A massive push is now underway to ensure that many people with a supposed poor "quality of life" - not only people with disabilities that are congenital, but also with disabilities caused by illness or injury - are "allowed" to die against their will. This campaign for involuntary euthanasia demonstrates that pro-lifers were correct when we said that euthanasia proponents would never stop at "voluntary" euthanasia. For many years euthanasia advocates, for public consumption at least, have marched under the banner of "autonomy" and "respect for family decisions." They pushed for living will laws, and later for durable power of attorney laws, that would enable people to say they didn't want life-saving treatment or to authorize others to refuse it if the authors should become incompetent. Any opposition to these measures was dismissed as an effort to "impose morality" on the free choice of patients to decide for themselves. At the same time, euthanasia advocates masked their true intentions by appealing to the sanctity of the family.
If a patient had left no word about whether she wanted her life preserved, they argued, the decision should be made exclusively by her nearest and dearest - her family. They inveighed against any governmental "interference" through the courts or even those agencies established to protect the rights of vulnerable people. Now, having "succeeded" in achieving widespread legalization and acceptance of both of these positions, euthanasia proponents are dramatically changing their rhetoric. As the pro-life movement has warned all along, the true motive of many leaders of the euthanasia movement is to eliminate those with a poor "quality of life." Individual rights, autonomy, and deference to farnilies were all convenient slogans with which they successfully assaulted what twenty-five years ago wa the prevailing ethic of respect for all life.
Today, however, the culture has changed, so that the quality of life ethic arguably has become predominant. And in this context, euthanasia advocates are now discarding the principles of individual and family autonomy they once so extolled. For them, there is no room for respect for the autonomy of those who want to live. We used to hear denunciations of the "paternalism" of doctors who, citing the Hippocratic Oath, expressed reluctance to starve their patients at their family's request. Now, some of those who used to be most vociferous in attacking physician paternalism argue that patients and families have no right to obtain lifesaving treatment whenever doctors believe the life it will preserve lacks adequate "quality." We in the pro-life movement must now educate ourselves to take part in a great debate about whether people who want to live should be allowed to live. What are the facts and the arguments.