Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws threaten to turn Australia into a two-class society, Archbishop Anthony Fisher told a rally against proposed euthanasia laws currently before NSW Parliament.
“There’ll be the A-graders, and their lives will be sacred,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“There will be programs to protect them even from themselves: suicide prevention programs, depression clinics, helplines, you name it. We will do everything in our power to keep the A-graders safe and their lives sacred.
‘B-grade citizens’ warning
“Then there’ll be the B-graders, and their lives will no longer be sacred. It will be legal to kill those people. It will be legal to give them a poison to help them commit suicide.”
The “B-grade” class of NSW citizens will include the poor and marginalised, those in regional areas, and those in Sydney’s West, Archbishop Fisher said, as opposed to the well-off and comfortable.
In keeping with international trends he expected the “B-grade” class would “grow and grow”.
Doctors’ experiences ignored by euthanasia’s backers
“To begin with, it’s going to be the consenting adult fully informed so-called, but experience overseas is – before you know – it’s children, it’s the unconscious, all sorts of people will be offered to be in the B-grade.”
The “Compassion Never Kills” rally, organised by FamilyVoice Australia and Right To Life NSW on 18 November, saw around 100 Christians from various denominations, as well as non-religious opponents of the bill and NSW health professionals, gather on Hospital Road behind Parliament House.
Associate Professor Maria Cigolini, a doctor of 38 years’ experience who serves at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital as Clinical Director of Palliative Care, told the rally that she has cared for thousands of dying patients.
Compassion in care offers dignity and hope
“I often see people requesting hastening of death and at that time it’s usually to do with fears, or symptoms, or psycho-social issues that need to be addressed,” Cigolini said. “Invariably, when we show compassionate care … most people regain a sense of dignity and feel accompanied and able to move on.”
She also said earlier intervention by palliative care services is shown in most cases to reduce the demand for voluntary assisted suicide.
Cigolini was representing “Health Professionals Say No”, a secular organisation of more than 860 health care professionals around Australia, 425 of whom are in NSW, and many of whom have served in senior leadership positions in the State’s healthcare establishment.
Opponents from diverse backgrounds united by issue
Other speakers at the rally included MPs Guy Zangari (Labor) and Kevin Conolly (Liberal), Christian Democratic Party MP Rev Fred Nile, Associate Professor Andrew Cole of HammondCare and Nikki Aben, NSW and ACT co-ordinator for the Australian Christian Lobby.
“The word compassion means to suffer together. That’s why we are standing here, because this is the principle that drives every single one of us,” Aben said.
All speakers insisted that euthanasia and assisted dying were not the way to ensure a dignified and compassionate death.
“As a fairly experienced pastor and someone who has tended to many dying people, when people are dying what they want above all is to know is they are loved and respected. That there is hope. And they want some help with courage,” Archbishop Fisher said.
Participants marched peacefully down Macquarie Street to NSW Parliament House to chants and music, where they observed a moment of silence and reflection.