Saturday, December 12, 2009

About that Supposedly Mythical "Slippery Slope"

We are frequently told indignantly that slippery slope arguments "don't work," are "invalid" and "don't apply" to euthanasia. I think that is because when you advocate committing certain evil actions that are likely to lead to other evil actions you just want to shut down debate until later. Just delaying gives time to get people used to the first evil, so the next can be introduced without fuss.

This has been the story in the Netherlands over the past few decades with respect to euthanasia. At first it had to be specifically requested by a person with a terminal illness who was mentally competent. See all the safeguards? Take a look at the debate going on now (bearing in mind Hannah Arendt's phrase "the banality of evil"):
"AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, December 7, 2009 ( - A Dutch health researcher has called on the nation's government to allow physicians to euthanize newborns based on foreseen suffering, rather than only actual suffering, reports the Dutch medical journal Zorgkrant.

Hilde Buiting, maintains that such an amendment would only conform the law to the current practice among physicians.

"The current guidelines state that there must be actual grave suffering on the part of the newborn," she said, as quoted in Zorgkrant. "In practice, physicians look not only to the actual suffering of the sick newborn, but also to the grave suffering foreseen in the future. This reality should be included in the considerations in adapting the guidelines."

The Groningen Protocol, approved by the Dutch government in 2006, establishes guidelines within which physicians may kill seriously ill newborns.

The Protocol allows doctors to kill newborns who fit into three separate categories: those who are so ill that they are likely to die very soon; those who could survive after "intensive treatment," but "expectations regarding their future condition are very grim," and; those who can survive without any additional medical treatment whatsoever, but are deemed to be experiencing suffering and "for whom a very poor quality of life, associated with sustained suffering, is predicted."

The Dutch government has established a committee to oversee newborn euthanasia, but they have received very few reports of the practice thus far.

Buiting made her comments in response to a statement made last month by Dutch State Secretary for Health, Welfare, and Sports Jet Bussemaker, who expressed concern about the lack of reporting.

Buiting believes that doctors will be more willing to report newborn euthanasia cases if the guidelines are amended to reflect what she says is the current practice among doctors - of killing newborns based upon likely, and not only actual, suffering.

"Given that we in the Netherlands find it important to exercise social control over the active killing of newborns, the guidelines should therefore be adjusted," she said."

Maybe the next step is say it is ethical for the government to kill you based on the anticipated future suffering it intends to inflict upon you!

Slippery slope? What slippery slope? At least no one in North America is advocating infanticide. Except, of course, for Peter Singer:

"For instance, in a 2006 interview Singer was asked point-blank: "Would you kill a disabled baby?" His response? "Yes, if that was in the best interests of the baby and of the family as a whole."

"Many people find this shocking," he continued, "yet they support a woman's right to have an abortion. One point on which I agree with opponents of abortion is that, from the point of view of ethics rather than the law, there is no sharp distinction between the foetus and the newborn baby."
Of course, Singer is just some gun-toting, right-wing weekend militia member from Wisconsin, right? He isn't? Princeton? Teaches bioethics? A chair? Say it isn't so.

The Netherlands is a barbaric, post-Christian wasteland of violence, evil and statist pretentiousness. Maybe Islam taking it over and putting it under Sharia law is no more than it deserves. See Isaiah 8:6-10. God does this sort of things to nations that defy the natural law in spectacular ways; that is the sort of Righteous Judge of all the earth He is. We might want to take that into consideration while the slide down into the culture of death is being greased by fools who do not believe in God.


Josh said...

Singer's view sickens me.

My question for him would be this: Who determines what is "in the best interests of the baby and of the family as a whole"?

His comment shows the inadequacy of a consequentialist "the end justifies the means" ethic.

Nathan said...

I think it is important to note that the Groningen Protocol requires parental consent. The government is not unilaterally euthanizing infants. I think this makes the problem less "statist" than it came across after my first read of this post. Still, I find euthanasia to be quite disturbing (whether statist or populist), especially for potential future suffering.

I think your criticism of the Netherlands might be a bit overstated. For a "wasteland of violence" it seems to have violent crime rates much lower than the US and even Canada.

David said...

I suppose that the comment 'wasteland of violence' is not intended to just refer to so-called criminal activity, but also state-sponsored violence such as abortion and/or euthanasia.
There is an interesting link [] to an article about the woman (Dr Elst Borst) who was the architect behind Holland's euthanasia law. It turns out that she is admitting that euthanasia was a slippery slope to the killing of people who either felt, or were made to feel, useless. To quote from the article: 'Her research found that the available palliative care in Holland was so inadequate that patients “often ask for euthanasia out of fear”.'

Nathan said...


If we include abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia, does the Netherlands actually top the US or Canada in terms of violence? Those countries have high abortion rates too. Unless you define violence purely in terms of euthanasia, I don't see how the Netherlands is going to come across as a "wasteland of violence" by any reasonable measure. It's just some over-the-top rhetoric.

Craig Carter said...

Your reaction ("over the top rhetoric") is just so typical of modern, secular people and I'm surprised that a Christian would think that way. The problem is that we are just desensitized to state-sponsored murder as normal. If we read about current Canadian or Dutch practices as descriptions of ancient pagan societies or Nazi Germany, then we would be shocked and scandalized. But we accept great evil because nice people like us perpetrate it very rationally and "legally" and we can't believe we are actually complicit in actions that are under Divine judgment. The Holocaust was also rational and legal (in terms of positive law).

The whole ethical problem is one of accurate description. We can't get anywhere so long as we misrepresent immoral acts as "choice" or "necessity" or "mercy-killing." These terms just cover up the moral evil; they obscure our moral vision. The advantage of looking at the Netherlands is that we are less prone to misrepresent the actions of another country, which is just at another stage in the devolution into the culture of death. If you take my post as an expression of self-righteousness, you miss the whole point. The whole point is to see ourselves and our society more clearly - as God see us.

Nathan said...

Fair point about the government-sponsored part of things. I did some checking, and the Netherlands has much lower violent crime and abortion rates than North America. So, why do you suppose that a country which is a "wasteland of violence" has so much less violence in its society? I understand the moral evil of euthanizing babies, but why is it that a society which condones such evil is not prone to act out violently?

Craig Carter said...

To be fair, why don't you add all the cases of euthanasia and abortion to the crime rates and re-evaluate?

Besides society tolerates legal killing in a way that it does not tolerate the actions of criminals. I am responsible, as a citizen of a democratic country, for government policy in a way that I am not responsible for a maniac who decides to murder his neighbor in a drunken brawl.

This is not a pleasant thought.

Craig Carter said...

Why not more violent crime in the Netherlands? Maybe it is the fact that so many of the potential criminal element is on drugs. (See Huxley's Brave New World.)

Craig Carter said...

I just thought of another angle. Maybe you can say that the Dutch have applied the classical socialist solution to the problem of violent crime by nationalizing it! In the US it is left to the free market. Much more rational those Dutch bureaucrats. Now it they could just figure out a way to tax it . . .