Tag archives: Human Dignity

The UK Is at a Crossroads of Conscience Concerning Assisted Suicide

by Arielle Del Turco

September 16, 2021

A bill proposed in the Scottish Parliament would legalize physician-assisted suicide, adding Scotland to a growing list of countries that allow the practice. What the Scottish Parliament eventually decides to do with the bill will reveal something about the conscience of the nation. Will Scots choose to tell their fellow man their lives are worth living, or not?

Liam McArthur, a Liberal Democrat member of the Scottish Parliament, proposed the bill, which would allow terminally ill patients thought to have six months or less to live to choose to end their lives. All forms of assisted suicide are currently illegal across the United Kingdom (UK), but recent polling suggests the UK public is increasingly favorable towards the practice.

Critics of the bill from the medical field say that policies allowing for physician-assisted suicide fundamentally reorient the purpose of medical care. In July, 200 medical professionals signed an open letter opposing the bill, saying, “The shift from preserving life to taking life is enormous and should not be minimised. The prohibition of killing is present in almost all civilised societies due to the immeasurable worth of every human life.”

The bill in the Scottish Parliament is part of a wider push for assisted suicide across the United Kingdom. Baroness Meacher introduced a bill in the UK Parliament in May that would similarly legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, demonstrating a failure to acknowledge that any person—even those who are terminally ill—who seeks to end his life is in need of love, support, and treatment for depression.

UK Bishop John Sherrington warned of the dangers of a gradual expansion of the criteria by which one might be eligible for physician-assisted suicide. Indeed, other European countries have slipped further down this dangerous slope. For example, Belgium and the Netherlands allow physician-assisted suicide for psychiatric reasons, even for patients in perfect physical health. Such an allowance makes it clear that a state’s endorsement of assisted suicide is really an endorsement of all suicide. Not surprisingly, both countries have seen a sharp rise in assisted suicide in recent years.  

A major victory for proponents of assisted suicide was announced on September 14 when the British Medical Association adopted a “neutral” stance on the issue when they had previously been against it. The vote was narrow—with 49 percent of the association in favor and 48 percent against the “neutral” stance—but the effects will be substantial. Members of Parliament had often pointed to the medical community’s opposition to assisted suicide when Parliament voted against it previously.

Proponents of assisted suicide say they are motivated to end physical suffering. But the reality is that many patients who choose assisted suicide do not cite pain as the primary reason. The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund reports:

[T]he overwhelming majority of the people in Oregon who have reportedly used that state’s assisted suicide law wanted to die not because of pain, but for reasons associated with disability, including the loss of autonomy (89.9 percent), the loss of the ability to engage in activities that make life enjoyable (87.4 percent), the loss of dignity (83.8 percent), and the loss of control of bodily functions (58.7 percent). Furthermore, in the Netherlands, more than half the physicians surveyed say the main reason given by patients for seeking death is “loss of dignity.”

The legalization of assisted suicide is intrinsically linked with devaluing the lives of people living with disabilities. While the reasons many people choose assisted suicide are not related to pain and suffering, they are related to struggles people with a disability face every day. Although not everyone with a disability has a terminal illness, everyone with a terminal illness eventually develops a disability. Society cannot condone those with terminal illnesses killing themselves without simultaneously condoning those with disabilities killing themselves. The message to those with disabilities is loud and clear: a life with a disability is not worth living. 

In addition, a 2007 study about assisted suicide patients in the state of Oregon found that 45 percent of assisted suicide patients made that choice out of fear of becoming a burden to their families. Thus, assisted suicide does not primarily serve to end suffering, as its advocates would have us believe.

Elderly patients, especially those who fear being a burden, are vulnerable to manipulation or family pressure, and it can be difficult to comprehensively safeguard against this. Even knowing that assisted suicide is an option can pressure some people into choosing death if they think they will become a future burden to their family or society. Instead of offering them assisted suicide, these concerns should be met with assurances that their lives are worth living and that we are prepared to love and support them to the end.

At its core, assisted suicide promotes a false compassion. It benefits caretakers or families who prefer not to observe or care for someone experiencing trials at the end of their lives, rather than the patients themselves. We ought instead to exercise true compassion, the root of which means to “suffer with.”

