Human Dignity on the Sceptred Isle

Chuck Colson | BreakPoint | Thursday, October 23, 2008

Human Dignity on the Sceptred Isle


October 23, 2008

The Brits may be losing their marbles. The distinguished Baroness Warnock, labeled by the Daily Telegraph as Britain’s leading moral philosopher, ought to be ashamed of herself.

You see, Lady Warnock once chaired a government committee that helped legalize embryonic research. She’s known for supporting assisted suicide for people don’t want to burden their caregivers.

But now Lady Warnock has gone a step further. She says elderly people who suffer from dementia are “wasting people’s lives”—that is, the lives of those who care for them—and ought to choose to die even if they’re not suffering.

And even if they aren’t a burden on their families, they ought to “off” themselves anyway, as she puts it, because they’re a burden on the public, which, under British national health care, pays for their treatment. According to the Daily Telegraph, Warnock hopes people will soon be “licensed to put others down.”

Putting others down? That’s the kind of euphemism we use when talking about injured horses or sick dogs. It’s not how we talk about human beings—or at least, it’s not how we used to talk about them.

At age 84, Lady Warnock is old enough to remember Hitler’s Final Solution—and the thinking that drove the slaughter, not only of the Jews, but also of the handicapped, gypsies, and others the Nazis considered “defective” or “useless.”

But even though Lady Warnock should remember World War II, she evidently has forgotten its terrible lessons. Given her despicable recommendation for the elderly, she ought to hope that her memory issues aren’t related to dementia.

Thankfully, at least a few Brits are outraged by Warnock’s comments, calling them—in typical British understatement—both callous and deeply ignorant. Neil Hunt, a spokesman for the British Alzheimer’s Society, says to suggest that people with dementia “have some sort of duty to kill themselves is nothing short of barbaric.”

More ominously, a spokesman for a British right to life group said Warnock’s views “are an illustration that while euthanasia is promoted as a right to choose, it pretty rapidly becomes” an obligation to die.

This tale out of England is also a dire warning about what happens when countries nationalize health care. There’s never enough money to go around—and some bureaucrat at the top is always going to start making choices about who gets to live and who’s going to die. If those targeted for death don’t go willingly, well, they will need to be encouraged to die—or they might get a visit from someone “licensed to put others down.”

Has the Western world truly sunk this low? Do we ever need a more vivid reminder of the tremendous importance of worldview?

Either all human life—from unborn children to demented mothers and fathers—is created in the image of God and therefore infinitely precious, or humans are nothing but the result of mere chance, indistinguishable morally from a sand flea. The choice society makes will determine whether the most vulnerable among us will be respected and protected . . . or whether we will “put them down” when they become a burden.

We Christians must speak out as others—especially those in authority—move us closer and closer to compulsory killing.

If we do nothing, it’s evidence that perhaps we’ve all lost our marbles.



Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

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