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Useless eaters: disability as genocidal marker in Nazi Germany
Journal of Special Education ^ | Fall, 2002 | Mark P. Mostert

Posted on 03/30/2005 4:20:19 PM PST by BCrago66

The methods used for mass extermination in the Nazi death camps originated and were perfected in earlier use against people with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities. This article describes the historical context of attitudes toward people with disabilities in Germany and how this context produced mass murder of people with disabilities prior to and during the early years of-World War II. Several key marker variables, the manipulation of which allowed a highly sophisticated Western society to officially sanction the murder of people with disabilities, are examined. Important implications must continually be drawn from these sad events as we work with people with disabilities at the dawn of a new century.

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Would you, if you were a cripple, want to vegetate forever?--Dr. Tergesten, in the propaganda film Ich Klage an! (I Accuse!, 1941)

Even given the passage of time and the necessary exposure of many people to commonly known historical events about Nazi Germany, some facts are more familiar than others. Historically, the focus has remained on the state-sanctioned genocide of the war years, which resulted in the extermination of Jews and to a lesser extent other populations, such as the Gypsies, political prisoners, and homosexuals (Yahil, 1987). In secular terms, images of death camps and the Nuremberg Trials represent the nadir of a humanitarian conflagration that began with the invasion of Poland in 1939 and ended with Germany's surrender and political and physical partitioning in 1945.

However, relatively little attention has been paid to significant precipitating historical events that served as a catalyst for what later became known as the Holocaust. These events, rooted in powerful societal and scientific perceptions of difference with parallel extensions in state policy and action, were intensified and codified with the rise of National Socialism and Hitler's assumption of power in 1933 (Aly, Chroust, & Pross, 1994; Friedlander, 1995). Official notions of difference, which would later find their most diabolical expression in the murder of the Jews, were first expressed in state-sanctioned killings of children and adults with a wide range of physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities.

I draw on the relatively few but important sources available in English to illustrate a neglected historical aspect of perceptions of people with disabilities for several purposes. First, I provide a description of the historical context under-girding perceptions of and attitudes toward people with disabilities in Germany and how this context produced mass murder of people with disabilities prior to and during the early years of World War II. Second, I examine several key marker variables, the manipulation of which allowed a highly sophisticated Western society via state law and policy to sanction the murder of people with disabilities. Third, I provide a brief synopsis of implications that can be drawn from this conflagration that influence work with and on behalf of people with disabilities in the 21st century.

People with Disabilities in Germany: Historical Underpinnings

The idea of societies disposing of people with disabilities was hardly new at the dawn of the 20th century. There is ample evidence that both medical and legal debates across Europe, including in Germany in the 19th century, included fatal solutions for inmates of asylums and others with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities. These historical attitudes gathered momentum, however, in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.

Treatment Prior to World War II

Along with the rest of Europe after the Enlightenment, Germany sought to address difficult issues related to people with disabilities. As in the United States, late-19th-century German efforts to meet the needs of this population consisted largely of custodial care either privately by family members and church institutions or in state asylums. These efforts were reflected in a significant increase in the number of publicly sustained German asylums, which increased from 93 in 1877 to 226 in 1913 (Burleigh, 1994). There was also a concomitant increase in the number of private institutions providing various levels of residential care to those with a wide spectrum of disabilities. This state of affairs remained relatively stable until World War I.

The outbreak of war in 1914 precipitated significant changes for people with disabilities across Germany. The logistics and material requirements of fighting a major conflict soon had social and economic repercussions among all sectors of the population. For asylum inmates, the most debilitating outcome was the wartime rationing of food. Caregivers, despite their best efforts, were unable to compensate for their patients' nutritional losses. At the Berlin-Buch asylum, for example, the average daily caloric intake for inmates decreased from 2,695 in 1914 to 1,987 by January 1918 (Burleigh, 1994). Unable to supplement their meager rations via hoarding or purchases on the public black markets, inmates soon deteriorated. In addition, most asylums strictly adhered to cost-cutting measures of less heating and clothing. Medicine, a critical need for the war effort, was relatively scarce for those in custodial care. These high levels of deprivation and neglect, along with overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions, soon led to marked increases in communicable diseases and elevated mortality rates. The relatively stable pre--World War I annual institutional mortality rate of approximately 5.5% escalated to 30% by the end of the war. In real terms, by 1918, more than 140,000 people had died in psychiatric asylums across Germany (Burleigh, 1994).