Even if assisted suicide was primarily utilized to end suffering, it focuses the efforts of doctors, medical professionals, policymakers, and others toward the wrong goal. The goal ought not to be ending human suffering at all costs. In a broken world, suffering will always be with us.

An appropriate goal that truly treats humans with dignity is to love people well by providing everyone with the best medical care, emotional and spiritual resources, and community support possible until their lives come to natural ends.

Doctors should be focused on healing patients and enabling them to live as well as they can for as long as they can. Premature death is not an equally valid option in the category of health care—rather, it sidesteps health care entirely.

The Scottish Parliament will debate the issue this fall, and the UK House of Lords will debate its bill later this year. One thing is for sure—this issue will test the conscience of the people. Concerned individuals should reach out to their members of Parliament about the dangers of assisted suicide and the value of all human life.

Those in favor of assisted suicide have co-opted the phrase “death with dignity,” but they fail to recognize that human dignity cannot be taken away by life’s circumstances.  It is because human beings have dignity that all people must be loved, supported, and cared for until natural death.

Religious Freedom is a Matter of Human Dignity

by Arielle Del Turco , Mary Szoch

May 4, 2021

A new report by Aid to the Church in Need found that religious freedom was not respected in 32 percent of the world’s countries. Furthermore, approximately 5.2 billion people live in countries that experience serious violations of religious freedom, including populous countries such as China, India, and Pakistan. Christians in all three countries face a certain amount of risk for simply living out their faith in the public square. 

Such concerning numbers warrant attention. Yet, we can tend to take concepts like “religious freedom” for granted and fail to grasp the full significance of this fundamental human right.

At its core, religious freedom is the freedom to choose and change one’s religion and to live in agreement with those beliefs. Attacks on religious freedom target one’s conscience—the very core of their being, making it uniquely important that religious freedom be protected.

Protecting religious freedom is essential not only because it is a fundamental human right but also because it is a vital component of respecting human dignity.

Humans are inherently drawn to seek out answers to life’s biggest questions and to find meaning beyond this temporal existence. As a being with an innate sense of right and wrong, man is led to continuously search for truth. Seeking truth is an expression of freedom, which is what makes man unique.     

While man cannot be forced to contemplate truth, humans are unique precisely because no other creature has the ability to do so. Though some may choose not to embark on the quest to find truth—all men have a right to do so. Allowing a person to live according to his pursuit of truth is fundamental to acknowledging that person’s participation in the human species—respecting the search for truth is foundational to respecting a man’s dignity. To do otherwise would be to treat man as less than human.        

Man’s determinations regarding truth lead to both interior and exterior expressions of deeply held beliefs. While the path to discovering truth is certainly, at times, a personal journey—it is not exclusively so. The connection with others who are also pursing truth is a natural and necessary component of this journey. Thus, the answer to the question, “what is truth?” is often found through religion.

For Christians, the concept of Imago Dei, taken from Genesis 1:27, refers to the fact that every human person is created in the image of God—who is Truth. Because we are created in the image of Truth, we long to find truth.  

While only Christians identify this search for truth as a component of being made in the image of God, this reality extends to people of all faiths as well as those of no faith. All people, because they are made in the image of God, possess inherent worth and deserve to be treated as such.  

For a government to fully affirm the dignity of the human person, it must allow individuals to live out their faith in the public square according to their conscience without government restrictions or social harassment. As James Madison expressed, man’s duty to search for truth, man’s duty to God, comes before man’s duty to government; thus, the government has the duty to respect man’s pursuit of truth.

Christians should advocate for religious freedom for all people because any effort to coerce individuals to believe or abandon any faith violates the conscience of a precious person created in God’s image who is deserving of respect.

In the United States, we are fortunate to have robust constitutional protections on religious freedom and founding documents that affirm basic rights. The Declaration of Independence recognizes the God-given equality of each and every human person, and the “unalienable rights” that flow from that. Let’s pray that human dignity is advanced through the expansion of religious freedom to people of all faiths in all countries of the world.

