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Lives Not Worth Living: The Nazi Eugenic Dream In Our Own Time

AP File

Forum Libertas - published on 09/12/14

Not a few people have asked whether these techniques aren’t being used to “hunt” and destroy people with disabilities, because making prenatal exams habitual affects values related to respect for human life, and respect for the life of people with disabilities.

Widespread prenatal diagnostics is set to eliminate entire groups of people, such as those affected by Down Syndrome, those who show symptoms of mental illness linked to genetic factors such as bipolar disorder, and the deaf.

Similarly, the news that, a few years ago, a girl was born in London without a gene linked to cancer from her mother (thanks to having been genetically selected to reduce the risk of suffering from a tumor in the future) presents us not only with ethical questions, but also with the problem of social inequality.

Besides the fact that embryos are destroyed in the process, we have to take into account the fact that only those who have sufficient economic means to pay for it will have access to choosing “designer babies.” In other words, while basic health services or the pension system are being progressively dismantled, there is movement towards genetic selection for those who can afford it.

This will lead to the creation of two classes of citizens: genetically selected and privileged children, and the children of a large segment of the population that does not have the means to take advantage of this process of selection.

How this is different from Aktion T4

Unlike the case today, the Nazis did not use genetics, but rather had recourse to euthanasia and sterilization pure and simple. The doctors concurred with them and together they put pressure on society until they achieved the desired effect.

The main argument is that the weak were a burden on their families, on society and on themselves; that they were unhappy, and their lives were not worth living. The basis of their reasoning was called Volksgemeinschaft, the benefit of the community in general.

Nowadays, it is the techniques used that have fundamentally changed. Far from having a blood-thirsty appearance, they are based on prenatal diagnosis, on "designer babies," and on the idea of euthanasia as a way of dying with dignity.

All that has really changed are the technical side of things and the fact that it is not imposed against the will of the person; it is entirely voluntary. In theory, it is not practiced without the patient’s consent.

And so, sterilization is no longer used as a solution. Instead, a doctor is obligated to participate in early diagnostic procedures, and eugenic abortion is practiced when the person who undergoes the tests considers that there to be the slightest defect.

Now, as then, there is great social pressure to consider these practices not only as normal, but as recommendable.

In the case of euthanasia, the social pressure is reflected in the fact that in Western societies, there is more and more promotion of an idea that, faced with a life not worth living, the best solution is “death with dignity” without offering alternatives to the patient.

It is worth remembering that, without looking too far, we can find the example of an Italian government minister who, in March of 2006, compared the Dutch euthanasia law to Nazism. Carlo Giovanardi, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, was referring to the Nazi child euthanasia program Aktion T4.

“Nazi legislation and Hitler’s ideas are re-emerging in Europe via Dutch euthanasia laws and the debate on how to kill ill children,” Giovanardi said.

The difference today: Whereas a primary argument for the Aktion T4 program was the national sentiment of patriotism, “it’s good for the country,” nowadays the argument is “helping those in need,” making the ill feel like they are a burden and that it is better to put an end to the situation.

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