Killing is never a solution for misery.

Filed on 25 September 2010 in Speeches category. Print This Page

Killing is never a solution for misery.

Ludwig Minelli head of Dignitas International claims that suicide and assisted suicide are human rights and then argues:

If the Right to Suicide is a Human Right… we must accept that, in order to make use of this right, there must be no legal requirements other than that the person has the mental capacity needed to decide to end his or her own life. Any conditions which insisted that somebody must be terminally or severely ill would interfere with the essence of that Human Right. Human Rights are, inherently, unconditional.

Assisted Suicide Backers Mislead the Public by Wesley J. Smith August 11, 2008, Life

Dr Philip Nitschke also argues that anyone, even – get this – troubled teens, should have the right to kill themselves:

…all people qualify, not just those with the training, knowledge, or resources to find out how to “give away” their life. And someone needs to provide this knowledge, training, or recourse necessary to anyone who wants it, including the depressed, the elderly bereaved, the troubled teen.

National Review Online, 5 June 2001

He and others talk about “existential distress” – the stress of simply being alive with however one chooses to define that stress or unhappiness.

Now if you add coercion of doctors, as per the Victorian abortion law, then we indeed have a culture of death: a right to die at any chosen point along the life-span for any chosen reason – a philosophy that is already apparent in some parts of our society and in our young people if things get too hard, I’ll just kill myself – but also compulsory assistance in that process by the medical profession.

Unfortunately there are those in high places who say that doctors who are not prepared to do that which is legal should not be doctors.

If people are not prepared to offer legally permitted, efficient, and beneficial care to a patient because it conflicts with their values, they should not be doctors. Professor Julian Savulescu, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, BMJ 2006;332:294-297 February 4

The right to life is under relentless attack.  At its beginning and its end.  And with the overriding of doctors conscience in Victoria re abortion the attack has reached new lows.  Tonight we concentrate on euthanasia.

The attack is relentless.  We were fighting the euthanasia battle in Victoria last year and federally.

In federal parliament Senator Bob Brown’s Rights of the Terminally Ill (Euthanasia Laws Repeal) Bill 2008 that seeks to overturn the Euthanasia Laws Bill 1997 to suppress the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 in the Northern Territory was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and is on the back-burner somewhere at that level to report at a date to be decided.

In Victoria the bill was defeated but as you would recall they pushed through the abortion through to term bill.

In Tasmania just recently we had a win.  In SA the bill has gone to an upper house committee and we are hoping it will get defeated in upper house.  Late News: bill was defeated 18 Nov 09.

Here in WA Robin Chapple’s bill is before upper house also.

We are fighting a culture of death. Let’s look at what that means, at the language of deceit, at why a law permitting euthanasia can never be introduced that won’t result in a slippery slope, and finally at what we must do to counter this culture of death.

What is the Culture of Death?

A culture where choosing to die and the killing of others is seen as a solution for misery.

A culture that accepts the killing of 80-100,000 un-born children every year the vast majority as an extension of contraception or “reproductive choice”.

A culture in which it becomes progressively easier to think of, then justify, then carry out “mercy” killing, firstly on the person who requests it and then to relieve the suffering of others for whom it is considered their suffering to be incompatible with quality of life.

A culture that accepts without thinking the elimination of embryos and the killing of the un-born that are less than perfect – e.g. Down Syndrome, or even easily correctable abnormalities such as cleft lip – such as has crept under the radar in Australia without any public examination or approval.

It is a culture in which the intrinsic value of all human life is increasingly replaced by an objective assessment of value for the individual, then for society.  We have then come to the point – where we have been before – in evaluating whether a life is worthy to be lived.

A culture that accepts the creation of human life for the sole purpose of research that will result in its destruction.

A culture that accepts cloning of human beings as long as we destroy them before 14 days but not in WA.

A culture that accepts the mixing of animal and human genetic material even though any “life” thus created would also be destroyed before 14 days.

A culture where embryos are created and then discarded because they are deemed unsuitable for tissue donation to an existing sibling or other relative.

A culture where society expects and the individual – particularly the elderly and infirm – feels a Duty to Die because it is better for their relatives or for society.

A culture in which it becomes progressively easier to consider the value of one human life compared with another, where it becomes thinkable to transplant organs necessary for life to function from a person close to death – or even subject to capital punishment – to the premature termination of that life when it is considered to be of lesser value or to no longer exhibit “personhood”.

In this progression in our society we have departed from the intrinsic value of human life to criteria capable of varying definition: quality of life; value of life to self and society; suffering; proximity of death; personhood.  These definitions vary from person to person consistent with individual autonomy, from society to society, and from government to government.

Our own Aussie expatriate Peter Singer, Professor of Ethics at Princeton University – unbelievably a world-renowned Catholic institution, is perceptive enough to understand where the battle line is.  Talking about the relative value of human life compared with animal life he said in a recent interview:

“The major religions are an obstacle because they teach that humans alone are made in the image of God, humans alone have an immortal soul, God gave us dominion over the animals, and those ideas are an obstacle to treating the animals as we may treat humans.”

