Don’t Underestimate an Unpopular Idea

Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources


Several years ago Derek Humphry was asked to comment on the anticipated failure of a proposed referendum to legalize assisted suicide. Humphry, of course, had a great interest in such legislation. He helped his first wife, Jean, kill herself while living in England. He then immigrated to the United States and started the Hemlock Society, the nation’s leading pro-euthanasia advocacy group.

Humphry observed that he and his fellow assisted suicide advocates really were not expecting the referendum to pass at that time. He candidly revealed that the strategy was simply to get the matter before the general public so that people become accustomed to talking about the issue. He then felt that what some would presently call a bad or dangerous idea, would eventually gain acceptance. Humphry was right. More and more people are buying into the notion of assistance in suicide. Rather than viewing life as having absolute values, more and more people have begun looking at life as a commodity measured by value and productivity as something to treasure when in good shape and disposed of when the quality diminishes. What started off as unpopular is now gaining acceptance at an alarming rate.

Now consider the work of Jack Kevorkian. Dr. Death, as he has become known, has assisted over 100 people in killing themselves. He was quickly condemned by the medical profession. His license as a pathologist was revoked. Even other “death advocates” attempted to distance themselves from Dr. Death, fearing his actions and theatrics were hurting the cause of legalizing assistance in suicide. Yet, none of this dissuaded him from continuing to help others kill themselves.

Like Humphry, Kevorkian wanted to indoctrinate society on the notion that suicide (or self-deliverance as some would call it) is a legitimate and good option. He constantly fashioned himself not as a “killing assistant” but some sort of hybrid pain manager. As a result many well-meaning people talk about not liking the man but liking the notion that self-induced or physician -induced death is a viable alternative to pain.

Recently, however, Kevorkian revealed another objective in his plan for society. While assisting another person in killing himself, Kevorkian “harvested” the kidneys and made them available for transplantation. The offer was ludicrous. Kevorkian is not qualified to participate in transplantation work. The odds of finding a recipient on such short notice who would be willing to participate in this bizarre scenario and or whom the kidneys would be suitable were impossible. Yet, Kevorkian made the offer: he got the attention of the public, and editorials are popping up all over about it — including this one!

Kevorkian’s actions come as no surprise to anyone who has ever read his book, Prescription Medicide. In it he advocates controversial policy changes such as allowing and encouraging death row inmates to become living experiments in controversial medical tests. He talks about getting more mileage out of those destined to die for the benefit of others. And like all other really bad ideas mentioned so far in this article, don’t be surprised if this one begins to catch on as well. After all, this isn’t the first time an opportunity like this didn’t find its way into the limelight.

A few years ago a child, anonymously named Baby Theresa, was born in Florida. She was diagnosed with the condition of anencephaly. The condition usually causes a stillbirth or miscarriage. When a child with this condition is born alive, death usually comes within hours or several days. So when Baby Theresa was born alive and those involved readily acknowledged the futility of efforts to prolong her life, the idea surfaced that perhaps her organs could be harvested for the benefit of other young children before she died.

The parents bought into the idea, and a national controversy ensued. In the end the legal system prevented the taking of Baby Theresa’s life in this manner. Efforts to redefine death to allow it on future children did not gain approval in the Florida legislature. Yet the utilitarian seed had been planted. In turn, Kevorkian has now watered it and I would guess soon some so-called “reputable” medical or legal professional will fertilize the notion with cautious endorsement of the concept, if not the methodology of Kevorkian.

What is at work here is a time-proven Biblical warning that goes like this: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

The apostle Paul also commented on how such seed planting works when he said: “Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” ( 1 Corinthians 5:6)

What is happening here is what pro-life advocates refer to as a “slippery slope.” It is most evident when really bad ideas are repackaged in noble wrap. Killing without God’s expressed command or approval is wrong. Charity and kindness for others is greatly encouraged in Scripture. So when you wrap the first with the second you attract attention, plant some thoughts, and eventually a shift takes place.

Death advocates, whether in the arena of abortion or euthanasia, have long taken a utilitarian approach to the issues. They talk about abortion or killing as distasteful, but when done for the benefit of others when wrapped in such noble wrapping they make what is fundamentally wrong into something that appears to be right.

We must learn from experiences of the past. Unpopular ideas often become accepted given time and enough shrouding of reality. For Christians, however, it is good to deep in mind that God never gives us a sin to perform as the only option to accomplish some good that He would desire.

We learn from Scripture: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) There are ways to help others without killing others. There are ways to do good without sinning. What Kevorkian now advocates bring s another danger into the arena of faithful service to God. Be aware of the subtle way we are conditioned to accept sin, and warn others of this danger.


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