Palliative care is an essential service that requires proper resourcing, the director of the Life, Marriage and Family Centre, Chris Meney, said this week in the face of renewed attempts to legalise euthanasia across the country, including in Victoria and Tasmania.
The push for euthanasia detracted from the need for good palliative care, Mr Meney said, echoing comments made by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP in his 13 August debate with Prof Peter Singer: that despite advocacy for euthanasia, all was not being done for the proper relief of suffering, and that many Australians were dying without access to palliative care.
The Australian bishops’ April publication Real care, love and compassion – the alternative to euthanasia remained a “stand-out document” in combating the persistent mythology surrounding euthanasia and the dangers inherent in such attempts, he said.
“Palliative care is an essential service to the human person at the end of life. It must be encouraged and properly resourced and made available to all those who are suffering a terminal illness,” Mr Meney said.
“It is important that the benefits of palliative care become more widely known as a viable option for those faced with crucial end-of-life decisions for themselves and their loved ones.
“The Real care, love and compassion pamphlet does just this,” he added, “while explaining why euthanasia can never be a dignified or compassionate response, but is rather an abandonment of the person at a time when they are most vulnerable.”
The centre’s life and family issues officer, Silvana Scarfe, praised the document for “debunking the myths surrounding the supposed benefits of euthanasia … addressing these head-on with fact-based evidence to the contrary”.
“Euthanasia and assisted suicide can never be legislated for safely, because it puts all those who are terminally ill in a position of vulnerability and coercion,” Ms Scarfe said.
“To ‘die with dignity’ falsely asserts that human dignity rests solely on a person’s usefulness or health. This is never true. Human dignity is a reality embedded in our humanity because of our God-given existence.
“As the pamphlet states, ‘there is nothing truly dignified about being killed or assisted to suicide, even when the motive is compassion for suffering’ because it places those who are truly vulnerable in our society in a position that they ‘would be better off dead’.”
Euthanasia always involved the co-operation of others, she said, and therefore had serious public consequences.
“The evidence of overseas countries that have legalised euthanasia show that the so-called strict guidelines imposed by such laws are failing,” she said.
“In Belgium, after a decade of legalised euthanasia for the terminally ill, euthanasia is now legal for children of all ages and dementia patients. Similarly, in the Netherlands, statistics show that more than 300 people each year are euthanised without explicit consent.”