Editorial: No room for God in life and death decisions

The more control we exert over our day-to-day choices — especially where questions of life and death are concerned — the less God thrives in our lives.

Examining this reality, the story on Page 5 of this week’s issue looks closely at a patent by 23andMe Inc., which essentially would let parents “build” their babies. Hair color, eye color, skills and talents — all would be up for grabs for parents to decide, just as if they were placing an order on Amazon.com.

Though the company, which provides DNA analysis, is not yet being used to create customized children with handpicked qualities, rest assured that there’s a good chance it likely soon will be. And the consequences of those choices will be more dire than we can even imagine. As Janet Smith, who holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said: “What if you try to perfectly design a child, and that child doesn’t live up to the expectations? We’ve already seen with parents who have unrealistic expectations for their children, how damaging it is.”

Unfortunately, this desire for control pervades not only beginning of life issues, but those at the end of life as well. According to a report last February by the European Institute of Bioethics, euthanasia in Belgium has increased by 25 percent from 2011 to 2012. Next year’s statistics will include the deaths of 95-year-old Christian de Duve, a Belgian biochemist and Nobel Prize winner who was euthanized in May, and 45-year-old identical twins who chose to end their lives via euthanasia in January.

Suddenly decisions that would keep right-thinking adults up at night are now placed in the hands of the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

As if the increase in euthanized deaths wasn’t enough, Belgium, formerly one of the most Catholic countries in the world, now wants to take matters a step further. An unprecedented law recently was proposed that would give children and those with dementia the power to end their own lives should they choose. Suddenly decisions that would keep right-thinking adults up at night are now placed in the hands of the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Not only are the possible outcomes almost unthinkable, the fact that this is even a proposed reality is both shocking and frightening.

The root issue, of course, is that God is no longer finding a place at the table when it comes to issues of life or death. We walk down our roads of many options, deciding how we will live — or end — our lives, and in doing so, we seize control from the one who gave us life in the first place. As we persist in thinking that we are more capable and more knowledgeable than the one who created us, we edge him out of the picture. Be it building customized babies or choosing to be euthanized, we allow faith to take a backseat to personal preference. We leave no room in the car for God.

Ironically, as countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands are leading the charge regarding euthanasia, the European Union currently is fighting to restrict the sale of anesthetics into the United States for fear they will be used as part of the multi-drug cocktail used to administer this country’s lethal injection death penalty.

Though the drug in question, the German-created propofol, has never been used in an execution, shortages of other anesthetics have the EU worried that it will be. If only the EU’s regard for life could envelop both those on death row and beyond — especially its own most vulnerable — we might be able to take the first step toward welcoming God back into the equation. 

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor; Sarah Hayes, executive editor