By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
(Feb. 26, 2008) In the same month when a prestigious bioethics journal called for the killing of babies born with disabilities and the world’s richest man is quoted as having applauded his mother for killing herself, Pope Benedict XVI categorically condemned all forms of direct euthanasia.
The moment of death “concludes the experience of earthly life,” he said to participants in an international congress sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life entitled, “Close by the Incurable Sick Person and the Dying: Scientific and Ethical Aspects.”
“But through death there opens for each of us, beyond time, the full and definitive life . . . For the community of believers, this encounter between the dying person and the Source of Life and Love represents a gift that has a universal value, that enriches the communion of the faithful.”
This mysterious moment of encounter should draw the community around the dying person and their family to support them as they face the last moments of life, he said. “No believer should die alone and abandoned.”
Contrast the sacred beauty of this position with the coldhearted comments of philanthropist, George Soros, who was quoted in the Feb. 26 edition of Business Day as saying “Death has replaced sex as the taboo subject of our times.” The author recalls how, in 1994, when Soros launched his pro-euthanasia Project Death in America Fund, he proudly mentioned his mother’s membership in the Hemlock Society and her subsequent death by suicide. Soros claimed to have been “disappointed” by his father, who clung miserably to life while dying of cancer.
No less callous is the lengthy report published in the latest issue of the prestigious bioethics journal, The Hastings Center Report, which advocates the killing of newborns with disabilities for “quality of life” reasons. In “Ending the Life of a Newborn,” bioethicists Hilde Lindemann and Marian Verkerk applaud the practice of euthanizing infants who have no chance of survival, who may survive with treatment but with grim prospects for the future, or whose suffering is severe, sustained and cannot be alleviated.
These stark contrasts between Church teaching and the culture of death underscore the mounting pressure within the increasingly utilitarian societies of the west to eliminate people whose lives are deemed to be either too costly or too inconvenient to society as a whole.
As Bishop Eli Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, pointed out in his opening address to the congress, the drive toward euthanasia is the result of perceived population control problems and with an increasing number of elderly who are left with little or no family to care for them at the end of life. As the burgeoning baby boom generation puts increasing strain on the tightening medical resources, and with a lower proportion of working population to sustain their care, the pressure for euthanasia will only increase.
But that does not excuse the deliberate killing of human beings. All society "is called to respect the life and dignity of the seriously ill and the dying", the Pope said. "Though aware of the fact that 'it is not science that redeems man', all society, and in particular the sectors associated with medical science, are duty bound to express the solidarity of love, and to safeguard and respect human life in every moment of its earthly development, especially when it is ill or in its terminal stages."
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How did the culture of death get this far? See “The Faces of Death” with Donald DeMarco, Ph.D. in our store at www.womenofgrace.com/catalog