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The Fallacy of a Worthless Life

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

For good or for ill, when we hear someone talking about a “worthy life,” our minds usually equate it with a successful life. We may think of examples of people who have contributed to the betterment of mankind via technological advances, medicinal breakthroughs, or great strides in bringing peace to war-torn parts of the world.

However, when German scholars Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche reference a worthy life, they are differentiating between those whom they believe we are justified in killing (via abortion, euthanasia, etc.) and those whom we are not allowed to kill. And the book they’ve recently translated, “Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Living,” makes precisely these points.

Even more troubling (if justifying the intentional killing of humans can get more troubling) is that the book they’ve translated is from 1920 and helped “set the agenda for the Nazi program of extermination” by positing that “select people did not have the right to survive, such as disabled or terminally ill patients.”

The book was used to argue that the lives of those who were “seriously or terminally ill or [had] a mental or physical disability were ‘unworthy of being lived’” and should be ended via a “charitable death.”

L’Osservatore Romano, the semi-official newspaper of the Vatican, has noted that this book and those supporting it are applying “the same justifications that were used by the Nazis to champion their murderous eugenics program.”

Language is important. And L’Osservatore recognizes that the language being used in “Allowing the Destruction of Life” is demeaning not only to individuals facing special challenges but to life itself. Used as it was in the lead-up to World War II, this language not only justified numerous executions of the handicapped and the “racially impure,” but also millions upon millions of executions of Jews, Christians, and others deemed unworthy of Adolf Hitler’s high standard.

It is high time we ceased to allow words to be hijacked and used to suit the fleeting fancy of those within the culture of death. When the rubber hits the road, in real terms, there is no “worthy life” or “unworthy life.” Rather, all human life is worthy of protection because all life is sacred, as it was created in the image and likeness of our Creator.

We must continue to fight for those who are unable to fight for themselves—especially unborn and handicapped persons who often live at the mercy at others. And we must somehow inculcate again the truth that life itself is worthy of living and of defending.

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