The privations of the war had a marked effect on perceptions of disability among institutional caregivers and the public. Caregivers generally acknowledged the deplorable state of affairs in asylums but also understood the necessity of shifting resources to those able to conduct the war effort. Among the general public, the war effort's reallocation of resources also highlighted the divide between those who were healthy and able to contribute and survive unaided, and those with disabilities, who could not. Thus, by the end of World War I, an implicit but palpable public perception of higher economic worth was attached to people without disabilities, and lesser worth was attributed to people with disabilities. Later, the economic worth of human life under the Nazis proved a key distinction for creating and sanctioning genocide against people with disabilities.

By 1918, a trend toward institutional contraction emerged. Many private and public asylums had closed. Others were transformed into convalescent homes for injured soldiers or hostels for refugees. Still others stood empty as supporting funds were redirected to convalescing patients with predictable recoveries who would again enter the workforce to help the country recover economically. Also, asylum populations remained low because of the now exorbitant cost of admitting and caring for new patients. These circumstances soon generated various models of cheaper outpatient treatment that controlled expenses and bolstered progressive social reforms attempting to soften the image of asylums as nothing more than prison warehouses.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: allterri; allthetime; hyperbole; hysteria; ignorantofthelaw; schiavo; terrimania
This is a long article. If you have the time, click the above link to read the rest.
1 posted on 03/30/2005 4:20:20 PM PST by BCrago66
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To: BCrago66
"Useless eaters:"

No wonder Al Franken's worried.

2 posted on 03/30/2005 4:25:35 PM PST by elbucko (A Feral Republican)
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To: BCrago66

Dr. Mostert has an excellent multimedia presentation here:

http://www.regent.edu/admin/ctl/uselesseaters/


3 posted on 03/30/2005 4:27:53 PM PST by LibFreeOrDie (L'chaim!)
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To: elbucko

Useless eaters. Nicely describes most of the dumacrats.


4 posted on 03/30/2005 4:28:08 PM PST by pipecorp ('E must be the king. Why? 'E ain't got sh@t all over 'im.)
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To: elbucko

I think Euthanesia where you specifically have authorized a professional to end your life humanely, and what the Nazis did to disabled people against their will is a red herring.
The arrogance of some people who think they know better than yourself in how you want to life or end your own life is disturbing.


5 posted on 03/30/2005 4:28:30 PM PST by rasblue
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To: LibFreeOrDie

Thanks. This article was a random google-find for me.


6 posted on 03/30/2005 4:29:22 PM PST by BCrago66
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To: BCrago66; All
A lot of the self-proclaimed 'smart people' have posted that the 'slippery slip' and comparisons to Nazi 'useless eater' policy detailed above is utterly ridiculous, just wild eyed nonsense from the Bible-thumpers. Oh... if only the rest of us could be so 'smart' and 'enlightened'.
7 posted on 03/30/2005 4:36:12 PM PST by AmericaUnited (Opponent of WPPFF (Wicked People Pulling Feeding Facilities))
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To: rasblue
Whether we are arrogant or not, we know very well that the health care provider you contact to scrag your old'lady, or yourself, might end up having something to do with our own health.

Frankly, I don't want you mucking up the works by tricking me about whether or not my doctor is a Killer Doc or one who adhere's to his creed as a helper.

It's been the experience of humanity over the ages that executioners can and do develop a thirst that extends beyond their initial targets.

What you guys need to do is demand the right to have access to the gurney in the federal prison at Terre Haute, Indiana. Or, simply take care of your personal problem NOW while you still can. Because of your beliefs, I promise you I won't care!

Oh, yes, take the trash out to the walk for weekly collection, and don't leave a mess all over the bathroom ceiling please. We'd like to be able to rent that place without a lot of expense.

8 posted on 03/30/2005 4:36:21 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: BCrago66

So I guess they'd have been taking a pass on Stephen Hawking. They lost Einstein as it was. Nazism is such a practical philosophy.


9 posted on 03/30/2005 4:36:53 PM PST by Still Thinking (Disregard the law of unintended consequences at your own risk.)
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To: AmericaUnited

These are the kind of condescending scum who will always stand aside in a battle between good and evil, between the innocent and those who would murder them, and declare their boredom and distaste for both sides.


10 posted on 03/30/2005 4:39:02 PM PST by BCrago66
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To: BCrago66

I have read that the Plains Indian culture left the elderly behind to die, when they became too big of a burden, to bring along.

