Sydney doctors warn against moves to legalise euthanasia

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eft to Right: Fr Ronnie Maree, Sr Cecilia MacKay, Dr Lynn Lim, Michael McHugh and Dr Charbel Beijani. PHOTO: Abbel Gaspi

Urgent need highlighted for greater palliative care in NSW

Sydney doctors and members of the Australian Catholic Medical Association specialising in the field of palliative care have spoken out strongly against any move to implement euthanasia laws in NSW at a series of talks at the Bankstown parish of St Felix De Valois.

The series titled ‘Euthanasia, dying and the dignity of the human person’, was held over three weeks and included talks from a theological perspective, a medical perspective and a political and legal perspective.

Michael McHugh, a nurse with experience in geriatrics and palliative care was strongly opposed to euthanasia, saying he prayed for his patients to remember their purpose and meaning.

“I am against euthanasia as it is clear to me that it is a dysfunctional response to the deepest questions we could ask ourselves,” said Michael McHugh. “[Euthanasia] is evidence of a society that has lost its soul and only finds satisfaction in self-indulgence, self-gratification, or escape and distraction.

“Every person, even if they can’t see it has a deeper purpose. I pray for my patients, and I encourage them to find a mission or a purpose for their last days because I know they deserve the best.”

Mr McHugh was joined by Sr Cecilia MacKay of the Little Sisters of the Poor at Randwick, Dr Lynn Lim, a palliative care doctor and Dr Charbel Beijani a palliative care doctor who came together to offer input from a variety of medical perspectives.

St Felix De Valois Assistant parish priest Fr Ronnie Maree kicked off the talks with the theological perspective, and Archdiocesan Director, Public Affairs and Engagement Monica Doumit rounded out the series with a talk on the political and legal perspective.

The series came shortly after Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich delivered a private member’s statement informing parliament of his intent to present legislation legalising euthanasia in New South Wales in September. Euthanasia has now been legalised in Victoria, WA, Tasmania and New Zealand, with South Australia expected to vote soon on similar legislation and the Queensland Government announcing legislation last week.

Any legislation introduced to the NSW parliament would place pressure on the Berejiklian government to uphold their promised that there will be no more conscience votes during this term of government.

During the first week of the series at St Felix De Valois organised by the parish youth team, Fr Ronnie Maree spoke on the theological perspective of the euthanasia debate with a talk titled ‘What is Euthanasia? Suffering and Dignity, Living Well and Dying Well’.

“You could tell by the number of questions we received, and because we simply didn’t have the time for everyone’s questions each week that there is real thirst to learn more about this subject,” said Fr. Ronnie. “The three weeks gave us an opportunity to look at every aspect of the topic. It’s a topic that you just can’t convey properly in one article or a five minute homily, but people really enjoyed the depth in which we were able to explore it.”

Fr Ronnie also commented on the powerful messages the medical panel was able to deliver on current treatments and alternatives to euthanasia, noting how common misunderstandings were answered during their talks.

“It was remarkable how little the panel of medical experts that spoke in week two, talked about euthanasia itself, speaking instead of the power and importance of their own work in palliative care. They were able to address and answer the misconceptions and fears that lead to euthanasia being considered by patients.”

The final week of the series, a talk given by Monica Doumit, addressed the topic from a political and legal perspective, looking at some of the often overlooked consequences of euthanasia legalisation. Ms Doumit said she was encouraged by the turnout to hear the talks and the level of engagement from audience members, particularly the next generation of young Catholics.

“It was so edifying to be part of this wonderful initiative from Father Ronnie and the St Felix Youth team,” said Ms. Doumit. “The high levels of engagement of those who attended was clearly evident from the number of thoughtful questions that were asked, and the discussion that went on at the end of each evening.”

“It was especially pleasing to see so many of the staff and seminarians from the Seminary of the Good Shepherd come along; their attendance was a powerful witness to the importance of this issue, and the care and concern of the Church’s pastors and future pastors for the care of our most vulnerable.”

Euthanasia has now been legalised in Victoria, WA, Tasmania and New Zealand, with South Australia expected to vote soon on similar legislation and the Queensland Government announcing legislation last week.

Any legislation introduced to the NSW parliament would place pressure on the Berejiklian government to uphold their promise that there will be no more conscience votes during this term of government.

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