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Slippery Slope of Euthanasia for Children

9/7/2004 - 6:00 AM PST

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Interview With Bioethicist Father Gonzalo Miranda

ROME, SEPT. 7, 2004 (Zenit) - The Netherlands' decision to allow the euthanasia of children could lead to the practice of arbitrarily deciding which youngsters will live or die, warns a leading bioethicist.

On Aug. 30, the Dutch judiciary allowed Groningen's University Hospital to induce the death of children under 12, including newborns, when they are suffering from incurable sicknesses or undergoing unbearable suffering. A 2002 law already regulated the practice of euthanasia in the country.

"Unfortunately, all the concerns that arose in regard to the Dutch legislation on euthanasia are being tragically verified," Legionary of Christ Father Gonzalo Miranda says in this interview with US.

Father Miranda, dean of the School of Bioethics of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, represented the Catholic Church on UNESCO's International Bioethics Committee, entrusted with writing a Declaration on Universal Norms of Bioethics.

Q: To what does the decision refer?

Father Miranda: This measure, which allows the application of euthanasia to all the born, demonstrates that the famous "slippery slope" theory was correct.

Once a principle is established according to which a human being can be killed because he suffers, then logically it extends to all those suffering. If a human being is killed who requests it, it can be applied to all human beings who request it, even if they are not suffering.

When discussion on euthanasia began in the Netherlands and in other countries, many pointed out the danger of sliding toward the worst, and the defenders of the measure said that it would not happen. Instead, many took off in 1993 with the legalization of euthanasia, and then the law came out that extended [it] to children 12 and over.

Despite the opposition of public opinion, just two years after that law, we are already facing its application to all the born, without any kind of informed consent by the interested party.

I would like to stress that it is the voluntary murder of a human being who cannot speak for himself -- the voluntary murder of a human being who cannot express what he is thinking.

Q: John Paul II has often intervened to warn the international community about the dangers of the "culture of death." What "culture" is that?

Father Miranda: It is not saying that our society is thirsty for blood and death; this is not so.

Rather, it is a culture in which death is seen as a solution to problems that we do not know how to handle in another way -- problems that we do not know how to handle because we have lost generosity, the ability to support the one who suffers.

In this case it is obvious: Death is proposed as the solution to children who suffer. The alternative would be to support these children, to help them not to suffer -- and this costs, both economically as well as emotionally.

Q: However, extreme suffering can lead people to ask for death ...

Father Miranda: It is one thing to say, in moments of despair, that one desires death, and this is a human sentiment. It is quite another to say that one will bring about death.

Who can say that your life is not worth living, that the best thing is for you to die? This is not an invocation of death, but of the voluntary murder of the other.

We find the emotional, psychological desire for death even in sacred Scripture.

Jeremiah and Job, overwhelmed by suffering, curse the day of their birth. "Cursed be the day on which I was born! May the day my mother gave me birth, never be blessed! [...] because he did not dispatch me in the womb! Then my mother would have been my grave. ... Why did I come forth from the womb, to see sorrow and pain, to end my days in shame?" [see Jeremiah 20:14-18].

And also: "Why is light given to the toilers, and life to the bitter in spirit? They wait for death and it comes not; they search for it rather than for hidden treasures, rejoice in it exultingly, and are glad when they reach the grave" [Job 3: 20-22].

It is a human sentiment that anyone can have, while here it is Cain who decides to murder his brother.

Now the doctor, together with the parents, might decide to eliminate the children who, according to the former, should not live.

Q: Several press articles report the statements of a Dutch doctor who says that it is a procedure that will be applied with much rigor. What is your opinion?

Father Miranda: The topic is very dangerous because it is about technical rigor, not moral rigor. It means to apply rigorous technical procedures. The Nazis also proceeded to practice euthanasia with extreme rigor.

In the early '90s I was invited to a world meeting of ...

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