover the inconvenient expenses of chemotherapy treatment, her insurance company determined that she was more cost-effective to them dead. So, instead, they offered to provide drugs that would end her life, as the End of Life Option Act made it a legal option in the Golden State in June .
The effect on support groups has been particularly notable. “[P]eople constantly are talking about, ‘We should be doing this [dying],’” Packer stated, via the New York Post.
It was only after threatening to go public with the story that Packer — a devout Roman Catholic who “wanted no part of” physician-assisted suicide — had her treatment approved.
And while many in the culture of death like to dismiss protests to the contrary, dismissing all “slippery slope” warnings as wholly irrational and unfound fears, the trajectory of history’s “necessary evils” show that they often become positive goods with far worse unintended consequences.
We in America are more familiar with this kind of slippery slope at the beginning of life, rather than the end. It’s the kind of slope that transforms the taking of unborn life from an illegal, hushed affair to a necessary evil, to something that public figures can now openly joke about applying post-birth as well.
Over the weekend, Newsbusters’ Jack Coleman reported that at Vanity Fair’s third annual “New Establishment Summit,” the publication’s contributing editor Fran Lebowitz brazenly called for “retroactive abortions” against pro-life advocates like Mike Pence, referring to the VP nominee and other pro-lifers as “perfect advertisements” for having a child murdered.
Lebowitz may very well be joking about having her political enemies murdered in utero, such a joke could only exist in a truly despairing social climate. Despite the fact that the percentage of pro-choice Americans is on the rise, the arguments of many in the pro-abortion crowd have long since left the realm of “necessary evil” in their efforts to make the grisly mundane. After all, in the era of “shouting your abortion,” abortion parties, and celebrating the procedure with tacos and beer, the appearance of a joke like Lebowitz’s in a national outlet is just par for the course.
The problem with permitting “necessary evils” in a society on utilitarian grounds is that they rarely seem to stay that way. Such was the case with slavery in our early republic, and such is proving to be the case with utilitarian euthanasia in Europe and some jurisdictions in the U.S.
We currently have before us the whole pattern of events from across the Atlantic, and what is now occurring in our very own courthouses and hospitals. They show us that when the “right to die” becomes a duty to die (it always does), the implications fall hardest on the most vulnerable — the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and yes, the mentally ill.
The fact that this is even occurring ought to give voters in both the District of Columbia and the State of Colorado (both of which are currently considering assisted suicide bills) pause regarding the frightening euphemisms/promises of “death with dignity.”
Perhaps describing these trends as “slippery slopes” is insufficient to their nature, as they more closely resemble a grim and merciless riptide. (For more from the author of “Death With Dignity? European Countries Are Now Euthanizing Mentally Ill” please click HERE)