Sunday, March 29, 2020
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Nazi echoes in the clinics of death

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GERMANY’S highest court has repealed a ban on commercial assisted dying clinics, introduced in 2015, paving the way for doctors and Dignitas-style organisations to supply lethal drugs to seriously ill patients. Relatives or doctors who helped a single patient to die were already exempt from punishment.

The German ruling was welcomed by ‘palliative care doctor’ Matthias Thöns, who said: ‘This is a good judgement for people in desperate situations, who we can now treat according to our conscience.’

It is astonishing that a ‘palliative care doctor’ can see killing a patient as ‘treatment’. And surely it is his job to ensure that patients are not ‘in desperate situations’?

The new ruling allows doctors to prescribe patients drugs to help them die, but the patients must take the drugs themselves. How long before a legal challenge is brought because those patients physically unable to take the ‘medicine’ are being placed at a disadvantage? By that time, there will have been many killings of people who up till now have been cared for until their natural deaths. ‘Right to die’ campaigners judge, no doubt accurately, that after a while care given to those without reasonable prospect of recovery will be increasingly viewed as onerous and even cruel. In Canada, the government is threatening hospices that their funding will be withdrawn if they refuse to kill patients, while in Belgium, a hospice has been threatened with paying compensation to the families of those who are given palliative care rather than this special ‘treatment’. 

Strangely enough, while concern has been expressed about the resurgence of Nazism in Germany, memories seem to have failed when it comes to recalling the Nazi euthanasia programme for the sick and disabled. The ‘right to die’ campaign would argue that while the latter was compulsory, this is ‘voluntary’, but how much power does a disabled and/or elderly person have when they depend on others for their very lives? Until now, it has been expected that the strong would care for the weak, but if those who are meant to care stop caring, the weak might decide that they would be better off dead. The Nazis also portrayed killing the sick as a merciful act, but not even the Nazis thought of shifting responsibility to the victims by getting them to ask for it.

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Ann Farmer
Ann Farmer
Ann Farmer is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Movement (Catholic University of America, 2008).

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