Euthanasia, or assisted suicide, cannot be made safe, because no law can prevent vulnerable people from abuse, writes Peter Comensoli, the Bishop of Broken Bay.
– Fairfax Media
There's nothing compassionate or safe about killing our fellow travellers along the journey of life.
Accepting euthanasia means agreeing some people are beyond any help, for whom taking their life is the only option. I reject that pessimism. I reject the idea that euthanising someone is any sort of solution to the deeply human reality of facing our own mortality. That is a most callous and irresponsible choice. Doctors should instead help people to live their lives well as they make their final journey towards death.
Rather than buying into the dangerous and dishonest euphemism of "dying with dignity", we would do better – and be more human – by dignifying the lives of the dying. Palliative care is one key way we can dignify the dying. We should not accept the chronic under-funding of palliative care in this country and offer lethal injections instead.
Euthanasia is not turning off a life support machine where there is no prospect of recovery. It is not ending treatment that is overly burdensome. It is not giving someone pain relief as they are dying. Rather, euthanasia is giving someone a drug with the intention of ending their life.
Academic and political commentator Ross Fitzgerald embraces a pessimistic, reductionist view of life. He calls on the Church to provide hard evidence of the problems with euthanasia. I'm happy to oblige.
Fitzgerald highlights the Canadian parliamentary inquiry that suggests euthanasia can be readily legalised and properly controlled. He does not mention that the same overseas experience indicates that the categories of people who can be legally euthanised is increasing, the number of individuals being euthanised is growing rapidly, and many of the rules in place are being routinely ignored.
The UK medical journal The Lancet reported in 2014 that the law was changed in Belgium to remove any age limit so competent children can request euthanasia with their parents' consent. Laws in The Netherlands were changed to permit euthanasia from 12-years-old with parental consent and from 16 without parental consent. It also allows for the euthanasia of newborns with poor prognosis, in agreement with the child's parents.
Let's look at the increase in numbers of people dying by euthanasia. The American Medical Association's Journal of Internal Medicine published an article earlier this year that shows that in The Netherlands 3.3 per cent (one in 30) of deaths were by euthanasia in 2013, three times the percentage in 2002. In Flanders, Belgium, 4.6 per cent (one in 24) deaths were by euthanasia in 2013, up from 1.9 per cent in 2007.
And lastly, the failure of laws.