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May 10, 2005

Euthanasia: The Power To Kill

Topics: Commentary

"'Euthanasia' is an act most often practiced on our pets," Ken Concannon begins his column in the Arlington Catholic Herald.

We have them "put down," or "put to sleep," or "euthanized" when they become so ill that there is no likelihood that they will ever get better. We tell ourselves that we deliberately end their lives to end their suffering. And maybe we do, [but] then again, a crippled and incontinent German Shepherd in your house can be incredibly inconvenient. When we end his suffering we also end ours, while telling ourselves we're doing it for him.

In the end, it is a matter of power.

Regardless of whether we euthanize our disabled pets to ease their suffering or to end the inconvenience they cause, we do it because our society recognizes euthanizing pets as acceptable behavior. We do it because the lives of animals are not sacred. We do it because they have no inalienable right to life. We do it because we can.

On the other hand, Concannon continues:

Christian tradition, combined with the awful history of the Nazi euthanasia programs of the last century, has taught us that euthanizing human beings is inherently wrong. Human life is considered sacred. We are consequently held to a higher standard when it comes to caring for the weakest among us. We cannot euthanize the sick and the elderly when they become incontinent and are in pain--even to end their suffering. Euthanasia for human beings is illegal almost everywhere.

On the books, that is—scarce consolation to its growing number of victims, for as Concannon reports, "the efficacy of euthanizing human beings is now discussed in university classrooms, in legislative bodies, and in court rooms."

The euthanasia movement is on the rise. It is now legal in Belgium and the Netherlands. Assisted suicide, a form of passive euthanasia, is legal in Oregon. American courts have lately been siding with what Pope John Paul II called the "culture of death." Our courts have recently thwarted federal efforts to undo Oregon's assisted suicide program, and to save a disabled Florida woman from "right to die" activists.

Terri Schindler Schiavo's "awful death" serves as a testament to the deceit inherent in the Culture of Death that is engulfing the West, Concannon concludes.

While euthanasia activists spin euphemisms about the "quality of life" and the "right to die," they are trying to get us to forget that our lives, unlike those of animals, are sacred.

Alas, they are succeeding.

Cross-posted to Life Matters!

Posted by earl at May 10, 2005 7:59 PM

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It's interesting that this article comes from my local Catholic Newspaper--the Arlington Catholic Herald. Another interesting fact is that I had to euthanize my beloved Shelbie (pet Chow Chow) last November. It was the most difficult decision I ever had to make and it was difficult for me because I am AGAINST EUTHANASIA IN ALL FORMS; even if it is for an animal.

I prayed and prayed for Shelbie to go peacefully; she did not. I prayed and prayed not to have to put her down; I had to. She couldn't walk. She couldn't hold her bladder. She couldn't get up, she couldn't do much of anything, but she was alive--just not living. I asked our priest about putting her down, and he told me that it was OK because she was not a human being with a sacred soul. I still feel as though I killed her. Yes, I did it for her own good--not because she was an inconvenience to me. I, however, couldn't lift her and carry her; I couldn't help her live fully. And because of my incompetence, I had to put her down. It was the absolute worst day of my life; and I still cry for her. She was over 15 years old and I had her for 15 years--she was my first pet.

I cannot imagine ever justifying the murder of a human being for the same reasons as I put down my dog. I know how much I hated what I did and I would not have done it if I had been able to care for Shelbie. When we start equating human life with animal life, we become animals. And in the animal kingdom, life is based on survival of the fittest. And in the wonderful world of Euthanasia, life is based on Survival of the Fittest. So, where does that leave us? Are we humans with intellect and sacred lives, or are we animals without compassion and without sacred souls?

Posted by: Tress at May 11, 2005 8:48 AM

I think the distinction between humans and animals is incredibly important. It makes it hard even to talk about a "culture of death" to people who believe there is no difference. And I can see why. If they think killing disabled infants is just the same as putting down an animal, why should they understand why it is horrifying?

This has come out in some particularly heartless comments on my post at


about Charlotte Wyatt. One poster said outright that animals and humans are on a par and that those who cost too much and are suffering should be peacefully killed. Words to that effect.

Posted by: Lydia at May 11, 2005 10:20 AM

Thank you, Earl for this very insightful post. It is something that I have thought may come to the forethought of some around the world who I have been aware are equating humans and animals. But they are not the same....

Tress, I loved what you said: "When we start equating human life with animal life, we become animals....Are we humans with intellect and sacred lives, or are we animals without compassion and without sacred souls?" And that is exactly the question. You put it so well.

I too, had to euthanize my dear pet, a Chihuahua, when I was only in my early 20's. He had been my constant companion for 13 years, and I loved him dearly. It was one of the worst days of my life, however he was as your dear dog was, and was in constant pain. But never, never would I do such to a human, whose spark of life includes an eternal soul and bright intellect. We are entirely different from animals, and we understand exactly what is being done to us, and we are sacred.

Posted by: juleni at May 11, 2005 6:33 PM


Oh my goodness! Heartless is indeed the word...I went over to your site and read the comments, aghast....I have not finished reading over there, yet, but will get to it right away; you have been a brave lone fighter for Charlotte, and we did not even realize. Good on 'ya, dear Lydia....I was pretty ashamed of the commenters' thoughts on others...

Posted by: juleni at May 11, 2005 6:41 PM