Monday, May 09, 2005

Deadly Pity

Recently after work, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things before heading home. While checking out, I noticed a boy of about 10 looking at me. When I got out to the parking lot, there was the boy again, still staring, while I loaded the groceries into my car.

I was a little concerned, because I didn’t see a mom or dad with him, so as I pulled out of my parking space, I decided to make sure everything was all right. I rolled down my window and asked him in a friendly way if he was with anyone. He said yes and then blurted out, “I just feel so bad for you!”

Instantly, I realized that the boy had been staring at my unsteady gait all that time. While I was worried about him, he was worried about me. His response (not all that unusual) didn’t bother me, and I assured him that he didn’t need to feel that way because God is taking good care of me.

Pity is a common response of the able-bodied toward the disabled. Honest pity is better than mockery, but in this case it was entirely misplaced. While my physical condition is far from ideal, I live a full life and have been blessed with a lovely, intelligent wife and three beautiful children. I live in a nice house in a desirable city, own two cars, and do challenging work that allows me to influence others for the good. Besides all that, I sense God’s presence and guidance through all of life’s ups and downs.

But how do you tell all that to a 10-year-old boy in a parking lot who can only see your physical defects? You can’t. You just hope that as he matures, he will learn to look past the surface, develop true compassion, and begin to appreciate people for who they really are.

But at least the boy was trying. Many people, forgetting that we all bear God’s image, have stopped trying altogether.

In the Flanders region of Belgium, a recent study published in The Lancet, a medical journal, found that nearly half the newborn babies who died during one year were illegally “helped” to do so by their doctors. According to the Telegraph, “Most commonly, that involved withholding or withdrawing treatment because physicians believed the baby had no real chance of survival or the baby had no chance of a ‘bearable future.’”

How do they know what constitutes a “bearable future,” and who gave them the right to decide? Like the boy at the grocery store, they have no idea what God may choose to do with the life of a physically or mentally challenged child. Not only that, they miss out on the character development and spiritual blessings that often flow to those who help the weak and defenseless.

Instead, bowing at the recently constructed secular altar of physical perfection, these physicians practice a pity that compels them to weed out those with lives they deem not worth living. Doing so, they blatantly disregard the 2,500-year-old Hippocratic Oath, which says, “I will not give a fatal draught to anyone if asked, nor will I suggest any such thing.”

This deadly pity extends to adults, too. Since 2002, Belgian doctors have had the right to euthanize adults who are suffering from “constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain” who request to die. The Netherlands passed a similar law in 1995, and it’s not just people who want to die who are at risk.

Arno Heltzel of the Catholic Union for the Elderly supports “voluntary euthanasia,” but even he acknowledges the existence of “social pressure” in Holland toward old people because of high medical costs. “Old people have to excuse themselves for living,” Heltzel recently told the Wall Street Journal. “When they say that all of their friends are dead, people say, ‘Maybe it is time for you to go too,’ rather than, ‘You need to find new friends.’”

Pity alone is not enough. We need less pity, and more compassionate people willing to look past the surface and see the intrinsic value of all God’s children.


Post a Comment

<< Home