Why?  Why this push to the culture of death?

At root, the euthanasia debate is about autonomy.  The cry for abortion centres on we want control over our bodies; the cloning debate hinges on but we want to do this research anyway, even if it is not necessary and even if it is wrong; the call for Advance Care Directives and euthanasia is ultimately about we want to choose when we die, not just when life is near its natural end but at any other time we choose as well.  It is a “we want” battle to the exclusion of any consideration of moral law or the soul.  And Dr Nitschke wants to include troubled teens.

As Scott Peck writes in The Denial of the Soul:

‘…advocates of euthanasia on demand… fail to realise… that the achievement of their ends would quite possibly create a society even more soulless and mechanistic than the one we have now… a society where there is no potential glory in dying, an utterly rational society where people are simply put to sleep upon request without any reference to the irrational mystery of their souls or to God who is their source and that of all true glory.’ (p228.)

And as CSLewis writes in The Abolition of Man, a record of three lectures given in 1943

…It is the magician’s bargain: give up our soul, get power in return.  But once our souls, that is, our selves, have been given up, the power thus conferred will not belong to us.  We shall in fact be the slaves and puppets of that to which we have given our souls… if man chooses to treat himself as raw material, raw material he will be: not raw material to be manipulated, as he fondly imagined, by himself, but by his dehumanised Conditioners. (p 78-80 in my Touchstone edition)

Why is euthanasia wrong?

Now I seem to be repeating myself with some of these culture of death responses.  In the cloning debate: Cloning is wrong, cloning is unnecessary, cloning is bad for society.  For euthanasia: Euthanasia is wrong, euthanasia is unnecessary, euthanasia is bad for society.

Euthanasia is wrong however you look at it.

It is wrong from a moral and theological point of view.

It is unnecessary from a medical point of view.

And it has huge consequences for society.

It will be impossible to hold boundaries.

It undermines confidence in medicine.

It creates the problem of the duty to die.

It raises the Nazi Germany spectre of which lives are worthy to be lived.

Economic rationalism will finally determine its descent into the slippery slope.

In the submissions that have been made from Medicine With Morality we have argued without using any of the theological argument that underlies out ethic here in this group.  Medicine With Morality is not a religious organisation.  Anyone of any belief system can sign in as long as they accept the manifesto declaring the intrinsic value of all human life from fertilisation to life’s natural end.

Morally, it is wrong.

It is wrong to kill.  It is especially wrong to kill those for whom we have been given a mandate of care.  It is even more wrong for doctors to be involved in that killing.  It is for very good reason that the Hippocratic Oath states that I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked.  

Medically, it is unnecessary.

Although we have compassion for those who are dying and who want euthanasia, true compassion means much more than simple acquiescence to any patient demand.  Proper medical and compassionate care will help them get past that desire.  The option of very good palliative care in this country makes euthanasia unnecessary.  Relief from pain and distress is increasingly achievable and obtainable.  Killing should never be seen as a solution for misery.

Sociologically, it has significant ramifications.

The legalisation of euthanasia has inevitable flow-on consequences for society.

There will be economic pressure on government to reduce palliative care services and for them to be less obtainable.  We must not allow the cheaper option of euthanasia to ever become an easy reason to adopt such a course of action.  We can and we must ensure quality of care until death’s natural end for all Australians.

Legalisation lends ‘state’ approval for Physician Assisted Suicide as a valid option for people – including the young – to consider what they would otherwise not consider. There is then a wider community attitudinal expectation that individuals will choose this option.

Likewise we must never put patients in the situation – as in Oregon – where health funds allow funding for physician-assisted suicide but not for treatments that may keep the patient alive.

We will also find that consent to euthanase will be extended to being made on behalf of those considered unable to consent – as has been widely reported in The Netherlands.  The very thought of determining which lives are worthy to be lived and the implications of this for the impaired and disabled should be terrifying for all of us.

Please also consider the effect that legislation will have on the doctor-patient relationship.  Inevitably there will be pressure on the dying or infirm or handicapped to ask for or consent to be euthanased or assisted to suicide even when they want to keep on living.  This is the so-called duty to die – to relieve emotional, physical or financial distress on relatives or carers involved.

The duty to die can also reflect a ‘state’ obligation.  Imagine the pressure put on an elderly infirm person in an overcrowded, understaffed nursing home where there is an expectation that they will agree to be killed because it is better for society.

At the very least this leads to a perception by the patient of ambiguity in the role of the treating doctor and fear that their doctor’s attitude might change somewhere along the line of care.  Patients may justifiably conclude that doctors would be less enthusiastic in their care if they think the patient should be prepared to die and are supported in this view by society and the law.

The proper role of a doctor is to uphold the value of life in all circumstance, to comfort always, but never to kill or assist in killing.

