November 5, 2006

All Things Are Permissible

This is a picture of the late Joey Masella. Joey is driving his cart in the Patriot's Day Parade, an annual event in Laguna Beach, California. Joey was born with a severe skin disease, epidermolysis bullosa. In spite of his disease, Joey was a good friend to many of his classmates and was the first student to be honored by the Thurston Middle School yearbook, which usually is dedicated to a teacher. He was an inspiration to many, and brought light into the lives of many.

If a proposal by the British Royal College of Gynaecology and Obstetrics were in effect when Joey was born, his light never would have shone:
The proposal by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology is a reaction to the number of such children surviving because of medical advances. The college is arguing that “active euthanasia” should be considered for the overall good of families, to spare parents the emotional burden and financial hardship of bringing up the sickest babies.
Source: Times Online.

The language associated with the proposal is scary. Another report refers to "widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns." It's ironic that although one of the arguments of the proponents is that there should be more openness in the discussion of these issues, killing is described not as killing but as "widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns."

Moreover, the "slippery slope" argument of the pro-lifers is conirmed by this:
The college’s submission was also welcomed by John Harris, a member of the government’s Human Genetics Commission and professor of bioethics at Manchester University. “We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the foetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?” he said.
To this, a pro-lifer would no doubt say, "Precisely," but reach an opposite conclusion.

My dismay at this proposed study goes hand-in-hand with a recognition of the terrible suffering that parents and children experience when genetic diseases appear. I question, however, whether this practice is moral at all, and even if it might be in a certain case, whether once permitted it could be confined to "extremely controlled circumstances," as one doctor suggested. Pessimistic as I am both about human nature in general and the state of Western society in particular, I think the slope is very slippery indeed.

The recent debate about killing newborns gained impetus from the Groningen Protocol, a Dutch document that allows the killing of newborns. At the same time, the Europeans react in horror to the execution of murderers, and seem powerless to resist the rise of Muslim extremism among immigrant communities in their own countries. Many of the best Dutch people are emigrating, because they see a black future their own country. If Melanie Phillips is to be believed, the same danger is very real in Britain.

The decline of Christianity in Europe and the rise of a secularist culture has multiple consequences, among them an opening to baby-killing and an inability to resist the encroachment of a hostile religion. We Americans should not crow. We suffer from some of the same ailments. We are further up the same slope, which is getting slicker and seemingly steeper all the time.

Supposedly Dostoyevsky said, through the mouth of a character [Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: Random House, 1950), I, 2, 5; II, 5, 5; IV, II, 6–8 (pp. 79, 313, 760).] "If God does not exist, all things are permissible." Looking at the state of our culture, Dostoyevsky seems prescient.

If we end up having a society in which a Joey could not live even his short, blessed life, because some doctor decided it would be convenient to kill him, we will be the poorer for it.

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