Last chance for NSW to be wise on euthanasia

On assisted suicide and euthanasia, NSW can still avoid a social, medical and moral disaster - and create something noble, compassionate and humane

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An unidentified man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and who refused to eat sleeps peacefully the day before passing away in a nursing home in Utrecht, Netherlands. Photo: CNS, Michael Kooren, Reuters

This week the moral foundations of the State of New South Wales hang in the balance. The NSW Legislative Council continues to consider whether to legalise the killing of citizens of this state who express a desire to end their lives. That we should have reached such a point is astonishing, a soap opera victory of pure emotion over all the available medical and scientific evidence we possess and all the ethical reasoning and legal safeguards we have known for centuries. The independent scrutiny of journalism, meanwhile, which might have helped focus public attention on the key medical, social and ethical issues and realities at the heart of this issue has gone absent without leave in a way that is an intellectual disgrace.

[On euthanasia] the independent scrutiny of journalism, meanwhile, which might have helped focus public attention on the key medical, social and ethical issues and realities at the heart of this issue has gone absent without leave in a way that is an intellectual disgrace.

This week, meanwhile, the British Parliament rejected for the 12th time in 25 years precisely the argument that states should make it obligatory for doctors, nurses, hospitals and nursing homes to carry out the killings of those who wish to end their lives – or others. The decision, representing every man, woman and child in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales was a triumph of statemanship, science, medicine and wise ethical reasoning over the pop-culture sentimental posturings of those such as Andrew Denton here in Australia who call killing merciful.

If NSW legalises euthanasia and assisted suicide, the professional and humane medical accompaniment of the terminally ill and psychologically vulnerable, Palliative Care, will be corrupted. Palliative Care removes the need for any euthanasia at all – or it would, were it pursued in a comprehensive way as a response to the suffering of the terminally ill.

If NSW legalises euthanasia and assisted suicide … Palliative Care [in this state]  will be corrupted.

Euthanasia corrupts palliative care by compromising the integrity of the discipline, not least of all by inducing palliative specialists to co-operate in the killing of their patients. It puts implicit pressure on patients to take their own lives even where viable treatment options exist. Yet our media have not bothered to investigate these dimensions of the question. It is far easier and cheaper, after all, to inject a terminally ill or depressed patient than to accompany them until the very last moment of their natural lives. It is much easier to follow “progressive” fashions, and to look the other way, than to face the truth: euthanasia is barbarous.

Were NSW to legalise euthanasia, patients would be separated into two classes in this state – as so eloquently pointed out by former Deputy Premier John Watkins AM: the elites who can afford the top-level healthcare that provides for all their medical needs, and the average suburban and regional families who can’t as they raise families and pay off their mortgages.

If NSW legalises euthanasia the entire dynamic of the state’s healthcare will be inverted in ways that should not be considered a possibility in any sane society. No longer will the preservation of human life be our ultimate concern and goal. Instead, a new category of Persons To Be Dispensed With will be created. Healthcare in NSW will enter a state of schizophrenia, a state of perpetual contradiction in principles, ethics, medical practice and attitudes to the ill.

… a new category of Persons To Be Dispensed With will be created. Healthcare in NSW will enter a state of schizophrenia …

Proponents of euthanasia, such as independent MP Alex Greenwich, argue that our state is a laggard in introducing “voluntary assisted dying” laws. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if NSW can resist these laws the overseas evidence clearly shows we will save thousands of elderly people from taking their own lives to avoid being put aside in nursing homes; thousands of incorrectly diagnosed patients from cutting short time with families and spouses; thousands of people who worry about becoming a burden on their families, and who might instead enjoy months or years of graced moments with the right medical care.

New South Wales could still turn away from death, and instead choose a comprehensive statewide system of Palliative Care guaranteeing that no man, woman or child will be abandoned to the woke posturings of the Andrew Dentons and Alex Greenwiches of this world. Our Parliament could exercise wisdom, gravitas and humanity, like their British counterparts.

A file photo shows a doctor’s “suicide kit” in London. The House of Lords threw out an amendment that would have forced the government to bring forward assisted suicide legislation within a year. Photo: CNS, Stefan Wermuth, Reuters

That, of course, would be a challenge that Denton, Greenwich and their preppy mates will not take up. Real support for palliative care renders their philosophy of death useless. Why have we heard next to nothing about it? The answer to that would be fascinating but we will not hear it. Yet there is still time left in which we, as a state, could be truly creative, truly daring, true guardians of the public trust and the common good, architects of real medical and ethical progress and still avert disaster.

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