The Destructive Underpinnings of the Social Debate on Euthanasia

I. The Engine of Progressive Ideology

Mr. Olivier Rey, professor of philosophy at Paris-I Panthéon-Sorbonne, recently observed in the columns of Le Figaro that “the more the crisis worsens, the more new rights have to be invented, in order to give the impression that we continue against all odds to move forward, ‘of going in the right direction.’”

The driving force behind this inventive obsession is progressivism, which, in the so-called West, is the dynamic of modernity. This, according to the Dictionary of the French Academy, expresses the search for “a new spirit, new tastes,” for that which “responds to the desires, the expectations of the moment.”

Progress, thus reduced to what is new and coveted, hic et nunc, is abstracted from any reference to good or evil. Modernity, in fact, is philosophically and historically based on nominalism, which denies the existence of natures common to men.

Thus, for progress there is neither true nor enduring good capable of being measured by a human nature, nor transcendent reference elsewhere than in legal positivism. The true, the good, are only what the laws or the media say about them, or what the subjectivism of each individual makes him glimpse.

Men, scattered individuals, are then united only by the meeting of their interests and their desires, which modernity makes a point of spurring on relentlessly, before consecrating their successive satisfactions by the law.

To strengthen this empire of the ephemeral and of desire, progressive ideology, served by a multitude of lobbies, imposes, in the name of modernity, what Richard Millet called an “angelic totalitarianism;” what others call a “soft totalitarianism.”

With the millenarian vocation that it has attributed to itself, which barely conceals, behind the mask of “political correctness,” its fight to the death with what remains of Judeo-Christian civilization, this ideology has become a war machine. It hides its violence under a permanent moralism and under the agreed language of benevolence, tolerance, sentimentalism or living together.

This war machine disqualifies and destroys what is presumed to be “old,” “out-moded,” “reactionary”: language, writing, education, history, families, people, identities and morals. It seeks to break all those who, focusing on what is the vital transmission of societies, are presented as the sole causes of the social evils that it itself causes.

“At the same time, it imposes, even through the violence of laws, uprooted substitution models. What is called “homosexual marriage” is not the least example of this; wokism is another. These models are proclaimed necessary by the mere fact that they are integrated into a new vision of man and the world.

In this respect, the progressivism of today is nothing other than the transformism of yesterday. Both confuse constructive evolution and destruction [True evolution is progress, not retreat. It is an act of edification, not of destruction. It implies a certain growth, a certain expansion and a vital renovation. It excludes that which is harmful, that which depreciates, demolishes, dissolves. In other words, it excludes the deadly transformation, which destroys vital elements under the pretext of replacing them with artificial novelties, as the false reformers have always tried to do (J. G. Arintero, Desenvolvimiento y vitalidad de la Iglesia, Vol. 1, Evolución orgánica, pp. 1ff)]—except that today’s progressivism, exploiting the collapse of Christianity, encounters practically no limits, in order to carry its destruction to the heart of humanity itself.

The progressive ideology anchors in people’s minds, by the powerful public instruments it has at its disposal, institutional and media, that there is no salvation except in its own movement, which is justified by itself, and thus in a permanent flight forward towards new “liberations,” without which “we do not advance.”

These are no longer limited to emancipating oneself from Christianity through reason, but from reason itself through the imperatives of insatiable desires. This explains, in particular, the increasingly pronounced emergence of psychopathic politicians who seem to prefer chaos to any questioning of their suicidal pursuits.

II. The Decline in the Dignity of the Human Person

The promotion of euthanasia has been part of the progressive ideological project for years, which presents it, like abortion, as an eminently therapeutic, even “ethical” act.

It is supposed to correspond to a social “progress” in the perception of human suffering and compassion, which the too famous Lambert affair did not precisely demonstrate. As for abortion, it is also argued that this act only concerns marginal cases, very much regulated by law.

Mr. Didier Sicard, president of the French National Ethics Committee, showed, however, in 2012, that “the practice of euthanasia develops its own dynamics, resisting any effective control and necessarily tends to widen, with a constantly shifting qualitative cursor that never goes back.”

