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A friend of mine once remarked that, while the redefinition of marriage does have troubling consequences for the continuity of society, what John Paul II has rightly called the “culture of death” is far more sinister, another order of evil entirely. Abortion comes to mind first for most. Not marriage, but  life itself is being redefined, and that arbitrarily. The recent article from the Journal of Medical Ethics , “ After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live? ”, brings this home.

Euthanasia takes a close second. Massachusetts is next in line to vote on doctor-prescribed suicide in November of this year. In many ways, this too is a matter where life itself is being redefined not as a welcome good to be sustained but instead as a financial burden, a source of anxiety and concern. And while the administration of life-ending drugs must be freely chosen by the person to be euthanized, it is obvious that the more euthanasia becomes normalized, the more coercive the cultural attitude will become for the young and old alike.

For the young, the the parlance of euthanasia has particular force. Framed in the language of “mercy,” euthanasia, we’re told, is a welcome relief for your loved one, a good deed done, a painless crossing of the threshold of death surrounded by loved ones. What son or daughter, faced with the prospect of seeing their parent through a prolonged and painful death, wouldn’t consider having “mercy” via euthanasia? The elderly are faced with even more twisted prospects. If euthanasia becomes a regular option for those aware that death is close anyway, knowledgeable that they are a financial and emotional burden to their family, what parent wouldn’t choose to die quickly and easily, relieving their children of the imposition?

The notion that euthanasia is always ‘freely chosen’ is simply dishonest. A coercive cultural attitude must be factored in, especially if we employ language like “mercy” and “relief.” The more normal the option becomes, the more life that requires financial and emotional resources will be thought only burdensome.

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