It was understood by all parties this was a simple completion of the circle of life.

It was NOT thought of that they were murdering the elderly.

I'm not taking sides, but merely pointing out an example whereby the elderly are allowed to pass on, as part of an understood cultural practice.


11 posted on 03/30/2005 4:39:19 PM PST by truth_seeker
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To: rasblue

The naivete of some people who think family members always have a person's best interests at heart is also disturbing. I wonder how many people have been put to sleep before their time so that an inheritance would be distributed?


12 posted on 03/30/2005 4:40:32 PM PST by thoughtomator (Order "Judges Gone Wild!" Only $19.95 have your credit card handy!)
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To: BCrago66

I have read that the Plains Indian culture left the elderly behind to die, when they became too big of a burden, to bring along.

It was understood by all parties this was a simple completion of the circle of life.

It was NOT thought of that they were murdering the elderly.

I'm not taking sides, but merely pointing out an example whereby the elderly are allowed to pass on, as part of an understood cultural practice.


13 posted on 03/30/2005 4:41:27 PM PST by truth_seeker
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To: rasblue
I think Euthanesia where you specifically have authorized a professional to end your life humanely,

What case do you have in mind as an example of this?

The arrogance of some people who think they know better than yourself in how you want to life or end your own life is disturbing.

Agreed. For example, that Michael Schiavo claims to know how Terri wants/wanted to live or end her life has been very disturbing all along.

14 posted on 03/30/2005 4:42:11 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: AmericaUnited
A lot of the self-proclaimed 'smart people' have posted that the 'slippery slip' and comparisons to Nazi 'useless eater' policy detailed above is utterly ridiculous, just wild eyed nonsense from the Bible-thumpers. Oh... if only the rest of us could be so 'smart' and 'enlightened'.

Don't worry, no one will ever make the mistake of drawing said conclusion regarding yourself.

15 posted on 03/30/2005 4:42:53 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: rasblue

I'd make a distinction euthanasia and assisted suicide. The later is what you want to allow, and if you want to kill yourself that's OK by me. If you want help in your clearly expressed desire to die, that's OK too, so long as the medical pression isn't forced to help you.

But Euthanasia occurs precisely when the victim has not clearly expressed a desire to die, but someone want to kill them anyway. It's a form of homocide.


16 posted on 03/30/2005 4:43:38 PM PST by BCrago66
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To: BCrago66
And then they want to be respected. ROFLOL! That is the liberal/leftist mindset disease. All actions are ok, we should all respect everything and everybody.... NAMBLA, Pol Pot, Stalin, child molesters, Idi Amin, Kim Il Jong, Wayne Gacie, etc.
17 posted on 03/30/2005 4:44:02 PM PST by AmericaUnited (Opponent of WPPFF (Wicked People Pulling Feeding Facilities))
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To: BCrago66
If you want help in your clearly expressed desire to die, that's OK too

So, a depressed 17 year old comes up to you and expresses a desire to die. You'd help him. Right?

18 posted on 03/30/2005 4:45:36 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: truth_seeker

You ARE taking sides. If you want to argue for a position, that's OK, but them don't deny responsibility for your position in the same breath.

By the way, some African communities practice female genital mutiliation. That's an "understood cultural practice" too. Does that make it alright, morally?


19 posted on 03/30/2005 4:46:49 PM PST by BCrago66
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To: truth_seeker
"I have read that the Plains Indian culture left the elderly behind to die, when they became too big of a burden, to bring along."

I would recommend Charles Darwin's "Voyage of the Beagle". There is a lengthy account of their encounter with the Fuegan Indians (near Cape Horn). They would catch, cook and eat granny when the fishing was poor. Of course granny would try to escape, but since she was old they could usually catch her and make her the dinner. I think that is why they called them "savages". This is a good word to certain perps in Florida right now. Beginning with the judges and mikey shiavo's lawyer.

20 posted on 03/30/2005 4:48:09 PM PST by ImpeachandRemove
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To: truth_seeker
as part of an understood cultural practice.

Yes, as I posted, that is a disease of the liberal/leftist mindset, i.e. that all cultures are equal, all ways of life are equal, all 'perversions' are equal,...

They are not! Anyone with two functional brain cells can look with their own eyes and make this determination.

