Wesley J. Smith: The Young and the Vulnerable


(The Weekly Standard) – When I was a small boy, polio terrified me. Each year, it would strike thousands of children like me—and you never knew when or where it would hit next. In the 1952 epidemic, a very bad year, there were nearly 60,000 reported cases in the United States and more than 3,000 deaths.

Summer was the worst time, and I recall my parents’ tension as “polio season” approached. Most vividly, I remember my horror at the prospect of being encased in an iron lung. I had seen the photographs: hospital wards with children in iron lungs, only their heads visible outside the great metal beast, a mirror strategically angled so they could view their immediate surroundings.

That long-ago era came to mind the other day as the National Right to Life Committee’s executive director, David O’Steen, introduced me before a lecture on euthanasia. O’Steen described having polio as a youngster and wondered whether the same unequivocal commitment to recovery that he and his fellow patients experienced would continue to prevail in a health care system increasingly driven by utilitarian decision-making and cost-containment imperatives. CONTINUE