Take opportunity to act now on euthanasia, says archbishop

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Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich speaks during Question Time at New South Wales Parliament House on 12 October 2021. Referral of Mr Greenwich’s bill to legalise euthanasia to a parliamentary committee is not a delay. Photo: AAP image pool/Dominic Lorrimer

Archbishop Fisher OP calls for united action to defend life

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP is calling on Catholics to stand with him in urgently opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide in New South Wales.

A race to establish state-sanctioned killing is underway in the state, with debate expected to begin in November in the Lower House, a mere month after Independent Alex Greenwich introduced his Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill to NSW Parliament on 14 October.

Submissions to a parliamentary inquiry into the Bill via a simple online questionnaire on the Parliament of New South Wales website close on 22 November. The questionnaire for the Provisions of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill inquiry can be found at parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries.

The Upper House committee will also hold four days of public hearings in December, and is due to report back in February.

“Please take the time to make your voice heard. The lives of the vulnerable depend on it.” – Archbishop Fisher OP

At less than four months New South Wales faces a drastically shorter timeline than similar Bills did in other states, with Western Australia’s inquiry the shortest, at 12 months plus 15 days of public hearings.

Archbishop Fisher launched the urgent appeal this week, asking supporters to take a few moments to make their voice heard on the proposed laws by filling out a brief online form offered by the Upper House inquiry.

“I strongly oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide because we shouldn’t be telling sick people by our laws that we think they would be better off dead or that we would be better off if they were dead,” the archbishop wrote in a statement.

“It is very important that you make your opposition to this bill known.”

The archbishop said that as the widespread nature of elder abuse and rising suicide rates come to light, “we have more cause to be especially cautious about introducing the idea of killing the burdensome or ‘volunteering’ for an early death.”

Former NSW Deputy Premier John Watkins gives an interview to The Catholic Weekly in 2019. Now Chair of CHS, Mr Watkins has called on NSW MPs to better understand the decisive role of Palliative Care in the euthanasia debate looming in the state’s Parliament. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Former NSW Deputy Premier John Watkins pictured speaking with The Catholic Weekly in 2019. Now Chair of CHA, Mr Watkins has called on NSW MPs to better understand the decisive role of Palliative Care in the euthanasia debate looming in the state’s Parliament. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“A just and compassionate society can surely find more respectful and loving ways of dealing with suffering at the end-of-life than killing the suffering person,” he wrote.

“Please take the time to make your voice heard. The lives of the vulnerable depend on it.”

Monica Doumit, Director, Public Affairs and Engagement for the Archdiocese of Sydney, said that the state’s Catholics had a track record of turning out in great numbers to defend and protect human life, especially of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Catholics had overwhelmingly shown up prominently in similar submissions processes to oppose abortion laws and to support religious freedom, she said.

“Past experience shows that this is what we’re good at,” she said. “We have to make sure we stand up again for what we believe and know to be right because this issue is crucial and literally is a matter of life and death.”

Q&A with Fr John Flader: Euthanasia and compassion

Branka van der Linden, director of anti-euthanasia and assisted suicide organisation, Hope, said that international experience showed that where these laws are introduced, so-called safeguards become eroded over time.

“Less than two years after the Victorian assisted suicide bill came into effect, Victorian MPs and euthanasia advocates were already fighting to remove so-called ‘safeguards’,” she said.

Archbishop Fisher, who is also an internationally respected bioethicist, is urging all to be informed on the issue and consider what is at stake if NSW goes down the path of legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide, particularly with a “very radical” Bill that offers few real protections.

“this issue is crucial and literally is a matter of life and death.” – Monica Doumit

He says that one effect will be greater disparity between those with greater resources to access top healthcare and comprehensive palliative care, and others, particularly in rural and remote regions and in Western Sydney, who will have fewer options except for that of an early death.

“That other states of Australia have gone down this path is not a reason that NSW should do the same,” the archbishop said.

“Any moves to allow people to prematurely end their life has grave consequences for our society and must be resisted.”

The Catholic health sector has come out strongly against the Bill in New South Wales. Catholic Health Australia is partnering with Catholic Healthcare, St Vincent’s Health Australia and St Vincent’s Hospital Lismore, in an anti-euthanasia campaign titled ‘There is another option’ for the parliament to vote down the bill and increase palliative funding for the provision of comprehensive and compassionate care of terminally ill patients.

Make a submission at www.parliament.nsw.gov.au

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