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The following is from a story on “60 Minutes” (10/12/80) about the growing interest in euthanasia and its actual practice, including cases where it went unprosecuted:

Dame Cicily, a woman given the equivalent of knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for her years of work with the dying, and the founder of the Hospice Movement in England and the U.S., gave the estimation that the problem with granting or encouraging use of the “right” to die is that it will soon become the duty to die. Knowing the depravity of man, she said, it is unthinkable that once old people enlist the help of friends or family, they will soon be expected to enlist such help to “end it all.” People will say to the ones dying and in pain, “You know, you don’t have to go on like this. You could end it all painlessly and quickly, and stop your own pain and the hardship on your family.” ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching



This downward slide was explained dramatically by Dr. Leo Alexander in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, written in 1949. Dr. Alexander was a consultant to the Secretary of War in the Nuremberg Trials. He had extraordinary access to accused Nazi war criminals in the medical community. Writing from that unique perspective, Dr. Alexander argued that so-called "compassionate killing" of the terminally ill inevitably set the stage for the Holocaust. He wrote:

Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they had started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude ... that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and finally all non-Germans.

Before his death, Dr. Alexander told a friend that trends in our country were "much like Germany in the '20s and '30s. The barriers against killing are coming down."   

J. Dobson and G. Bauer, Children at Risk, Word, 1990, p. 145.