Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has urged Catholics to write to their local state MPs, warning proposed euthanasia laws in NSW would fundamentally undermine the relationship between doctors and patients by legitimising doctor-assisted suicide in the state.
Mr Abbott was speaking to an online forum of over 100 mainly university students on 20 August, hosted by the UTS Catholic Society, alongside the Director of the Plunkett Centre for Bioethics at the Australian Catholic University, Dr Bernadette Tobin.
State Independent MP, Alex Greenwich has put forward plans to introduce a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill which would allow for two doctors to approve a euthanasia procedure with no mandatory psychological assessment necessary.
Under the proposed bill, the two doctors do not need to be independent of each other and they don’t need to even meet and examine the patient in-person. They can effectively sign-off on a patient’s death via telehealth.
“It would turn doctors from healers into killers and that would a tragedy for the medical profession and a diminution of our society …”
Mr Abbott believes the bill is fundamentally flawed and directly contradicts sound ethical principles in healthcare.
“It would turn doctors from healers into killers and that would a tragedy for the medical profession and a diminution of our society. It legitimizes suicide. We should remember that state and federal governments spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on mental health programs, essentially to stop us from getting to the point where we feel our lives are worthless and pointless”, the former Liberal Prime Minister explained.
“What we’re doing with this legislation should it pass is that we’re saying that suicide is not just okay, but that if you’re feeling that life has become intolerable- suicide can effectively be given to you by your doctor”.
Dr Tobin believes supporters of the new laws are using euphemistic language, such as the term ‘voluntary assisted dying’, to manipulate the public debate at this time. And others adopt the euphemisms because they confuse suicide with the tragic circumstances in which it generally takes place.
“This debate is not about assisting people to die in comfort and with dignity. That’s what a good doctor does, or should do, at the end of anyone’s life. And it’s perfectly legal,’ Dr Tobin told the online forum.
“Advocates of this law know that euphemistic language has great persuasive value. But society has a duty to protect vulnerable people and bad consequences will follow from the widespread acceptance of medical killing. For it violates the special relationship between the doctor and the patient”.
“The reality is that some people will use this legislation for the wrong reasons, and they may persuade vulnerable people to end their lives earlier.”
“All lives are of equal intrinsic value. The most fundamental way of respecting the equal worth of every human life is to refuse to violate any life. even if the life is one’s own”, Dr Tobin added.
The NSW parliament is currently in recess and is unlikely to sit in September due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
However Mr Abbott believes it is critical for all NSW citizens concerned about the proposed laws to make their views known very strongly to their local MPs to minimize any chance of the laws being passed by parliament.
“We thought we worked hard when voters faced a same sex marriage plebiscite in 2017. Well, we have to work harder than that because frankly this is a bigger issue and a more grievous threshold that our state is being asked to cross”, he said.
“I think this is a very important time in the life of our country and certainly in the life of our state and so all of us are called to do all we can to send a message to our state members of parliament that this is just not on”, the former Prime Minister concluded.
One of the key organisers of the forum, Ben Frasco from the UTS Catholic Society, said Mr Abbott and Dr Tobin had helped inspire the attendees to speak out strongly against the proposed laws.
“The reality is that some people will use this legislation for the wrong reasons, and they may persuade vulnerable people to end their lives earlier. People may feel economic and social pressure to do so and that’s fundamentally dangerous because we shouldn’t be making human life transactional”, Mr Frasco explained.
“… But society has a duty to protect vulnerable people and bad consequences will follow from the widespread acceptance of medical killing …”
“There is certainly ethical and the political momentum behind the pro-life movement in NSW at this time and we need to do all we can to prevent these dangerous euthanasia laws being passed in the state”.
The anti euthanasia lobby group, HOPE is leading an online petition to present to the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian opposing the proposed laws.
It can be signed here: https://www.noeuthanasia.org.au/protect_life_nsw