21 posted on 03/30/2005 4:52:24 PM PST by AmericaUnited (Opponent of WPPFF (Wicked People Pulling Feeding Facilities))
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To: BCrago66; Interesting Times; zot

Ah yes, now all of Europe is accepting the concepts of euthnasia that were considered crimes against humanity at the end of WW2. Holland seems to be the leader, such a turn after its revulsion of Hitler during the 40s. And here in the USA, the spiritual descendants of Hitler's theories, the socialists and abortion backers are furthering his cause. How soon will we hear a call for the rehabilation of Hitler, because he lead the way in controlling health care costs and saving social security?


22 posted on 03/30/2005 4:53:24 PM PST by GreyFriar (3rd Armored Division -- Spearhead)
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To: BCrago66; truth_seeker
Don't forget other "understood cultural practices" such as bride-burning in India, human sacrifice among the Aztecs, cannibalism here and there, etc.

All worthy and interesting examples to point out and ponder over, surely.

23 posted on 03/30/2005 4:53:48 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: ImpeachandRemove
I think that is why they called them "savages".

No, no... we must show those WPPFF members savages respect

24 posted on 03/30/2005 4:53:57 PM PST by AmericaUnited (Opponent of WPPFF (Wicked People Pulling Feeding Facilities))
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To: Dr. Frank fan

I'm writting in short-hand, which is the way it works on message boards, where there isn't time to write an essay with all the nuanced distinctions. I'm saying that I would not in principal outlaw all assisted suicide (see Oregon, where there is a assisted-suicide law.) I personally would confine assisted suicide to cases such as the terminally ill, who are of sound mind to make the decision, etc.

My point was in responce to rasblue, who seemed to blurr together assisted suicide and euthanasia. You can't argue that because in some cases assited suicide is alright, therefore euthanasia is alright, because in the later case one person is killing another, regardless of the wishes of the victim.


25 posted on 03/30/2005 4:55:09 PM PST by BCrago66
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To: AmericaUnited
OOOPS

I misinterpreted your post COMPLETELY. I have proven myself the stupid one.

All apologies,

26 posted on 03/30/2005 4:55:16 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: BCrago66
I personally would confine assisted suicide to cases such as the terminally ill, who are of sound mind to make the decision, etc.

Ok.

27 posted on 03/30/2005 4:56:49 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: AmericaUnited
Two points of interest:

The History Channel showed excerpts of that Nazi euthanasia film, where a husband kills his increasingly debilitated wife. It is presented as an act of love and would fit nicely today with the murder-Terry Schiavo, and

The World at War also had a life in Nazi Germany section and they showed a film of real mentally retarded and schizophrenics and why they should be eliminated.

If anyone hasn't seen these two programs, I recommend it to them.

28 posted on 03/30/2005 4:57:41 PM PST by Stepan12
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To: Dr. Frank fan
Oh... if only the rest of us could be so 'smart' and 'enlightened'.

Ooops on my part for not including this tag

/EXTREME MOCKING SARCASM

29 posted on 03/30/2005 4:58:12 PM PST by AmericaUnited (Opponent of WPPFF (Wicked People Pulling Feeding Facilities))
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To: rasblue

The arrogance of some people who think they know better than yourself in how you want to life or end your own life is disturbing.

Yes thats disturbing isn't it, that parents who loved and raised their child to womanhood would have a arrogance even to begin to know what their child would have wanted. Totally arrogant.. tsk tsk


30 posted on 03/30/2005 5:00:26 PM PST by Gimme
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To: AmericaUnited
Ooops on my part..

Not really. Blame's all in this corner.

31 posted on 03/30/2005 5:00:55 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: AmericaUnited

I'm sure that all the leftists who are presently experienceing some kind of depraved pleasure form the murder of Terri Schiavo not only call themselves "smart" and "enlightened," but call themselves "members of the reality-based community."


32 posted on 03/30/2005 5:02:42 PM PST by BCrago66
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To: BCrago66
We have to keep medical professionals out of the euthenasia business. Nederland's current experience proves my point that when some of these guys get a taste for killing, they start doing more of it even if the rules don't allow for it.

The standard has to be that you can be a Killer or a Doctor, but not both!

We might apply that to judges and lawyers as well.

33 posted on 03/30/2005 5:15:30 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: muawiyah

You're likely right about that. Once a doctor gets the taste of blood, he can be almost as murderous as a bioethicist.


34 posted on 03/30/2005 5:22:01 PM PST by BCrago66
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To: BCrago66

The bioethicists are my favorites. I've always had an interest in how the shamen convinced folks in ancient times to bring their kids down for a human sacrifice, and these guys prove that it's a very easy to convince people to kill the helpless and innocent.


