In the next two-and-a-half months we will see the greatest parliamentary assault on pro-life and Christian family relationships ever experienced in 190 years of the NSW Legislative Council's existence.

These bills of the NSW Parliament are the death rattles of a dying State Government. The alliance between the secular Greens and the extreme Socialist left wing of the Labor Party know that there will be a change of Government at the 2011 Election, so the last possible chance of their reform agenda being voted in the House lies in the next two and a half months. This is their last chance for at least 10 years. 

Euthanasia

PICTURE: © Bochkareva Olena (www.istockphoto.com)

 

"The fear of seeing a loved one suffer has led many to believe that the compassionate response is to send them on to an early death. Indeed, as medical science enables people to live longer and to overcome more and more disease, there is a fear that many elderly patients are being kept alive artificially and against their will."

The barrage has already started, and we who are pro-family and pro-life have already lost the first battle. We lost the battle against same sex adoption. The membership of Family First were vocal on this issue. Hundreds of people contacted me, and thousands of others have signed petitions regarding this issue. I represented their views as strongly as I could. My speech in full is on my website www.gordonmoyes.com.

More pieces of legislation before Christmas will attack Christian rights and beliefs. It is time every Christian became active at every level of political involvement, in prayer and financial support.

The easing restrictions on child pornography is there. There is a bill to legalise assisted suicide of the ill, the elderly and the disabled. There is a motion to de-criminalise abortion. Another to indefinitely continue the Kings Cross injecting room. Next is the Surrogacy Same Sex Bill. Then there will be a move to replace special religious education with secular ethics classes.

Of particular concern is the euthanasia of the dying, the suffering and the disabled.

The fear of seeing a loved one suffer has led many to believe that the compassionate response is to send them on to an early death. Indeed, as medical science enables people to live longer and to overcome more and more disease, there is a fear that many elderly patients are being kept alive artificially and against their will.

The real problem today is not that of over-treatment, but really one of under-treatment. That is, we have become all too willing to allow loved ones to die, without always looking at all the options, or exhausting all the alternatives.

It must clearly define our terms before proceeding. Euthanasia is not about halting futile treatment. Nor is it about the alleviation of suffering (this is known as palliative care). Euthanasia is an act that directly and intentionally causes a person’s death. Euthanasia has little to do with refusing futile or extreme treatment. The man who rejects a heart transplant or declines a third bout of chemotherapy is not committing suicide, but rather is accepting the inevitability of his own death. The doctor who withholds or withdraws undue treatment at the request of a terminally ill patient is not killing his patient but rather is refusing to prolong his patient’s life at any cost. 

Properly understood, euthanasia involves an intentional act to end a person’s life. Opponents of euthanasia do not advocate the unnecessary and unwelcome prolonging of human life by artificial means. Rather, they oppose active measures to bring human life to a premature end.

Though one might think parliamentarians, when considering a draft euthanasia law, would see the force of these arguments, many MPs find it hard to separate their personal views on euthanasia from their duty to examine the safety of the draft before them. 

The committees of inquiry in various states, all included members who were personally in favour of euthanasia, so the fact that three of them issued unanimous reports means that many of their members, to their credit, did in fact make this critical distinction.

Because it is commonly claimed that the only real opposition to euthanasia comes from the churches, it is worth commenting that none of these reports relied on any religious arguments. 

Euthanasia is about one thing only: the killing of another person. It does not matter whether this is done with a gun or a lethal injection - the effect is the same. With this definitional framework in place, here are my objections to legalised euthanasia:

First, the doctor-patient relationship is weakened 
When the medical profession becomes involved in the killing, the delicate trust relationship between patient and doctor is undermined. People trust their lives to doctors and health care workers in the knowledge that they are dedicated to the preservation of life, to healing, to caring.

"If society accepts legalised euthanasia, this right to die will lead to its corollary, the duty to kill. Once a society has said that its citizens have the right to die, it will be forced to provides the means to do so. That is, if a state says there is a legal right to die, logically, anyone can bring suit to ensure that governments comply."

