Neurosurgeon and ethical philosopher, Dr. Harley Smythe, told members of the Catholic Doctors’ Guild gathered in Toronto April 27 that like abortion and infanticide, euthanasia is the triumph of unfettered freedom and power.
In a reasoned and often eloquent address, Dr. Smythe exposed the philosophical roots of the arguments for euthanasia. His special target was the language of deceit. Defenders of euthanasia, he said, want to “shift the goal of the medical profession from the health to the death of the patient.” Since virtually everyone will need a physician at some time in their lives, euthanasiasts must deliberately choose their words to render for public discussion an inherently unacceptable idea.
To soften up the public, euthanasiasts – like abortionists – have adopted a way of speech that hides its main point, Smythe argued. “Selective non-treatment,” “benign neglect,” “dying with dignity” – these and other expressions are both familiar and ambivalent. But Dr. Smythe offered a perceptive rule of thumb: The apparent kindliness of the words euthanasiasts use is proportional to the degree of killing they want.
What Smythe calls the “reality of modernity” is the union of liberalism and technology. Liberalism says that man ought to be the measure of all things. Technology gives him the means. Today, man has the power to remake nature; in a tomorrow fearfully near, Smythe contended, he will have the power to remake himself.
The first nation in history to aspire to “modernity,” was Nazi Germany, he said. And although it was defeated militarily, its vital principle that the will should prevail over nature lives on in the state-authorized killing of the very young and the very old. When the Supreme Court of Canada says that a woman must be free, Dr. Smythe concluded, or when the Royal Dutch Doctors’ Association says that the community must be free – but by killing of other persons, then fascism swathed in liberal clothing has triumphed.