Those who fail to understand history are doomed to repeat it.

For several months now, Gino Kenny TD of People Before Profit has been attempting to rush an assisted suicide bill through the Dáil.

Kenny has repeatedly told the public that his bill – dubbed the “Dying with Dignity” bill – is an attempt to help patients with incurable illnesses to end “unbearable pain” (although, despite what Kenny has falsely claimed publicly, these words appear nowhere in the actual text of the proposed legislation).

Kenny has also claimed that the law will be “restrictive” and only apply in very specific circumstances.

However, Iona Institute director, David Quinn, spotted an alarming historical parallel.

“Here is an article from the front page of @nytimes in 1933 on the introduction of euthanasia by the Nazis. Note who was opposed. Note how the Nazis used arguments about unbearable pain and how there would be safeguards against abuses to win over public opinion.”

The article, which featured on the front page of the New York Times on October 7th, 1933, was entitled “Nazis plan to kill incurables to end pain – Germany religious groups oppose move”. Take a read for yourself:

“The Ministry of Justice in a detailed memorandum explaining the Nazi aims regarding the German penal code today announced its intention to authorize physicians to end the sufferings of incurable patients.

The memorandum, still lacking the force of law, proposed that “it shall be made possible for physicians to end the tortures of the incurable patients, upon request, in the interests of true humanity.””

In other words, the Nazi legislation, while still “lacking the force of law” – i.e., it was still being proposed in an effort to win over the public – almost exactly mirrored the kind of language and emotional appeals used by Kenny’s bill today. What would later become the Nazis’ brutal euthanasia law began as a simple appeal to end the pain of incurable patients out of compassion and “humanity”.

Similarly, the Nazis insisted that their bill would be restrictive as well:

“According to the present plans of the Ministry of Justice, incurability would be determined not only by the attending physician, but also by two official doctors who would carefully trace the history of the case and personally examine the patient.

In insisting that euthanasia shall be permissible only if the accredited attending physician is backed by two experts who so advise, the Ministry believes a guarantee is given that no life still valuable to the State will be wantonly destroyed.”

So essentially, all the propaganda prior to passing the law insisted it would be restrictive and specific. And yet, what happened? The same “wanton destruction” that supporters of the law had insisted would never happen.

At this point some will inevitably say “but the Nazis eventually had involuntary euthanasia for people who didn’t want it – that’s not what Kenny or modern assisted suicide advocates are proposing.” But sadly, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Kenny’s bill contains alarming and ambiguous phrasing regarding who is capable of giving consent to be euthanised, such as at the start of page 7: “The fact that a person is able to retain the information relevant to a decision for a short period only does not prevent him or her from being regarded as having the capacity to make the decision.”

Now what does that mean? Is Kenny’s bill saying that someone with dementia or some other condition that adversely affects the mind could be allowed to end their own life? This isn’t a far-fetched notion – even today, in current day Netherlands, we have struggling elderly people being held down by their family as a doctor gives them a lethal injection.

Once again, compare this to the New York Times article referring to the Nazi law:

“The Ministry merely has proposed that either the patient himself shall “expressly and earnestly” ask it, or “in case the patient no longer is able to express his desire, his nearer relatives, acting from motives that do not contravene morals, so request.”

Obviously this is not to say something stupid like “Gino Kenny is a Nazi” – nobody is saying that.

The point is to show how pro-euthanasia propaganda has worked in the past, and how these radical life-and-death social changes never stop at the reasonable line that we want them to stop.

Nobody in Germany in 1933 reading that article expected things to go the way they did – but that didn’t stop the end result. Once you cross that divide of willingly taking human life, that’s a recipe for atrocities to happen, and we’ve seen that in every country that embraced these ideas, in history and in modern times. And if bills like Gino’s get their foot in the door, Ireland will be no different.