Legalized Euthanasia - An Enemy to Civilized Society

by Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan

Recently on national television Doctor Jack Kevorkian ghoulishly killed a sick man with a lethal injection. He seeks to convince Americans that the government really needs to give doctors, a license to kill the sick if they so wish. For someone who believes in the dignity of human life and that it is a gift from God, legalized euthanasia is terribly wrong. Diminishing respect for the inalienable right to life and the elimination of legal protection for those who are most vulnerable, threaten civilized society.

It is a short step from killing a sick person who requests it, to killing a sick person who has not requested it. In the Netherlands, for example, where physician assisted suicide is permitted, during just one year almost 6,000 people were killed by their doctors without their request or even their permission. Once the idea of killing someone sick is good, then very quickly it will be applied to people with disabilities, the elderly, those who are unhappy or depressed.

It was Hitler who gave the authority to doctors in 1939 to terminate disabled people and by 1941, 200,000 people were killed. Then he started on Jews, dissidents, and others he considered undesirable. He wanted a master race of healthy people made to his own liking and there was no room for the sick, those who didn't measure up to his view of things. Once the idea of killing people is acceptable, then the application of the principle is limitless. And civilized society vanishes.

The Church takes a strong stand against euthanasia because it is an attack on the dignity of human life. It may be presented as a humane response to human suffering but it is really an inhumane response. Persons with disabilities are rightfully fearful of the effect that legalized euthanasia would have on them. They would be strongly pressured to agree to euthanasia just as many elderly and sick people would be. The vast majority of doctors are also opposed to Dr. Kevorkian's plans for solving the problem of pain.

There is a world of difference between killing a sick person and allowing them to die a natural death. The answer to pain and depression is not killing. Rather adequate pain medicine and the support and love of family, friends, doctors, and church people are. Nor are we required to use extraordinary or disproportionate means to preserve the life of a terminally ill person. But to euthanize them would be wrong.

It is probably inevitable that some people will try to push our New Mexico Legislature soon to pass laws that would bring the evil of legalized euthanasia into our state. Let your legislators know that you don't want this to happen in New Mexico. And let us pray for our legislators who soon will be in session in Santa Fe that God will bless them in the important work they do for our State. Let us all be strongly committed to the dignity of human life!

In the Risen Lord January, 1, 1999 Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan

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