Excluding religious perspectives from the discussion over euthanasia is “rejecting the views of one of the chief providers of end-of-life care”, Archbishop Anthony Fisher told the NSW Standing Committee on Law and Justice on 10 December.
“Religious believers cannot approach this issue from a sanitised distance, as care of the sick and dying is core to our mission,” Archbishop Fisher said.
The Archbishop appeared alongside the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, and his medical advisor Dr Abdulrazak Mohamad, in a truncated 45-minute session on the second of only three days of hearings.
“I would point out though that these awful cases—and I do not want to diminish them for a moment—are not all this bill is allowing euthanasia for; it is allowing it for a much broader class of people.”
Archbishop Fisher protested in his opening statement that “this inquiry is the shortest in duration of any inquiry before this Committee, and perhaps any committee, in the history of the New South Wales Parliament”, eliciting a cry of “No it’s not!” from one MLA.
Archbishop Fisher faced an unlikely alliance of ALP, Greens and Nationals MLAs, who presented case studies of the terminally ill and asked why they ought to be denied euthanasia.
Nationals MLA Trevor Khan recounted the evidence given by Abbey Egan, whose partner Jayde had an abdominal tumour so large it cracked the vertebrae in her spine.
“It is not just pain management; it is gross suffering in the most profound ways. So I invite you again to explain how we deny young women like Jayde— and, indeed, Abbey—this bill,” Khan asked.
The Archbishop repeatedly insisted throughout questioning that the church endorses the efforts of palliative care doctors to do “everything that was morally and practically available” for such people, in some cases even inducing coma for the terminally ill in “extreme cases”.
“While we do not for a moment diminish the suffering of these extreme cases, let’s be frank about what will be the normal case.”
“I would point out though that these awful cases—and I do not want to diminish them for a moment—are not all this bill is allowing euthanasia for; it is allowing it for a much broader class of people,” Archbishop Fisher added in response to Khan’s questioning.
“While we do not for a moment diminish the suffering of these extreme cases, let’s be frank about what will be the normal case. If you look, say, at the Victorian experience so far, [situations like Jayde’s] would not be all of the cases like that or even the majority.”
The committee’s report is due on 22 February when parliament returns next year.