Whither Human Dignity in the Secular Age?

May 27, 2018 by

by Bruce Frohnen, The Imaginative Conservative:

In a recent article in The New Yorker, Rachel Aviv depicts how Belgium has “embraced euthanasia as a humanist issue.” Not only the terminally ill, or even those in intense pain, but also those suffering from depression may receive “The Death Treatment” and be treated to a “dignified death” through a fatal chemical cocktail. How did we “progress” as a society to the point where our major magazines seriously question when (not whether, but when) people, including those who might live for decades, should be “helped to die?” As I pondered this question, my mind kept piecing together anecdotes from the lives of people I know and where they seem to lead. Here is the story I think they tell:

As he lay in his bed, his mind wandered, returning again and again to the events of his youth. He had fought for justice, he knew. There had been civil rights marches which he supported, without actually joining, and also anti-war demonstrations, which he had actually joined, along with his girlfriend at the time. What was her name again? He forgot, but she had been terrific. Very sweet and very attractive. There had been some issues because she had gotten pregnant, but he had helped pay for the abortion, and they had stopped seeing one another soon after.

His first wife? Now she was something completely different. Too needy, too much a drain on his time and energy. There had been kids, and she had wanted to stay home with them. He had let her, of course. Given all the sex discrimination at the time she could not have brought home that much money in any event. Besides, he had met wife number two and marriage number one had quickly deteriorated. Wife number two was much more independent. She had her own career, her commitment to social justice, and a strong will of her own. Things had been fine for some years. They shared everything: passions, interests, even chores. He had been a good husband, too, doing his part around the house, helping take their daughter to daycare and various activities. But sometimes things just do not work out. Still, even after his wife divorced him, he had remained a part of his daughter’s life, with regular visits when he was in town and on most holidays. He never had understood why she said she resented him. He helped with child support and even some college expenses. He supported her in all her decisions, even when she decided to keep the baby after her boyfriend left her. Then again, you simply cannot please everyone.

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