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ss triple helix - summer 2001,  While Europe Slept - History's clock turns full circle

While Europe Slept - History's clock turns full circle

The holocaust and the horrific 1939-45 World War had small beginnings. The Nazis talked such absurdities that few thoughtful people took them seriously. Common wisdom reasoned that the Nazis could serve a useful purpose: let them take out the Communists and then we'll take care of them. But while Europe slept the Nazis transformed themselves from a crazy gang into an all-but-unstoppable juggernaut.

This is why we cannot view the growing demand in Western culture for genetic selection and euthanasia as straws in the wind. Parallel to events like the legalisation of euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands, is a highly significant philosophic paradigm shift that threatens to break us from our ethical moorings. Peter Singer, past editor of the Bioethics Journal, and one of the most influential thinkers in bioethics is on record as saying: 'We can no longer base our ethics on the idea that human beings are a special form of creation made in the image of God...'[1]

Failure to value the human person as bearer of the Creator's mark could easily propel us onto a slippery slope towards a replay of events in Germany in the 1930s. Dr Leo Alexander, a psychiatrist in the Office of the Chief Counsel for War Crimes at Nuremberg, traced the process: 'The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with an attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely but chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted ...'[2]

There are similarities between Germany in the 1930s and the direction of medicine today. Most worrying is removal of the Christian ethic of the strong laying down their lives for the weak (Romans 5:6) and support for a form of Darwinism that sees no problem about the weak being sacrificed for the strong.

  1. Singer P. Sanctity of Life or Quality of Life? Paediatrics 1983; 72(1):128
  2. Alexander L. Medical Science Under Dictatorship. NEJM 1949; 241(2):39-47 (Reprinted in Ethics in Medicine 1987; 3(2):26-33)
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