Never going back—such is the intrinsic logic of progressivism, like that of cancer, as Michel Onfray observed. Today, it is ready to develop all possible arguments to distinguish “assisted suicide” from “euthanasia,” in order to hide this reality, which is nevertheless essential in both cases—it is a question of obtaining the legal recognition of a right to inflict death on innocent people by private persons, in violation of a dignity that no one can renounce, neither for oneself, nor for others.

[It should be remembered that under Article 16 of the French Civil Code, “the law ensures the primacy of the person, prohibits any violation of his dignity and guarantees respect for the human being from the beginning of his life.” In a famous case, known as the “dwarf-throwing” case, the Conseil d’Etat ruled that the very victim of a violation of his dignity, which is a component of public order, cannot legally consent to it (Recueil Lebon)].

Yet here again, progressivism has its answer: why should the very notion of “dignity” of the human person escape its transformist alchemy? One of the founders of the Austrian School, the highly respected libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), did not fail to reflect on this, writing: “Beings of human descent who, by birth or because of an acquired defect, lack the capacity to act (in the broadest sense of the word, and not just legally), in order to achieve practical effects, are not human beings. Even if laws and biology consider them as human beings, they lack, in fact, what specifically characterizes the human being. The newborn child is not an active being; it has not yet completed the entire trajectory from conception to the full development of its human qualities. It is only at the end of this development that he will become a subject of action.” The one who has not yet reached this stage is therefore not yet a “human;” the one who has accidentally or naturally exceeded it, is no longer one. “Dignity” does not therefore concern them.

[It is important to observe that while progressive currents work to undermine the foundations of society and of human nature itself, they do not disdain to search sometimes in the past for supposed sources of legitimacy. The liberal Austrian School of Economics, for example, claims to be heir to the Salamanca School that shone in the Spanish Golden Age, when in reality their fundamental principles are contradictory, as Daniel Marín Arribas has shown very well in his book, Destapando al liberalismo: La escuela austriaca, no nació en Salamanca—Uncovering Liberalism: The Austrian school was Not Born in Salamanca]

The influential Australian philosopher Peter Singer (1946), champion of animalism, intended to erase all moral distinctions between humans and other animals. In his book, Practical Ethics, he argues that it is necessary to distinguish, among humans themselves, those who are “persons,” i.e., who are “self-conscious,” from those who are not, since life, according to him, has no value in itself.

Whoever is not self-aware—a child in the womb, a mentally handicapped person, an accident victim in a comatose state, an old man with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease—is not, or is no longer, a “person.” Peter Singer considers the life of a healthy dog intrinsically more valuable than that of a sick man, because the dog is capable of positive experiences that the “human animal” no longer has because of its condition. There is therefore little reason not to apply to the sick man the same fate as for the sick dog.

These anthropological conceptions, patiently diluted in societies by these authors and so many others, with the active complicity of political teaching institutions, lobbies and the media, are directly linked, as one can easily see, to the problems of the legal infliction of death in our societies: abortion, euthanasia, even infanticide. Peter Singer calls this last one “post-natal abortion,” especially with regard to the handicapped. The circle is then closed and all moral objections are rendered futile. What cannot be qualified as a “person,” according to these criteria, cannot be recognized as having human dignity. Will the law ever enshrine these conceptions?

It is not unimportant to emphasize that the doctrinaires cited here are not Nazi or neo-Nazi theorists. They are recognized authorities in the liberal or neo-liberal world. They did not teach their theses in secret, in Buchenwald or Ravensbrück, sheltered by watchtowers and barbed wire—but in prestigious universities fully open to the public of the “free world.”

Singer holds the Chair of Ethics (sic) at the University of Princeton; Mises taught at New York University. Singer was recently awarded the Frontiers of Knowledge Prize in March 2023 by the BBVA Foundation, funded by the international banking group BBVA, which describes itself as a “responsible banking model aimed at creating a more inclusive and sustainable society.” Singer is praised on the BBVA Foundation website as “one of today’s most influential moral philosophers” whose work “marked a turning point in expanding the field of ethics to the animal realm.”

