To many my father came across as a serious, unapproachable Army Colonel. Yet, within this admirable leader was a kind-hearted teddy bear. During the last five years of his life, this 6’2″ gentle giant, dealt with multiple health problems boiling down to his final 18 months bedridden and withering below 100 pounds.
At the time, I was the mother of five small children and felt a need to adjust and juggle things so I could be with him as much as possible. That required sacrifice for all my family members. Yet through that sacrifice and time together, our bond became stronger, and we saw and learned things we could not have learned in any more profound way. We shared tender conversations and we watched this hero take on difficult challenges with new levels of courage. In years since I have pondered the conversations, lessons learned and moments shared. I don’t doubt, if given a choice to end his life before all that occurred – to make the sacrifices and endure that pain – or have that irreplaceable experience together, we would all choose the latter, again and again.
Unfortunately, not everyone views those challenging times near the end of a loved-one’s life the same. Some don’t view the distinct challenges of even a younger loved one’s illness, as an opportunity to serve and grow, or get to know family and friends in new, bonding and memorable ways. Today, sadly, as Shannon Wixom shares in another “don’t miss” article, more and more countries around the world are tossing aside the value of life by legalizing the early death of loved ones, erasing the opportunity for the tender growth that occurs as we take on life’s challenges to their natural end. Let’s not forget the value of all stages of life.
Forward for life and family,
Wendy Wixom, President
Where is Your Country on the Slippery Slope of Euthanasia?
By Shannon Wixom
Abortion and Euthanasia are two sides of the same coin. That two-sided coin has maneuvered its way into countries all around the world, using feel-good sounding phrases to advance its operations of death. For euthanasia (the practice of intentionally ending a life in the name of relieving suffering), popular phrases are “Medical Assistance In Dying” or “MAID,” “right to die,” “death with dignity,” “right to die with dignity,” “voluntary assisted dying,” “self-determined dying,” and the list goes on.
Abortion and euthanasia both gained their initial foothold in a state or country by first decriminalizing doctors and presenting their cases as rare: only in instances of rape, incest or life-threatening situations (for abortion), or for terminally ill adults who are in great pain (in the case of euthanasia).
But activists never stop there. Both practices have made considerable ground by promoting themselves as human rights issues, citing dignity, privacy and autonomy. Ironically, neither can use the first human right, “right to life,” to advance their practice. Nowadays abortion is promoted for any and all reasons up to a baby’s birth (and even after), and euthanasia/assisted dying has been expanded to children, the mentally ill, the homeless, and to reduce government spending on social programs.
What is clear is that abortion and euthanasia both have slippery slopes. Once a government compromises with activists, the activists don’t stop until they have radically changed the country’s core values. Do you know where your country is on the slippery slope of euthanasia? Let’s take a look at how it is gaining ground around the world:
- Canada gets first place for the most radical euthanasia laws in the world, along with being the fastest country down the slippery slope. In 2016, Canada legalized euthanasia, which they dubbed Medical Assistance In Dying (MAID), and promptly went from 1000 deaths in 2016 to over 10,000 in 2022, a growth of 1000% in six years! They have moved quickly from “terminally ill only” to facilitating suicide for the mentally ill and homeless, offering euthanasia instead of veteran benefits, and allowing churches to host assisted suicide ceremonies. Health Canada has financed an activity book to teach children about euthanasia, and retailers have made commercial ads for assisted suicide, which has been redefined as a “medical practice”. The Canadian media has also written articles encouraging MAID for substantial savings across Canada’s health-care system.
- Mexico still outlaws euthanasia, though Mexico City enshrined a “right to euthanasia” in its new Constitution, which came out in 2018. Activists and politicians are pushing for all states to pass laws decriminalizing it, using U.S. states as its mentors. In 2018, the current president, Lopez Obrador, announced a new integrated federal health system, in which he said he is in favor of assisted dying.
