Recently the Los Angeles Times devoted two entire columns to the misuse of disabled parking placards by people who appear not to be disabled. This makes the few spots reserved for the disabled even less available, a real problem.
But the author’s chief complaint was the fact that the placards allow drivers to park at meters without paying or obeying time limits − thus depriving the city of money. Like a typical leftist, he saw the problem as economic.
The author seemed to condemn not just misuse of the placards, but any use. He implied that the disabled should get no parking privileges. That is, the disabled should get out of the way of healthy people’s desire to park, or perhaps just get out of the way altogether.
Disrespect for the disabled is seen as more acceptable than racial or religious bigotry, but it is just as destructive. “Terri Schiavo vegetable” yields 1,610,000 hits on Google, while her name plus “cabbage” yields 1,200,000 hits, her name plus “broccoli” yields 1,130,000 hits, her name plus “rotting” yields 1,920,000 hits, and her name plus “useless” yields 2,370,000 hits. Of course, if all useless people were euthanized, it would be much easier to find a parking space, thus solving both problems.
How should the disabled be treated? What do we owe every human being, regardless of the diagnosis or the severity of the physical or mental impairment?
How are these questions to be answered? An ethical question must be answered by reference to ethical standards such as the Bible and the Hippocratic Oath. This oath was taken by young physicians for 2400 years. It states:
I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel.
The New England Journal of Medicine publishes articles on assisted suicide and euthanasia. But the words “Hippocratic” or “Oath” rarely appear. Nor is there any mention of the position of religious leaders. Such articles have many references to court decisions and legal sources, but hardly any references to any source of ethical wisdom. For the authors and editors, there are no moral questions, only legal ones. And legal questions are answered by judges.
For example, who decided that persons in a persistent vegetative state can be slowly dehydrated and starved to death? Congress? State legislatures? The American Medical Association? Are you joking? It was decided by a 5-4 vote of the U.S. Supreme Court. Five unelected judges with lifetime jobs can tell 313 million Americans what to do.
But now, we are seeing the beginning of the conflict between religion and government-controlled health care. The Catholic Church is challenging the government’s insistence that Catholic hospitals offer birth-control and abortion services. If crucial decisions involving human life are centralized in Washington, how can we call ourselves free?
The New England Journal is hardly alone in undermining the foundations of the medical profession. Lancet, a leading British medical journal, published an article noting with approval the “peaceful” dehydrating and starving to death of a patient “very near” a persistent vegetative state. Very near? That is, the patient was minimally conscious, as Terri Schiavo may have been.
If a doctor took a car that was parked “very near” his own car, he would be in serious trouble. Cars are valuable. But killing a disabled patient? No problem. Marxism teaches that everything is determined by economics. Many people are quick learners.
Later, Lancet published an editorial claiming that execution of murderers by lethal injection is “barbaric.” A week or two of thirst and hunger is “peaceful,” but a massive overdose of a fast-acting sedative is “barbaric.” That is the same way we put beloved dogs or cats to sleep. But someone who starved and dehydrated an animal to death would be jailed. So who really is barbaric?
A milestone on the road downhill was the publication in Germany in 1920 of “Permission to Exterminate Life Unworthy of Life.” Revealingly, the book was authored by two professors, one a lawyer and one a physician. The “unworthy” included the incurably ill, the mentally ill or retarded, and deformed children. Killing was “healing treatment” to be administered by physicians.
For the first time, killing and healing were mixed together. And physicians’ loyalty was no longer to the individual patient, but to the state.
The text reads: “60,000 reichsmarks is what this person with a hereditary disease costs the community during his lifetime. Comrade, that is your money too.”
Under President Obama’s plan, the elderly will receive treatment “…if we’ve got experts…advising doctors across the board that it will save money.” That is: (1) The decision will be made by “experts,” not doctors. (2) The decision will be a nationwide regulation, not tailored for the individual patient. (3) The decision will be based on saving money.
No, we’re not Nazis. We would never kill the disabled or the elderly. We will simply deny them treatment and give them a “painkiller.” And then we will cut back on pain medication as well. Now are you worried?
Once the Nazis took over, medical graduates no longer took the Hippocratic Oath, but an oath to the health of the state. Most American medical graduates also no longer take the Hippocratic Oath, but a variety of other oaths, of which only 8% reject abortion, and only 14% reject euthanasia. This is called “progress.”
I believe the chief cause of the Hippocratic Oath’s demise is its ban on abortion. But in the Oath, euthanasia and abortion are next to each other. Discarding one prohibition weakened the other. If all human life isn’t sacred, none is. Intermediate positions are weak and are being overrun one by one. Who is worthy to live becomes just a matter of opinion, and the only opinion that matters is the government’s.
The phrase “life unworthy of life” was used by the Nazis, but it originated before anyone heard of Hitler. Nazism was a seed that fell on soil that had already been fertilized by the manure of viewing human beings not as having intrinsic worth because they are created in God’s image, but as having worth only if they are useful to others.
Those who now spread similar manure will not be able to claim innocence if similar seeds sprout. The lesson of history is clear.
The Nazi euthanasia program used drugs, then gas, and was the physical and psychological prelude to the Holocaust. It was opposed so strongly by Catholic and Protestant churches that it was stopped, though it continued unofficially. Sadly, there was no organized opposition by physicians.
Of all professions, medicine had the highest percent of Nazis. When leading doctors support late-term abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, and destruction of human embryos for research, remember not to expect moral leadership from the medical profession. This lesson is also clear.
And now some Supreme Court justices refer to foreign law in rendering decisions. In going outside our Constitution and laws, judges are violating their oath of office. Having no regard for their own oath, why should judges respect the physicians’ Oath of Hippocrates?
Once we throw away the rulebook, the referee becomes a dictator.
Check out the court cases that authorized assisted suicide or euthanasia. You’ll find the names Nancy Cruzan, Karen Ann Quinlan, Elizabeth Bouvia, and Terri Schiavo. They were women, as were 32 out of 47 or 68% of the people killed by Dr. Kevorkian. Being disabled is becoming dangerous, but being a disabled woman is more dangerous. That doesn’t trouble most ethicists or judges. Of course, the majority of them are men.
There is still time to restore the medical profession to its former state of independent professionals dedicated to the wellbeing of individual patients, rather than mere technicians serving the interests of the state. But instead, we are moving in the opposite direction as ObamaCare takes effect, and brings with it drastic cuts to Medicare.
Old? Disabled? No longer economically productive? Hand over that parking placard, take a pain pill if you can find one, and get out of the way. We’re in a hurry. But where are we going?
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Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: email@example.com. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.