The entire key to the euthanasia debate lies in its great paradox: consistent polls showing a majority in favour. But what, exactly, are people supporting? The 1996-97 debate provides the answer: most people think that turning off life-support machines and discontinuing life-preserving treatment is euthanasia. In fact, this is nothing to do with euthanasia. Indeed, it is the precise opposite of euthanasia. If a family turns off a life-support machine, the patient dies because of their illness, not because of the doctor. But if the doctor gives a lethal injection, then the patient is killed. This is a fine yet critical distinction.
Because euthanasia involves one person being sanctioned to kill another, it cannot be seen just within a human rights framework. It is an ethical and intellectual failure to pretend that euthanasia is merely a human right awaiting recognition. It is about society and its norms and values. There is no escaping the chasm that euthanasia crosses. Creation of a legal framework to permit killing must affect the way all people perceive their lives and the expectations that friends, family and doctors have of patients.
This issue was best put by former NSW politician Tony Burke, now Minister for Sustainability and Environment in the Gillard government, when he led the 1996 campaign from Labor's side: "There is a maxim often used in the capital punishment debate which applies perfectly to legalised euthanasia: whether you support it or oppose it in principle, if one innocent person is going to be killed, that is too high a price." Exactly.
Former Labor MP Lindsay Tanner, on October 28, 1996, tore to shreds the logic of the Northern Territory law. Asking where the line should be drawn, Tanner asked rhetorically: "Why is it that it is only the terminally ill? Why shouldn't it also be the severely disabled? Why not somebody with an incurable mental illness? Why not children who are terminally ill?"
Tanner's point is that lines cannot be firm or fixed. Reinforcing his argument is that many euthanasia advocates, such as Peter Singer, actively promote its extension more widely.
Tanner also dismissed the furphy about territory rights, saying it was absurd to let the Northern Territory, representing 1 per cent of the people, make such a decision affecting all Australians. Finally, he asked: What about the terminally ill who do not want to die? Good question. It was the question hammered by Burke and Andrews. Once the killing culture is established, the aged, sick and disabled will have to consider whether to put up their hands. They will feel obligated. Financial pressures, healthcare costs and expectations of family will assume new dimensions.
The old joke for the sick is that euthanasia is "putting us out of your misery".
Yes, some people in pain want to die and it is hard to deny their claim. Yet there are many others glad to be alive today who would have volunteered for euthanasia if it had been legal five years ago. As Andrews said in 1996, a well person who is suicidal is offered counselling, but under euthanasia an ill person who is suicidal becomes an option for death.
Body of the CathNews article:
One in three GPs in major cities believe people older than 70 who feel "tired of life" should have the right to professional help in ending it, a poll conducted by Philip Nitschke's Exit International has found.
More than 33 percent of 500 doctors surveyed in Sydney (35 percent), Melbourne (36 percent) and Adelaide (43 percent) agreed with the provocative question. In Perth, 28 percent endorsed it, according to a report in The Australian.
Dr Nitschke said he was surprised by the support for a proposition that sits at the radical end of the euthanasia spectrum. He conducted the poll during weekend workshops convened by Sydney-based Elixir Healthcare Education on "clinical controversies" that GPs attended in July and last month, the news report said.
People feeling "tired of life" are a potentially enormous group of elderly citizens who may not be suffering from chronic health problems.
"My feeling is, and not everyone agrees, is that this opens up a much broader debate around the fundamental idea of control towards the end of life," Dr Nitschke said. "Baby boomers want control."
About half the GPS surveyed from the four capital cities agreed that they want legislative reform to allow euthanasia for the terminally ill, said the report.
See also here:
"Catholic-Orthodox talks: officials optimistic but ... [sic, but no breakthroughs]"
Mr. Robertson on, among other things, the Vatican City State and Pius XI.
This is perpetuated, Mr Robertson writes, by the ''pseudo state'' of the Holy See that was created in 1929 in a deal between Mussolini and the pro-fascist Pope Pius XI, and which the Vatican describes as an ''absolute monarchy''. As its head of state, the Pope is immune from prosecution, to which Mr Robertson says he has no rightful claim.
Michaelmas, A.D. 2010