I have long thought that eventually, permissive euthanasia would turn into mandatory euthanasia. The obligation might not be a legal obligation in the sense of the police being ordered to go shoot somebody. But if, as seems possible under the Obama medical plan, cost-benefit analysis determines who gets treatment and who doesn’t, then is it not possible that even pneumonia might again become, as they used to say, “the old man’s friend”?
But it goes beyond that. Ultimately, it might become as corrupting to society as is abortion. If grandma, or even more the spinster aunt, is weak, losing her grip on reality by degrees, sick a good part of the time, a hassle and expensive to take care of, yet owns property and perhaps has a bit of money, might relatives strongly encourage her to take the “painless way out”? It’s probably happening right now in some places, if we only knew it. Picture that for a minute. Picture an elderly person, otherwise not feeling good and perhaps being depressed, being told by her granddaughter or neice or favorite nephew or even her own child, that it’s time to go. Imagine the feeling of uselessness; of being unloved; a lame deer surrounded by wolves.
I recall how the Comanches (and perhaps other tribes) would put the elderly out into the winter night to freeze when debility made them useless to the tribe. I remember how Eskimos would set an old person out on the ice to float out to sea or perhaps be devoured by a polar bear. Those who did would then divide up whatever items of property the old person had. I remember a time when just about everyone would have thought those things to be heartless; an artifact of more savage people and times. But notwithstanding that some $50 death cocktail is likely preferable to the fangs of a polar bear, human willingness to do either one leaves little to distinguish.
And then there’s Mother Teresa of Calcutta who would go out and find the least appealing and most extreme of the dying, and bring them in to her facility, clean them up, feed them if they could eat, nurse them, simply as an act of love, and so their last earthly experience would be one of love. She did it knowing that she did it to Our Lord, and she did.
Despite all our pretensions and our posturing, we’re no better than savages in many ways.