In “Theology for Millennials”, on Monday, January 17, 2022, Father Mario Arroyo Martinez shares with Exaudi’s readers his weekly article entitled “The Spiral of Euthanasia.”
* * *
Recently, in Colombia, Victor Escobar and Martha Sepulveda received euthanasia within a few hours of each other. In both cases, they were suffering non-terminal diseases. Proved once again, as in Holland and Belgium, is the so-called “spiral of euthanasia.” In what does it consist? Once human life has ceased to be intangible, and it begins to be valued according to subjective patterns, it falls into a slippery slope, where it is worth, progressively, ever less.
I’ll explain myself. Euthanasia enters in society through extreme situations. There is the typical patient, in a terminal state, who can only suffer stoically waiting for the final end, who is offered the opportunity to shorten his sufferings taking recourse to euthanasia. This practice is de-criminalized thinking always in this extreme case, with which it generates empathy in the society, as the phantasm always remains in the air of thinking “What would I do if I were in his place?” Hence, people prefer to keep all the doors open, as if in a given case, one would find oneself in a similar situation. That empathy with the dying person, which is certainly understandable, does not fail to have something of the sentimental, which distracts the attention from the underlying fact: we have taken away from life its intangible value, its absolute character and, in doing so, it enters in some way in the “laws of the market” where sometimes it can be worth more, but at others less.
The next step to climb through that spiral of death that euthanasia is, is that of chronic sicknesses, as those suffered by the two Colombians recently murdered legally, that is, “compassion” is extended to those that no longer have the hope of being cured, whose prognosis of life isn’t encouraging, as it obliges them to live with the suffering habitually. Obviously, no one wants to be in that situation, but if one is so, does one have the right to suicide? In Colombia, euthanasia is already permitted in these cases, including in psychic illnesses, which implies taking the next step in the spiral of euthanasia: if terminal and chronic patients already can, why not the psychic patients? Very often psychic sufferings produce greater vexations than the somatic. However, in sum, with every step in that line, life is worth less.
Notice that this spiral denaturalizes medicine as, instead of looking for a cure, or at least the improvement of the patient’s vital situation through palliative care, it settles the problem by procuring the patient’s death. The doctor, whose vocation is to cure, to be at the service of life, makes himself available to death. All this, let’s not forget because we have given ourselves the faculty to decide about our life to the extreme of being able to put an end to it, which is curious, as none of us decided to live; we have all received life as a gift.
What is the next step in the spiral of euthanasia? Colombia hasn’t taken it yet, but Holland has, where it can now be applied to 12-year old minors with the consent of their parents, and to 16-year-olds without that consent. Even healthy people can now request it, who are simply tired of living. Here the value of life has been sacrificed on the altar of freedom. Let’s hope that Colombia won’t reach these extremes.
However, not only does the “spiral of euthanasia “ exist but there is also “the paradox of euthanasia.” Of what does it consist? Normally it is libertarian groups that promote euthanasia, arguing that people have the right to take control of their lives and to say “up to here.” However, what has happened, at least in Holland and Belgium, is that often it’s not the patients that decide for euthanasia, but their families and, more frequently, the doctors themselves. What began as an icon of self-determination ended up being the field in which specialists decide up to what point it’s worthwhile to live or not live. It’s been so in Holland and Belgium, where the spiral of euthanasia ends by becoming the paradox of euthanasia. Once we have removed the sacred and hence intangible character of human life, the latter slides down a slope that is increasingly worth less.
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester