Well, if drive-through Ash Wednesday services weren’t enough, the Dutch have finally invented mobile euthanasia units to do house calls when your own doctor won’t. A town in Wisconsin I once lived in had drive-through liquor stores, but that seems perfectly reasonable in comparison.

Finding a good euthanist is so hard these days, and I’m all for convenience, although I do wish these mobile units had committed to using zero emission vehicles. All that driving around is sure to add to climate change . . . although I guess they do guarantee an offset since . . . well, they’re killing CO2 producers. So that’s fine.

Jonathan Swift, where art thou? The West hath need of thee, for we are now beyond satire, so irrationally consumed by false conceits of freedom that we no longer seem to have the capacity to distinguish the laughably ridiculous from the just plain wicked. So deprived, beyond good and evil, it no longer seems to matter what we choose so long as choice itself remains. I choose choice! in an endless loop of self-love.

The culture of death is no bogeyman lurking at the bottom of an unlikely slippery slope, we live it each day as we spurn the weight of being in favor of the lightness of floating free.

I can think of no image more descriptive of who we are becoming than mobile euthanasia units–so self-involved and impatient that we cannot even wait for death, but have our last meal and our expiration delivered to our couch as we make a final update status for our friends.

Of course, as we become increasingly aware of the frivolity of our choices, it should not surprise us that a thirst for death emerges, an ultimate declaration that we are gods, poets, makers  and unmakers of our identities beholden to nothing, no one, and no place. Death Eaters, thirsty for annihilation.


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R. J. Snell lives and gardens (or at least watches his children garden) just outside of Philadelphia in Havertown, a place where Sinatra, baseball games, and cigar smoke waft from his neighbors' porches onto his own. If Philadelphia had colder and longer winters, as this Canadian thinks natural and fitting, it would be almost perfect. The fact that his four children and wife live there (almost) redeems the overly warm weather. He directs the philosophy program at Eastern University, in St. Davids, PA. He also co-directs the Agora Insitute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good, a research center devoted to understanding and sustaining the virtues and institutions of human flourishing. The author of Through a Glass Darkly: Bernard Lonergan and Richard Rorty on Knowing without a God's-Eye View, and the forthcoming (with Steve Cone) Authentic Cosmopolitanism, he writes and teaches on Thomas Aquinas and contemporary Thomism, Bernard Lonergan, natural law, decent life, and the liberal arts.


  1. I guess I’m responsible for some of this. I’ve been saying for years that we should not have doctor-assisted suicide, that if we’re going to have assisted suicide it should be done by some entirely different profession whose members don’t have a conflict of interest. I was thinking it could be formed from those unemployed people who might already have some of the skills needed. And for a uniform, I was thinking of something with a black hood over the face.

  2. Isn’t your statement about climate change an example of a straw-man fallacy?

    They aren’t killing people because they are CO2 producers but because they have deemed it their right to choose their own death for whatever reason. Who knows– they could be dying some horrible long miserable death. Euthanasia might be the better choice for those suffering.

  3. My country, right or wrong… There even are some writers in the Netherlands who suggest that, due to the rising costs of the welfare state, society should work towards a change of mentality in our thinking about elderly who only benefit and doesn’t contribute to the common good… I still don’t know if they are suggesting this in Swift-style, but still, Swift was writing his satires as a commentary on the state of thinking in his society…

  4. Demographically, I should go for about another twenty years, if it pleases God. When I die I think it will be at the hands of a professional murderer in a quality-of-life cull, a hospital employee whose euphemistic title will include some word like “mercy.” (Like “coup de grâce”)

  5. Is this a truly (post-)modern phenonmenon? I ask in earnest, because I don’t know. Did the Victorians, or Colonists, or Renaissance men not believe in some kind of near-death “honor” killing/suicide?

    Put another way: Is this a paradox of our “developments” in medicine? Is the fact people are able to live so long–and be revived after “death” has taken hold–in some way responsible for this perversion of “care?”

    I realize my questions are broad. But I also realize that life “cut short” at the hands of man is not a new concept. So I wonder what’s changed.

  6. Man having rejected his creaturehood, cannot live like a creature and cannot die like a creature. To reject one’s creaturehood is to reject the created order, to reject God, to reject the Church, to reject family, to reject the commonwealth whose traditions, customs and habits are embedded in one. One is alone, estranged, alienated and shriveled, bereft of fellowship. In such an unsocial order, euthanasia becomes thinkable and preferable to the abject loneliness of post-modern meaninglessness.

  7. The focus of this critique is not solely on the institution of assisted suicide but the tyranny of convenience over our global/modern society (correct?). Right or wrong, where historical honor-killing/suicides conducted with a flippant focus on convenience – where these deaths as meaningless as the delivery charge on a state-sponsored receipt for assisted suicide?

  8. I would agree. The very concept of this kind of a sterile assisted suicide is uniquely modern, and parallels modern beliefs regarding abortion.

  9. Yes, Nigel, that is true that the ancients acknowledged noble suicides -that is the point- what is noble about “mobile euthanasia units”? It was considered bad form in the ancient world to ask another to do the job for you (one simple reason, of many, being that the helper could then be charged with murder). Someone honorable would never implicate another in his own death. Those that asked another to do it for them (a slave for instance) were considered the lowest of the low. Nowadays we attempt to keep people from killing themselves as there is still an idea that they are out of their minds but if someone really wants to die and has courage they will succeed. What is unique about the modern situation is not that we sometimes want to die it is that we fear pain and have so little courage and so little honor to get the job done on our own terms. Just like everything else in life, modern people want their suicides to be painless and easy and free (or at least government subsidized).

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