October 11, 2017

Resisting the Culture of Death

"Death Skull" by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, October 12, 2017

Resisting the Culture of Death (two ways)

1. Support Bill 34

I support Manitoba's Bill 34, which provides conscience rights to healthcare professionals who refuse to kill or help kill patients.

Introduced by Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen, this bill is presently making its way through the Manitoba legislature.

Why is Bill 34 important? Because medicine should care for those who suffer, not kill them.

Also, we should heed the lessons of history.

Consider this passage from Dr. Leo Alexander (1905-1985), medical advisor to the U.S. Chief of Counsel at the Nuremberg Trials, in which representative Nazis were convicted of crimes against humanity (this is from Dr. Alexander's paper "Medical Science Under Dictatorship," New England Journal of Medicine, July 4, 1949):

 "Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they had started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived."

Dr. Alexander continues: "This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in the category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted, and finally all non-Germans."

Dr. Alexander warns: “But it is important to realize that the infinitely small wedged-in lever from which this entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude toward the nonrehabilitatable sick."

I don't believe a Nazi Party is on Canada's horizon (thank goodness). But I do believe that some philosophical principles of what Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) called the “culture of death" are becoming prevalent in our society.

Medical, social, and psychological problems require medical, social, and psychological solutions—not killing.

If we're concerned about suffering patients, then we should increase the quality and availability of palliative care, not require doctors to kill.

2. Stop discrimination against pro-life Members of Parliament

I think the Liberals' blocking of pro-life MP Rachael Harder as chair of Canada's Status of Women committee is unjust.

Yes, I have pro-life biases. So don't take my word on this. Instead, consider the following extended quote from the pro-choice editors of The Globe and Mail:

“The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau has sent a terrible message by blocking the election of a Conservative MP to the position of chair of the House of Commons committee on the status of women solely because of her opposition to abortion."

“Think of it this way: Were Rachael Harder, the Alberta MP in question, fired from a job in a private company, or from the public service, for the same reason, she would be the victim of a violation of her Charter rights...."

“The right to abortion is one we support, but there is a higher principle at play here—the right to hold beliefs, and to act on them legally, without interference from the government, and without being discriminated against by society."

“The Liberal government's shameful actions this week send a contrary message—that it is perfectly acceptable in Canada to discriminate against people who oppose abortion."

Some pundits defend the Liberals by arguing that a pro-life appointment to the Status of Women committee is like appointing a racist to the Human Rights Commission. But this is a faulty analogy.

Racists have no good reasons for their racism. However, pro-lifers like Harder have good reasons for their pro-life position. There is scientific evidence, e.g., biological humanity of the unborn, and moral principle, i.e., all human beings have the right to life—whether young or old, black or white.

Canada's Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that Canada's parliament should limit abortion justly, suggesting a gestational-age approach. To date, Canada's governments have failed us.

Most Canadians now favour at least some abortion restrictions: e.g., no abortion merely because baby is a girl, no late-term abortions.

Clearly, our democratic government should encourage parliamentary debate, not unjust discrimination that favours the culture of death.

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence

For further reading on the issues of abortion and physician-assisted suicide (a.k.a. medical assistance in dying), please see Apologia archives for my columns on these topics.

For an insightful 3-minute video by some Manitoba healthcare professionals who favour Bill 34, please see Call for Conscience - Manitoba

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