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Luxembourg, the Land without a Conscience

The fourth country in the world to legalize euthanasia.
by Thomas A Flynn, LC | Source:

Luxembourg decided to carve a name for itself in history this March 2009. It officially became the fourth country in the world to legalize euthanasia.

Yet there was a roadblock that Luxembourg’s Parliament had to overcome in order to put the law into effect: the conscience of their Grand Duke. They chose to swerve around him instead.

When the bill legalizing euthanasia first landed on the Grand Duke Henri’s desk he announced that he was not going to sign it into effect. It was a law against his conscience, he said, and as head of state he had an obligation to protect life in his land.  

The reaction of Luxembourg’s Parliament to this refusal was truly shocking. They didn’t take the time to consider why and for what reasons their ruler reached the decision he did, they didn’t bother to enter into a debate on the issue of euthanasia. There was no condemnation of the Grand Duke’s position as erroneous or deformed. All of that would have required too much messy ethical discussion. The solution arrived at was far easier and infinitely more polite: a simple vote to sidestep the inconvenience and continue on with the agreed agenda.

Parliament therefore offered their ruler an option: either sign the law or give up your power to put law into effect. Refusing to sacrifice the lives of innocent subjects for the allure of political power, the Henri opted for the latter.

Let’s put ourselves in the Grand Duke’s shoes for a moment. Up until last week there were only three other countries with legalized euthanasia: Columbia, Netherlands, and Belgium. None of these has a 100% approval rating for their law on euthanasia, and all are scrutinized by other nations for putting these laws into effect. The Netherlands even has sick people fleeing their country because they do not want to be sent to a hospital, where doctors have the power to decide if their ‘patients’ are worthy to continue living or not.

Was it a rash judgment for the Grand Duke not to sign?

I think not, and I know that Randy Stroup would agree with me. Last year he was battling cancer in a hospital in Oregon (where euthanasia has been legal for several years now) when he received a note from his health care provider. They informed him that they were unfortunately not able to continue paying for his chemotherapy sessions but if he considered going through with an assisted suicide, they would be willing to cover the cost. 

Perhaps Luxembourg’s parliament never heard about Mr. Stroup or any of the other issues surrounding euthanasia. I highly doubt it. What’s much more troubling than the fact that they made the wrong moral decision, however, is that they were unwilling to defend the legitimacy of that decision before the questions of someone who didn’t agree with their position.

The prime minister of Luxembourg put it best when he said that he understood the Grand Duke’s problem of conscience but that “if Parliament votes in a law, it must be brought into force.” It wouldn’t be a bad idea to remind the prime minister that laws obtain their ultimate authority not from the Parliament that makes them but from the common good they are ordered to. If that good disappears from the picture, if discussion about that good is considered too inconvenient to dally in, then law becomes nothing but the will of the people, the dictatorship of the latest passing fancy. Law, instead of guaranteeing the freedom and good of the subjects it governs, becomes the guarantee of a “conscience-free” land.

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Post a Comment
Published by: Simon Gray
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
It was unfortunate for Randy Stroup that he was not living in Luxembourg, where there is a universal health care system that would have continued either to pay for his cancer treatment until he recovered or, if he did not, for any other care he needed for the rest of his life.

Published by: Simon Gray
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
It was unfortunate for Randy Stroup that he was not living in Luxembourg, where there is a universal health care system that would have continued either to pay for his cancer treatment until he recovered or, if he did not, for any other care he needed for the rest of his life.

Published by: Simon Gray
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
It was unfortunate for Randy Stroup that he was not living in Luxembourg, where there is a universal health care system that would have continued either to pay for his cancer treatment until he recovered or, if he did not, for any other care he needed for the rest of his life.

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