Eugenics and population control in Canada

John B. Shea
© Copyright 1997-2006 Catholic Insight
Updated: Dec 3rd, 2006
Issue: March, 2006
Reproduced with Permission

Two recent events have provided food for thought. First, a private member's bill, C-407, was introduced to Parliament that proposed to allow any person, under certain conditions, to aid a person close to death or suffering from a debilitating illness to "die with dignity" if that person has expressed the free and informed consent to die. Second, Health Canada plans to introduce pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) regulations in May, 2006. These two events are linked. How so? They both may establish legally binding mandates as to when, how, and why innumerable innocent human beings shall be consigned or abandoned to death. Such proposals naturally bring to mind what Alexander Pope wrote almost 300 years ago, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread!"

The Historical Context

In 1798, Thomas Malthus predicted that the world population would outstrip the food supply. This idea was adopted by Francis Galton, Charles Darwin's cousin, who coined the word "eugenics" in 1883, and objected to charity because it encouraged the poor to have more children. He defined eugenics as "the science of improvement of the human germ plasma through better breeding."1 The eugenic movement was embraced by many scientists in the U.K., U.S., and Germany by 1935. After the Second World War it went underground because of its adoption by Adolf Hitler. It revived in the 1950s and by 1960 was popular again, sponsoring genetic counseling and promoting the slogan "Every child a wanted child." Negative eugenics promoted contraception, sterilization and abortion. Positive eugenics promoted artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and genetic engineering. By 1972, the American Eugenics Society was encouraging alteration of the human species for sociological purposes and also population control. That Society, in its promotion of population control, distinguished between family planning, which depended upon voluntary decisions by individuals, and population control that would include commitment to zero-population growth, coercion and euthanasia. Four years later, the U.S. government, in a document called NSSM 200, called for a covert depopulation policy included in its American foreign aid program. At the U.N. conference in 1991 the national delegates, influenced by Maurice Strong, secretary general of the Earth Summit, supported a policy consistent with the notion that the presence of human beings on the earth and the health of the planet were incompatible.

Another event of historical significance was the so-called "Belmont Report." This was produced in 1978 by a Commission of the U.S. Congress in response to a public outcry about grossly immoral medical research in which patients had been mistreated. This report created modern secular "bioethics," a theory in which clinical problems were supposed to be solved in terms of justice (fairness), patient autonomy (privacy), and beneficence. The problem then as now is that these terms were not related in any way to Divine or natural law, but only to the current law of the land, which could and does change over time and is subject to often bizarre Court interpretation. There is no room in secular bioethics for objective moral truth and no absolute moral rights for the individual. Ethical norms are now entirely relativist, and are a function of what is currently deemed "politically correct." Political correctness in turn is a function of a so-called "consensus" of stakeholders manipulated by those who hold the reins of power.

Bill C-407 and PGD, as I will show, are a paradigm of the theory of secular bioethics.

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Bill C-407, referred to previously, is a bad piece of legislation. It would permit euthanasia and assisted suicide for anyone who is suffering from chronic physical or mental pain and who "appears to be lucid," even if they have refused to try effective treatments. It would allow one person to kill another, if that person asks to die. It threatens the old and infirm, the handicapped, and all who are unable to look after themselves.

As a result of widespread abortion and contraception, the ratio of young to old in the Canadian population is greatly reduced. There are now not enough workers to pay, through their taxes, for the old who are retired. Already, some patients are being hurried towards their death by "terminal sedation" and the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration.

Societal pressure is also growing to allow and even to demand euthanasia when treatment is categorized as "futile" or a patient is cognitively impaired.

Prenatal Diagnosis

PGD is the latest in a long series of diagnostic methods designed to provide genetic, anatomical, and physiological information about the preborn child. On occasion, these methods enable a physician to provide better prenatal care, such as fetal surgery, e.g., for diaphragmatic hernia, tumour, or spina bifida. They may also facilitate the optimal timing and method of delivery and allow adequate preparation for care of an ill newborn at delivery. Unfortunately, if a fetal abnormality if found, couples most often use that finding as an excuse for induced abortion.2

Modalities employed in the prenatal diagnosis of disease include the following:

PGD is not morally acceptable for the following reasons: It involves in vitro fertilization which is, in itself, morally unacceptable. Ten percent of embryos are misdiagnosed.3 It involves the death of any abnormal embryo found and of all remaining embryos whether normal or not. It could lead to further destruction of embryos for many other reasons such as the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer's disease, etc. Would acceptance of this procedure not lead ultimately to acceptance of eugenic engineering of "designer babies," chosen for gender, or for such characteristics as beauty, intelligence, or physique?

Search and Destroy

It is a sad fact that many physicians who participate in euthanasia or in prenatal diagnosis often think in terms of "weeding out" the unfit, thus denying them their inalienable right to life. For 200 years the Western world has been concerned about overpopulation, riches and power. Western culture has for the first time in history fallen prey to atheism. People see themselves as morally autonomous, free to do what they will. The only constraints recognized are those mandated by the law of the land. God's divine law, and man's reasoned understanding of it, natural law, though recognized even in ancient times by Aristotle, Plato, and Cicero, are not even known today. The fact is that hunger around the world is usually caused by sin - hatred, cruelty, selfishness, and imprudence - and not by overall shortage of food. This fact is totally ignored. The depopulation of the civilized world due to abortion, contraception, and sexually transmitted disease is never alluded to or admitted. A culture of death exercises its sway over the medical profession, which in its treatment of life at its beginning and at its end, has come to resemble a veritable military mission to "search and destroy."

A Catholic's Duty

Above all, Catholics must witness to the faith. Catholic medical caregivers, hospital administrators and board members must learn the moral principles which govern patient care and must act in accordance with them. They must learn more about the Church's teaching on the nature and dignity of man and the fact that all are called to salvation, which concerns the human person in all of his or her dimensions, personal and social, spiritual and corporal, historical and transcendent. All are called to love God, a love that involves obedience to His law, and are called on to love one's neighbour as himself. This love is enabled by grace, not only for Christians, "but for all people of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly."4 Catholics must bring this teaching to the attention of others, not only by word but by example. Contraception, in vitro fertilization, prenatal testing harmful to the unborn, or performed to facilitate abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are all intrinsically evil and cannot be justified by any intention, no matter how good.

The Church urges the wealthy nations to give generously to the poor. It defends the rights of families. The route to freedom is solidarity with the victims of evil. The social sciences in our time are greatly affected by eugenic theory. "It would be a noble work to rescue them, to work through the basic texts and theories in each field, identifying the eugenic taint and replacing it with an unswerving devotion to the dignity of the individual, including the poor."5

The world has become a Tower of Babel. It is confused, materialistic, and tempted by utopian fantasies of a self-centred new world order. It lacks what Augustine called the "tranquility of order." It is the duty of Catholics, both clerical and lay, to bring the world to Christ, to Him who gives peace such as the world cannot give.


1 John Cavanaugh-O'Keefe, "Introduction to Eugenics," [Back]

2 Jane Cleary-Goldman, MD; Fergal Malone MD, "Advances in Pre-natal Diagnosis," Applied Radiology. 2005; 34 (9): 8-18. Anderson Publishing Ltd. [Back]

3 "BABI (Blastomere Analysis) before implantation. Clear thinking about crucial issues." [Back]

4 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace. n. 38. 41. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Publisher, USCCB. ISBN 1-57455-692-4. [Back]

5 See reference number one. [Back]