Sep 212010

Mirko Bagaric, a sometimes op-ed author in the Oz, appears again today with this piece of polemic opposing a proposed Greens amendment to the "Andrew’s Bill".

Specifically, the Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996 –
seeks to take away the power of the legislative assemblies of the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Norfolk Island to make laws:

… which permit or have the effect of permitting … the form of intentional killing of another called euthanasia (which includes mercy killing) or the assisting of a person to terminate his or her life.

It was passed into law in 1997, effectively outlawing an assisted death in this country. Effectively denying the individual’s right to decide, and so the argument has gone on ever since between the pros, and the cons.
I will not take issue with Bagaric’s piece, principally because I do not find any logical rationale in it, nor do I find anything remotely approaching the thrust of the issue, being the individual’s right to decide. I will, however, take issue with the arguments posed by those opposed to the individual’s right to decide on the grounds of religion, fear of an unfettered ‘Logan’s Run’ version of a future societal evolution, or even the ludicrous assumption that medical murderers will use euthanasia as a legal shield to hide behind while carrying out their sociopathic killings. All, extremely fanciful propositions.

I am an atheist, in that I do not follow the edicts of any religion nor do I believe there to be any all-powerful, omnipotent deity overseeing the cosmos in which I exist. In short, there is no god, so how can any argument predicated on there being a god carrying any weight in what is logically a corporeal matter and not one of metaphysics. End of story right there. Religion and associated deities, prophets, belief systems and canons are all – every single one – products of the human mind. If you like, we are god, because we create these fantasies to make ourselves feel comfortable when faced with situations beyond our ken.

Then there’s the allusions to this other mythical being, the ‘Grim Reaper’. Frankly, the only ‘Grim Reaper’ I know of is the one that fronts Monty Python’s dinner party to disclose the salmon mousse as a killer. The ‘Grim Reaper’, or death as in the cessation of this corporeal existence, comes to us all whether we want to die or not. We are born, we live, we die. That’s life, indeed, that is all the experience of life is when broken down to it’s constituent major events. There is nothing to fear from any of those events, particularly the latter. As the 17th century poet and metaphysicist Donne tells us through time:

Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so.    
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow, die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.    
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow and soonest our best men with thee doe goe, rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.    
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men, and dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell.
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well, and better then thy stroake;
why swell’st thou then? One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, and death shall be no more.
death, thou shalt die.

Death is the construct of men. Of fate, of chance and of Kings. Of desperate men, poison, war and disease. Death is not an entity which visits when we least expect it, indeed, death travels with us throughout life. Should we not then be as in command of death as we are of life? The two are inextricably linked, so much so as to be one, so as we command our fates in life, why should we not command them in death? These are the things Donne tells us and all are true and valid today.

Then there’s the spectre of our society deliberating upon the worth of the ill, the unproductive, the drain on those who consider themselves more worthy of life than those they determine not to be. I called it the ‘Logan’s Run’ hypothesis, referring to the 1967 Nolan and Johnson novel which became the screenplay of the same name. A society in which both population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by requiring the death of everyone reaching a particular age. Is it fanciful? I’d suggest most probably not. At some point in humanity’s future, unless we manage to perfect star travel, our species will have to come to some understanding of just how many of us this planet can sustainably support at any given moment. Some may say we’re already there. Will we adopt the idea of ‘carousel’? A joyful extinguishment of the aged for the benefit of the young? Science fiction, some will say, and those who oppose euthanasia are staking a claim on such fanciful stuff. What the doom-sayers fail to appreciate is the inbuilt conflict within those arguments opposing the individual’s right to die, which would never allow legislation authorising the ‘Logan’s Run’ hypothesis to eventuate. If there cannot be freedom for the rights of the individual to choose when & how to die, how can the State possibly sanction what it denies the masses?

No, there is no rational argument which can be posed in opposition to the inalienable rights of the individual to choose how and where to live their lives and neither must there be any opposition to the same individual human right to choose when and how that life ends. Basic human dignity decrees that right to be sacrosanct. Legal or not legal, suicide or euthanasia, assisted or performed alone, the individual and ONLY the individual has the right to choose.

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