‘No Place for Sentiment’

It's hardly unusual in this day and age for people to make off-the-wall statements. And it's a little disturbing, to say the least, to hear such statements from a woman whom the Sunday Times-Review has called Britain's "pre-eminent medical ethicist" and "philosopher queen." But that's what happened when the Times-Review interviewed Baroness Mary Warnock last month. Warnock once voted in the House of Lords against legalizing euthanasia. Now she's become an advocate. Why? Well, as reporter Jasper Gerard put it, "Warnock explains that she has changed her public position on euthanasia because the public has changed its position." Truth determined by majority vote? This is Britain's pre-eminent ethicist? Please. Britain is in big trouble. There's more to Warnock's position than that, however. It's only fair to note that she watched her husband suffer from lung disease before he died, and that this also affected her views. But the more deeply you look into her altered viewpoint, the more dangerous it becomes. It's not just that she's come to believe in so-called "mercy killing" for the elderly and ill. She believes that the elderly and ill have a duty to let themselves be killed to ease the "burden" on their families, and she has suggested that doctors are sometimes overzealous in trying to save the lives of babies who are born with health problems, or whose parents can't care for them. After all, Gerard writes, "The baroness . . . declares firmly there is no place for spiritualism or sentiment in the law." (I suspect he meant to say spirituality, but the point is clear enough.) Warnock even went so far as to say that "some lives are more worth living than others." It's frightening to think that someone so high up in a nation's government has such a cavalier attitude toward human life. But Warnock is hardly alone. Parliament is currently considering a "Mental Capacity Bill" that would authorize third parties, chosen by a patient, to make major medical decisions for that patient if he or she was no longer deemed capable of doing so. As some members have pointed out, this bill -- especially with the unclear way it's worded -- could easily lead to the killing of people who don't want to be killed. Unfortunately, other members of Parliament are taking Warnock's position in the highly contentious debate. Warnock's version of medical ethics is disheartening, but not surprising. Not long ago, we told you about a Dutch hospital's campaign for permission to take the lives of terminally ill babies -- and the hospital's statement that they were already doing it without permission. When even doctors, trusted with protecting and preserving human lives, can't be trusted to respect those lives, how can we expect governments to do so? Views as poorly thought out and as dangerous as Baroness Warnock's deserve nothing better than scorn. Unfortunately, they are more likely to be enacted into law, in Europe, the United Kingdom, and -- watch out -- they will soon be coming our way. As Christians, we must keep making a compelling defense for the worth and dignity of every human life. It's not a matter of "spiritualism or sentiment" -- it's a matter of life and death.


Chuck Colson


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