Euthanasia

Euthanasia is the deliberate killing of a person by a medical professional, whether is it directly by injecting poison into a patient or indirectly by helping a patient commit suicide. 

Euthanasia and assisted suicide should not be confused with the cessation of useless treatment or the failure to commence treatment that would be a hindrance to patient comfort or offer no useful purpose. It is also not the use of medication with the intention of relieving severe pain.  

There is often confusion between what is palliative care and what is euthanasia, this document clearly defines both (click here to open).

Everyone agrees that if terminally ill patients were given futile and burdensome life-saving intervention, this would not be in their best interests as it would prolong the dying process. In any case, this should never happen, as competent adults have the legal right to refuse medical treatment, put their wishes in binding Advance Health Directives and/or give Enduring Powers of Attorney to their family or trusted friends to decide on their behalf if they are unable to do so.  

QUEENSLAND

It's vitally important to understand that in Queensland we only have about 1/3 of the palliative care specialists that we should, this gross shortage most acutely felt in regional Queensland. Undeniably the state government's chronic neglect of specialist palliative care, is one of the main drivers behind the push for legalisation of euthanasia in Queensland. Some people have died in pain, needlessly so.

There is presently a push by the Queensland Labor government to legalise "voluntary assisted dying" which, of course is a form of euthanasia. It has instructed the Queensland Law Reform Commission to produce euthanasia legalisation before 31 March 2021.

If Labor win the 31 October 2020 election, they will almost certainly legalise euthanasia -it's something to bear in mind when you vote.

Even the language around euthanasia the state government is using is deceptive, the misnomer “voluntary assisted dying” hides what euthanasia really is - intentional killing by lethal injection administered by doctors, or doctors providing poison for the patient to take. 

WHY NOT EUTHANASIA?

  • The Australian Medical Association is against euthanasia of any kind.
  • All the peak medical advisory or representative bodies in Australia are opposed to euthanasia, and as are many around the world including the World Medical Association. In short, euthanasia legalisation is rejected by the vast majority of those on the front line of caring for the sick, elderly and disabled.
  • 101 Victorian oncologists wrote against euthanasia: "Assisted suicide is in conflict with the basic ethical principles and integrity of medical practice."
  • It is a slippery slope and tragically Belgium is now euthanising children.
  • It is utterly counter-productive to combating Australia's suicide problem
  • Suicide concerns: a number of jurisdictions where assisted suicide has been legalised have recorded a marked overall increase in suicides, including non-assisted suicides, afterwards. This is because the legalisation of assisted suicide normalises all suicide, tragically. The Netherlands is one such example, after the legalisation of euthanasia there was an 110% increase in overall suicides, which included a 10% increase in non-assisted suicides. 
  • Euthanasia lobbyists often wrongly assert that the alternative in terminal cases is an agonising death, but the truth is that almost all pain can be mitigated or managed with good palliative care. 
  • In the very rare cases when physical pain cannot be managed adequately, palliative care specialists can use a form of light sedation to keep the dying patient comfortable, whether to allow a brief “time out” at peaks of pain, or to manage terminal symptoms. 
  • Euthanasia is not healthcare, it is a social demand based on fear and principals of extreme autonomy. Doctors should kill the pain, not the patient.
  • Euthanasia would be open to terrible manipulation and abuse. Cases of people being "euthanised" against their will have occurred.
  • Euthanasia inherently devalues human life, particularly those who are elderly, sick or disabled.
  • Like abortion, instead of protecting and assisting the most vulnerable in society, euthanasia would legalise their state-sanctioned killing.
  • Victoria, Australia's euthanasia rates have been very concerning since legalisation in 2017. The Victorian Premier thought there would be 1 per month, there are on average two a week. 
  • Despite Victoria and other places boasting of "safeguards" the truth is euthanasia of any kind is never safe. No jurisdiction where euthanasia has been legalised has been able to safeguard against wrongful deaths, which include deaths caused by wrong diagnosis, wrong prognosis, patients being unaware of available treatment or having no access to palliative care, or coercion and elder abuse.
  • Palliative care and euthanasia are not complementary, as euthanasia typically cannibalises palliative care funding and resources. 
  • When euthanasia was legalised in Western Australia last year, an amendment to give people in the regions the same access to palliative care as those in metropolitan areas was defeated. Similarly, since the legalisation of euthanasia in Victoria in 2017, the palliative care budget has decreased in real terms.
  • If euthanasia was legalised, any terminally ill patients, who need love and care, would feel pressure - whether real or imagined - to do "the right thing" and request euthanasia so they are not "a burden on their family".  We must protect the most vulnerable amongst us, which includes the elderly, disabled and / or terminally ill. 
  • Euthanasia can be the end result of economic rationalism at its worst, as it's far cheaper to prescribe poison for people than to set up a world-class palliative care system for the ill. We can't let government's get away with killing people to save money.

DEBUNKING SOME OF THE EUTHANASIA LOBBY'S RHETORIC

The false promise of choice

Proponents of euthanasia often use the argument of autonomy. 

Worse, patients who wish to continue living can still be euthanased by doctors who consider their life to be 'not worth living.'  This is currently the practice in the Netherlands where euthanasia was legalised in 2002 on the basis that doctors were doing it anyway and therefore it needed to be controlled.  Presently, one in five cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands occur without the patient’s consent.  Again, the notion of 'choice' is an illusion.

The safeguards that won't save you

Euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation is often framed so as to only be available to a few ‘hard cases’.  These clauses are usually (and euphemistically) referred to as ‘safeguards’. But safeguards don’t work in practice — they’re an illusion.

As US lawyer and commentator, Wesley Smith points out, ‘safeguards’ are only there to make legislators (and everyone else) feel a little easier about legislating for state-sanctioned killing.

In Oregon, USA, you must be a resident in order to be eligible for euthanasia.  This will be to prevent 'suicide tourism' from other states where euthanasia is not legal.  Euthanasia activists gladly inform people that you only need to rent somewhere and have your first utility bill to meet the requirements of proof of residency ... something that can be achieved in a week or two.

The slippery slope

When pushing for the legalisation of euthanasia, activists make an emotional argument based on a clearly exceptional case of end-of-life suffering.  Once legalised, however, the scope of availability can be gradually extended based on the next worst scenario.  

In the Netherlands they legislated for euthanasia in 2002 with safeguards. These safeguards are almost routinely ignored with euthanasia now tolerated for newborns with a disability, for troubled teenagers, for Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers (who cannot consent) and for those who simply feel that they’ve completed their lives and are now 'tired of life.'  This solution of 'last resort' is now a common occurrence.

Even euthanasia activists are deeply divided

Pro-euthanasia activists are sharply divided into two camps.  The first group seeks to achieve access to euthanasia by changes to the law.  They suppress knowledge of their how-to-die classes so that they are not associated with what they perceive as the shortcomings of the second group.  They do this as a means to achieve credibility (and avoid the risk of association with radicals) so that politicians will be prepared to deal with them.

The second group are those that have given up (or won't bother) with legislation and instead go down the path of a technological solution.  They are typically spearheaded by figureheads such as Dr Philip Nitschke who agreed in October 2015 to have 26 conditions attached to his medical registration in a last minute plea bargain to avoid a court case with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.  These conditions included a ban on giving advice on methods of committing suicide.  Nitschke has since let his medical registration lapse.  Nitschke runs an assisted suicide advocacy group and publishes information on methods of 'self deliverance.'