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It's Not Only About Terri Schiavo: Barriers to killing come down

Nat Henthoff

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People already have the right to refuse unwanted treatment, and suicide is not illegal. What we oppose is a public policy that singles out individuals for legalized killing based on their health status. This violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, and denies us equal protection of the laws.

Disability opposition to this ultimate form of discrimination has been ignored by most media and courts, but countless people with disabilities have already died before their time. --Not Dead Yet: The Resistance, a disability rights organization, Forest Park, Illinois, October 28, 2003

In 1920, a prominent German lawyer, Karl Binding, and a distinguished German forensic psychiatrist, Alfred Hoche, wrote a brief but deadly book, The Permission To Destroy Life Unworthy of Life. In his new book, The Coming of the Third Reich (Penguin), Richard Evans notes that Binding and Hoche emphasized that "the incurably ill and the mentally retarded were costing millions of marks and taking up thousands of much-needed hospital beds. So doctors should be allowed to put them to death."

Then came Adolf Hitler, who thought this was a splendid, indeed capital, idea. The October 1, 2003, New York Daily News ran this Associated Press report from Berlin:

"A new study reveals Nazi Germany killed at least 200,000 people because of their disabilities--people deemed physically inferior, said a report compiled by Germany's Federal Archive. Researchers found evidence that doctors and hospital staff used gas, drugs and starvation to kill disabled men, women and children at medical facilities in Germany, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic. . . .

"The Nazis launched the drive to root out what they called 'worthless lives' [and 'useless eaters'] in the summer of 1939, pre-dating their full-scale organization of the Holocaust, in which they killed 6 million Jews." (Emphasis added).

Read the entire article on the Village Voice website.

Posted 9/26/04



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