Jun 262008

ABC Radio National program, Australia Talks, addressed the euthanasia debate once again this evening.

At the moment there are two pieces of legislation before Australian parliaments which would provide a legal framework for euthanasia under very specific circumstances: one in the Victorian parliament and one in the Federal Senate. Apparently around 85 per cent of Victorians favour the right to choose assistance with dying. Is legislation long overdue or the beginning of a slippery moral slope?

The introduction to tonight’s radio talk-back program. The three speakers, in addition to numerous individual callers, one in support, one in opposition and one politician from the Victorian parliament. Dr. Rodney Syme, in support, made many valid points and supports what appears to be enlightened legislation which seems to come at least half way between assisted suicide, and persistent medical care despite an inevitable end. Dr. Bernadette Tobin, in opposition, also had good points to make but to my mind, she failed miserably to make them effectively. Perhaps it’s because she is the director of an ethics-oriented thinktank, perhaps because she openly declared her religiosity, but I failed to come to terms with her arguments. On the positive side, Colleen Hartland of the Victorian Greens and sponsor of the bill to that state’s parliament, expressed considerable confidence that the bill would ‘get up’.

Doctor Syme, author of a book entitled "A Good Death", spoke well and put forward excellent arguments in support of the legislation, expressing quite strongly his opposition to assisted suicide. That is to say, a medical professional administering drugs to deliberately end a patient’s life. His stance of legalising the right of mentally competent, aware and capable people with a self-determined loss of life quality, suffering chronic pain due to terminal illness, to end their lives with properly prescribed and effective drugs at a time and place of their own choosing, is to be applauded in my view. I understand the views of people such as Doctor Tobin, but simply cannot accept or condone them. Every individual has the right to life, and in my view, to death at a time and in a manner of their own choosing. No other human being has the right, legally decreed by law courts or deemed right and just by sky-pilots, to deny another human being a dignified exit from this mortal coil. Especially if the decision to make that exit is made in the full knowledge of what it is they intend, and how they intend to do it.

Despite the cries of ethical malcontent or crimes in the face of some all powerful yet mystically absent deity, I fervently hope that Colleen Hartland is right in her belief that the legislation will pass the Victorian upper house. If this legislation comes off, it’s successful enshrining into law will be the thin edge we, who believe in a dignified exit by our own hand, have been seeking. The next step will be temporally retrograde. A return to 1950’s acceptance of nembutal for what it does, and what it can do for those who really have need of it.

If you missed the program or have a hankering to listen, I commend it to you via the link at the top of this post.

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