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Euthanasia in the media – September-October 2017

Wednesday, 18 October 2017  | Ethos editor

Note: This archive will be updated until the end of October.


Do we – or should we – have the right to choose when and how we die? In this 3-part series, Simon Smart talks to Professor Somerville about what’s happening with euthanasia around the world, why the language we use about it is so important, and why she feels that there’s more to us as humans than we can fully understand.

Print media

Current approaches to dying maintain the cleanliness, nutrition and medical care of patients, but the medical industry are not sufficient to address the existential questions that matter to so many patients. In this regard, we have much to learn from the ars moriendi (Latin for “art of dying”) tradition with its focus on the lifelong preparation for death. Interview with Lydia S. Dugdale.

They say no one on their deathbed ever regrets not spending more time at the office. Which is not to say we don't have other regrets, nor that we have to wait until we're drawing our last breath to have them. Ross Gittins writes.

Touched by the drama of Michel Cadotte case, Quebec legislators are considering a change in legislation to allow people to make binding advance directives for euthanasia before they slip into dementia. But Dr Catherine Ferrier, the president of the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, says proper care for caregivers, not the broadening of euthanasia laws, is the answer. Michael Cook reports.

Toby Hall writes: Dying is something that has become hidden away and to be desperately resisted at all costs. Many terminally ill patients in Australian hospitals are provided with unnecessary, unwanted and sometimes futile treatment.

And in the vacuum created by our disconnection from dying, we have allowed fear, misinformation and myth to flourish. Death is portrayed by an ill-informed media as inherently painful, undignified and traumatic – a depiction, incidentally, that is completely at odds with the experience of the vast majority of the people we care for in our palliative care services.

We need to properly resource palliative care; we need a systematic and sustained public education program to encourage a community conversation about dying; and we need to increase support for Advance Care Planning.

Christians can, in good faith and for good theological reasons, land on either side of this debate. And while the Christian community has no right to monopolise the conversation, its long tradition of compassionate care for both the dying and the dead means it brings some wisdom and experience to this issue. Robyn J. Whitaker and Jason Goroncy write.

Are the only reasons to oppose euthanasia religious ones? Barney Zwartz, in his monthly faith column for The Age, offers a secular case for not legalising assisted dying. 

Hoa Dinh writes: Euthanasia legislation would lead to further coercion against vulnerable persons in society: the elderly and people with disability. Once voluntary suicide is legalised, to continue living becomes a choice that people will have to justify to themselves, their family, and society.

Nick Carr writes: No one opposed to Voluntary Assisted Dying has to make the choice that those suffering terminal illness is considering. Supporting Voluntary Assisted Dying takes nothing away from anyone, makes no one worse off, but provides enormous comfort to a very small group of people.

Michael Cook writes: A resolution condemning assisted suicide has been introduced into the US House of Representatives. Both sides of the debate treated it as a milestone, but it does not have the force of law and merely expresses the “sense of Congress”.

Sharon Rodrick and Mark Sneddon write: By focusing mainly on the decision-making capacity of the person, Victoria's Voluntary Assisted Dying ignores the effects of significant depression and mood disorders on a person's ability to make sound judgments in their best interest. The safeguards in the bill are not adequate and require re-thinking.

"The sincerity of advocates for the draft legislation is patent. ... I have told this history for no reason other than to show that disquiet and doubt may arise from sources having nothing to do with religious doctrine. I know that the proposals contain as good safeguards as may reasonably be implemented. But human life is complicated and messy; there are no bright lines. We should be careful what we wish for."

Marion Harris writes: Regardless of any change in the law, I won't intentionally help my patients to end their lives, nor do I personally know of any doctor who will. It is not the solution to the complex problems people face at the end of life, and it creates more problems and injustices than it solves.

Miki Perkins writes: Some fear assisted dying may be the "slippery slope" to involuntary euthanasia. But others see it as hard-won autonomy over their own lives. "Public policy should ensure many people with disabilities are supported to live as they want, and assist them to die as they want," he says.

Karl Quinn writes: Right to die, euthanasia, dying with dignity, assisted suicide: the language around this debate is enormously loaded, and shapes the way we feel about it.

Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 was passed on Friday, following the rejection of over 150 amendments suggested by opponents, and despite opposition from key voices including the head of the Australian Medical Association, Michael Gannon, and former Prime Minister Paul Keating. Xavier Symons reports.

Julian Savulescu writes: The assisted dying bill in Victoria – complex and significant – is engendering less heated debate than marriage equality although both tap into some of our most fundamental fears and motivations.

Peter Hudson writes: Why are we not putting all our efforts into ensuring Victorians with a terminal illness and their family carers can access the standard of care they deserve, rather than investing scarce resources into a highly questionable and untested model of euthanasia? Sadly, many seem determined to shrug their shoulders and usher in the latter, whatever the consequences.

Paul Keating has argued that Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill “means is that the civic guidance provided by the state … is voided when it comes to the protection of our most valuable asset; the essential human rights of the citizenry, especially and particularly those in either a fragile state or state of mind or fragile period”. Mark Kenny reports.

Melbourne Anglicans have pleaded with the Victorian Government not to legalise medically assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia just before the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill was passed in the lower house of the State Parliament.

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