Saturday, April 14, 2018
Mahatma Ghandi reputedly said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” We could paraphrase this in a contemporary context: a nation’s right-to-die laws are measured by how it treats the disabled.
Our lead story this week deals with the euthanasia of patients with an intellectual disability or autism in the Netherlands. Four bioethicists suggest that the necessary safeguards are lacking in these cases.
That is bad enough. But they go on to point out that the disabled have to deal with nigh-intolerable suffering for their whole lives. How does legal euthanasia make them feel? In the words of another author, “If society endorses the right of a person to seek physician assistance to end his or her life because of increasing loss of functional autonomy, what does that say about how our society values the lives of people who live with comparable limitations every day of their lives for years on end?”
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In a speech on Monday that garnered both criticism and praise, French President Emmanuel Macron told a gathering of Catholic bishops that they should not be afraid to contribute to public debate, saying that Christians bring a valuable perspective on the human person to otherwise secular political discussions.
Speaking under an arch of the famous College of the Bernadins in Paris, Macron said that “the relationship between Church and State [in France] has deteriorated”, and that he wished to “repair it”. He said that the French doctrine of laïcité did not have the function of “denying the spiritual”, and that it was important that people of faith remind society of the transcendent:
“Our contemporaries need, whether they believe or do not believe, to hear from another perspective on man than the material perspective...They need to quench another thirst, which is a thirst for absolute. It is not a question here of conversion, but of a voice which, with others, still dares to speak of man as a living spirit”.Macron praised the Church for its consistent defence of the vulnerable in society, ranging from the unborn and the elderly to migrants and the poor.
“You consider that our duty is to protect life, especially when this life is defenseless. Between the life of the unborn child, that of being on the threshold of death, or that of the refugee who has lost everything, you see this common trait of deprivation, nakedness and absolute vulnerability”.The speech appears to be an invitation for the Church to express its opposition to impending bioethics legislation due to be introduced in French parliament by the end of the year. The legislation will seek to make single women and lesbian couples eligible for assisted reproduction, which currently only is available to infertile heterosexual couples in France. It would also reconsider legalizing euthanasia, which is now banned.
Macron’s speech was slammed by influential members of the French intelligentsia, with some describing it as an attack on the of between Church and State.