Doctors Have Followed the Hippocratic Oath to Help Patients, But Euthanasia Turns Them Into Killers

Opinion   Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia   Dec 27, 2017   |   1:42PM    Washington, DC

One of the most powerful reasons why people oppose euthanasia concerns the enormous significance of taking a human life. Doctors have historically made a solemn and specific professional commitment to respect the lives of those entrusted to them. But the Hippocratic Oath is in fact somewhat redundant, because the universal code of civilized human conduct, from the beginning of history — written and oral — is founded upon a general prohibition against killing. Whether in the religious formulation, “Thou shalt not kill” or in the first written codes of Mesopotamia (Hammurabi) 4000 years ago, this theme serves as a constant backdrop to the evolution of human social behaviour, culminating in our modern concept of physical security as an essential Human Right.

Clearly then, in the make-up of our highly social species there are natural propensities towards respecting, caring, helping and protecting one another, without which we could never have survived the infancy of our race. But there is also another side to this coin: it also seems that killing comes easily to us, and in fact, much too easily. In our biological origins, we are hunters and warriors. The human separation from other animals is often associated with our tool-making capacity, but our first– and most perfected – tools have always been weapons. In the private sphere, it has proven very difficult to prevent human beings from killing one another, despite recourse to the most extreme forms of punishment. In the public realm, history – not to mention current events – is filled with the proof of a human willingness to indulge in the very worst excesses of aggression and repression: killing on a huge scale to defeat the enemy in war; and (in authoritarian regimes) killing on an even grander scale to eliminate dissent. Moreover, it is demonstrably impossible for such horrors to exist without the collusion and willing cooperation of perfectly ordinary men and women: Horror is thus revealed to be perfectly ordinary.

This is the inescapable human moral condition, long recognized by the wisest among us: that good and evil, love and hatred, assistance and violence, compassion and mayhem, are but a knife’s edge apart; coexistent in every human breast ; capable of expression at almost any time. And, the only rampart which exists — between this and that — (if we exclude the divine), is the exercise of rational will, personal and collective, which allows individuals and groups to deliberately seek out the conditions for peaceful life in society.

Such has always been the sub-text beneath the evolution of what we call “civilization”. People were asked to interiorize and express certain essential human characteristics while sternly repressing others. Every political and religious force was brought to bear. All complexity was avoided with a most clear, simple creed. And despite all disappointments, real progress has indeed been made: Very few people today subscribe to the old subtlety of discourse concerning the rightness of privately killing this or that rival or neighbour ; the days when the Roman Paterfamilias could exercise complete and capricious capital authority over all legal non-persons ( children and slaves ) under his roof — are now long gone; and the infinitely varied informal killings current in our primitive prehistory are (if we except the inexpungable criminal element), even farther back in our historical mirror.

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All this is the result of sober thought based on regret for the past and hope for the future; the result of choice; the result of ever-renewed conviction and tenacity; the result of fixed intent. And after thousands of generations of careful repetition we truly had begun to accept that killing is wrong; to control our own passions and interests; to have confidence, even, that these shared values, defended by the force of law, would protect us, also, from the passions and interests of others.

And then there was euthanasia.

LifeNews Note: This article was published by the Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia.