On January 27th, the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, ShoutMyStory.org executive director Cynthia Morales emailed supporters about the connection between the Nazi concept of “lebenswurtes leben” (life unworthy of life) and the recommended abortion of preborn babies diagnosed with “incompatible with life” conditions. Strikingly, the same “lebenswurtes leben” concept sounds eerily similar to the ideology of the “right-to-die” movement now active across the United States and throughout Europe.
Of course, assisted suicide advocates would be quick to claim that the Nazi euthanasia movement — which first led to the killings of mentally or physically impaired German children, then mentally ill adults, then mentally or physically impaired concentration camp inmates, then Jews, Poles, gypsies, and others — was coercive. The right-to-die movement is all about advocating “freedom” for “qualified terminally ill Americans” to “live and die according to our own beliefs,” per the website of Death with Dignity, the organization that’s crafted language for virtually every U.S. assisted suicide law on the books. Just as “lebenswurtes leben” was sequentially applied to larger and larger populations of people, right-to-die legislation casts a progressively wider net of “qualified” candidates.
Chillingly, Belgian Federal Control and Evaluation Committee on Euthanasia chairman Wim Distelmans led a group of assisted suicide practitioners to Auschwitz in 2014 (a place he called “inspiring”) because “there is no better place than Auschwitz to ponder the meaning of dignity.” Distelmans went on, “When we deal with euthanasia, we must also come to terms with its opposite. In Belgium we use euthanasia in the original sense of the word: It means ‘good death.’ That’s the problem. We will have to explain over and over that we intend the opposite of what occurred in Auschwitz.”
In reality, Distelmans has personally gained notoriety for euthanizing twin brothers who were going blind, and a transgender man whose sex reassignment surgery did not relieve his gender dysphoria. More broadly, Belgium, which legalized assisted suicide in 2002 and euthanasia for children in 2014, has come under fire for euthanizing children for cases including muscular dsytrophy, brain tumors, and cystic fibrosis.
Live Action News has previously reported on efforts to waive the mandatory assisted suicide waiting period in Hawaii and to expand categories of who qualifies for physician-assisted to include those with disabilities, mental illness, people who simply no longer want to live, and even those who cannot afford life-saving treatment. Live Action News has also reported on a loophole in the Oregon death-with-dignity legislation (on which the rest of the country’s passed and proposed legislation is based) that “allows virtually anyone to seek assisted suicide, even if treatment is available to manage or even cure a medical condition or the medical condition is not the reason a person is seeking suicide.”
As the world resolves to “never forget” the atrocities of the Nazi euthanasia movement, concentration camps, and more, we would do well to read the writing on the wall in our own states and countries. Wherever people are led to believe that suicide is the only “dignified” way to die given one subjective definition of “life unworthy of life” or another, loss of respect for all life — and gradually coercion to condone and even facilitate assisted suicide — are likely to follow.
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