Bioethicist and lawyer Wesley Smith urged pro-lifers to fight against euthanasia with the same urgency as they do abortion Saturday during the National Right to Life Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Smith, an award-winning author whose columns frequently are featured at LifeNews, said pro-life advocates are the reason why euthanasia remains illegal in the United States. But Smith also implored pro-lifers to keep fighting because the push to legalize euthanasia is growing.
He pointed to cases in first-world countries where children are euthanized, doctors are punished for refusing to kill people, and people with treatable conditions are pressured to commit doctor-assisted suicide.
“People, you need to pay attention to these issues beyond abortion,” Smith said.
He described the case of British infant Charlie Gard, whose life support is being removed by court order in opposition to his parents’ wishes. Gard’s parents raised more than $1 million to take him to the U.S. for an experimental treatment, but European courts ruled against them.
“We have cases in the U.S. where people have been forced off life-sustaining treatment when they or their parents want to fight for their lives,” Smith said. “We are in an existential struggle for the future of our culture, and it extends to innocents like Charlie Gard. It extends to people in nursing homes, people with diseases, people with disabilities … who are threatened by the culture of death.”
Smith said the culture of life is being threatened across the world. Belgium now allows children to be euthanized at any age; and the Netherlands euthanizes about 60 people every year solely because of mental illness, he said.
Organ harvesting is being coupled with euthanasia, too. Smith said this is dangerous because people suffering from depression could think they are worth more dead than alive.
In one case in the Netherlands, Smith learned that a mentally ill patient was euthanized and then had their organs harvested and donated. When he looked closely at the details of the case, Smith said he discovered that the patient’s mental illness was self harm.
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“I can think of nothing more dangerous than telling a despairing person, struggling to get by day to day to day, that their deaths have greater value to society than their lives,” Smith said.
“Suicide is being normalized. This is a crisis,” he continued.
He brought up a recent front-page article in the New York Times about people holding suicide parties. He said TV shows aimed at teenagers and young adults now are normalizing suicide, too. Movies like “Million Dollar Baby” and “Me Before You” also promote the idea that some people are better off dead than alive.
The culture of death is expanding to the United States, where five states and the District of Columbia now allow doctor-prescribed suicide, he continued. Thanks to pro-life efforts, bills to legalize assisted suicide failed in 30 other states; but Smith said euthanasia advocates have not given up.
“The other side never stops agitating, never stops educating, never stops meeting with lawmakers and medical leaders,” Smith said. “[Pro-life advocates] should be talking about [euthanasia] in every pro-life meeting you have, not just sometimes, every one.”
He warned that euthanasia advocates may try to get a Roe v. Wade-like decision on euthanasia through the courts.
A Canadian Supreme Court case allowed euthanasia to begin just across the border last year. In Canada, more than a thousand people already have been euthanized, Smith said.
Lives are at risk, and conscience protections are, too. Smith said doctors in Ontario are being forced to choose between performing or referring for euthanasia and giving up their profession. He said he also learned of a doctor in Australia who is being punished for refusing to refer a woman for a sex-selection abortion.
Smith has been advocating for life for many years, but his work became very personal last year when his mother died after struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. He said a euthanasia advocate once warned him that he would change his mind if he saw a loved one suffer from a terrible disease; Smith said he didn’t.
Smith said his mother had “some terrible moments,” but she also enjoyed life. He said she liked watching westerns on TV and talking with her Visiting Angel home care person.
“My mother would smile a big smile because she was getting companionship,” Smith said.
He said society should focus on giving people the best pain relief and comfort care available, and assure them that they are loved and valued. The answer to human suffering is not to end the life of the sufferer, Smith said.
“The answer to human suffering is love,” he said emphatically.