If we compare these theses to the slogans, “My womb is mine,” to the abortion hysteria, to the promotion of surrogate motherhood, or to the claimed “rights” to inflict death on those who don’t have to live, or on those who don’t want to live anymore, according to opinions or utilitarian calculations, one thing is clear: These street or press slogans, like all the subjectivizations of the meaning of life, are only the simplified and coarse translations of what thinkers conceive coldly and teach with method and authority. All of these thinkers concoct in order to exasperate the desires of a society freed from all transcendence, where man is called to become the object of his own animal appetites; they are drive to demand this, quenching more or less unconsciously their thirsts of new liberties from the fountains of their own death.

III. A False Social Debate

In view of the points that we have made about this question thus far, it appears that the umpteenth “debate of society” proposed to the French on euthanasia is in truth neither a debate, nor a social requirement.

The word “debate,” in fact, is only used to give the moral violence inflicted on society the appearance of respectful consideration of contrary opinions. In reality, the ideology at work holds a priori these opinions as obstacles to be knocked down, because they are rooted in “retrograde” conceptions.

It is enough to observe the modes of government which succeed one another, in particular since Nicolas Sarkozy, and especially since the election of Emmanuel Macron, towards a tyrannical practice of power, to be convinced without difficulty of the purely rhetorical character of the call to debate.

It is as much the case of the free opinions which are evoked, just like animals which run loose, during a hunt, until a bullet puts an end to the futile hope of survival that this reprieve had given rise in them.

Moreover, this pseudo-debate is attributed to be “social” for only two reasons.

The first reason is to give the illusion that this debate responds to new concerns of every citizen, which would not be met by the current legal rules.

However, it should be recalled that the Claeys-Leonetti law of February 2, 2016, which reinforced the right of access to palliative care, also provided for the possibility of drafting “advance directives” for each person with respect to the conditions of his or her end of life, and of designating a “trusted person” who will be able, in the absence of such a person, to bear witness to the expressed wishes of the patient.

[The “advance directive” is a document that any person of legal age may draw up in the event that he or she is no longer able to express his or her wishes regarding the end of his or her life, in order to indicate what he or she wishes regarding the continuation, limitation, cessation or refusal of a treatment or medical procedure (cf. art. L. 1111-11 and art. L. 1111-12 of the French Public Health Code)].

The law thus allows any person to oppose “unreasonable obstinacy,” i.e., therapeutic prolongation, by recognizing in particular the right to request “deep and continuous sedation” until death, if the patient’s vital prognosis is imminent. [“Deep and continuous sedation” consists of inducing and maintaining an alteration of consciousness until death, associated with analgesia and the cessation of all life-sustaining treatments (cf. art. L. 1110-5-2 of the same code)].

The sufficient conditions of these provisions make it clear that the proponents of euthanasia are not so much seeking relief from suffering at the end of life, which the applicable law already favors, as they are seeking a right to kill.

In this respect, it is important to emphasize that the demand for this right is opposed by the majority of the medical profession, which stresses that it is above all the culture of palliative care that is largely lacking and that the legalization of euthanasia would lead to “upsetting the definition of care” and provoke “a major ethical shift.”

[On the importance of palliative care, see the recent book by J.-F. Poisson, Soins palliatifs, la vraie alternative à l’euthanasie, 2023, and compare this recent article].

The second reason why it is claimed that this pseudo-debate on euthanasia is a “social” debate is to give the impression that the final success sought will be the result of a general consent that no longer allows it to be legally challenged.

The process followed for the legalization and then the constitutionalization of abortion is the perfect illustration of this strategy. The “debate in society,” which is repeated year after year, consists only in serving the same poison again and again into the hands of the people and in harassing them in a thousand ways, until they resolve to swallow it freely and enter a state from which they will not be able to escape.

It is therefore of the utmost importance to understand that these so-called “society projects,” presented as conditions for a better, more just and more compassionate society, are necessarily linked to the deleterious philosophies which inspire them more or less directly and which ultimately lead only to the death of man.

To consent to these, is necessarily to enter the principles of these in one’s mind. It is to take an irreversible anthropological and moral step against the natural order, regardless of the excuses, often sentimental and compassionate, with which one seeks to cover it. There is therefore no other alternative, for those who intend to remain human, than to reject and resolutely fight against these projects which proceed, as always, only from a swindling of freedom and happiness.

Patrick de Pontonx is a lawyer based in Paris. The French version of this article appeared in Ce Soir.

Featured: The Murder, by Paul Cézanne; painted ca. 1867—1870.