To save the life of the mother

by Family Research Council

December 19, 2014

To save the life of the mother.” It’s one of the conundrums that advocates of elective abortion use to justify a woman’s decision to compromise the health or end the life of her unborn child in favor of protecting her own. But while ethicists and advocates may discuss and debate the relative morality of these decisions, most of us look in awe when a mother puts her own life on the line, in order to protect her unborn child.

The stories are often tragic and complex. For some, it may be the fatal decision to decline chemotherapy to address an aggressive form of cancer. But for some, like Darlene Pawlik, the prospect of an abortion was angrily presented as the only safe alternative to her own (likely violent) death at the hands of a small time organized crime boss, the father of her child. Ms. Pawlik’s story reads like the script of an excruciating, modern, R-rated Dickens novel. She herself was conceived during a brutal rape and sexually abused as a young child. By 14 years old, she was dabbling in drugs and alcohol and sold into prostitution. Before she reached legal adulthood, Ms. Pawlik found herself sold hundreds of times, bought by local businessmen, a city councilman, and a candidate for sheriff in her small city.

Purchased as a “house pet” by a local crime boss, Ms. Pawlik found herself pregnant and given an ultimatum—face an abortion or he’d kill her. After a vivid dream about the impending abortion, Ms. Pawlik fought—quietly and tenaciously—to leave her captor and keep her child. With the help of a social worker, Ms. Pawlik faked an abortion so she could leave the lifestyle. She reached a new home and began a new, restored life and eventually became a nurse, business owner, married mother of 5 children, and pro-life advocate.

Ms. Pawlik’s story is instructive. In this season of advent—of penitence, longing, and of hope—what is your calling?

-Will you educate yourself on the dangers and prevalence of human trafficking? Will you consider redirecting or enhancing your vocation to protect vulnerable individuals like Ms. Pawlik?

-Will you support the local ministries of your church, pregnancy care centers, or other nonprofits in your area?

-Will you take the time to steer your well-intended friends away from organizations that profess to help, but push vulnerable individuals towards more abortion and greater sexual license, brokenness, and pain?

-If you, or someone you know, struggle with addiction to pornography, will take your struggle seriously? Will you acknowledge the links between pornography and human trafficking and fight for healing and restoration and listen to the voices of those who have survived?

-Will you notice the young woman with a frightened look in her eyes, cowed by a much older man, hovering in her vicinity? Will you take the time to learn the signs of a trafficked individual, and the trafficker? If you see something, will you say something?

Will you pause not only to save the life of the child, but the life of the mother?

Pro-Life: Right Policy, Good - and Imperative - Politics

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 2, 2014

In a post-election article in Politico, James Hohman describes what he terms “fault lines” as the 2016 Republican presidential field emerges. Among the issues he mentions are Common Core, NSA eavesdropping, immigration, Medicaid expansion and gay marriage. Noticeably absent: abortion.

Why? One reason is that advocates of protecting unborn children and their mothers from a predatory abortion industry are winning. According to the Guttmacher Institute (ironically, once the research arm of the country’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood), “In 2013 alone, 22 states enacted 70 antiabortion measures, including pre-viability abortion bans, unwarranted doctor and clinic regulations, limits on the provision of medication abortion and bans on insurance coverage of abortion. However, 2013 was not even the year with the greatest number of new state-level abortion restrictions, as 2011 saw 92 enacted; 43 abortion restrictions were enacted by states in 2012.” Guttmacher also notes that by mid-2014, “13 states (had) adopted 21 new restrictions that could limit access to abortion.”

The implications of these new laws and regulations are profound: As noted by Catholic Family Association president Austin Ruse, “How effective have some of these state legislative efforts been? A few years ago, Texas had 40 abortion clinics. Now, it has less than ten and counting.” Put another way, thousands of unborn children in the Lone Star state will be welcomed into life and their mothers defended against the abortion industry’s exploitation.

Although Barack Obama’s commitment to unrestricted access to abortion-on-demand is almost legendary (infamous, more accurately and sadly), the new Republican House and Senate can still pass pro-life bills that not only will set the stage for victories in a future pro-life Administration but which will remind the GOP rank-and-file that they can rely on those for whom they voted to keep their word. A promise to defend life is especially worth keeping in an era when cynicism about politics and politicians is too well-deserved.