Second, the right to die implies a duty to kill
There are no rights without corresponding duties. If society accepts legalised euthanasia, this right to die will lead to its corollary, the duty to kill. Once a society has said that its citizens have the right to die, it will be forced to provides the means to do so. That is, if a state says there is a legal right to die, logically, anyone can bring suit to ensure that governments comply. 

I recall the comments made by the then Governor-General Bill Hayden who, thinking of his own advancement in years, spoke of being an “unproductive burden.” But why is Bill Hayden as a senile, incoherent old man in a wheelchair any less of value and worth than Bill Hayden was as Governor-General? 

Third, the most vulnerable will be at risk
The elderly are especially at risk. A poll taken in the Netherlands found that almost all of those living in nursing homes opposed euthanasia. Some family members who may gain from a person’s will may wish to speed along the death of someone in the family. And the most vulnerable will be on the defensive. All elderly, terminally ill and disabled people would have to justify their own continued existence at the most vulnerable time in their lives.

But why limit it to the elderly? Why not terminate any life at any time?  Doctors in Holland have been reported as taking the life of non-elderly people who asked to be euthanased simply because they were depressed. 

Fourth, legal euthanasia sends out the wrong message
“Some lives are not worth living” is the clear message being sent out by a society that enacts assisted-suicide legislation. Once legalised, it may well seem to be an option to many people, simply because it is legal. Indeed, people may feel they have a duty to be killed.

It needs to be remembered that the Nazi holocaust was preceded by this line of thinking which says that certain lives are not worth living. The cheapening of human life is the outcome of the euthanasia mentality. Talk of ‘dying with dignity’ is clearly misplaced here. How can one affirm life by eliminating it? Life is not dignified by ending it. Death with dignity is facing it with courage and even humour.

Fifth, the slippery slope
For all the talk about “safeguards”, there really can be no safeguards in legalised euthanasia. The Dutch experience illustrates this. The “guidelines” for euthanasia in Holland were openly flouted. In 1990, 52 per cent of the 10,558 cases of a doctor’s intent to hasten death were done with no explicit request from the patient.  

The Remmelink Report, an official Dutch government survey of euthanasia practices, found that more than one thousand patients are involuntarily euthanised each year. Even with safeguards, once voluntary euthanasia is legalised the descent down the slippery slope is inevitable, the Report concluded. 

It seems that abuse is inevitable. Voluntary euthanasia will lead to involuntary euthanasia. It is already happening. As one Australian expert in palliative care put it, “No proposal has ever been devised which could be guaranteed not to be abused.” 

Respected Australians are actually proposing that infanticide for example be seriously considered. Peter Singer is one well known proponent of this view.

"Palliative care can now relieve suffering in the majority of cases. Essentially all pain can be controlled...euthanasia for pain relief is unethical."

Sixth, palliative care as an alternative
Over 20 years ago, as chairman of the board of the Lottie Stewart Hospital in Dundas, I led in the introduction of a special palliative care ward being developed in that hospital.  I had some experience in a non-hospital based, home-based palliative care work, but I wanted to see if a medical model of palliative care would work in Sydney similar to what Dr Trevor Banks was doing in Geelong. It has been outstandingly successful.

Palliative care can now relieve suffering in the majority of cases. Essentially all pain can be controlled...euthanasia for pain relief is unethical.

The unanimous report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics has recommended that there be no change to law in the United Kingdom to permit euthanasia. More and better palliative care was instead recommended. 

For these and other reasons, euthanasia, or assisted-killing, should never be legalised. Instead, more effort should be put into reducing pain, not killing the sufferer. The British House of Lords Report on euthanasia: “The message which society sends to vulnerable and disadvantaged people should not, however obliquely, encourage them to seek death, but should assure them of our care and support in life.” 

As George Orwell so aptly put it: “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness". Indeed, the goal, wrote Orwell, “is to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable".

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes is NSW Parliamentary Leader of the Family First Party.