Assisted Suicide and the Macabre ‘Logic’ of the Culture of Death
The Deadly Connection Between Moral Issues
Even many people in the pro-life and pro-family movements do not fully appreciate the deep threads that tie together many seemingly disparate social issues. Contraception, abortion, euthanasia, divorce, pornography, same-sex “marriage,” and gender ideology (to name some of the big ones) are not isolated social or spiritual problems. Rather, they are deeply interrelated, and, more importantly, they feed off one another.
There is an interior logic to the Culture of Death, if not short-circuited by a return to perennial truths, that causes it to eat its own tail, so to speak, with death leading to more death, and loneliness and isolation to further loneliness and isolation. This dynamic is something that Human Life International’s founder Fr. Paul Marx, OSB, was keenly aware of. As he wrote in From Contraception to Abortion, “In every country, bar none, contraception has led to abortion, and once abortion, to infanticide, the prelude to full-blown euthanasia. Once the purposes of sex are torn loose from procreation and the family, the homosexual thrust rears its ugly head.”
The Demographic Alarm
One of the most underappreciated areas where we see this perverse logic at work is in the relationship – alluded to by Fr. Marx – between the contraceptive/anti-natal mentality, and the growing demand for legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Many anti-life campaigners believe that they are advocating for legalized euthanasia because they believe in the principles of “freedom” and “autonomy.” What they don’t realize is that in fact they are responding to pressure to find a “solution” to a growing problem that exists in large part only because their ideology created it in the first place – by demolishing the supporting structure of the family and by promoting an anti-natal mentality that has robbed families and society of the children they so desperately need.
Even many mainstream publications and liberal politicians are beginning to wake up to the slew of problems caused by the demographic winter that was conjured by the dual forces of overpopulation alarmism and the sexual revolution. Consider this recent article in Canada’s Globe and Mail, a far-left but widely-read newspaper. In it, author John Ibbison warns about the financial and social tsunami that is looming on the horizon, thanks to that country’s rock-bottom fertility rate.
As the teaser below the headline handily summarizes: “Every generation is having fewer children than the one before it, leaving fewer and fewer people to care for us in our increasingly long lives. It is a crisis we ignore at our own peril.” This crisis is a simple matter of mathematics: many of our social and financial structures have been built upon the presupposition that there will exist a large and healthy population of young people to enter the work force, pay their taxes, and support their aging parents and relatives. But, as it turns out, those young people are no longer there.
Fertility rates in Canada (and throughout the Western world) began to plummet in the early 1960s. From a peak of nearly four children born per woman during her lifetime in the late 1950s, the rate rapidly fell in Canada to the current 1.5 or so. According to Statistics Canada, the last year during which Canada’s fertility rate was at replacement level was in 1971. For nearly five decades, then, the country has had below-replacement-level birth rates. The only thing keeping the country’s population stable is immigration. As Michael Nicin, executive director of Ryerson University’s National Institute on Ageing, told the Globe, “This is a fundamental, paradigmatic shift in society, and for too long we’ve buried our heads.”
As Ibbitson notes, the decrease in fertility has coincided with an increase in longevity, with a result that we now have an aging population of retirees that is also living longer than ever before. Already there are a growing number of couples hitting retirement age and beyond, many of whom (as Ibbitson notes) have not saved nearly enough money to pay for their living expenses and health care until their deaths. Furthermore, they don’t have any children that they can rely on for financial assistance or (much more importantly) the kind of personal care and companionship that are so vital for their happiness and overall well-being. And finally, since everybody else has also stopped having children, neither will there exist the workers and associated tax revenues that will make it possible for the government to pick up the tab for their long-term care.
Is it any surprise, then, that Canada legalized euthanasia a few years ago?
The pro-euthanasia advocates will deny this link, of course. As mentioned above, they think they’re advocating for what’s right based upon a dispassionate principle. They think the “right to die” or “death with dignity” is a human right, and they are the selfless crusaders willing to go the distance to pressure government to protecting that right. In reality, they are merely putting the nails in the coffin of the Culture or Death.
A healthy society does not seek to find ways to ensure that its most venerable and elderly citizens have the easiest path possible towards offing themselves. In a healthy society, there wouldn’t even exist any such demand for euthanasia or assisted suicide, as there now does. In a healthy society, the elderly live out their final days in dignity, surrounded by families and loved ones, embedded within a loving community of relationships that has supported them through life, and is there to support them as they pass on to the next life. Few people in such humane circumstances give much thought to whether and how they should kill themselves.
