Imagine a world in which there are two classes of people.
The A Class are people whose lives are sacred. Their right to life is ‘inalienable’ and ‘non-derogable’, which means no-one—no politician, doctor, lawyer or relative—can take this away from them. Nor can they surrender it themselves. No one may kill them.
Nor may anyone encourage them to kill themselves. Or give them the wherewithal to do so. There are youth suicide prevention programmes, rural health programmes, depression clinics and help lines to stop them trying suicide as best we can. So if they are feeling suicidal, they will be protected, even from themselves, treated, helped to get over it. Their life is protected by our homicide laws, our medical practices, our social attitudes.
The B-grade of society
But there’s another class of people, the B Grade. Their lives are not sacred, they are regarded as not worth living. The state sanctions their deaths. The medical and legal professions connive in their killing. No one may stop them being killed. No relative, no friend, not even a church hospital or nursing home can protect them.
Nor may anyone obstruct them from killing themselves. Indeed people are free to suggest it to them, encourage it, give them the means. Instead of a suicide prevention programme for these people there’s a suicide promotion programme. No need to treat their depression or suffering. These people’s lives are not protected by our homicide laws, our medical practices, our social attitudes. They are the big exception.
This is not some sci-fi fantasy world. This is New South Wales in 2022–if some people get their way.
Who else will join the B-class?
Who will be in the A class? The general population, especially the healthy. Amongst the sick: the city folk, at least in the better parts of Sydney. The articulate and those with someone to advocate for them. Those well enough off to afford top healthcare, best pain relief, comprehensive palliative care.
Who will be in the B grade? The rural and remote folk, with little or no access to that kind of care, and those in Western Sydney. Those who can’t speak for themselves and have no-one to speak for them. The poor who even in modern Australia can’t be assured of palliative care. Those the community judges better off dead or who choose to jump from A grade to B.
In 2022 only the terminally ill will be in Class B. But if the experience in other places is anything to go by, it will soon be extended to the chronically sick not just the terminally ill, the mentally ill not just the physically sick, those who not sick at all just tired of life or feel they are a burden on others, not just consenting adults but the unconscious and children.
A line that can’t be crossed
Once we’ve decided some people are better off dead, that killing them is a ‘mercy’, that they can volunteer for early death or be ‘volunteered’, what’s to stop the target group being enlarged?
Don’t be fooled by talk of how ‘conservative’ the Alex Greenwich kill bill is. It’s very radical. There are very few real protections. No real safeguards for the depressed. Or for those being encouraged to ‘volunteer’ for euthanasia. For those who’ve been misdiagnosed. Or for rights of conscience.
We can dress up euthanasia with fancy names like “Voluntary Assisted Dying” but the fact is it creates a two class society. The protected and the killable. Those encouraged to reverence their own lives, and those encouraged to think they‘d be better off dead. Those covered by our homicide laws and those no longer so. In such a society suffering people may actually suffer more and vulnerable people have fewer options not more.
Do we really want a two class society from 2022?
(This article was originally published in The Daily Telegraph)