With her small hands the young girl shapes a round, ample hole in the warm earth, and then tenderly places a flower upright on the soil. She gently tips the water can to let the cool, life-giving water slowly pour out onto the petals as if to say “Live! Grow!”
Her flower will live and grow bright in the sunshine, strengthening the invalid, cheering the sorrowful, and consoling the bereaved.
In planting the flower, the child has participated in a delightful mystery. She has guarded and protected life.
We laymen do not have the right to demand that all doctors have the heart of an innocent child, or the reverence for life possessed by an Albert Schweitzer. Dr. Schweitzer of course, planted rows of orange, banana, and breadfruit trees in the garden by his missionary hospital in Africa; and as he made his way down the garden path, he watched each footfall to avoid stepping on a beetle scurrying away in defense of its life.
We do have the right, however, to hold our lawmakers to the highest possible standard when they propose a law enabling the destruction of innocent life. The proposed law is LD 1270, entitled “An Act Regarding Patient-directed Care at the End of Life.” Words being the soul of the law, each word and phrase must be weighed carefully as to its meaning. The “care” indicated in the title is the procuring of a lethal drug for the purpose of a homicide, suicide being defined in the law and in ethics as self-murder. Thus, the “care” mentioned in the title consists of actions which are directly productive of death; and under the law, physicians and pharmacists become purveyors of death, not life.
To make this form of “care” more palatable to an unsuspecting public, the bill calls the lethal drug to be administered “medication.” Yet this sort of medication heals no wound, nor cures any disease, as it should, because “medication” in its proper sense means “that which heals.” Under the proposed law, the “medication” would be administered after the failure of the healing arts, bringing a quick and painless end to life. For this sort of medical purpose, hemlock or snake venom would serve equally well.
This brings us to the classic case of a government dispensing a lethal drug, the execution of Socrates. No one knows where the city fathers of Athens obtained the hemlock used to poison this wisest of men, but they certainly did not obtain it from a physician, the Hippocratic Oath stating, “Nor shall any man’s entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so.”
A less familiar case is that of Queen Cleopatra, who tested various and sundry poisons on condemned criminals before she found the ideal method, the bite of an asp applied close to her beating heart.
Yet in executing criminals, the Queen of the Nile relied on sorcerers and potion-mixers, not physicians. Modern America has no such moral qualms. Seventeen states require a physician to participate in executions, and California and Missouri have “attempted unsuccessfully” to recruit physicians to participate in executions.
These are statistics that warn us America is no longer on the slippery slope; we are on the brink of a dark abyss.
True to the warnings of the pro-life movement, America has gone beyond the destruction of innocent life. America is now asking physicians to stand watch at the gallows. And in doing so, America has lost more than a mere reverence for life.
When we lost the understanding that all human life is worthwhile, beautiful, inviolable, and eternal, we cut ourselves off from the true source of all life. And in doing so — unlike the blossom, which is lovingly planted, watered, and smiled at by the sun — we become the blossom that was uprooted, cast aside, and left to perish in the night.
Fritz Spencer of Old Town is the former editor of the Christian Civic League RECORD.