- In the United States, there are now ten jurisdictions where legislation has legalized euthanasia: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington DC. In Montana it was legalized via court ruling. Forty states still consider it illegal. Bills like HB 1281 in Washington are trying to expand existing euthanasia laws.
Due to the influence of the Catholic Church, many countries in Latin and South America have resisted the progressive push of abortion and euthanasia. However, activists have been busy changing minds. Colombia (see below) has decriminalized it, and activists are working and hoping for a domino effect in other countries. Argentina, Chile and Uruguay have tested legislation to make it legal.
- Colombia changed its laws in 2022, making it the first South American country to decriminalize assisted suicide. Like other countries, it is marketed as “the right to die with dignity.”
- Austria legalized assisted suicide via court ruling in 2022, modeling their laws after Switzerland.
- Belgium was close on the heels of the Netherlands by legalizing euthanasia in 2002. Then in 2014 they legalized it for children as well. Currently about 1 in 50 deaths is from euthanasia. Belgium’s high court is actively engaged in trying to make the laws more permissible, and it is widely assumed that a large number of cases are not being reported at all.
- Eastern European countries all outlaw euthanasia and in general the public has a lower acceptance of the practice when compared to Western countries. There is some thought that this is due to lack of prosperity, and being used to hardship and sacrifice. In prosperous countries, many people tend to feel they have a “right” not to experience hard things.
- France’s highest court rejected a challenge to its laws to legalize assisted suicide at the end of 2022. However, last year France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, also indicated that he wants to legalize euthanasia, and is committed to having the issue debated until it gains enough public acceptance to change the country’s laws. Last month over 20,000 people marched to oppose the country’s push toward extreme abortion laws and legalizing euthanasia.
- In 2020, Germany’s highest court deemed “…unequivocally that the prohibition of assisted suicide services does not reconcile with fundamental rights and principles enshrined in the German constitution.” This decision had the effect of reversing an existing law and enshrining the “right” to assisted suicide into law. A survey taken of General Practitioners (GPs) indicated that German history (when approximately 300,000 people with disabilities were euthanized during the Nazi regime) plays only a minor role in shaping today’s views on euthanasia.
- Italy had its first case of assisted suicide in 2022. Though it is still a controversial issue, opposed by the Catholic Church and many politicians, a 2019 decision by the Constitutional Court opened the door for the practice.
- Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia in 2001 by decriminalizing it so doctors would not be prosecuted for terminating a person’s life, providing they were convinced that the patient’s request was voluntary and well considered and that the patient was facing ‘‘unremitting and unbearable’’ suffering. Today Dutch activists label euthanasia “dying with dignity”, which suggests that allowing death to occur naturally is somehow not dignified. In November, 2022 the health minister proposed a draft law that will allow euthanasia for children under 12. Since 2020, doctors have also been able to conduct assisted suicides on patients with severe dementia without fear of prosecution, even if the patient has no longer expressed an explicit death wish. A radical right-to-die group has recently challenged the ban on non-physicians helping people to die. If they succeed, they will eliminate one of the few guardrails the Netherlands has on their euthanasia laws.
- Portugal’s top court recently blocked a second attempt by the parliament to decriminalize assisted suicide. The court declared that the parliament’s definition of medically assisted death was unconstitutional, because it wasn’t “clear, foreseeable, and controllable.” Advocates have vowed to modify the law to meet that criteria.
- In Scandinavian countries euthanasia remains illegal, though studies indicate that support for it is high in the general population and amongst nurses.
- Spain’s parliament voted in 2020 to allow euthanasia under certain conditions, making it the fourth European country to decriminalize euthanasia.
- Switzerland has allowed assisted suicide since 1942, as long as the motives aren’t “selfish.” This has brought about a surge in non-profit organizations. Interestingly, the country says all forms of euthanasia are against the law. How is assisted suicide different than euthanasia, you ask? A great question, seeing that these terms are frequently interchangeable. According to activists, assisted suicide is different from euthanasia because the person dying requests help to die, and administers the lethal injection themselves, whereas in euthanasia, someone else administers the lethal injection to the person.
