Tom Mortier

How legal euthanasia changed Belgium for ever

Tom Mortier
By Tom Mortier
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Co-authored with Steven Bieseman.

May 22, 2013 (Mercatornet.com) - In 2002, Belgium became the second country in the world after its neighbour, The Netherlands, to legalise euthanasia. Over the next decade our country has become a living laboratory for radical social change. With many other countries debating legalisation at the moment, now is a good moment to stand back and take a good long look at the results.

In 2002 Belgium was governed by a coalition of Liberals and Social Democrats. The slightly more conservative Christian Democrats had been excluded. With blue as the colour of the Liberals and red of the left-leaning Social Democrats, the press dubbed it the Purple coalition.

The Christian Democrats took a dim view of euthanasia, but they were in opposition. The Purple coalition was free to pass an euthanasia law based on the view that an individual should always have a “free choice” to end his life. In absolutizing individual self-determination the left and the right found common ground.

The law states that doctors can help patients to die when they freely express a wish to die because they are suffering intractable and unbearable pain. The patient needs to consult a second independent doctor; for non-terminal illnesses an independent psychiatrist must approve. In practice, however, this independence is irrelevant. Belgium is a small country and compliant doctors are easy to find.

A string of recent cases leaves no doubt that the euthanasia law has fundamentally and drastically changed Belgian society. Last year 45-year-old deaf identical twin brothers who couldn’t bear the thought of going blind were granted euthanasia. Doctors granted their request because they “had nothing to live for” anyway. According to the doctor who gave the lethal injection, it was not “such a big deal.”

In another case, a 44-year-old woman with chronic anorexia nervosa was euthanised. Then a 64-year-old woman suffering from chronic depression was euthanised without informing her relatives. The doctors defended their decisions by explaining that these extreme and exceptional cases were legitimate because all legal conditions were met.

Euthanasia is hardening from a medical option into an ideology. Belgium’s euthanasia doctors even believe they are being humane because they are liberating people from their misery. Fundamentalist humanists go further and describe euthanasia as the ultimate act of self-determination. The opinion of the patient’s family has no weight whatsoever. A doctor is entitled to give the mother of a family a lethal injection without offering any explanation to her children. Euthanasia is being promoted as a “beautiful” and positive way to die. Doctors are transplanting organs from patients who die in the operation. (This is said to make their lives meaningful.) The law may soon allow children and patients with dementia to be euthanised.

Since 2002 opponents of the law (like us) have been marginalised as rigid and heartless conservatives who feel ill at ease in a post-modern, pluralistic and progressive society like Belgium. (1) The Christian Democrats have repudiated their traditional values and support the law. Questioning it has become taboo because the absolute right of the individual might be violated.

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There are still some significant critics, apart from the Catholic Church. The Belgian philosopher Herman De Dijn is an outspoken opponent. He describes Belgium as a “sentimentalist society” in which traditional values have been drastically minimized and replaced by subjective preferences. (2) A sentimentalist society no longer subscribes to ethical values other than those which are related to the search for individual happiness (autonomy and no-harm). Communal responsibilities and moral institutions are being discarded in the search for purely individual well-being; interdependence and connectedness are ignored.

De Dijn feels that this is the nub of the problem. A human being is not a bundle of individual feelings, opinions and preferences, but part of a species, a member of mankind, a vital link in the moral ecology where every individual has a unique symbolic value. Respect for human dignity includes not only respect for personal choices but also for connectedness to loved ones and society.  

Supporters of the euthanasia regime repudiate this secular critique -- as well as the baneful influence of the Catholic Church. (3) However, their ideology of absolute self-determination has become so strong that it is morphing into a theology, a quasi-religious fanaticism. They have invented comforting symbols and rituals to express their beliefs. A self-determination card describes a patient’s final wishes so that the social services know what to do in a terminal illness. There are centres where people can ask questions about how euthanasia can be performed. There is indoctrination in self-determination for doctors and volunteers who wear their euthanasia enabler certificates as badges of honour.

Nonetheless, we are hopeful. Surely it must be possible to convince the Belgian public that something is terribly, terribly wrong when politicians are debating whether parents can legally have their children put down. It is not humane and it is not scientific. There is no scientific scale of unbearable suffering. With advances in pain relief, euthanasia is not even needed.

The key insight of the green movement is that all living beings are interconnected – even us humans. Especially us humans. The job of politicians is to protect this connectedness. Otherwise, why should parents care for their dependent children? Why should children care for dependent parents? Once we lose the sense that each of us is bound to one another with invisible cords of fellowship, we will end by killing all those who are burdens on society. And at some stage, all of us are going to be burdens.

Euthanasia does not threaten religious dogmas. Churches will stay open no matter what happens in hospitals and nursing homes. What is threatened is humanism. Instead of standing strong, arms linked together as brothers and sisters, the dogma of self-determination separates us, places us in bubbles of isolation, and then offers to kill us – if we want. In today’s Belgium all of us are at risk.

Tom Mortier and Steven Bieseman teach in Leuven University College, in Belgium. They would like to thank Emeritus Professor Herman De Dijn for valuable discussions and Sylvia Statz for advice about translating the text.

Notes

(1) Burms A. and De Dijn H., De sacraliteit van leven en dood, Pelckmans Uitgeverij nv, Kalmthout, (2011), S. 71-89.

(2) De Dijn H., Taboes, monsters en loterijen, Uitgeverij Pelckmans, Kapellen (2003), S. 23-25.

(3) Burms A. and De Dijn H., De sacraliteit van leven en dood, Pelckmans Uitgeverij nv, Kalmthout, (2011), S. 91-99.

Reprinted with permission from Mercatornet.com

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

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