Are there any arguments against euthanasia that are not based on religion or the sanctity of life argument – ideas that an atheist might accept? L.J., Willowdale, Ontario

The well-known British medical journal The Lancet published an article on this topic, December 1989. Amongst the most important arguments is that euthanasia destroys the doctor-patient relationship, as is evident in Holland. Throughout history (except for the Nazi doctors) the role of the physician has been that of a healer, a saver of life and, at the end, a comforter of the dying. Euthanasia makes the doctor into a killer, and where there was trust, now there is fear. People in Holland, for example, are afraid of going to hospital.

One famous Canadian legal expert, Morris Shumiatcher, told the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons: “The physician must decide whether he be healer or executioner.”

He added this warning: “Once members of the medical profession lend themselves to an objective that is hostile to the preservation of human life, the influence of every physician as a force for human good is debased and corrupted, and the well-being of the patient is undermined.” (emphasis added)

Also from Holland there is evidence that euthanasia is corrosive to family relationships and to friendships, for it opens the door to those who decide that the elderly, the chronically sick and the handicapped members of the family are too great a burden and would be better off dead.

One patient was quoted as saying how frightening it was “too feel that others are looking at you, and wondering whether they are trying to take your life.”

There is ample evidence that many helpless patients, including children, are manipulated into believing that they are burdens on their families, and being conned into euthanasia.

Pro-euthanasia arguments that the practice will be limited and voluntary do not hold water in the light of experience, The Lancet article maintains. Moreover, as society becomes more and more dominated by the need for cost-containment, the groups that are already judged by some people as burdens will become victims. Those at risk, as well as the elderly and handicapped, are likely to be the mentally ill, those with Alzheimer’s disease, and the mentally handicapped.

These arguments are put forward, not by a church or religious group, but by eminent members of the medical and legal professions. You could also quote from the European Convention on Civil Rights:

“Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime which the penalty is provided by law.”

The great jurist Lord Denning quoted this in the British House of Lords and said: “This does not say anything about mercy killing!”

What were the radical groups in the U.S. that worked against the Supreme Court nominations of Judges Thomas Bork and Clarence Thomas? S.S., Belleville, Ontario

The groups that organized and funded the propaganda against Judge Bork were as follows: National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL); Planned Parenthood; the Feminist Men’s Alliance; Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen Group; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); National Organization of Women (NOW); National Women’s Law Centre.

The leader of the campaign was Senator Edward Kennedy, and the same organizations and leader were in the attack against Judge Thomas.

In the discussions on sex education in schools there are references to documents on Church teaching. Where can an ordinary parent find these? Are they difficult to follow? S.S., Belleville, Ontario

There are a number of documents which are short, easily read, and very inexpensive. They should be available at (Catholic) religious bookstores or from the Catholic Truth Society.
•    Education Guidance in Human Love – Outlines for Sex Education (by the Sacred Congregation for the Catholic Education).
•    Charter of Rights of the Family (by the Holy See).
•    Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio. (This is an English translation.)