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Compassionate or Callous?

Wesley J. Smith

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Compassion, literally defined, means, "to suffer with another." That is why I have always found the monopolization of that word by proponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide so discordant. Euthanasia isn't about suffering with anybody. It's about using someone's suffering -- and the pity it evokes -- as a justification to kill.

The Netherlands has allowed euthanasia for more than 30 years, supposedly under strict guidelines to protect the vulnerable from abuse. But the list of those "eligible" has steadily lengthened, to the point that it now includes depressed people without organic illnesses. And now, the Dutch government has opened the legal door to killing patients with Alzheimer's disease. In doing so, the nation sent a powerful message to Alzheimer's patients and their families: The lives of those with this dreaded disease are so burdensome and undignified that they are not worth maintaining or protecting.

Contrast this with the message Nancy Reagan and her family sent the world by lovingly caring for Ronald Reagan in his declining years. This is what true compassion looks like. Through their unwavering devotion -- giving wholeheartedly to Reagan even when he had little to give back in return, and taking some of his suffering on their own shoulders for ten difficult years -- the Reagan family provided a vivid demonstration of the power of unconditional love. Nothing that has been done to recognize the late president -- the naming of an airport after him, the public outpouring of respect during the week of mourning, the burying of political hatchets -- could have honored Ronald Reagan the man, husband, and father more appropriately.

Read the entire article on the National Review Online website.

Posted: 6/20/04



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