My heart goes out to Dr Theo Boer.
He doesn’t sound as if he gets it, at least not yet, but he’s come far enough to know, in his own words, that he was “ … wrong … terribly wrong” to have supported euthanasia in the Netherlands.
What he doesn’t seem to get — at least not yet — is that euthanasia is not wrong because abuse of legalized murder is always going to happen; because in his words, “once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely to ever go back in again.” Euthanasia is wrong because murder is wrong. It is wrong to kill people.
He doesn’t sound as if that has seeped through to him yet.
Who is Dr Theo Boer and why does his opinion matter? Dr Boer is a Dutch professor and ethicist, who The Mail calls “a European assisted suicide watchdog.” He is, in short an expert on how legalizing euthanasia is playing out in the real world. And his knowledge has taught him regret.
According to Dr Boer’s testimony before the House of Lords, he advocated for the legalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands. But the resulting use of the practice to kill anyone who’s troubled for whatever reason has changed his mind.
Professor Boer argued seven years ago that a “good euthanasia law would produce relatively low numbers of deaths.” Now he now wonders if “the very existence of a euthanasia law turns assisted suicide from a last resort to a normal procedure.”
He also said that he worries about changes in the law to allow the killing of children, those with dementia and those who are simply depressed He sees the “the mobile death units of traveling euthanizing doctors” and has come to the conclusion that “activists continue to campaign for doctor-administered death … and will not rest until a lethal pill is made available to everyone over 70.”
I don’t know if it’s fully come home to him what this means, but Dr Boer will have to live with what he has done for the rest of his days. His comment that you can’t get the genie back in the bottle again sounds as if he’s come against the terrible truth that un-doing evil is much more difficult than doing it in the first place.
My heart goes out to him because I’ve been there. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t unkill people. You can go back to the people you led astray and say, “I was wrong,” but you can’t make them listen to you. The downward trajectories you helped set in motion keep rolling on and nothing you do can stop them.
I’ve also learned absolutely and without doubt that I am not God. That’s why I don’t quibble — ever — with the 2,000-year-old teachings of the Catholic Church. If I had followed those teachings and looked for other ways to deal with the injustice and suffering that led me into doing wrong, I would not have done wrong in the first place.
I don’t think Dr Boer has arrived at that place yet. He knows a bit of the horror he helped unleash. He’s evidently a man of moral courage. I say that because it takes moral courage to admit you were wrong about something like this.
Most people won’t do it. They will keep on justifying their mistakes right down to the grave. They will not admit that they have done a terrible thing, that they have been somebody’s monster, that they were, in Dr Boer’s words, “terribly wrong.” And they die and face God in their sins.
I thank God for Dr Boer’s courage. I pray that he goes all the way down this road until it leads him to the only place where these things can be made right, which on his knees in front of the cross.
‘ASSISTED DYING: DON’T GO THERE’: DUTCH ETHICIST THEO BOER’S THOUGHTS ON EUTHANASIA IN FULL