The 20th Century: A Case Study in Losing Human Dignity

“Now Death rides triumphantly on his pale horse through our streets and breaks into almost every house, where any inhabitants are to be found.”

So one Puritan minister described the terrible summer of 1665, when a quarter of London’s population perished from the Great Plague. Many fled the city. Thomas Sydenham (1624–1689) was one who remained. A physician and devout Christian, he was determined to care for the sick and dying.

Sydenham survived the plague and was later honored as the “Father of English Medicine.” He wrote what became, for two centuries, the standard medical textbook. All doctors will answer to God for how they treat their patients, he insisted. They must remember that the person they treat is created in the Almighty’s image.

And that’s why each human life deserves respect from conception onward (Gen. 1:26–28; 9:5–6Ps. 139:13–16). “You shall not murder” was divinely inscribed on tablets of stone; it is also written on every human heart. For two millennia, Western medical ethics combined the best of Greek medicine (as summarized in the Hippocratic Oath) with the Judeo-Christian ethic of life (as laid out in the Scriptures).

This culture of life is eroding fast.

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