Culture of Death: Assisted Suicide Crosses the Rubicon

Advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide won’t admit what they’re doing. They talk of safeguards, for example. “No law and no process can achieve that objective. This is the point,” notes former Australian prime Minister Paul Keating in the Sydney Morning Herald. “If there are doctors prepared to bend the rules now, there will be doctors prepared to bend the rules under the new system. Beyond that, once termination of life is authorised the threshold is crossed. From that point it is much easier to liberalise the conditions governing the law.”

And, he continued, “liberalised they will be. Few people familiar with our politics would doubt that pressure would mount for further liberalisation based on the demand that people are being discriminated against if denied. The experience of overseas jurisdictions suggests the pressures for further liberalisation are irresistible.”

A Very Emotional Case

The head of the Australian Medical Association opposes it, Keating notes. Dr. Michael Gannon explains why: “Once you legislate this you cross the Rubicon. The cause for euthanasia has been made in a very emotional way and this is the latest expression of individual autonomy as an underlying principle. But the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the chronically ill and the dying must never be made to feel they are a burden.”

Very sick people face real problems. Many, especially those in care homes, don’t have access to proper palliative care. Perhaps one in ten face abuse. Many will tell their doctor in front of their families that they don’t want to be a burden, but many must not mean it. And they’re not wanting to be a burden doesn’t mean they want to be killed.

Keating stresses that opposition to assisted suicide doesn’t come from religion. “It is about the civilisational ethic that should be at the heart of our secular society. The concerns I express are shared by people of any religion or no religion. In public life it is the principles that matter. They define the norms and values of a society and in this case the principles concern our view of human life itself.”

Such a bill changes society, Keating argues: “The culture of dying, despite certain and intense resistance, will gradually permeate into our medical, health, social and institutional arrangements. It stands for everything a truly civil society should stand against. A change of this kind will affect our entire community not just a small number of dying patients. It is fatuous to assert that patients will not feel under pressure once this bill becomes law to nominate themselves for termination.”


Paul Keating’s article, “Voluntary euthanasia is a threshold moment for Australia, and one we should not cross,” can be read here.

The photo is by Bret Kavanaugh and appears on Unsplash.

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