Action Alert October 2010

This is an archived edition of Action Alert.

The Battle Against Euthanasia Continues

On 20 September 2010, Senator Bob Brown (Australian Greens – Tasmania) formally announced that he would be re-introducing his private senators bill from 2008 aimed at repealing the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 and restoring the ‘right’ of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory to legalise in favour of euthanasia.  On 29 September 2010, Senator Brown introduced the Restoring Territory Rights (Voluntary Euthanasia Legislation) Bill 2010 into the Senate.  In a media release, Mr Brown said, “While this Bill is about Territory rights, a huge majority of Australians support voluntary euthanasia and it is time for the Federal Parliament to openly debate the issue.”  So, while the Bill deals specifically with the powers of the Territories, its underlying purpose is to open the door to voluntary euthanasia in Australia.  This step is consistent with the attempts by Australian Greens parliamentarians at State level to have voluntary euthanasia legalised.

Do “a huge majority of Australians” really support voluntary euthanasia?  The difficulty is that most people do not understand what is meant by euthanasia!  It would seem that most people are opposed to the unnecessary prolonging of life and think that a patient – or his / her family – ought to be able to instruct the attending medical staff to discontinue life-preserving treatment and to turn off life-support machines.  In fact, the opportunity to do this already exists.  If a person – or his / her family – chooses to discontinue medical treatment, and he / she subsequently dies a natural death as a result of his / her underlying illness, this is NOT euthanasia!  The refusal of futile or extreme treatment – either by the patient or by his / her family – is recognition of the inevitability of death, but NOT the embracing of euthanasia.

Euthanasia is much more than this!  Euthanasia legally sanctions a deliberately intentional act designed to end the life of an individual.  It approves someone – usually a medical professional, whose mindset and training ought to be shaped by a commitment to save life – to administer a lethal injection to end life.  Lawyer and ethicist, Margaret Somerville, has said, “If you look at the most fundamental norm or value on which our type of societies are based, it is that we do not kill each other.  No matter how compassionate and merciful your reasons for carrying out euthanasia, it still alters that norm that we do not kill each other to one where we do not usually, but in some cases we do.”  So, the legalisation of euthanasia crosses a huge chasm!  It says that it is acceptable for someone – usually a doctor – to kill someone else if he / she requests it.  Creating such a legal framework has a profound impact on the way that people – especially the ill, the aged, and the disabled – view their lives, as well as the expectations that family, friends, and medical staff have of terminally ill people.  No longer will it be a matter of ‘How can we best care for you?’, but it will be more a matter of ‘How long will you be around as an emotional and economic burden to us?’  Someone has jokingly, but rightly, said that euthanasia is about “putting us out of your misery”.

In addition to the mindset shift that legalised voluntary euthanasia creates, there remains the impossibility of ensuring that every act of euthanasia is, in fact, at the voluntary request of the ill or aged person.  This is evident from research into the practice of euthanasia in Holland.  John Keown, a medical ethicist at Cambridge University in Britain, reported that in 1990 in Holland, 52% of the 10,558 cases of a doctor’s intent to hasten death were done with no explicit request from the patients involved.  Dr Keown said, “The Dutch claim that their guidelines for VAE [voluntary active euthanasia] are precise and strict, and therefore capable of ensuring effective control, fails to pass muster.”  Likewise, in Belgium, where euthanasia was legalised in 2002, almost half of all nurses have admitted to killing patients without their consent.  Once the mindset of getting the terminally ill and the aged out of the way as quickly and easily as possible is accepted, it becomes increasingly certain that voluntary euthanasia leads to involuntary euthanasia.  Brian Pollard, an Australian palliative care expert, has said, “Every proposal to legalise euthanasia has been shown to be flawed, and they have been widely abused when put into practice elsewhere.  No proposal has ever been devised which could be guaranteed not to be abused.”  In reality, once killing a person is accepted as a solution in a few tough cases, the ‘dam wall’ collapses and it becomes the appropriate answer in many cases.

Contact Senator Bob Brown [Senate, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, 2600, or email senator.bob.brown@aph.gov.au, or telephone (02) 62773170] to say that you are opposed to the introduction of any laws, whether at a Federal or a State level, that would open the door to the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia. 

Contact Julia Gillard, Prime Minister [PO Box 6022, House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, 2600, or phone (02) 62777700, or email at the website http://pm.gov.au/PM_Connect/Email_your_PM.  There would be a conscience vote on Senator Brown’s Bill if it reaches the stage of being debated, but ask the PM for a pledge to not support the Bill. 

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Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?
Psalm 94:16

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This monthly release is prepared by Pastor Brian Robertson (P O Box 2367, Bundaberg, 4670) to inform Christian people about issues within our society.  “Action Alert” does not promote any one political party, but encourages its readers to be “salt and light” by speaking out on some of these matters.  The views expressed in “Action Alert” are those of the author and are not necessarily those of a local church or a denominational organisation.  To the extent permissible by law, no church or denomination accepts liability for anything contained in this publication and any use made of it.