Friday, October 8, 2010

Euthanasia Debate Gathering Steam

I have previously mentioned the warped priorities of the newly empowered Greens to promote Bills to legalise Euthanasia in the Territories and in the NSW Parliament, here.

Andrew Cameron (pictured), of the Sydney Diocese Social Issues Executive has written an article in the Sydney Morning Herald called "Euthanasia Question Needs Wider Discussion" which highlights the shaky basis for the claims made by the pro-euthanasia lobby and calls for a proper debate.

Another approach was taken by Michael Jensen, who wrote a controversial and deliberately provocative piece in Punch called "Who is Euthanasia really For? A Letter from a Loving Son". Worth looking at here.

Another interesting and moving contribution comes from Nikki Savva in the Australian: "Fight for Life to the Last Breath". Niki calls herself a 'conservative leftie' and is not, a far as I know, a Christian. It is a good example of how deeper reflection on the issue can lead to an anti-euthanasia stance. Her article can be found here.

Here is the first part of the article by Andrew Cameron:

Australians are overwhelmingly in favour of euthanasia. Who can resist the will of the people? So goes the pro-death argument for this sweeping social change.

A much quoted 2009 survey, commissioned by the pro-euthanasia group Dying with Dignity, reports 85 per cent support for the practice. As is always the case, support is more muted among the over-65s: the prospect of death, it turns out, does concentrate the mind.

Even so, the survey elicited more than 80 per cent support among each age bracket of its 1201 respondents.

There is just one problem: it consisted of a telephone poll asking a single leading question. Interviewers emphasised the syllables as printed: ''If a hopelessly ill patient, experiencing unrelievable suffering, with absolutely no chance of recovering asks for a lethal dose, should a doctor be allowed to provide a lethal dose, or not?''

Try answering that while you are cooking the dinner or bathing the kids. The question is wildly emotive (''hopelessly'', ''unrelievable suffering'', ''absolutely no chance'').

We hate the thought of death and pain, and in the moment, most of us would simply respond out of shock and without much thought. The question leverages our preference to politely say ''yes'' instead of ''no''.

Its assumptions are also completely contestable. Illness does not have to be ''hopeless'', and suffering is often very relievable. Where euthanasia is legal, more ask for it due to loneliness than pain, or so as not to burden another. The survey therefore distracts us from other options.

It does not ask, ''Would you change your mind if the lonely had companions, and the fearful someone to listen?'' Nor does it ask, ''What would enable people to accept care without shame?'' Nor does it ask, ''Would you like to see more funding for pain management research and practice?''

We are seeing a deliberate blurring of the lines at the very time society needs clarity on such a serious and far-reaching measure. The deliberate killing of a person in euthanasia must be distinguished from the withdrawal of treatment, and from management of symptoms at the end of life. . . .

The rest of the article can be found here.

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