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Friday, March 4, 2016

Euthanasia: A humanist solution to a humanist dilemma?


It is taking quite a bit of time to prepare, but soon after Easter the Cathedral will be helping to host a series of speakers on the subject of Euthanasia.  This is hardly an easy subject to speak about and one that inevitably attracts strong views pro and con.  The aim of the series is not to adopt or argue for any particular position on the subject but to help all who may be concerned become better informed. The image below is one I just grabbed off the Web but there could as well be others expressing a different view.

The Web is saturated with articles on Euthanasia but recently one particular essay in the New Yorker June 22, 2015, by Rachel Aviv, caught my attention.

Aviv wrote on the use of euthanasia in Belgium: her essay 'The Death Treatment' focussed on a particular case of a depressed woman, Godeliever de Troyer, who had been euthanased and whose family were only informed afterwards.  She writes with a journalist's ear and eye for the sensational phrase or the telling detail.  She quotes Dirk De Wachter (Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Leuven and the president of the ethics commission for the university's psychiatric centre) who believes Belgium's approach to suicide reflects a crisis of nihilism created by the rapid secularisation of Flemish culture in the past thirty years and that euthanasia became a humanist solution to a humanist dilemma."What is life worth when there is no God?"   "What is life worth when I am not successful?"

Aviv particularly focuses on the prominent role of Wim Distelmans (an oncologist and professor of palliative medicine at the Free University of Brussels) as a proponent of the 2002 legislation in Belgium and an active advocate and practitioner of euthanasia.  I found it extraordinary to learn that he had taken 70 medical professionals and scholars on a 'study trip' to Auschwitz, claiming that "for those who are constantly confronted with existential pain and questions about the meaning of life" Auschwitz is an "inspiring place to contemplate these issues."

In the light of that attitude all commentary seems superfluous!

The article is certainly worth reading. It can be sourced below:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/06/22/the-death-treatment


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