Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has hit back in defence of anti-euthanasia videos shared on social media by the Sydney Archdiocese after the content was criticised as misleading by a pro-euthanasia group.
“It is no surprise that proponents of Victoria’s euthanasia and assisted suicide laws, which come into effect next week, are wanting to shut down any evidence of the alarming nature of the consequences of the legislation of euthanasia in other countries,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“Just today, one activist organisation demanded we take down the Archdiocese of Sydney videos,” he continued. “But we need to keep raising our voices in defence of the vulnerable, and to share the truth about the consequences of state-sanctioned killing. Now is not the time to be silent, or silenced.”
The initial video was shared on the Archdiocese’s Vimeo account and on Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s Facebook page on 3 June, a couple of weeks ahead of the implementation of voluntary assisted suicide laws in Victoria on 19 June.
It provides statistics from Belgium where euthanasia has been legal since 2002 and states that one person has been euthanised “every three days without their explicit consent” in the Western European country.
It also stipulates that in more the half of assisted suicide cases in Belgium the patient had never expressed a desire for their life to be ended and that the reason given in more than half of cases was that killing the patient was the wish of the family.
We need to keep raising our voices in defence of the vulnerable, and to share the truth about the consequences of state-sanctioned killing
Pro-euthanasia group Go Gentle Australia has called for the video to be taken down and have questioned the accuracy of its content.
“I’m surprised the Church looked up something like this without fact checking,” CEO of Go Gentle Australia, Kiki Paul, told 7NEWS.com.au.
“Terminally ill Australians in the final weeks of life deserve better from the Catholic Church.”
However, a spokeswoman for the Sydney Archdiocese said it absolutely stands by the videos.
“Euthanasia was originally sold to voters in countries such as Belgium as a voluntary option for a narrow group of terminally ill patients, but has resulted in a cascade of deaths where unconscious and non-consenting patients have been killed by doctors,” she said.
“Australians are rightly shocked when they are given the data of euthanasia deaths overseas and they have the right to know the consequences of enacting such legislation.”
Now is not the time to be silent, or silenced
The Archdiocese of Sydney also rejected claims that the study in question referred to palliative sedation and not euthanasia.
It pointed out that the Belgium study classed physician-assisted deaths as those where the death was a “consequence of the use of drugs prescribed, supplied or administered by you or another physician with the explicit intention of hastening the end of life or of enabling the patient to end his or her own life”.
Meanwhile, the World Medical Association Declaration on End-of-Life Medical Care says that “palliative sedation must never be used to intentionally cause a patient’s death or without the agreement of a patient who remains mentally competent”.
“Administering drugs with the explicit intention of hastening the end of life is euthanasia regardless of the spin activist organisations such as Go Gentle Australia wish to put on it,” the Archdiocese’s spokeswoman said.
The video was the first in a series that the Sydney Archdiocese is releasing in order to provide Australians accurate information about the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide occurring overseas.