Last Thursday night, ACL's New South Wales director David Hutt participated in a debate about euthanasia at a Politics in the Pub
event in Gosford.
The other speaker on the night advocating for euthanasia was Shayne Higson, the lead candidate and convenor for the Voluntary Euthanasia Party (VEP), and a contestant in the next state election in March 2015.
Mr Hutt made the case against legalising voluntary euthanasia on the basis that it puts at risk the lives of society's most vulnerable - the elderly, the lonely, the sick, and the depressed.
"Euthanasia sends the message that some lives are no longer worth living, based on a subjective standard of ‘quality of life’. It tacitly encourages patients to seek death as a way out, rather than caring for them as valuable members of society," he said.
“the compassionate answer to suffering is to recognise a person’s inherent dignity regardless of their physical capacity or their mental abilities or health, and to strive to provide the best possible care for those with disabilities or at the end of their lives," he said.
He argued that crafting a euthanasia bill that provides adequate safeguards for the vulnerable and marginalised in society is impossible and that for this reason, euthanasia – for nearly two decades now – is consistently voted down in Australian parliaments.
Mr Hutt said there are three major concerns with legalising euthanasia elder abuse, creating a culture of death and the hampering of the doctor-patient relationship.
Elder abuse can come in the form of pressure, real or imagined, to die when an elderly person feels they have become a burden on loved ones. Even if most people withstand any perceived pressure, a culture accepting of a medical profession which will, at times, assist the death of its patients will inevitably create this pressure.
Euthanasia creates a culture of death by undermining the inherent dignity of human beings. Legalising euthanasia may not result in a sudden increase in suicide, but it would affirm that suicide is a legitimate way of dealing with pain.
The doctor-patient relationship is hampered because the ethical obligation of doctors is to preserve the life of their patients; you go to a doctor to get better, not to be killed.
As an alternative to euthanasia, Mr Hutt advocated for facilitating and encouraging the improvement in palliative care.
"In most cases, pain can be treated. The concept of “intolerable pain” is rarely experienced in practice if good palliative care is applied," he said.
Mr Hutt said it was great to see people taking an interest in such an important issue, which created some lively discussion amongst attendees.