Beneath Layers of Lies: The Surge in Efforts to Legalize Euthanasia
by Sonja Morin
Euthanasia has returned to legislative consideration in Massachusetts, my home state. For as long as I can remember, an attempt to introduce euthanasia into our state laws would rise up every couple of years like clockwork. And every time, the bill would be struck down soon enough, even if it was by a slim majority.
This year’s euthanasia bill campaign feels different: that there is a potential for the euthanasia bill to succeed. The reason? The deceptive language, attitudes, and actions that continue to entrench our society in dehumanization.
“Not My Problem”
Even for a seasoned consistent life ethic advocate, there was much to learn from my two-year stint working in a 276-bed nursing home facility. One of those realizations that haunts me to this day is the loneliness many of the residents experienced. It was so tangible that you could see it in their eyes.
Some of these residents were living in the facility because their relatives had already died. Others were there simply because their families made their ailing or elderly members out to be a burden: not worthy of their time or effort. Too many times, I encountered the same careless attitude in coworkers and visiting staff. It was no wonder that a few residents confided in me that they wondered whether life was worth living in the first place.
Utilitarianism is built into every part of our society. That is, if a person isn’t contributing something deemed “worthy” at every waking moment, they’re just not worth it. This callous attitude has festered in the world of care for the elderly and the sick. The focus isn’t care for the human person as they exist, but expediency. Those who hold this attitude likely wouldn’t say it out loud, but they wouldn’t mind another legal way to erase these “burdens.”
A recent article from the Los Angeles Times highlights the story of Gabriella Walsh, a California woman who died by physician-assisted suicide. When asked about her decision, she declared, “My life, my body, my death.” The similarity between this statement and the “my body, my choice” cry of the pro-choice movement was immediately obvious.
But that’s not the only way pro-euthanasia groups have taken notes from abortion efforts. The overall language used – from words like “autonomy” to phrases like “bodily freedom” and “private decision” – is plastered all over. Such language is repeated so often that it lulls the public into a passive acceptance of euthanasia, without really understanding its implications.
From a media and communications standpoint, this strategy tends to work: something short, repeatable, and gripping that broadly reaffirms socially-accepted attitudes. But how many more will be woefully deceived by this messaging that convinces the masses that it is better for the elderly, sick, and disabled to die rather than exist at all?
Band-Aids for Gaping Wounds
Countless people suffer today because of lack of access to healthcare – from financial barriers, geographic distance, discrimination, or lack of availability. No matter one’s stance on how the healthcare systems in countries are reformed, nearly everyone understands that reform is absolutely necessary.
Live Action recently covered the story of Gwen*, a Canadian woman who struggles with chronic illness. She was seeking out euthanasia because she couldn’t obtain the healthcare she desperately needed. Gwen suffers, not through any fault of her own, but from the failures of a system that is supposed to be based upon care.
A small but emerging portion of the pro-euthanasia movement dares to argue that legalization would help with environmental efforts. They’ve resurrected a centuries-old argument that someone who is consuming resources but isn’t “meaningfully contributing to society” does not necessarily deserve to exist. They falsely place blame on the elderly, sick, and disabled as the main forces of environmental destruction, rather than the corporations and governments that are largely contributing to it.
People widely recognize the importance of caring for the environment and improving access to healthcare. In fact, these issues often go hand in hand: when we are invested in creating a healthier planet, we improve health conditions for ourselves, and vice versa. But just as abortion doesn’t solve misogyny, war doesn’t solve disputes, and destroying homeless encampments doesn’t solve poverty – eliminating humans cannot be a substitute for true social change. When we use other forms of injustice to avoid fully solving issues, we only perpetuate harm.
The pro-euthanasia movement – whether consciously or not – is burying humans out of misguided ideology. The one thing that can stop it in its tracks is the truth: that humans have dignity, and deserve to live free from violence, no matter their circumstances. We might not have all the answers when it comes to solving injustices towards the elderly, sick, and disabled, but we do know that violence isn’t one of them.
Keep alert for such legislation in your states or countries, and take action if there are such proposals.
*Her name was changed for privacy reasons.
For more of our coverage on euthanasia, see:
Figuring out Euthanasia: What Does it Really Mean?