The original or first broad euthanasia program was for the purpose of “purifying” the German race under Hitler. It was a creation of German physicians, not of Hitler. He simply allowed the use of the tools others had prepared. The first gas chamber was designed by professors of psychiatry from 12 major German universities. They selected the patients and watched them die. Then they slowly reduced the criteria until the mental hospitals were almost empty. They were joined by some pediatricians, who began by emptying the institutions for handicapped children in 1939. By 1945, almost 300,000 “pure blood Aryan” Germans had been killed. By then these doctors had so lowered the criteria that they were killing bed-wetters, children with misshapen ears, and those with learning disabilities. (Wertham)
Hitler, taking his cue from the physicians, after this eugenic killing of “defective” Aryan Germans, then used their gas chambers and proceeded to eliminate “defective” races. He destroyed an entire race of Gypsies, six million Jews, and perhaps almost as many captured Poles, Russians, and central Europeans. (Id. 47)
But the euthanasia program actually began earlier with sterilization. The first and fundamental law change was the Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases, promulgated by Hitler on July 25, 1933. It was aimed at Aryan Germans, a…
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Deuel,W. People Under Hitler, 194 New York, 1942, p. 221
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The Christian Position on Euthanasia
This essay has chosen to study the largest Christian denomination’s attitude toward euthanasia, in order to determine the basic Christian position in the current debate on euthanasia. It is interesting to note that, even within one Christian church like this, there are a host of considerations on the euthanasia question.
The rights and values pertaining to the human person occupy an important place among the questions discussed throughout the world today. In this regard, the largest Christian denomination, the Catholic Church, solemnly reaffirmed the lofty dignity of the human person, and in a special way his or her right to life. The Second Vatican Council therefore condemned crimes against life “such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful suicide” (Pastoral)
The progress of medical science in recent years has brought to the fore new aspects of the question of euthanasia, and these aspects, in the Church’s view, call for further elucidation on the ethical level. In modern society, in which even the fundamental values of human life are often called into question, cultural change exercises an influence upon the way of looking at suffering and death; moreover, medicine has increased its capacity to cure and to prolong life in particular circumstances, which sometime give rise to moral problems. Thus people living in this situation experience no little anxiety about the meaning of advanced old age and death. They also begin to wonder whether they have the right to obtain for themselves or their fellowmen an “easy death,” which would shorten suffering and which seems to them more in harmony with human dignity.
The considerations set forth here, concern in the first place all those who place their faith and hope in Christ, who, through His life, death and resurrection, has given a new meaning to existence and especially to the death of the Christian, as St. Paul says: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Rom. 14:8; cf. Phil. 1:20). As for those who profess other religions, many will agree with us that faith in God the Creator, Provider and Lord of life–if they share this belief–confers a lofty dignity upon every human person and guarantees respect for him or her.
Human life is the basis of all goods, and is the necessary source and condition of every human activity and of all society.