The push for euthanasia continues around the country. So, what’s wrong with helping people end their suffering?
Euthanasia is legal in Victoria and WA, which means patients can legally end their life with the assistance of a health practitioner. Tasmania has introduced assisted dying legislation and Qld and SA may follow.
If we look at Victoria’s law as an example, there are 68 safeguards in place. Five of the main ones include…
- You must be over the age of 18
- You must provide informed consent
- Your prognosis must be less than six months
- It’s not available for mental illness or disability
- You must have an incurable illness causing intolerable suffering
But euthanasia won’t stop at these restrictions. Here’s why…
To allow euthanasia is to fundamentally reverse the psychology of medical care.
When legalised, euthanasia becomes a legitimate kind of treatment. Medicine is used to kill someone – in reverse to millennia of medical practice. It takes the “Do no harm” principle from the Hippocratic oath and throws it out the window.
Lord McColl, member of the House of Lords in the UK, visited the Netherlands to see what they were doing with euthanasia. He said,
“The Dutch doctors told us, ‘We agonised over our first case of euthanasia all day. But the second case was much easier, and the third was a piece of cake.’ We found that rather chilling.”
There is empirical evidence, he says, to show the current practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands is out of control. Doctors are not reporting the cases.
Professor Theo Boer was once a strong advocate of euthanasia in the Netherlands. He reviewed 4,000 cases and he said,
“We’ve been wrong, terribly wrong in fact, to believe that regulated euthanasia can work.”
There’s a difference between care and killing. To change the way we think about medicine so fundamentally will result in a ripple effect.
The second reality is that euthanasia laws always change.
Victoria’s current law says you must have a six-month prognosis. But what about the person who has eight months to live?
The law says you must be 18. But what about the 17-year-old girl who cries out for the right to die because she has cancer? Why would you be so cruel to say she doesn’t qualify?
What about mental illness cases? Why do we say that only physical illness qualifies for euthanasia? Hasn’t the legitimacy of mental illness been hard fought and won in recent years?
Those are exactly the arguments that are made once euthanasia is legal. Then the boundaries move and we have no firm foundation on which to rest our principles anymore.
Once you say killing is okay, where does it end?
The old standard was “sanctity of life” – that bedrock principle that you should never kill. Any medical treatment that intended or desired for the patient to die would not be considered health care by that standard.
But today we have a new standard. It’s dignity.
The problem is, dignity and compassion are inherently subjective. They are defined by the whims and desires of certain individuals. Arguments for compassion and dignity wear away the safeguards one by one.
Belgium and the Netherlands have had euthanasia for longer than any other country – and over time, their safeguards have changed.
Now, children, alcoholics, disabled people, dementia patients, people with depression, and those who are “tired of life” have all been euthanised – as well as those didn’t give consent and those who were misdiagnosed.
There’s much to say on this subject and there are shocking cases to be aware of. Make no mistake… it’s a slippery slope.