A second reason is that the potential contenders for the GOP presidential nomination two years from now are smart politicians: In the Republican Party, abortion is as settled as a difficult issue ever can be, and those vying for the party’s top electoral slot realize they must commit to defending life or fail in their effort to win the nomination. Last month’s election verified this: Brad Tupi of Human Events observes that “Of those voters who said abortion should be illegal, 73 percent were Republicans and 25 percent were Democrats. These results conform to the stated platform positions of the two major parties.” Tupi rightly comments that “voter turnout was abysmal, about 36 percent. This is the lowest turnout since World War II.” However, it’s also noteworthy that those who turned-out last month compose the core of the GOP’s voters, the men and women who will also vote in the 2016 primaries and whose votes will determine the next Republican presidential ticket.

Overwhelmingly and nationwide, Republican office holders are pro-life. All but a handful of the Republican Members of Congress, both House and Senate, are advocates (actively or at least passively) of the sanctity of life from conception until natural death. And as Dave Andrusko writes in National Right to Life News, last month a “diverse field of Republicans (won) in state legislative races; almost all are pro-life.” That’s why, in a lengthy analysis piece, Politico reporter Paige Winfield Cunningham argues that “the GOP victories in the statehouses and governor’s mansions … are priming the ground for another round of legal restrictions on abortion.” Cunningham predicts “a wave of anti-abortion laws” in the states.

We at the Family Research Council will welcome that wave. For those of us committed to protecting lives within the womb and helping their mothers with their little ones, born and unborn, that wave will be more like a cleansing flood. Let it come.

The Pain of Selfishness

by Family Research Council

January 10, 2013

Promoting self-esteem is ubiquitous in today’s culture.  From social media to school classrooms there has been a strong emphasis on the value and worth of the individual.  The problem is this value has been bandied-about so much that people have forgotten that the root of our value does not lie in ourselves but in the fact that we are created in the image of God. 

Dr. Keith Ablow recently pointed out that all this narcissism leads to problems when those illusions of greatness disappear.  He notes that even though many people have become lazier they still rate themselves as exceptional. 

We must remember that while humans have value as beings created in God’s image we are still capable of marring that beauty through our selfishness.  The most beautiful expression of love is giving all you have for others.  Perhaps we should be promoting more greatness through giving and less greatness through gratifying then the next generation could find true fulfillment. 

It’s worth taking a look at Dr. Ablow’s article and reading what a secular psychologist has to say about how, if everything one does is “special,” then nothing truly is special at all.

A Royal Baby or a Royal Fetus?

by Family Research Council

December 6, 2012

I got up at 4 AM to watch the royal wedding last spring. I own a replica of Princess Diana’s, and now Duchess Catherine’s, engagement ring. Two weeks ago, I happily watched a documentary on Will and Kate that I’m pretty sure repeated no more than five cuts of footage for something like two hours. When I found out the Royal Couple was expecting a baby this week, I was so excited that you’d have thought Duchess Catherine was my best friend and had called to tell me personally.

I immediately turned to Twitter, where there were about five trending topics on the matter. I gleefully joined the throng tweeting things like “ROYAL BABYYYYYY!!!! I hope ABC covers the first sonogram!!”

The irony of the world’s (appropriate) joy didn’t strike me until later.

Archbishop Cranmer” addresses the tension between the humanness of Duchess Catherine’s unborn child we acknowledge by our happiness (and use of the word “baby”) and our reproductive health elite’s insistence that, especially at such an early stage, the child is not a person or a baby:

His Grace would like to congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the announcement that they are expecting their first baby. Girl or boy, he or she is destined to ascend the Throne and reign over the United Kingdom (should it remain united) and the Dominions overseas.

But His Grace is puzzled.

Everywhere he turns he reads about a Royal baby. Even The Guardian talks of the couple ‘expecting their first child’, despite the Duchess being in the ‘very early stages’ of pregnancy. We are told that the couple ‘are to be parents’, and that this ‘will be the Queen’s third great-grandchild’, and ‘a first grandchild for Prince Charles’.

And the child’s birthright is acknowledged: yes, he or she is ‘destined to wear the crown one day’; he or she ‘will become third in line to the throne’, which the Prime Minister described it as ‘absolutely wonderful news’. Even Ed Miliband tweeted: ‘Fantastic news for Kate, William and the country. A royal baby is something the whole nation will celebrate.’

