Ethicist Nicholas Tonti-Filippini has responded to calls in Victoria to revisit the issue of legalising euthanasia in that state by reflecting on his own experiences with terminal illness.

Writing in The Age newspaper, Associate Professor Tonti-Filippini, argued that legalising euthanasia was an inappropriate response to suffering because it would push dependent patients to seek euthanasia, and because it would undermine the provision of palliative care.

He also explained how no euthanasia legislation could ever prevent abuse, “because the essence of such legislation is to make respect for our lives contingent upon the strength of our will to survive”.

The tone of reader comments to the article – the majority of which were highly critical – prompted Mercatornet Michael Cook to pen an article of his own to analyse the state of the euthanasia debate. He writes:

“No one expects internet comments to be balanced and thoughtful, but the vituperation in today’s comments was unsettling. They reveal four things about euthanasia and assisted suicide. First, that support for euthanasia is so visceral that it defies reasoned discussion. Second, that it is so me-centred that every argument about its community impact will hit a brick wall. Third, from a utilitarian point of view, Christianity is a abominable force for evil. Fourth, that the notion of meaningful suffering is incomprehensible.”

Yet with parliaments the world over, including a number in Australia, repeatedly knocking back attempts to legalise euthanasia, it would appear the impact of the practice on the community is a big factor in legislators’ thinking.

Let’s hope the needs of society’s most vulnerable continue to be the focus of the discussion on euthanasia, and not the absolute rights of empowered individuals to express their autonomy, particularly as the federal parliament prepares for a debate on this critical issue.