Monica Doumit: It’s either bias … or stupidity

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A screenshot from the video warning about assisted dying laws

As you might know, a few weeks’ back, the Archdiocese published a series of short, 30-second information clips to social media about the impact of euthanasia and assisted suicide in countries where it has been legalised.

The first video in the series caught the attention – and the ire – of euthanasia campaigners because it provided, in a very clear and concise manner, the true picture of what is happening in Belgium, where euthanasia has been legal for some years.

The video detailed the alarming incidence of non-voluntary euthanasia in Belgium, including that one person has been euthanised every three days without their explicit consent, that in more than 75 per cent of these cases, the decision was not discussed with the patient, and that in more than half of cases, the patient had never expressed a wish to die and the reason given was because killing the patient was the wish of the family.

These statistics were based on data from a study led by Assistant Professor Kenneth Chambaere from Belgium.

Euthanasia campaigners, led by Andrew Denton and his Go Gentle Australia organisation, attacked the video and called it “grossly misleading.”
Of course they would.

At first, the Archdiocese was contacted by Channel 7 for a comment; we were asked specifically to respond to claims that the statistics we were referring to didn’t actually refer to euthanasia, but rather to palliative sedation which, the reporter said, “is where someone with a terminal illness is induced into a coma or sedated otherwise.”

We responded to the Channel 7 inquiry with a statement standing by the video, and specifically addressing the palliative sedation question.

Broadcasting Andrew Denton for close to 14 minutes, the ABC quoted only one line from the Archdiocese of Sydney. Photo: Bahnfrend/ Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
Broadcasting Andrew Denton for close to 14 minutes, the ABC quoted only one line from the Archdiocese of Sydney. Photo: Bahnfrend/ Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Relevantly, we said: “The Belgium study classed physician-assisted deaths as those where the death was a “consequence of the use of drugs prescribed, supplied or administered by you or another physician with the explicit intention of hastening the end of life or of enabling the patient to end his or her own life”.

The World Medical Association Declaration on End-of-Life Medical Care says that “palliative sedation must never be used to intentionally cause a patient’s death or without the agreement of a patient who remains mentally competent”.”

Unfortunately, these lines were not included in the Channel 7 story, and so the claims about the study referencing palliative sedation and not euthanasia appeared to go unanswered by the Archdiocese.

We received a similar request from the ABC a short time later. The ABC had interviewed Andrew Denton, who had himself sought comment from Professor Chambaere.

Professor Chambaere repeated his claim that the study in question was not about euthanasia, but an investigation of the incidence of terminal sedation.

Again, we went back to the ABC to try to explain the difference between palliative or terminal sedation, and what the study – by its own description – actually looked into. We said:

“The Archdiocese of Sydney absolutely stands by the video, which provides details of the alarming nature of the consequences of the legalisation of euthanasia in other countries.

“The Chambaere study classed physician-assisted deaths as those where “the physician gave an affirmative answer to the following question: “Was the death the consequence of the use of drugs prescribed, supplied or administered by you or another physician with the explicit intention of hastening the end of life or of enabling the patient to end his or her own life?

“Attempts to characterise the provision of drugs with the explicit intention of hastening a patient’s death without a request from the patient as palliative sedation is not only shocking, but in conflict with guidance from the world’s peak medical body. The World Medical Association Declaration on End-of-Life Medical Care mandates that “palliative sedation must never be used to intentionally cause a patient’s death or without the agreement of a patient who remains mentally competent.

“Palliative sedation has a therapeutic, not lethal, intention. Administering drugs with the explicit intention of hastening the end of life is euthanasia, regardless of the spin activist organisations such as Go Gentle Australia wish to put on it. Australians have a right to know what is occurring in other countries where euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal, and they also have a right to know how euphemistic language is used by activists to minimise the grave consequences of such laws.”

Despite speaking with Denton for close to 14 minutes, the only line the ABC quoted from the above response was this: “Administering drugs with the explicit intention of hastening the end of life is euthanasia, regardless of the spin activist organisations such as Go Gentle Australia wish to put on it.”

I’m not going to comment on why our clear and detailed explanation was not included in these reports. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

The purpose of this column is simply to put the full response to the accusations of being “grossly misleading” that have been made against the Archdiocese and the Archbishop on the record. Because the public have a right to know.

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