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April 11, 2005

Culture of Death « Social Issues »

Over the weekend, I was taken to task by my friends for using the term "Culture of Death" in relation to Europe's current society.

I had difficulty defining the term, so the criticism was probably justified. [grin]

But here's an example of it.

Now, Drudge attributes this to "liberals". One thing I've learned through blogging is that you can't really do that...there are too many liberals with too many different views to say things like that. This was one guy doing something he thought was clever, not a leading liberal voice or liberal group.

But here's my point: the "Culture of Death" is the shorthand term for the judgment that "death" is not an absolute, i.e., some deaths can be less bad, and so can be considered roughly equivalent to extreme inconvenience.

For instance, no matter what your opinion of abortion, it cannot be denied that the fetus is a unique genetic sequence (and thus not merely a part of the mother's body), and if left alone, it will grow into a person. The question is whether it is a person or not. The question is when life actually begins, so you can determine whether an abortion ends it or not. But the fetus unquestionably possesses a life force.

The "Culture of Death" sees that life force as incomplete, as-yet-unformed, and so the inconvenience of the pregnancy on the woman is greater than ethical considerations of stopping that life force.

In the same way, the "Culture of Death" looks at the quality of life of disabled individuals and weighs it against the inconvenience of caring for that individual, then makes a judgment as to the advisability of stopping that life force. Other factors include the awareness of the individual, the ability to communicate, the prognosis of recovery, the cost of sustaining life.

I'm not absolutely disdainful of these considerations. I just don't adopt them myself, for the most part. I could probably be criticized because if someone is terminally ill and in extreme pain, I think it is justifiable to give them a risky dose of painkiller to ease their suffering, even if it might kill them (although the decision should rest with the individual, not the family or the doctor...I would prefer lucid agony to pain-free unconsciousness). I could imagine at least one scenario in which I would be willing to kill a friend to end hopeless suffering: if they were being burned alive and there was no hope of extinguishing the flame or rescuing them, I would probably put a bullet in their head for them.

But I am concerned at least, and disdainful at worst, of the attitude/thinking that great inconvenience can ever justify stopping a life force. I am concerned/disdainful because these judgments are made by people in good health, or people still young, or people who have never had short, people who can only project what they might feel in a hypothetical situation, and then saying that since they wouldn't want to be in that situation, it is better to just end the life of the subject.

We are seeing more and more discussions of the advisability of "Culture of Death" judgments. It is chilling to me that ABC News can even ask if it is okay. I find it orrific that doctors are deeply involved in pushing for more euthanasia and assisted suicide protocols/laws. Isn't their primary oath: "First, do no harm"...? How can you justify euthanasia and assisting someone in killing themselves to not be harm?

With the general acclaim for the movie "Million Dollar Baby" among Hollywood elites, with Oregon's Assisted Suicide law (other states may have one, too; I'm just aware of Oregon's), with the arguments and intransigence of the Florida State Supreme Court regarding Terry Schiavo, it is clear that the Culture of Death is strengthening a foothold here in the United States, and it is riding the coattails of abortion rights.

Maybe there is justification for the Culture of Death. I may end up changing my mind as I age and deal with infirmity and the inability to care for myself. But I don't anticipate changing my basic attitudes:
Where there is life, there is hope.
You can grow accustomed to anything.
Stubborn Endurance is rewarded with Strength and Character Growth.
Life is to be savored, at all levels of quality.
There is always something to be learned, or shared, or given.

I really do disdain the thinking that says "death is a solution to pain/inconvenience". I think there is a strong element of that in the advocacy of assisted suicide, euthanasia, and abortion.

Posted by Nathan at 11:34 AM | Comments (0)
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