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Margaret Somerville (The Southern Cross)

While the battle to prevent the legalisation of euthanasia may have been lost in all Australian states and likely soon in the territories, it does not mean we can abandon trying to give people reasons not to choose to end their lives, writes Margaret Somerville. Source: Catholic Voice.

In fact, when voluntary assisted dying (VAD) is legal, we have more work to do than previously. That work must offer people alternatives to VAD which they will want to choose instead of euthanasia.

First, we should identify where we agree and disagree and try to start from agreement. That gives us an experience of belonging to the same moral universe and alters the tone of our disagreements.

No one wants to see people suffer and everyone recognises fundamental ethical obligations to relieve suffering. Where we disagree is on what the legitimate and ethical ways of doing that are. 

The euthanasia debate is not about if we will die – we all will. The disagreement is about how we will die and whether some ways, that is, by euthanasia, are unethical and dangerous. 

It is important to know what is and is not VAD and correct mistaken beliefs about euthanasia. Respecting a patient’s refusal of life support and providing fully adequate pain management is not VAD, as many members of the public and even some healthcare professionals mistakenly believe. These are long-standing, legally valid and medically and ethically required interventions.

For all our sakes, both those who are dying now and those who are not yet dying, and for our descendants and their future societies, we must kill the pain and suffering of dying people, not the dying people with the pain and suffering.

Margaret Somerville is Professor of Bioethics in the School of Medicine and the Institute for Ethics and Society at the University of Notre Dame Australia.


Living with euthanasia: The ethical imperative of providing alternatives (By Margaret Somerville, Catholic Voice