- United Kingdom is currently the center of much activism and debate, as it has held out longer than other Western European countries. Activists anticipate that this year the House of Commons will launch an inquiry into legalization of euthanasia in some form. They also see the British Medical Association’s adoption of a “neutral stance” on euthanasia to be promising. A slim majority of its members are in favor of laws allowing it.
Africa currently has no countries where euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal, but there has been court pressure in South African to set a precedent whereby euthanasia can be legalized. CitizenGo Africa, a catholic activist organization, has initiated online campaigns to stop the discussions around legalizing euthanasia, stating that “…assisted suicide will not only open a pandora’s box on murder and death on demand but also will place South Africa as a country that disregards human dignity.”
Most of Asia has not legalized euthanasia, though it is currently being debated in Japan, and laws are being proposed in South Korea, and previously proposed in the Philippines.
- All states in Australia have legalized euthanasia, starting with Victoria in 2019. Despite the pandemic, euthanasia increased 31% in 2022 in Victoria. Those figures have “delighted” the chairman of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board, Julian Gardner. He views them as a “…further indicator of the success of the system.” This is equivalent to a government rating the success of its welfare program by how many people it has on welfare, rather than how many people can get off of welfare. Julian Gardner and his Board are also pushing to expand access by repealing a federal law that bans tele-commuting for assisted death.
- In 2018, the Supreme Court of India declared the right to die with dignity a fundamental right, opening the door for passive euthanasia, which allows for not carrying out medical intervention to save a person’s life.
As with Africa, euthanasia/assisted dying is outlawed in all Middle Eastern Countries. Though that hasn’t stopped activists from promoting it, as you will see from this article out of Egypt.
Where do we go from here?
No matter your views on euthanasia (and its comrades of assisted suicide and assisted death), we should all be concerned at the slippery slope activists are sliding us down. Some proponents in Canada have now realized how progressive policies have led their country to the edge of a cliff, as noted in a new documentary from The Fifth Estate. Dr. Madeliene Li, a Toronto psychiatrist who has helped hundreds of people die, admits: “Making death too ready a solution disadvantages the most vulnerable people, and actually lets society off the hook. I don’t think death should be society’s solution for its own failures.”
As countries grapple with aging populations, an increased demand for palliative care has arisen. It can be convenient for governments, especially those with socialized medical care, to eye euthanasia policies as a way to offset the increased care needs for the mentally and physically ill. We should be alarmed that media outlets are publishing articles like this one in Canada: Medically assisted deaths could save millions in health care spending.
What can you do to stop the spread of euthanasia laws? “Knowledge is power,” as Robin Morgan famously said. Start by researching the laws in your state or country, as the list above is by no means exhaustive, and then find out what activists and/or politicians are doing to introduce new laws or make existing ones more permissible. From there you can connect with other pro-life advocates, or even raise awareness of issues using social media or other platforms.
One mother in Canada waged a social media campaign to stop her son’s euthanasia, and was successful in obtaining over 10,000 signatures calling on the health minister to intervene. Her efforts saved her son’s life. Others have written their legislators to express concern over current or potential laws. In France, 20,000 people marched in Paris in January to voice their life-affirming stance on “…two major legislative battles in 2023 that threaten to add ‘equal access to the right to abortion’ to the constitution and make euthanasia fully legal.”
We should not be willing to sacrifice those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society to the virtue signals of “compassion,” “dignity,” and a misplaced sense of “human rights.” Dignity is defined as being worthy of honor or respect, not as dying without pain, as euthanasia advocates would have us believe. May we value the dignity of human life as precious and worthy of honoring, no matter how we come into the world or leave it. This means holding ourselves and our society accountable to care for each other’s burdens.
Shannon Wixom is the Newsletter Coordinator for United Families International. She earned a B.A. in International Business from Westminster College in 2000 and put aside career aspirations in 2002 to become a full-time mother. Shannon has since felt there is no more rewarding calling than raising her four wonderful children with her husband.