(FOX News - with a hat tip to Mark Shea) - A (that's one, single) Montana judge has ruled that physician assisted suicide is legal in that state. The decision is sure to be appealed, however.
I once heard a preacher say that in man's fallen state there are three things that keep individuals from doing evil; 1)Physical limitations, 2) Societal pressure, and 3) The individual conscience.
1.) Physical limitations would be a lack of power or skill... like being physically unable to get in and out of Fort Knox with no one noticing, or being angry at someone but unable to fight or kill them because they're bigger and you're unarmed... that kind of thing. You would like to act on your evil impulse, if you could, but you are prevented by physical circumstances.The technological revolution, though, has made more evil possible to more people (I know this sounds one-sided... yes, technology has also made it possible to do more good than ever, but right now we're talking about the constraints on doing evil).
2.) Societal pressures would include the fear of ostracism and of course the fear of direct punishment. If you indulge your evil impulses without any discretion at all, you are likely to end up with few friends and are also likely to spend a fair amount of your life behind bars, running from the law, or trying to avoid the revenge of your peers. And just try keeping a decent job.
3.) The individual conscience needs little explanation. Everyone has it, and though individual mileage may vary, natural law informs us through our conscience that certain things are just wrong and always will be. You can't steal without first overcoming that pang of conscience, and you can't do violence against the innocent without doing violence to your own psyche. It leads to self-loathing. A conscience informed by the Christian understanding of agape is (or ought to be) that much more attuned to the needs of others.
At one time, the laws of society (at least in the U.S.) and the law of the individual conscience (informed within a rubric of Divine love) we're much more aligned than they are now. Our laws are increasingly reflective of a mindset of secular materialism and moral relativism. Things that a generation or two ago would have resulted in public shaming, ostracism and punishment are now tolerated or even celebrated and specially protected.
So, in the last hundred years, or so, two of these three tethers on evil have been (in my view) significantly weakened. We are physically able to do more mischief than ever (cluster bombs, internet porn, MSNBC...) and we live in a society that is much more ethically lax (no-fault divorce, abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, destroying unborn human beings for their body parts... MSNBC...).
That leaves the individual conscience, which has also been weakened by the moral laxness of our age. We are living in a time, though, when the individual conscience may become the only significant remaining bulwark against evil in the world. We may indeed be entering a time that will require great acts of moral courage just to resist being compelled to participate in or accommodate evil.
That means, I think, that individual evangelization - person to person, conscience to conscience - will become even more important. Technology won't be turned back, and society won't be changed by lawyers and judicial appointments or even presidents... it must begin in the individial human heart, which must turn to God, learn to love him above all things, and then for his sake learn to love all others... and that is impossible without the Holy Spirit.
I wouldn't look for victory or even help from courts or politicians for a long time.