Our task is difficult but urgent: to show that people who are old and ill nevertheless have value

There has been a new but entirely predictable development in the practice of euthanasia in Holland, as this magazine reports. A woman suffering from dementia has been executed by lethal injection, having first been sedated with drugged coffee, and then having been held down by her relatives when she attempted to struggle.

It is very hard to see how anyone can justify this sort of behaviour, which not only goes against the law of God, which commands us to respect all life, but even goes against the usual practices of those who support euthanasia, who generally stress its voluntary nature. There was nothing voluntary here. All the victim’s actions indicated that she was not co-operating with those trying to kill her; and as a demented person, she was not capable of making an informed choice to die. It is true that she had expressed a preference for euthanasia four years previously, but in the meantime she might well have changed her mind.

The same article also gives us another chilling piece of information, this time from Canada:

“A new study has predicted that Canada’s new euthanasia laws, which closely resemble those in the Netherlands, could cut as much as £84 million from its annual health budget.

“Researchers from the University of Calgary identified the ‘substantial savings’ that could be made from reducing end-of-life care. The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, said that health care at the end of life was intensive and could go on for months. Euthanasia, however, would cost the state just £15 per patient.”

As always, the old adage “follow the money” has a lot of wisdom in it. If we see old people, and demented people in particular, simply as useless mouths and a drain on resources, then this sort of argument becomes a powerful one. The Church now has an urgent task, and a difficult one: to make people realise that people who are old and ill, and who add nothing to the economy, nevertheless have value, intrinsic value; and that to kill these people off not only harms them, but harms all of society. In other words, the Church has to stress the intrinsic worth of every human being, something which transcends their economic productivity.

If we were to see people purely in terms of what they can produce, what sort of society would that makes us?

Given that we all know that the funds for social care in this country are limited, we need to prepare to defend society from the threat of euthanasia here in Britain. We could be the next Canada or Holland. Above all, as this case, and others like it, has made clear, euthanasia, which starts as voluntary, soon becomes compulsory. As such it is a threat to us all.