Check out this article from The Weekly Standard. (H/T ECM)
The case of Terri Schiavo–who died five years ago next March, deprived for nearly two weeks of food and water, even the balm of ice chips–continues to prick consciences. That may be one reason the case of Rom Houben, a Belgian man who was misdiagnosed for 23 years as being in a persistent vegetative state, is now receiving international attention.
In 1983, Houben suffered catastrophic head injuries in an automobile accident. He arrived at the hospital unconscious. Doctors eventually concluded that his case was hopeless, and his family was told he would never waken. But the Houben family, like Terri’s parents and siblings, didn’t give up. They diligently sought out every medical advance. This wasn’t delusion or pure wishful thinking. Several studies have shown that about 40 percent of persistent vegetative state diagnoses are wrong.
[…]During the years that Houben was thought unconscious, society changed. Bioethicists nudged medicine away from the Hippocratic model and toward “quality of life” judgmentalism. Today, when a patient is diagnosed as persistently unconscious or minimally aware, doctors, social workers, and bioethicists often recommend that life-sustaining treatment–including sustenance delivered through a tube–be withdrawn, sometimes days or weeks after the injury.
One thing that stands out to me about this story is how the medical profession has accepted the idea that it is OK to kill people who do not have a high enough quality of life. What is behind this view? Well, I think it’s caused by secularism. Secularism has marginalized the Christian worldview that dominated the West. One component of that Christian worldview is that it is morally good to deny yourself happiness to care for the needs of others. And that the right thing is not based on your opinion or the arbitrary views of the majority of people in your culture.
On the secular worldview, though, there is no “right thing” that we “ought to do”. The universe is an accident and there is no design. The only thing to do on an atheistic worldview is to be “happy”. And you can’t be happy if other people need you to take care of them. So, I think that this is what is behind the push by secularists to kill the weak and stop them from using up resources. Secularists look at people who need them, and they want to kill them. There is no objective duty of self-sacrifice for others, on atheism.
Christopher Hitchens is fond of asking people he debates to name one thing that a Christian can do that an atheist can’t do. Here’s one: an atheist can’t rationally ground the decision to sacrifice their own pursuit of happiness to take care of the needs of others. On atheism, self-sacrifice is irrational, unless it makes you happy. You only have one life. There is no way you ought to be. The purpose of life is to be happy. The needs of the weak diminish your happiness. It’s survival of the fittest. That’s what is rational on atheism.
UPDATE: I just got back from breakfast at Denny’s and I was reading Jennifer Roback Morse’s “Love and Economics”. She was talking a lot about the helplessness of babies, and what mothers and fathers do that make children grow up capably. She writes that early on in the baby’s life they scream for everything and the mother has to be there to meet those needs or the child will never learn to trust. Later on, the parents try to encourage the child to be better-behaved and self-sufficient.
All this made me recall this post. If a selfish person believes that it is too much work to care of someone sick who needs extra love, then that person isn’t going to be willing to take care of babies, either. And I guess that’s exactly where we are as a society now, with people having fewer babies, but more abortions and day care. And of course people divorce when they have small children as well, which (usually) deprives the child of a father.