[… ]Baby? Destiny? Parents? Great-grandchild? School? Even the Twitter hashtag is #RoyalBaby.

Surely such ‘pro-choice’ newspapers and journals (and people) should be talking about a bunch of pluripotent stem cells, an embryo or a foetus? For reports suggest that the Duchess is still in her first trimester, so this is not yet a baby; and certainly nothing with any kind of destiny. At this stage, surely, it is a non-person, just like the other 201,931 non-persons who last year were evacuated from wombs in England, Scotland and Wales.

Or are royal foetuses endowed with full humanity from the point of conception?

Enlightened Death: The Argument for Assisted Suicide

by Sharon Barrett

November 19, 2012

Since the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, science has offered a panacea for mans problems. From the vaccine to the internal combustion engine to the computer chip, man has discovered that whatever his need happens to be whether it is transportation, communication, or that all-important commodity, health he can invent a solution and put it on the market.

The Enlightenment worldview affected more than Western cultures view of science and technology. It also affected our view of God first, by denying His supernatural intervention in the world, and second, by rendering His moral revelation unnecessary.

As a result, human needs and desires replaced transcendent truth as mans measure of morality. For instance, Frances Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, adopted in 1789 in the wake of the bloody French Revolution, declares that law and government derive their authority from the general will of the people. In other words, mans inalienable rights do not come from his Creator, and neither do his moral duties to other men.

The end result of this worldview is the radical individualism of the Romantic era that followed the Enlightenment. The only thing that matters is whether the individual finds fulfillment in his circumstances. If his circumstances dont meet his needs and desires, he has the right to change them.

The twentieth century saw the effects of this thinking in social issues like no-fault divorce and abortion on demand. In the twenty-first century, another issue arose, making its way onto two state ballots this November: assisted suicide. As MARRI intern Maria Reig Teetor points out, modern medicine has empowered us to eliminate many causes of death, so legalizing the choice to end ones life medically is ironic.

More than ironic, it is an illustration of the decline of Western culture:

The key to this discussion is to acknowledge that when we eliminate religion from a culture, when we deny moral values and human dignity, were left with our own self-preservation as our only ethical guiding light.

When justice and human dignity are no longer a priority, we go to every length we can to prevent suffering and to create comfort. As with numerous other areas of life, like education, sexuality, marriage, friendship, and leisure, our culture teaches us that its all about our personal satisfaction. When there is no ultimate respect for human dignity, its natural for men to elevate health to their highest goal in life.

Health, comfort, protection from suffering, personal satisfaction…these are now rights that outweigh the protection of life itself. Using right-to-die language places assisted suicide on the same level as the right to kill implicit in most abortion legislation. Maria Reig Teetor follows this line of reasoning:

What if a person has the power to decide for someone else that his or her life is filled with pain or distress, as Terri Schiavos husband did in Florida in 2005? Or to decide that someone elses life is causing him or her to suffer, so he or she has the right to eliminate that suffering by eliminating the other person? (This is an argument used to support abortion, when an unborn baby causes financial or personal inconvenience to the mother.) Has our society drifted so far from ethical moorings that we would legalize murder on demand?

Modern medicine cannot solve the question of legalized murder. Neither can a worldview that ignores moral revelation. Without the enlightenment of Gods Word (Ps. 119:104-105), our culture will continue its unassisted slide toward suicide.

Planned Parenthood Prayer Vigil

by Carrie Russell

February 17, 2011

On Valentines Day 2011 pro life advocates united across the country to pray for victims of sex trafficking. The vigil was organized as a response to the recent release of videos connecting two very dark industries: abortion and sex trafficking.

From Washington DC to Orange County, CA, people took time from work to ask God to bring hope and healing and light into the lives of the victims of this most heinous crime.

Abortion and sex-trafficking are sinister and they rob people of their inherent dignity. But God is about truth, life, light, beauty, freedom and recognizing the dignity of the human person. He is all powerful and He hears our prayers, especially where groups are united. Lets join together to continue to pray that God will bring light and healing into even these darkest of situations.

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