Yesterday the news broke in Holland that a hospital, specifically the Groningen Academic Hospital had begun quietly euthanizing terminally ill babies. Euthanasia for adults who request it has been legal for some time, but now we see it being applied to those who are obviously unable to request it. The hospital has developed guidelines. From the article: “The Groningen Protocol, as the hospital’s guidelines have come to be known, would create a legal framework for permitting doctors to actively end the life of newborns deemed to be in similar pain from incurable disease or extreme deformities.”
Now euthanasia of babies according to this protocol should, the article tells us, only wind up applying to about ten cases a year. Until hospitals quietly start to re-interpret terms like “extreme deformity” and “incurable disease.” Is it too far a stretch to see such doctors defining, say, Down’s Syndrome as an incurable disease, or autism as an “extreme deformity?” Who makes the rules? Who is accountable? Who is to predict and say what is a healthy, good life for a baby, and which is not?
On November 20 I wrote about the dangers of stem cell research. I argued that the worldview that the presuppositions undergirding the push for embryonic stem cell research included a utilitarian view of human life that values human life, much like any other commodity, for its usefulness. The same mindset is at work in this Dutch hospital, and probably in many others. It is a view that human beings do not possess intrinsic dignity, but rather are to be valued for what they can do or contribute to the greater good. In an important essay, philosopher Peter Kreeft describes this view as functionalism. I won’t reproduce the essay here but recommend it to you for further reading. He argues,
“The Functionalism that is the basis of the “Quality of Life Ethic” is morally
reprehensible for at least three reasons. First, it is degrading, demeaning and destructive to human dignity; it treats persons like trained seals. Second, it is elitist; it discriminates against less perfect performers. Third, it takes advantage, it is power play, it is might over right rationalized.”
Why do we oppose the Quality of Life ethic? Because, biblically speaking, human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation, bearing His very image, his imprinateur, in our beings (Genesis 1:27). We are not, as the naturalists claim, a meaningless blob, an amalgamation or particles, the chance result of impersonal forces acting over eons of time. We are not accidents, but formed by a very personal Creator (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1:5, etc.), one to whom we will all answer one day.
Once we take a lower view of human life, the slope is slippery indeed. That’s why we must oppose the culture of death at every turn. We must oppose it not just politically (though we can), but spiritually. We do not simply diagnose the problem, we propose the alterantive: Human beings (YOU) matter to the Creator, possess inherent dignity as a bear-er of His image, and that each life (YOURS!) is endowed with purpose and meaning bestowed by God.