May 28, 2024

Disability and euthanasia

Mahatma Ghandi reputedly said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” We could paraphrase this in a contemporary context: a nation’s right-to-die laws are measured by how it treats the disabled.

Our lead story this week deals with the euthanasia of patients with an intellectual disability or autism in the Netherlands. Four bioethicists suggest that the necessary safeguards are lacking in these cases.

That is bad enough. But they go on to point out that the disabled have to deal with nigh-intolerable suffering for their whole lives. How does legal euthanasia make them feel? In the words of another author, “If society endorses the right of a person to seek physician assistance to end his or her life because of increasing loss of functional autonomy, what does that say about how our society values the lives of people who live with comparable limitations every day of their lives for years on end?”

Michael Cook
All lives are devalued if the disabled are killed