One of the arguments commonly expressed for euthanasia is for the sufferer to be put out of their misery.  In truth this is more usually a cry by the observer and more accurately expressed as “put them out of my misery” while the patient is not in a hurry to die or drifting in and out of unconsciousness.  So, in a culture that expects people to die, the patient starts to think “I should agree to be killed so I can put them out of their misery.”

Why a law permitting euthanasia can never be introduced that won’t result in a slippery slope.

Now the euthanasia lobby will of course argue that we can have a safe law that only applies to the terminally ill but we know this is not true and basically is not possible and in my comments here I borrow from the work of stalwart anti-euthanasia campaigner Dr Brian Pollard of NSW.

The reports of five government-sponsored inquiries in England, Canada, USA and Australia into the consequences of legalising euthanasia have been published, where oral and written evidence had been taken from a wide range of community and professional sources. While debates on euthanasia seldom achieve anything approaching a conclusion, all these inquiries reached the same conclusion. This was that such law would always be unsafe, because it could never be made free of the possibility that the lives of some others who did not wish to die would be endangered. In other words, the promise of control is an illusion. More astonishing still, this was decided unanimously by three of those committees, each of which included members, who in Tasmania were a majority, who supported the concept of euthanasia.

These inquiries and their published reports are:

U K Select Committee on Medical Ethics, House of Lords, January 1994. (Unanimous)

New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, titled Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in the Medical Context, May, 1994. (Unanimous)

Senate of Canada, June, 1995, titled Of Life and Death.

Community Development Committee, Parliament of Tasmania, titled The Need for Legislation on Voluntary Euthanasia, 1998. (Unanimous)

Social Development Committee, Parliament of South Australia, Report of the Inquiry into the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 1996, October 1999.

So given the failure of all legal restrictions governing the extension of euthanasia why do so many MPs who are supposed to be informed still push it?  I think once again it’s a push for personal autonomy and a “I don’t care about the consequences to others or to society – I want what I want.”

In the Netherlands, the criteria for euthanasia have progressed from terminal illness with intolerable suffering to no physical illness at all but only depression, to no ailment at all but simply being tired of life, from those who ask to those who do not ask, whether competent or not, from competent patients to incompetent and from adults to newborns with a disability.

So why doctors?  Well some are of the same mind as the MPs but others are motivated by a twisted compassion.

Once doctors become comfortable with the idea of euthanasia as providing a benefit to those who want their suffering relieved in that way, for some of them it becomes discriminatory and unreasonable to withhold that benefit from others who seem to suffer as much but who, for any reason, cannot ask. Not only are those doctors not motivated by evil, they see themselves as the truly compassionate ones. Because this is a logical position, it will never be able to be controlled by any words written in a law, and must be confidently expected to occur. The concept of euthanasia as a benefit provides a rationale for both voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia.

Why am I involved in all this?  Why should it concern you?  Why am I here?

  • To educate God’s people.
  • First of all to alert to the enormity of what is actually happening with the culture of death and the intensity of the forces against us and like the men of Issachar “to understand the times” and know “what to do”
  • Then to equip to think clearly about such issues; we need to have answers to questions like “where is your compassion?”
  • And what is our response when we realise the gravity of the situation, when we realise we have leaders in our country who fail to stand for what is right and who don’t even understand what is right – or will not. Our responses will be mixed – anger, bewilderment, fear, horror, grief.  Because we are created in the Image of God there must be an appropriate degree of grief – otherwise we do not understand.  And the grief could be overwhelming and drive us to despair and so I have to be careful about how much I inform to different people because I know they cannot cope with the full horror.
  • And so I live in this peculiar mix of absolute pessimism and grief, mourning for what is happening, and optimism for the future, not despairing, always fighting and enjoying every day of my life – enjoying people, the air, all of God’s created nature – and just privileged to be doing what I’m doing.
  • The challenge then is to waken God’s people and slowly overcome a similar inability to comprehend.  I hear their acquiescence but I see in their eyes that they have not understood the inevitable consequences of the anti-family, culture-of-death agendas that have found their way into political party policy and the reality of shifting boundaries.  I am reminded of the protective denial of some of the German people when told what was happening in the concentration camps “no, no – that is not possible, we would never do that”.

What must we do?

  • Yes, we need to change people’s hearts and minds by bringing them into the Kingdom of God.
  • Educate the public – but will they read, will they come, will they listen?  Will we even get published?
  • Educate MPs – but I have commented before on the apparent resistance to reason that so many MPs have.  As with Emily’s List they are of fixed view and it seems that many prefer to remain ignorant of the consequences to society if we move down the euthanasia pathway.

So, a hopeless task?  Well maybe, but even if we can only change the minds of 1 or 2 that might be enough.  Foster a relationship with a MP.  Adopt a Senator.  But if indeed it is hopeless to change the minds of existing MPs then we must throw them out – like we did in WA in the last state election.  The preferences of the CDP in WA were instrumental in the election of 5 new MPs favourable to a culture of life.  (But that means we will have to teach people how to vote…)

Lachlan Dunjey Nov 2009.

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