|Interview With Bioethicist Father Gonzalo Miranda
ROME, 6 SEPT. 2004 (ZENIT)
The Netherlands' decision to allow the
euthanasia of children could lead to the practice of arbitrarily deciding
which youngsters will live or die, warns a leading bioethicist.
On Aug. 30, the Dutch judiciary allowed Groningen's University Hospital to
induce the death of children under 12, including newborns, when they are
suffering from incurable sicknesses or undergoing unbearable suffering. A
2002 law already regulated the practice of euthanasia in the country.
"Unfortunately, all the concerns that arose in regard to the Dutch
legislation on euthanasia are being tragically verified," Legionary of
Christ Father Gonzalo Miranda says in this interview with ZENIT.
Father Miranda, dean of the School of Bioethics of the Regina Apostolorum
Pontifical University, represented the Catholic Church on UNESCO's
International Bioethics Committee, entrusted with writing a Declaration on
Universal Norms of Bioethics.
Q: To what does the decision refer?
Father Miranda: This measure, which allows the application of euthanasia
to all the born, demonstrates that the famous "slippery slope" theory was
Once a principle is established according to which a human being can be
killed because he suffers, then logically it extends to all those
suffering. If a human being is killed who requests it, it can be applied
to all human beings who request it, even if they are not suffering.
When discussion on euthanasia began in the Netherlands and in other
countries, many pointed out the danger of sliding toward the worst, and
the defenders of the measure said that it would not happen. Instead, many
took off in 1993 with the legalization of euthanasia, and then the law
came out that extended [it] to children 12 and over.
Despite the opposition of public opinion, just two years after that law,
we are already facing its application to all the born, without any kind of
informed consent by the interested party.
I would like to stress that it is the voluntary murder of a human being
who cannot speak for himself
voluntary murder of a human being who cannot express what he is thinking.
Q: John Paul II has often intervened to warn the international community
about the dangers of the "culture of death." What "culture" is that?
Father Miranda: It is not saying that our society is thirsty for blood and
death; this is not so.
Rather, it is a culture in which death is seen as a solution to problems
that we do not know how to handle in another way
problems that we do not know how to handle because we have lost
generosity, the ability to support the one who suffers.
In this case it is obvious: Death is proposed as the solution to children
who suffer. The alternative would be to support these children, to help
them not to suffer
this costs, both economically as well as emotionally.
Q: However, extreme suffering can lead people to ask for death ...
Father Miranda: It is one thing to say, in moments of despair, that one
desires death, and this is a human sentiment. It is quite another to say
that one will bring about death.
Who can say that your life is not worth living, that the best thing is for
you to die? This is not an invocation of death, but of the voluntary
murder of the other.
We find the emotional, psychological desire for death even in sacred
Jeremiah and Job, overwhelmed by suffering, curse the day of their birth.
"Cursed be the day on which I was born! May the day my mother gave me
birth, never be blessed! [...] because he did not dispatch me in the womb!
Then my mother would have been my grave. ... Why did I come forth from the
womb, to see sorrow and pain, to end my days in shame?" [see Jeremiah
And also: "Why is light given to the toilers, and life to the bitter in
spirit? They wait for death and it comes not; they search for it rather
than for hidden treasures, rejoice in it exultingly, and are glad when
they reach the grave" [Job 3: 20-22].
It is a human sentiment that anyone can have, while here it is Cain who
decides to murder his brother.
Now the doctor, together with the parents, might decide to eliminate the
children who, according to the former, should not live.
Q: Several press articles report the statements of a Dutch doctor who says
that it is a procedure that will be applied with much rigor. What is your
Father Miranda: The topic is very dangerous because it is about technical
rigor, not moral rigor. It means to apply rigorous technical procedures.
The Nazis also proceeded to practice euthanasia with extreme rigor.
In the early '90s I was invited to a world meeting of neurosurgeons to
discuss what should be done when a child is born with a [...]very serious
Two opposite positions arose from the debate. On one hand, an Israeli
doctor who operated on children with excellent results. The patients
needed follow-up treatment, but had a relatively normal life.
On the other hand, a Dutch doctor explained how, in the clinic where he
worked, the children affected by this sickness were eliminated by being
injected with a lethal substance.
Only after hearing a lecture on what the human person is, did this doctor
say that perhaps such a practice should be questioned. Faced with the same
sickness, some doctors operate and others opted for death, which now is
The most frightening aspect of this story is to see with what
superficiality and banality the decision is made to kill children.
Q: From a civil and moral point of view, how can this decision of the
Dutch magistracy be evaluated?
Father Miranda: They are behaving as they did in Sparta, killing children
with selective criteria. The battles fought for centuries on the
vindication of human rights seem annulled given these decisions.
We are witnessing the negation of Judeo-Christian thought. In the
tradition of Western thought, a person has intrinsic value by the simple
fact of being a human being.
The Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 2 that rights apply to
all without any distinction of any kind; in this instance, however, the
human being has "value" according to his physical and psychic conditions.
The moment it is thought that, given his conditions he has "no value,"
then he is eliminated; in sum, anyone can decide to kill him.
Q: There is talk of the re-emergence of the eugenic mentality.
Father Miranda: This eugenic mentality is already applied with the
practice of abortion. If there had been a diagnosis that had discovered
the sickness during the pregnancy, the child would probably never have
As he escaped that control, euthanasia is practiced after the birth. It is
a practice by which human beings are eliminated who are considered "not
precisely a eugenic practice of elimination of what some consider to be
Q: The Roman newspaper La Repubblica on August 31 stated that the Dutch
situation is "different from Nazi eugenics" because "the Hitlerian doctors
eliminated healthy children by force with lethal injections because they
were Jews or gypsies."
Father Miranda: Sadly, the article published by La Repubblica gives
erroneous information. In the Netherlands too, children are eliminated
with lethal injections. Moreover, the author of the article perhaps does
not know that Hitler's euthanasia program was rigorously reserved for
Germans; only later was it extended to other ethnic groups.
The Nazi program was directed to children born with sicknesses that,
according to its point of view, threatened physical integrity.
The first case of euthanasia was practiced on a boy who had a harelip. It
occurred at the request of the parents who, fearing that he would have an
unhappy life, asked the doctors of the Hitlerian regime for help; they
advised euthanasia. ZE04090604