Forbes - - Fact & Comment - BY STEVE FORBES, ED­I­TOR-IN-CHIEF

In 2002 Bel­gium le­gal­ized the mur­der­ously chill­ing act of eu­thana­sia, whereby doc­tors and nurses kill pa­tients with their sup­posed con­sent. Hol­land had for­mally done the same the year be­fore. is prac­tice, all too rem­i­nis­cent of what Nazi Ger­many did be­fore WWII to the men­tally hand­i­capped and to peo­ple with very se­ri­ous dis­abil­i­ties, is justi ed these days not by Hit­le­rian the­o­ries of “pu­ri­fy­ing the race,” of course, but as a “hu­mane” way to deal with those who are suf­fer­ing mortal ill­nesses and in ex­treme pain.

Many thou­sands of pa­tients have been dis­posed of since Hol­land and Bel­gium en­acted these morally re­pug­nant laws. Bel­gium now al­lows eu­thana­sia to be ap­plied even to children, ac­knowl­edg­ing re­cently that be­tween Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017, two children, ages 9 and 11, who were a icted with a brain tu­mor and cys­tic bro­sis, re­spec­tively, and a 17-year-old, who had Duchenne mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy, had been put to death. Apol­o­gists say these kids gave their con­sent, as did their par­ents. Good God! Are we to be­lieve that young­sters should be mak­ing such de­ci­sions?

Hol­land has been hit with scan­dals in which pa­tients were ad­min­is­tered lethal in­jec­tions with­out their con­sent, in or­der to free up “needed” hos­pi­tal beds. A er all, the rea­son­ing went, these peo­ple were go­ing to die soon, any­way. In Bel­gium, ac­cord­ing to a news re­port, a mem­ber of the Fed­eral Com­mis­sion for Eu­thana­sia Con­trol & Eval­u­a­tion re­signed last year “in protest at the unchecked killings of de­men­tia pa­tients.”

What’s hap­pen­ing here is an ugly, slip­pery slope. In­stead of work­ing to al­le­vi­ate the tribu­la­tions of the a icted and in­no­vat­ing ever bet­ter ways to do this, we sim­ply “put them out of their mis­ery,” the way we do with house­hold pets.

It’s not only in Bel­gium and the Nether­lands that we’re see­ing this aw­ful phe­nom­e­non. A chron­i­cally ill man in Canada is su­ing the gov­ern­ment be­cause med­i­cal per­son­nel al­legedly and il­le­gally tried to co­erce him into go­ing the as­sisted-sui­cide route to save money. “Why force me to end my life?” the plainti asked.

It’s one thing for peo­ple to de­clare in writ­ing when they are in good health and of sound mind that no “heroic” mea­sures are to be taken, that med­i­cal sta should “let na­ture take its course.” But it’s quite an­other for med­i­cal per­son­nel to ac­tu­ally kill pa­tients, as is hap­pen­ing in Bel­gium, Hol­land and else­where.

Re­search shows that many eu­thana­sia and as­sisted-sui­cide vic­tims are su er­ing from de­pres­sion. ey should be treated, not aban­doned. As for phys­i­cal su er­ing, it’s hardly be­yond the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of mod­ern medicine to e ec­tively man­age pain with older, well-es­tab­lished med­i­ca­tions, as well as newer, bet­ter drugs.

It’s true that in the U.S. we have a se­ri­ous opi­oid cri­sis. Nonethe­less, the re­sponse shouldn’t be a diminu­tion in pain man­age­ment but, al­ter­na­tively, a fo­cus on re­duc­ing and even­tu­ally eliminating the abuses.

e temp­ta­tion to use eu­thana­sia as a solution will only in­crease as pop­u­la­tions age and as cash-strapped gov­ern­ments and in­sur­ers scramble to nd ways to re­duce grow­ing health­care costs. It should be ax­iomatic that life is sacro­sanct, whether or not you are religious.

In re­cent times we have seen enor­mous med­i­cal ad­vances that not only pro­long life but also im­prove the qual­ity of life as we age. e an­swer to the ris­ing costs of health­care is the cre­ation of gen­uine free mar­kets, which al­ways turn scarcity into abun­dance. ere is pre­cious lit­tle in the way of free mar­kets in health­care. ird par­ties, pri­mar­ily gov­ern­ments and in­sur­ers—not the pa­tients—still dom­i­nate. is is be­gin­ning to change in the U.S. Rapidly e ect­ing this trans­for­ma­tion should be our ur­gent goal, not sur­ren­der­ing to ra­tioning or de­scend­ing into the pit of eu­thana­sia and “as­sisted dy­ing.”

Morally and prag­mat­i­cally, such prac­tices have no place in a truly civ­i­lized and hu­mane so­ci­ety.

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