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Killing Babies, Compassionately

Wesley J. Smith

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The Netherlands follows in Germany's footsteps.

AT LAST A HIGH GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL in Europe got up the nerve to chastise the Dutch government for preparing to legalize infant euthanasia. Italy's Parliamentary Affairs minister, Carlo Giovanardi, said during a radio debate: "Nazi legislation and Hitler's ideas are reemerging in Europe via Dutch euthanasia laws and the debate on how to kill ill children."

Unsurprisingly, the Dutch, ever prickly about international criticism of their peculiar institution, were outraged. Giovanardi's critique cut so deeply that even Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende felt the need to respond, sniffing, "This [Giovanardi's assertion] is scandalous and unacceptable. This is not the way to get along in Europe."

As is often the case in the New Europe, what is said matters more than what is done. Thus, the prime minister of the Netherlands thinks that killing babies because they are born with terminal or seriously disabling conditions is not a scandal, but daring to point out accurately that German doctors did the same during World War II, is.

That being noted, one wishes Giovanardi had thought twice before raising the Nazi specter. Partly, this is because nothing we are talking about today matches the scope or magnitude of Nazi crimes. As a result, accusing people of Nazi-like behavior allows those amply deserving of moral condemnation to deflect reproaches. Thus, Giovanardi says that killing disabled babies is what the Nazis did, and the Dutch merely retort (correctly) that they are not Nazis.

Still, the "Nazi" analogy is worth exploring, precisely because it is unequivocally true that German doctors did kill thousands of disabled babies, for which a few such physicians were hanged at Nuremberg. Dutch apologists know this, of course. But they claim that the Netherlands' infant euthanasia program is substantially different: Dutch doctors are motivated by compassion whereas the Germans' were motivated by the bigotry of racial hygiene. Of course it is the act of killing disabled and dying babies that is wrong, not the motivation. But even leaving that aside, the Dutch defense is not as persuasive as Prime Minister Balkenende would like to believe.

Read the entire article on the Weekly Standard website (new window will open).

Posted: 29-Mar-06



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