Editorial: Euthanasia’s backers: all talk, no answers

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Nurse prepares needle for hospital patient
The question is actually quite simple and perfectly straightforward: how on earth is Mr Greenwich going to stop people from taking advantage of what you have turned into the law of the land?

In recent weeks The Catholic Weekly has devoted its editorial attention to the issue of euthanasia and the purely emotive campaign which underpins current efforts to legalise its practice.

The disturbing problem at the heart of that campaign has been the deliberate refusal of euthanasia’s supporters at every step to acknowledge euthanasia’s realities: that medical science and medical practitioners have repeatedly made it clear for decades that there are no medical situations which require the killing of patients.

Euthanasia’s supporters have also refused to address the real technical dangers of its application: that significant numbers of those who elect to end their lives die paralysed and drowning in their own body liquids.

“In other words, Mr Greenwich, how are you going to prevent the shallow and vapid scheming child or in-law from applying the subtle pressure, day by day, to grandma ‘to get it over and done with’ in order to end the distress her illness and decline is causing her family?”

This horrendous information (never mentioned by Alex Greenwich) was set out with Mercatornet editor Michael Cook in his report republished in last week’s Catholic Weekly.

Cook’s report drew on the realities observed by medical practitioners in US states where euthanasia is legal and in the widespread execution of death-row prisoners using exactly the same cocktail of lethal drugs to end lives that will be administered in NSW’s hospitals and nursing homes should euthanasia be legalised.

So how ‘quick and painless’ is the practice that Alex Greenwich is proposing? In Oregon, where pentobarbitol was the drug of choice used by physicians to euthanase four out of every 5 lives until about 2015, medical practitioners concluded that this particular drug instead often caused pulmonary oedema where the lungs fill with liquid secretions and the patient dies in agony.

We might assume that if Alex Greenwich was really so passionate about legalising euthanasia in NSW he would alert lawmakers to euthanasia’s realities and risks as part of an effort to formulate a measured law.

Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich speaks during Question Time at New South Wales Parliament House on 12 October 2021. Referral of Mr Greenwich’s bill to legalise euthanasia to a parliamentary committee is not a delay. Photo: AAP image pool/Dominic Lorrimer

But his silence on such medical realities has been deafening.

If executing other human beings out of a warped sense of compassion is the best answer we can offer to the general problem of suffering, then our society has reached a point where it is beyond repair.

A third disturbing issue completing euthanasia’s trifecta of dishonesty is the answer to the question that Alex Greenwich cannot provide to the public or to his parliamentary colleagues currently considering their positions on this issue.

“How, Mr Greenwich are you going to prevent the pressure being applied to grandpa in the nursing home by the ambitious child or in-law …”

But every reader of The Catholic Weekly should ask that question to Mr Greenwich and to every MP considering voting for it.

The question is actually quite simple and perfectly straightforward: if, Mr Greenwich, you are going to legalise killing of human beings – whatever your pretext for doing so – how on earth are you going to stop people from taking advantage of what you have turned into the law of the land?

In other words, Mr Greenwich, how are you going to prevent the shallow and vapid scheming child or in-law from applying the subtle pressure, day by day, to grandma ‘to get it over and done with’ in order to end the distress her illness and decline is causing her family?

How, Mr Greenwich are you going to prevent the pressure being applied to grandpa in the nursing home by the ambitious child or in-law who has one eye posted on grandfather’s state of health and the other continually posted on the investment value of his now-vacant three-bedroom home in a suburb where real estate prices are rising rapidly?

Cook’s report drew on the realities observed by medical practitioners in US states where the same cocktail of lethal drugs to end lives used in the widespread execution of death-row prisoners will be administered in NSW’s hospitals and nursing homes. Photo: CNS, courtesy of California Department of Corrections
Cook’s report drew on the realities observed by medical practitioners in US states where the same cocktail of lethal drugs to end lives used in the widespread execution of death-row prisoners will be administered in NSW’s hospitals and nursing homes. Photo: CNS, courtesy of California Department of Corrections

How, Mr Greenwich, are you going to prevent the unconcerned medico or healthcare bureaucrat from treating his or her patient or charge not as a person but as a unit to be dispensed with in the interests of efficiency and medical budgets?

How will you prevent euthanasia’s scope from spreading to the depressed – as it has everywhere else – or those who would impose it on patients who have no voice?

How, Mr Greenwich are you going to guarantee – as a law legalising the killing of patients surely demands you must – that the reality of what happened to Californian woman Stephanie Packer under the very law you are pushing does not repeat itself on a daily basis here in NSW – if you have your way?

“Does Alex Greenwich imagine that the known pattern of euthanasia will somehow magically not occur under his particular law. If so, his naiveté would surely be, at least, impressive in its near bottomless depth.”

Or is it that Mr Greenwich thinks such scenarios never happen – even though they have repeatedly happened and continue to happen everywhere else in the world where euthanasia is legal?

Does Alex Greenwich imagine that the known pattern of euthanasia will somehow magically not occur under his particular law.

If so, his naiveté would surely be, at least, impressive in its near bottomless depth. The reality is that Alex Greenwich cannot answer Stephanie Packer.

He cannot answer any of the questions listed here. He cannot answer them because he has no answer to give – none, at least, that allows him to avoid confronting reality.

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