Nazis and the Disabled

Recently, there was an article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics which argued that infanticide should be permissible for many reasons, including the situation where a child is born with a disability. The authors, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva concluded that newborns are not “actual persons,” merely “potential persons,” and as such had no moral right to life. They argue, “To bring up such children (mentally disabled) might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”

Not surprisingly, the authors received significant backlash over their article, including some death threats. The editor of the article, Professor Julian Savulescu, denounced the response the authors had received to The Daily Telegraph: “This “debate” has been an example of “witch ethics” – a group of people know who the witch is and seek to burn her. It is one of the most dangerous human tendencies we have. It leads to lynching and genocide. Rather than argue and engage, there is a drive is to silence and, in the extreme, kill, based on their own moral certainty. That is not the sort of society we should live in.”

His response gives us valuable insight into the thinking that leads to the Holocaust. As part of the Holocaust, over 200,000 disabled people were killed in a program called “Aktion 4” or “T-4” which began before the methodical murder of over 6 million others. Here is an excerpt from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website:

“The Third Reich also stepped up its propaganda against the disabled, regularly labeling them “life unworthy of life” or “useless eaters” and highlighting their burden upon society.
The term “euthanasia” (literally, “good death”) usually refers to the inducement of a painless death for a chronically or terminally ill individual. In Nazi usage, however, “euthanasia” referred to the systematic killing of the institutionalized mentally and physically disabled.”

Sound familiar? The Nazi regime used asylums as their training ground where they prepared officers to kill without questioning. They trained ordinary men and women to overcome this “moral certainty” that the editor of the aforementioned article found so deplorable.

As soon as they would accept conditional morality, (in that instance, killing the disabled) then all they had to do was slowly tweak those conditions to get the person to kill men, women, and infants cruelly. These people were often described before and after the war as upright citizens, genial, loving parents, having excellent character. Even their families couldn’t comprehend it, when years later they were brought to trial for the heinous things they did to their victims.

The moral certainty provided to us in God’s law provides an unchanging, enduring rock upon which we can solidly place our trust.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19:7-11.

“For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” Proverbs 6:23

“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” Romans 13:10
The unborn and the severely disabled are our neighbors. God holds us responsible as to how we treat the afflicted.

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