Time was when pet euthanasia was used as a rational for people euthanasia. The logic went something like this: If we can put a dog or cat out of its misery, why can't we do the same for humans?
[For examples of this sentiment, see the following articles: Pro-euthanasia ads air on Australian TV, Is euthanasia for the living or the dying? and Dutch Euthanasia.]
While the pro-life side appreciated the ever-so-slight acknowledgment that human beings deserve better treatment than dogs and cats (that was the intent, right?), we reject the rationale. Human beings stand above the animal world as imagers of God. (Genesis 1:26-27, 9:2-4; Psalm 8:6-8)
The death of animals is morally neutral, while that of humans requires scrutiny. In Genesis 9:5-6, God made animals accountable for the death of humans, not the other way around.
"Better" treatment of human beings, in our view, involves easing suffering -- through palliative care and hospice ministries that affirm every patient's worth as valuable to God -- not ending it by killing the sufferer. Our LIFT program trains Christians to do that for fellow-church members and others.
So now it's amusing to read about a new twist on the old argument. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, dying pets are receiving palliative care rather than euthanasia. In 'It's Just a Dog. Get Over It.', Jessica Pierce writes about how the line is being blurred between pets and other family members. Owners are shelling out big bucks to provide pets with care from one of the approximately 75 veterinary hospice services available around the country.
"Once euthanasia was the default response to an animal's mortal illness. Not any more. . . . Working together, pet owners and veterinarians can often maintain a good quality of life for an animal long after we might, in past times, have simply euthanized it."
Will this mean the end of the euthanasia-for-people argument? Will euthanasia advocates now say, "If we can give pets life-affirming care like hospice, why can't we do the same for humans?" One would hope so, yet it would be sadly ironic that it would take uber-love for pets to get us to view people from the proper perspective.
It's too late for those who have been legally euthanized in places such as Belgium and the Netherlands. And in Oregon and Washington state. (Click the above links for the latest statistics.) Here's some commentary from those who have digested the figures:
- There have been 5,500 cases of euthanasia in 10 years of legal euthanasia in Belgium. The European Institute for Bioethics raises serious questions about the practice, including how intertwined it is with organ retrieval for transplants. Wesley Smith says Belgium has gone "off the moral cliff."
- The Netherlands prize their euthanasia efficiency, but Dr. Bernard Lo questions the extent of government oversight in a recent Lancet article, (volume 380, issue 9845, pages 869-870, 8 September 2012, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61128-3). Alex Schadenberg says euthanasia there is "out of control."
- The Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation bemoans the steady increase in numbers of physician-assisted suicides in Oregon and the lack of transparency in the process. (This seems to be a common theme.)
- Washington is the latest arrival to the euthanasia scene, but it appears to be surpassing Oregon in numbers, according to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church.
Postscript: Get ready for the next assault on the sanctity of human life -- plant rights! See Pea Personhood? and, for the inevitable twist, Why Did We Ever Start Calling Patients “Vegetables?”
This just in (3/8/13): Someone in the UK says disabled children are too costly, and should be 'put down.' Horrible! See also We Already 'Put Down' the Disabled!