Slippery Slope of Euthanasia for Children
REV. GONZALO MIRANDA
Netherlands' decision to allow the euthanasia of children could
lead to the practice of arbitrarily deciding which youngsters
will live or die, warns a leading bioethicist.
On Aug. 30, the Dutch judiciary allowed Groningen's University Hospital
to induce the death of children under 12, including newborns, when they
are suffering from incurable sicknesses or undergoing unbearable
suffering. A 2002 law already regulated the practice of euthanasia in
"Unfortunately, all the concerns that arose in regard to the Dutch
legislation on euthanasia are being tragically verified," Legionary of
Christ Father Gonzalo Miranda says in this interview with ZENIT.
Q: To what does the decision refer?
Father Miranda: This measure,
which allows the application of euthanasia to all the born, demonstrates
that the famous "slippery slope" theory was correct.
Once a principle is established according to which a human being can
be killed because he suffers, then logically it extends to all those
suffering. If a human being is killed who requests it, it can be applied
to all human beings who request it, even if they are not suffering.
When discussion on euthanasia began in the Netherlands and in other
countries, many pointed out the danger of sliding toward the worst, and
the defenders of the measure said that it would not happen. Instead,
many took off in 1993 with the legalization of euthanasia, and then the
law came out that extended [it] to children 12 and over.
Despite the opposition of public opinion, just two years after that
law, we are already facing its application to all the born, without any
kind of informed consent by the interested party.
I would like to stress that it is the voluntary murder of a human
being who cannot speak for himself — the voluntary murder of a human
being who cannot express what he is thinking.
Q: John Paul II has often
intervened to warn the international community about the dangers of the
"culture of death." What "culture" is that?
Father Miranda: It is not saying
that our society is thirsty for blood and death; this is not so.
Rather, it is a culture in which death is seen as a solution to
problems that we do not know how to handle in another way — problems
that we do not know how to handle because we have lost generosity, the
ability to support the one who suffers.
In this case it is obvious: Death is proposed as the solution to
children who suffer. The alternative would be to support these children,
to help them not to suffer — and this costs, both economically as well
Q: However, extreme suffering can
lead people to ask for death ...
Father Miranda: It is one thing
to say, in moments of despair, that one desires death, and this is a
human sentiment. It is quite another to say that one will bring about
Who can say that your life is not worth living, that the best thing
is for you to die? This is not an invocation of death, but of the
voluntary murder of the other.
We find the emotional, psychological desire for death even in sacred
Jeremiah and Job, overwhelmed by suffering, curse the day of their
birth. "Cursed be the day on which I was born! May the day my mother
gave me birth, never be blessed! [...] because he did not dispatch me in
the womb! Then my mother would have been my grave. ... Why did I come
forth from the womb, to see sorrow and pain, to end my days in shame?"
[see Jeremiah 20:14-18].
And also: "Why is light given to the toilers, and life to the bitter
in spirit? They wait for death and it comes not; they search for it
rather than for hidden treasures, rejoice in it exultingly, and are glad
when they reach the grave" [Job 3: 20-22].
It is a human sentiment that anyone can have, while here it is Cain
who decides to murder his brother.
Now the doctor, together with the parents, might decide to eliminate
the children who, according to the former, should not live.
Q: Several press articles report
the statements of a Dutch doctor who says that it is a procedure that
will be applied with much rigor. What is your opinion?
Father Miranda: The topic is very
dangerous because it is about technical rigor, not moral rigor. It means
to apply rigorous technical procedures. The Nazis also proceeded to
practice euthanasia with extreme rigor.
In the early '90s I was invited to a world meeting of neurosurgeons
to discuss what should be done when a child is born with a [...]very
serious neurological illness.
Two opposite positions arose from the debate. On one hand, an Israeli
doctor who operated on children with excellent results. The patients
needed follow-up treatment, but had a relatively normal life.
On the other hand, a Dutch doctor explained how, in the clinic where
he worked, the children affected by this sickness were eliminated by
being injected with a lethal substance.
Only after hearing a lecture on what the human person is, did this
doctor say that perhaps such a practice should be questioned. Faced with
the same sickness, some doctors operate and others opted for death,
which now is also legal.
The most frightening aspect of this story is to see with what
superficiality and banality the decision is made to kill children.
Q: From a civil and moral point
of view, how can this decision of the Dutch magistracy be evaluated?
Father Miranda: They are behaving
as they did in Sparta, killing children with selective criteria. The
battles fought for centuries on the vindication of human rights seem
annulled given these decisions.
We are witnessing the negation of Judeo-Christian thought. In the
tradition of Western thought, a person has intrinsic value by the simple
fact of being a human being.
The Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 2 that rights apply
to all without any distinction of any kind; in this instance, however,
the human being has "value" according to his physical and psychic
The moment it is thought that, given his conditions he has "no
value," then he is eliminated; in sum, anyone can decide to kill him.
Q: There is talk of the
re-emergence of the eugenic mentality.
Father Miranda: This eugenic
mentality is already applied with the practice of abortion. If there had
been a diagnosis that had discovered the sickness during the pregnancy,
the child would probably never have been born.
As he escaped that control, euthanasia is practiced after the birth.
It is a practice by which human beings are eliminated who are considered
"not valid" — precisely a eugenic practice of elimination of what some
consider to be "defective."
Q: The Roman newspaper La
Repubblica on August 31 stated that the Dutch situation is
"different from Nazi eugenics" because "the Hitlerian doctors eliminated
healthy children by force with lethal injections because they were Jews
Father Miranda: Sadly, the
article published by La Repubblica gives erroneous information.
In the Netherlands too, children are eliminated with lethal injections.
Moreover, the author of the article perhaps does not know that Hitler's
euthanasia program was rigorously reserved for Germans; only later was
it extended to other ethnic groups.
The Nazi program was directed to children born with sicknesses that,
according to its point of view, threatened physical integrity.
The first case of euthanasia was practiced on a boy who had a
harelip. It occurred at the request of the parents who, fearing that he
would have an unhappy life, asked the doctors of the Hitlerian regime
for help; they advised euthanasia.
ZENIT is an International News Agency based in Rome whose mission is
to provide objective and professional coverage of events, documents and
issues emanating from or concerning the Catholic Church for a worldwide
audience, especially the media.
Reprinted with permission from Zenit — News from Rome. All rights
Father Miranda, dean of the School of Bioethics of the Regina
Apostolorum Pontifical University, represented the Catholic Church on
UNESCO's International Bioethics Committee, entrusted with writing a
Declaration on Universal Norms of Bioethics.
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