35 posted on 03/30/2005 5:38:31 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: BCrago66
Pardon my curiosity, but what led you to this article?

I posted a link to it in the Bloggers & Personal forum on the 27th.

36 posted on 03/30/2005 5:51:05 PM PST by Yanni.Znaio (This tagline is political. The FEC is trying to make me remove it.)
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To: rasblue

The arrogance of some people who think they know better than yourself in how you want to live your own life is disturbing.


37 posted on 03/30/2005 5:52:54 PM PST by Yanni.Znaio (This tagline is political. The FEC is trying to make me remove it.)
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To: Yanni.Znaio

Nope, but I guess great minds think alike. What happened is I wasn't sure if "useless eaters" was a Nazi or Stalinist expression, so I googled it and found the article.


38 posted on 03/30/2005 5:57:43 PM PST by BCrago66
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To: muawiyah

Save your breath. rasblue is a canadian, I believe. :)


39 posted on 03/30/2005 6:10:00 PM PST by monkeywrench
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To: muawiyah
It's been the experience of humanity over the ages that executioners can and do develop a thirst that extends beyond their initial targets.

So true, as we have seen with the leftists in our own society.

It should also be noted that massive slaughters have never been halted through emotional appeals, begging for mercy, political pressure, or economic sanctions. Only overwhelming force, to the point of unconditional surrender, has worked.

40 posted on 03/30/2005 6:17:14 PM PST by meadsjn
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To: monkeywrench

Then that means rasblue is a clear and present public danger.


41 posted on 03/30/2005 6:23:17 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: BCrago66

But where did you hear the term "useless eaters"?

I hadn't heard it in years and I think it was in the context of the extreme environmentalists that want 90% of humanity to die in order for humans to "get back in harmony with what the planet will bear".


42 posted on 03/30/2005 7:58:19 PM PST by Yanni.Znaio (This tagline is political. The FEC is trying to make me remove it.)
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To: GreyFriar
Ah yes, now all of Europe is accepting the concepts of euthnasia that were considered crimes against humanity at the end of WW2. Holland seems to be the leader, such a turn after its revulsion of Hitler during the 40s. And here in the USA, the spiritual descendants of Hitler's theories, the socialists and abortion backers are furthering his cause. How soon will we hear a call for the rehabilation of Hitler, because he lead the way in controlling health care costs and saving social security?

Good post. Yes, that is the "slippery slope" to Hell that will solve the financial problems of Social Security and Medicare.

43 posted on 03/30/2005 9:23:08 PM PST by zot (GWB -- four more years!)
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To: BCrago66

I took this to bed with me and read it. Excellent article; well worth the time. It was interesting to see how one of the first methods used in Nazi Germany for "euthanizing" so-called "defective" children was starvation, and how the rationale given was that they were somehow dying a natural death.


44 posted on 03/31/2005 2:40:28 AM PST by Mr Ramsbotham (Laws against sodomy are honored in the breech.)
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To: Dr. Frank fan

Living wills, etc. It has to be authorized by you only. That I accept. Euthanesia is a slippery slope agreed but if it you authorizing it for yourself, personal choice is more important.


45 posted on 03/31/2005 5:20:16 PM PST by rasblue
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To: rasblue
Living wills, etc. It has to be authorized by you only. That I accept. Euthanesia is a slippery slope agreed but if it you authorizing it for yourself, personal choice is more important.

I am, oh, 63% in agreement with you here. But what disturbs me is how many people seem to think that they should be able to write down "I want to be killed if X Y Z happens to me" and, no matter what, that should be respected.

Even if X = blindness?

Y = amputation?

Z = half-facial paralysis from stroke?

There are certainly terminal, painful, suffering, horrible conditions in which I'd want to be mercifully helped as I shuffle off this mortal coil, just as much as the next guy. But why do people seem to be assuming, or speaking as if, there is some sort of universal right to suicide, no matter what, for any condition of your choosing?

There is not.

That is why I get a little nervous, and am slightly resistant, when people say stuff like "Euthanesia where you specifically have authorized a professional to end your life humanely" is always, no matter what, A-OK.

If that's what you think then you would be saying that you approve of the following situation: A teenager is depressed about a breakup, specifically authorizes a professional to end his life humanely, and so he does.

"authorizing it for yourself" is not and cannot be the only requirement here.

46 posted on 03/31/2005 5:32:04 PM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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