MAiD in Hell

MAiD in Hell

EUTHANASIA: n. “a gentle and easy death”

Derived from Greek, euthanasia is formed by adding the prefix eu- (“good” or “well”) to Thanatos (the personification of death in Greek mythology). The meaning is simply, “a good death.”

The True “Good Death”

The first example offered by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) from 1646 is a clearly Christian usage: “But let me prescribe and commend to thee, my son, this true spiritual means of thine happy Euthanasia.” The author is speaking of the “good death” that every Christian anticipates. The usage presupposes a life that has endured suffering through faith in the God to whom we belong. A “good death” is conceived as a transition from life in a fallen world immured in sin to life freed from sin in the kingdom of Christ.

By the eighteenth century, euthanasia had assumed a second meaning: “The means of bringing about a gentle and easy death.” Illustrative sentences in the OED indicate a somewhat figurative meaning applied to institutions. For example, David Hume wrote in 1742, “Absolute monarchy .   .   . is the easiest death, the true Euthanasia of the British constitution.” Notably, this sentence uses the term ironically. The death of the British constitution could hardly be regarded as good, except in comparison to a worse fate for Britain.

From an Event to an Act

By the mid-nineteenth century, euthanasia had developed a third definition: “The action of inducing a gentle and easy death.” The OED adds this note: “Used especially with reference to a proposal that the law should sanction the putting painlessly to death of those suffering from incurable and extremely painful diseases.” Despite Enlightenment challenges to the sanctity of life, movements like the Great Awakening successfully opposed such proposals in America until the Progressive Era, when arguments for “mercy killing” as the remedy for suffering due to incurable diseases reemerged. The twentieth-century resurgence thus perverted the once-Christian concept of dying in Christ into a euphemism for legally killing a human being.

An unexpected curb on laws intended to permit the killing of the incurably diseased arose in America following the discovery of Nazi practices during World War II. In 1941, under a directive from Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, Wolfgang Liebeneiner directed the film I Accuse, which told the heartrending story of a doctor who gave his wife a fatal overdose to end her suffering from multiple sclerosis. Its emotionally persuasive message of “death with dignity” paved the way for Nazi extermination of the mentally ill and physically handicapped, and after such atrocities came to light, interest in “mercy killing” disappeared from American legislatures for a time.

From “Mercy Killing” to “Convenience Killing”

Today, euthanasia is yet another word that has been usurped and deployed by political progressives. In 2016, Canada legalized Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). Ad­vocates of MAiD originally focused on those enduring extraordinary suffering, but more recent interpretations, such as the one that moved bureaucrats to offer unrequested MAiD to five paraplegic veterans, recall Nazi medicine. Further, as of 2023, MAiD sanctions the killing of those suffering from mental illnesses, including anxiety.

When American Indians purportedly made the declaration that has now become better known as Star Trek’s Klingon battle cry, “Today is a good day to die,” they were making a commitment to give their lives in service to their people. When Christians speak of a good death, they think of a transition from suffering in a sin-filled world to life eternal in the presence of God. But for the progressive bureaucrat, euthanasia has become the go-to fix for the problem of “inconvenient” people. A “good death” is one that reduces the costs of medical and support services by killing the patient.

is a retired secondary teacher of English and philosophy. For forty years he challenged students to dive deep into the classics of the Western canon, to think and write analytically, and to find the cultural constants reflected throughout that literature, art, and thought.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #67, Winter 2023 Copyright © 2024 Salvo |


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