Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Euthanasia, abortion and population control - misconceptions

Christian Medical Comment carries another good post today, on the subject of demographics and euthanasia.  As usual Peter Saunders has an array of facts and figures at his fingertips, which you can read here.

The essence of his argument is that most of our modern societies are at a crossroads.  Thanks to increased lifespans and smaller families, we are faced with growing numbers of older people in our populations and proportionately falling numbers of younger, working-aged ones to support them.  What do we do about the resulting pressures on our social and medical care systems?  Encourage people to have even fewer children in order to contain the population?  Put forward euthanasia as the socially-responsible alternative to being a burden in one's old age?

Despite protestations by those in favour of euthanasia that there would be safeguards ensuring that only the terminally ill are helped to die, one can easily imagine that the pressures to revise those safeguards would become stronger with every report of old people left wallowing unfed in their filth in some underfunded, badly-staffed geriatric ward or care home.  Apparently Minette Marin of the Sunday Times already wrote a year ago, "old people who, entirely of their own free will, decide to take their lives without pressure from anyone else [? why are they doing it then? - there must be pressure from somewhere, because it isn't human instinct to want to die without reason] are, I think, to be admired and thanked. They are sparing themselves and their families a great deal of suffering and are relieving those around them and the welfare state of a burden [ah, so there's your pressure after all]. Surely that is an honourable act."

Mr Saunders - pointing out, by the way, that "it is rich people in the affluent West, rather than the poor in the Global South" (the latter tend to live in societies where age and experience are valued and respected) "who say they can’t afford to look after their dependents and are clamouring for euthanasia" - puts forward his own concept of what it is to act honourably. "The real answer is not euthanasia. The real answer is in our grasp, but it requires a completely different mindset to that which has led us, in our reckless pursuit of affluence and personal peace to mortgage our present, bankrupt our futures, and see those who rely on us as a burden rather than a privileged responsibility.

"We need instead, as a society, to stop killing our children, build up our families, live more simply, give more generously and focus our priorities on providing for our dependents, especially the older generation which fought for our freedom in two world wars, provided for our health, education and welfare, and left us the legacy of wealth, comfort, peace and security which we have squandered and taken for granted." 

In a previous pro-life newsletter in our parish, our Group reported on that old chestnut that we need to make sure we have small families in order to avoid over-population and too much strain on our social welfare systems and other resources.  I have copied our short article below.  It is worth remembering how increasingly acceptable abortion has become as, in effect, a form of family planning.  How can we say confidently that the same process of liberalisation will not take place in the case of euthanasia?

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We hear a great deal about the necessity for “population control” and “reproductive health care rights” (which phrase usually includes access to abortion) because of our world’s apparently burgeoning population. Much of what we read and hear makes us think that without drastic action, we will soon be fighting for space, food and water. Is this picture, however, entirely accurate?

Steven W Mosher says not. He is President of the Population Research Institute, a non-profit research organization with headquarters in Front Royal, Virginia. In a recent interview with CWN he put a very different case. In 2010, the UN Population Division (UNDP) affirmed that for the next few years the world’s population will slowly creep up, peaking at around 7.6 billion in 2040. (Bear in mind that we are already at nearly 7 billion.) After that, the projection is that we will see not a population explosion, but an implosion. By the turn of the next century the world’s population is projected to be at about 5 billion – and it will be a much older population than is currently the case.

Mosher points out that according to the UNDP’s 2010 figures, 79 countries had fertility levels below that needed to ensure the long-term survival of the population. What may surprise many is that this figure includes 36 in the less developed world. Most of the rest, UNDP believes, are likely to enter the same danger zone over the next few decades.

This is not just a question of falling numbers of people, but about demographic distribution. As a baby boomer, Mosher lived through the doubling of the global population in the second half of the twentieth century – a rate of increase never previously seen. At the same time, however, fertility rates were falling. The reason for the population increase was not unfettered reproduction: it was falling death rates. People were living for far longer than ever before. The increase in life expectancy was most dramatic in the less developed countries.

With less children being born, and all of us living longer, it does not take a degree in population studies to work out the net effect. Aging populations with fewer young people to support them. Further demands on social security services, yet fewer economically productive younger adults to fund them or indeed to care for the human needs of so many older people. The impact on quality of life in every area will be far reaching.

We don’t often get shown this perspective on the issue of global population. Could it be that the Catholic Church’s respect for large families and pro-life teachings make good practical sense after all...?                   (Source: “The Catholic World Report”, 1 November 2011)

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