At least those of us in the dying with dignity and voluntary euthanasia movement agree with the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace on one thing - the Prime Minister is right to be cautious in dealing with issues surrounding dying with dignity. But it would be wrong for her to drop the matter. After all, 85 per cent of Australians want choice over how they die and that includes three out of four Catholics, four out of five Anglicans and nine out of ten Australians with no religion (like the Prime Minister herself). Few issues enjoy such across-the-board support.
YourLastRight.com represents all Australian state and territory dying with dignity and voluntary euthanasia organisations. One of the many things all members have in common is respect for those who don’t believe in more choice for themselves. By the same token we don’t want the wishes of the majority of Australians - the desire to express and enact their own values at end of life when faced with the torture of a terminal illness - to be sacrificed to a minority.
Some of those fundamentally opposed to this reform resort to fear and smear campaigns, distorting and misrepresenting the truth about how such a law works in other jurisdictions. For example, in his recent On Line Opinion piece Gillard’s conflict on euthanasia more than justified Jim Wallace said in as few words that Dr Philip Nitschke admitted that he had “probably breached the law”. Dr Nitschke did not admit that, and to represent so is a willing distortion of the truth.
Opponents also regularly point to 1,000 deaths in the Netherlands each year being a hastened death without a current request for assistance to die, and say that voluntary euthanasia laws promote this kind of behaviour. They offer this as evidence of the slippery slope to involuntary euthanasia but they ignore the facts.
First, the data they refer to - contained in the Remmelink report was collected in 1990. The Netherlands didn’t enact a euthanasia law until 2002.
Second, the rate of such non-voluntary euthanasia, in very difficult circumstances for the patient and family, is 0.7 per cent of deaths in the Netherlands. In Australia, it is 3.5 per cent of deaths, a rate five times higher … and we don’t have an aid-in-dying law. This implies that assisted dying is being widely practiced in this country without any regulation and in secret. Consider that for a moment.
Our doctors operate in a legal fog. Without dying with dignity legislation there is no requirement for documentation, no ethical oversight and no standardised framework for such practices. There is no requirement for a second medical opinion, no cooling off period, no mental health check, and no reporting or scrutiny whatsoever. Australians want and deserve a better standard than this.
This week Melbourne is hosting the World Federation of Right to Die Societies conference. There will be Christians of many persuasions there, supportive of the right to die with dignity. Like the non-believers in the room, they feel that respect is due for those whose God tells them not to participate in such a law or choice. Being Christian does not equate to opposition to dying with dignity just as having no faith does not equate support.
Mutual respect is the goal. To date, supporters of dying with dignity - the majority of people - have not received the respect they deserve.
It’s time for mature conversation, unencumbered by invective, innuendo and misinformation. I write this in a week when Commercials Advice (CAD), the body established by Australia’s free-to-air television networks to classify and authorise commercials, has banned the YourLastRight.com commercial. So much for free speech.
And while we’re talking about respect - we hope that Julia Gillard will facilitate Bob Brown’s bill to restore a right to Territorians that states have enjoyed all along - the right for the legislature to represent the views of the overwhelming majority of its citizens.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
53 posts so far.