For decades, the specialised branch of medicine known as Palliative Care has made it scientifically and medically clear that euthanasia, as a measure to address the suffering of serious and terminal illness, is completely redundant. Palliative Care specialists and associated practitioners, all known medical studies – in fact, the totality of all known medical data and evidence – have declared, argued, pleaded and demonstrated that no patient ever needs to be killed by anyone under any circumstances – ever. There is no form of pain, it has been repeatedly pointed out, that cannot be controlled and neutralised by the wonders of modern medical techniques and the stunning advances in pharmaceutical technology of the last 60 years which now underpin the relatively new branch of medical practice known as Palliative Care.
If what the science of Palliative Care declares was not true or did not exist, if medical practitioners and medical studies were nothing more than a bunch of liars, then opponents of euthanasia would certainly have a real problem on their hands. The suffering produced by illness when Palliative Care does not exist would pose we Australians with a serious ethical issue. But in fact what Palliative Care specialists and practitioners say (and have said for decades) is, in fact, true. Just as smallpox and polio were eliminated by advances in the science of vaccination in the 20th Century, there is now no illness, nor the pain associated with it, that cannot be overcome by the science of Palliative Care. Anyone with any terminal illness can be assisted to live without suffering and pain until they come to their natural end. Medical science is now in a position to guarantee that living with our illness or eventually coming to our end because of it does not need to mean facing unbearable suffering and distress.
So why are a substantial portion of the Members of the Parliament of NSW apparently completely committed to the idea proposed by independent MP Alex Greenwich that doctors should be able to kill patients – despite all known medical evidence and two millennia or more of ethical reasoning to the contrary? The fundamental reason is that a lie has been sold to the people of Australia and the same lie is currently being sold to the people of NSW. Like many lies, there is a grain of truth at its core which has been, as all lies must be, twisted and distorted out of all proportion to reality. As a result, a substantial group of NSW lawmakers and a substantial proportion of the people of NSW appear to see no apparent problem. Yet the fact that some people in NSW do undoubtedly die in pain and suffering (see Monica Doumit, this edition) is due not to any need for euthanasia, but because of consistent and protracted NSW government negligence over decades of Palliative Care in this state and the advances in medical science and techniques which can deliver peace and serenity in all cases to those suffering serious and terminal illnesses and their families and friends. This is how the lie of euthanasia has been sold in NSW.
Should the legalisation of euthanasia pass the NSW Parliament, medical malpractice – the killing of patients by doctors and medical administrators – will have become the law of the state. That we should even be as close to this possibility as we actually are almost beggars belief. If euthanasia becomes law a vast range of abuses will inevitably – inevitably – arise: the pressure on family members to ‘get it over and done with’, the rising conviction among our sick parents and grandparents that they are a burden to us who should voluntarily end their lives now, the pressure from those who will gain from the death of an individual to ‘do it for everyone’s good’, the offering of suicide to the mentally ill and the depressed who have no terminal illness at all, the implicit message from faceless government bureaucrats that if we do not have the top-of-the-line health insurance that only the wealthy can afford to guarantee them the Palliative Care that our government has refused for decades to adequately fund, that we might as well shuffle off and die because our jobs and our bank accounts were not good enough.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has issued a passionate appeal this week (see Page 1) for Catholics and all men and women of good will to act now in a moment of crisis. Now is the urgent moment for every single one of us to act decisively with the greatest possible force. Every Parish Council chair, every priest, every deacon, every concerned Catholic should circulate the petitions and passionately urge their fellow Church goers to make submissions to the NSW Parliament website, lest it be said at some point in the future that evil triumphed because Catholics had chosen instead to remain silent, allowing those who would impose evil upon NSW’s vulnerable to get off the hook – Greenwich free.