However, within a society that has built itself on the principle of radical autonomy, explicitly repudiating the centrality of relationships of dependence and love, above all those that exist within the family, the inevitable result is a growing number of isolated, lonely, embittered, and suffering elderly. If that society has also enthusiastically embraced utilitarian and consumerist values, in which the worth of a life is judged by its levels of pleasure or social utility, then the result is that those same elderly become viewed as – and even more pernicious, view themselves as – dead weight, costing others money, time, and mental energy that they don’t have to spare. In other words, if there is now a demand for euthanasia and assisted suicide, it is only because the Culture of Death first created that demand, by embracing contraception, anti-natalism, abortion, and divorce.
Nobody that I know of is explicitly pushing for euthanasia and assisted suicide as a cost-saving device. However, in those nations where euthanasia has been legalized, there are a myriad of macabre tales of elderly individuals being pressured into opting for euthanasia, often by overwhelmed and underpaid long-term care staff who are fighting for limited pools of government funding. It’s the logic of the thing. A single elderly patient could end up costing the government hundreds of thousands of dollars if they happen to pull through this current health crisis and go on to live for another five or ten years; why not just encourage them to put an end to their suffering once and for all right now, and sign on the dotted line?
As I wrote in this same column last year:
During a papal audience with Pope St. John Paul II in 1979, Fr. Marx offered his insights with the saintly pope saying that “once contraception is widespread, the rest is predictable. In every country contraception always leads to massive abortion.” He further emphasized that “once you have contraception and legalized or widespread abortion, birthrates fall; nations collapse; young people follow their parents in the abuse of sex; and increasing numbers live together without the benefit of marriage.” As if capable of looking into the future, Fr. Marx also discussed the intimate link between contraception, abortion, and euthanasia. For “if you can kill before birth, why can’t you kill after birth? So, euthanasia is inevitable.”
The Slippery Slope
Not only is euthanasia in some sense “inevitable”, or at least the logical consequence of embracing contraception and anti-natalism, so too is the gradual expansion of euthanasia once accepted. The “slippery slope” phenomenon has been well attested to in the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been extended even to people suffering from mental illnesses. In the Netherlands it would be illegal for a severely depressed person to shoot themselves, but perfectly legal for him to give himself a lethal injection if the poison is provided by a licensed doctor at taxpayer expense. This is the double-think we are increasingly called upon to blithely accept.
Pro-euthanasia activists always claim that they only wish euthanasia to be legal in a select few, “extreme” circumstances; but if recent experience is any indication, those “extreme” circumstances turn out to be very many indeed. Already, a court in the Canadian province of British Columbia has ruled that a requirement in the recently-passed Canadian euthanasia/assisted suicide law that patients requesting euthanasia be facing a “reasonably foreseeable” death is unconstitutional. It was only in 2016 that the Canadian Supreme Court suddenly “discovered” the right to assisted suicide and euthanasia in the constitution. And now, just three years later, another court has somehow discovered a “right” for people who aren’t dying to ask doctors to help kill them! Unless pro-life and family Canadians and disability advocates mount a strenuous opposition, this will undoubtedly only be the beginning: it will only be a matter of time before those suffering from depression, dementia, and other non-terminal illnesses will be deemed “eligible” for, and (subtly or not-so-subtly) pressured into euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Speaking of the macabre interior “logic” of the Culture of Death: it turns out that in Canada there has been a big boom in the number of organ “donations.” And who are these organs coming from? From people who have legally killed themselves or been killed by doctors. The mainstream media thinks this is a wonderful thing. In reality, however, this the monstrous outcome of the Culture of Death: elderly or ill patients who, according to utilitarian standards, have outlived their “usefulness,” being told they can do something “positive” by helping another person with their organs if they would just put a premature end to their miserable existences. And, of course, it is a great benefit that the organs in these cases are so wonderfully “fresh.” This is the Culture of Death in action. Death leads to death.
Wonderfully written, Father. You (as Father Marx before you) understand the interconnectedness of these social/moral problems and have conveyed them here most succinctly. Should be required reading for all people of faith and loudly (and frequently) heard from the pulpits.
Bravo. Keep up the good fight.
Dear Fr. Shenan,
A well-researched article. Thank you for showing us where the pernicious culture of death is leading to.