In this entry I called for civil disobedience by doctors in Victoria, Australia, to a law that says they must either participate in abortions or refer women seeking abortions to doctors who have no conscientious objection to abortion.
Wesley J. Smith has been talking about the theme of resistance to the culture of death. Being a lawyer (which I, fortunately, am not), he is not calling directly for civil disobedience but for other forms of resistance. In either event, the theme of resistance is a tremendously important one. Smith's simple point is that the legality of some atrocious act does not make it morally right and that individuals must find ways to stand up and say "no" to atrocious things, even when those things are legal. He might have said, but didn't, that we must stand athwart the path of history shouting, "Stop!" So here are a few suggestions and/or instances of resistance:
In the wake of Washington State's recent legalization of doctor-assisted suicide, Smith calls for healthcare facilities and doctors' offices to declare themselves "suicide free zones," to make a public statement that they will not participate in nor permit assisted suicide on their premises. As he points out, Eastern Washington's largest hospital system has already made such a statement--a heartening development.
Here he tells of a case in Italy of a woman in a so-called "vegetative state." The courts have declared that she may be killed by dehydration, but so far the medical profession in Italy is presenting a united front and refusing to remove her nutrition and hydration. It appears that they are not being sanctioned for this refusal yet, and the story here says that the father may "have to" take his daughter abroad to have her killed by dehydration.
The same entry from Smith tells of a doctor in Yugoslavia who abruptly stopped doing abortions after nearly thirty years of performing them. He was penalized in the standard communist fashion--loss of pay and professional retribution against his grown children. (The story of his conversion is particularly odd and surprising. While an especially gruesome abortion was the immediate catalyst of Dr. Adasevic's decision, his claim, apparently, is that it was preceded by a repeated dream in which St. Thomas Aquinas, of whom he had never heard before, came to him in his black and white Dominican habit and showed him the children he had killed by abortion.)
Most of us are not medical professionals, and in the nature of the case the burden of resisting the culture of death falls most directly on those called upon actually to do harm. Increasingly, even in the West, those calls are becoming more strident. Yet I am not sure that the rest of us will be allowed to get off scot-free, either. The matter of consenting to the death of loved ones of dehydration seems particularly likely to arise for those of us who hold a durable power of attorney for healthcare.
Smith's idea of taking an active approach is worth considering. If a doctor is in a state where assisted suicide is legal, posting a "suicide-free office" sign seems a minimal flag of defiance. If relatives ask you to agree to be their DPA for healthcare, make sure they know where you stand on matters of life and death. Make it clear to your family where you stand on assisted suicide and that you will never give your blessing to their engaging in it, especially if family members live in a state where it is legal. These might seem like small things, but my crystal ball tells me that it will be a shockingly short time before they will not seem so small. Readers are welcome to contribute other concrete ideas.