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Sunday, 21 March 2021 22:22

Expanding the Killing Fields to South Australia

Written by Fr John Fleming

 A wave of anti-life legislation has been sweeping across the states and territories of Australia.  South Australia, fresh from its political assault on the unborn, and perhaps further emboldened by it, is now setting its sights, again, on the frail aged.  Based on dodgy poll findings.  As is now the norm, the Liberal Party cannot be relied upon to protect life.


Moving on from the approval they gave to the widespread killing of unborn babies, the South Australian Parliament is set to consider yet again and maybe approve, even more killings of innocent human beings.  The killing season seems set to continue in the Athens of the South since the “opposition” to anti-life legislation in its Parliament, following its appalling showing on the recent abortion legislation, seems decidedly ill-equipped to stop the tsunami of radical social legislation being promoted by the leadership of the Liberal Party supported, of course, by the usual suspects from the ALP.

The self-appointed maestro of euthanasia policy, TV celeb Andrew Denton, will no doubt be present once again in the SA Parliament as “advisor-in-chief”.  The last time euthanasia was debated in SA was in 2016.  Claiming to represent the views of South Australians, Denton urged South Australian politicians not to reject the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016 in these terms.

Don’t be a coward. If you have problems with this legislation, take it to the committee stage [where legislation is debated in detail] so we can answer your questions. Have the courage to do what 80% of South Australians want – they want a choice.

From where did the 80% come?  Opinion polls, where else?.  Which polls and in answer to what questions?  In August 2017 Newspoll asked Australians this question:

Thinking now about voluntary euthanasia, if a hopelessly ill patient, experiencing un-relievable suffering, with absolutely no chance of recovering asks for a lethal dose, should a doctor be allowed to provide a lethal dose?

Now first, let us consider the terms of the question.  To be in favour of euthanasia the patient must have all the following issues present at one and the same time. The patient is:

a)       “hopelessly ill”, and

b)      is experiencing suffering that cannot be relieved, and

c)       has no chance of surviving the illness, and

d)      asks for a lethal dose.

Small wonder, then, that 82.5% of responders answered “yes”.  But do such cases exist?  The people being asked to consider and answer this question are forced to assume that it does.  And this despite overwhelming evidence that such situations rarely arise and even then can be dealt with without killing the patient.

This is the “evidence” upon which the ultracrepidarian Denton relied while he was busy supporting widespread legalisation of medical killings of persons who would not have all of these four conditions applying.

Absent, also, from the question being asked was anything to do with safeguards.  Is it possible to place safe limits around these medical killings?  What, if anything, did the respondents know about the situation of sick and dying patients?  What, if anything, did respondents know about safeguards?

Put another way, self-appointed “euthanasia-expert-par-excellence” Andrew Denton, just assumes that opinion polls give us a measure of informed opinion.  The community is not to blame for this situation.  Politicians are the ones who are paid (handsomely) to get across these issues and form sound opinions.  To appeal to such opinion poll questions as a reason to support further exceptions to what used to be the universal norm that, in a civilised society, we don’t kill each other suggests a superficiality of mind and laziness of application in too many of our elected representatives.

While it might be easy to go along with what, superficially, might seem popular, that should not be a satisfactory motive for following the celeb’s advice.  The claim that 80% of South Australians want voluntary euthanasia in the terms proposed by contemporary legislation is nonsense on stilts.  The polls might seem to indicate support for VE in a few extremely hard cases, but even then respondents were being expected to answer a loaded question in a fact empty vacuum where the safety of the community at large is concerned.

The pollsters have never asked an open-ended question about whether people should have the “choice” to be killed.  And nor have they ever asked a series of questions which would reveal what Australians know about the subject and what, specifically, they think about euthanasia in the circumstances suggested by politicians and euthanasia activists in their various draft Bills.

Australians are naturally concerned about people dying in the way the question suggested and want those burdens on patients to be lifted, always supposing such a state of events occurs in the light of the availability of contemporary palliative care.  And the question implies heavily that the only way to achieve that relief of suffering is by killing the patient.

Can lawful euthanasia killings be safely implemented?

Worldwide, the two major inquiries into legalised “mercy killing” were carried out by the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, When Death is Sought: Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Medical Context (1994) and the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics, Report of the Select Committee on Medical Ethics (1994).

These reports were written within three years of the first major report on Dutch euthanasia carried out by the Dutch government under the auspices of Jan Remmelink (the then Attorney General of the High Council of the Netherlands).  The Remmelink Report, as it was labelled, provided clear evidence that more people were killed by doctors without the consent of the patient than those who had given consent.  The same sort of evidence is now available about killings perpetrated by medical health professionals in Belgium where euthanasia and physician-assisted-suicide are legally permitted.

Both reports strongly unanimously recommended against the legalisation of euthanasia.  The UK’s House of Lords Select Committee:

Ultimately, however, we do not believe that these arguments [in favour of legalised euthanasia] are sufficient reason to weaken society’s prohibition of intentional killing. That prohibition is the cornerstone of law and of social relationships. It protects each one of us impartially, embodying the belief that all are equal. We do not wish that protection to be diminished and we therefore recommend that there should be no change in the law to permit euthanasia. We acknowledge that there are individual cases in which euthanasia may be seen by some to be appropriate. But individual cases cannot reasonably establish the foundation of a policy which would have such serious and widespread repercussions. Moreover dying is not only a personal or individual affair. The death of a person affects the lives of others, often in ways and to an extent which cannot be foreseen. We believe that the issue of euthanasia is one in which the interest of the individual cannot be separated from the interest of society as a whole.

One reason for this conclusion is that we do not think it possible to set secure limits on voluntary euthanasia. Some witnesses told us that to legalise voluntary euthanasia was a discrete step which need have no other consequences. But as we said in our introduction, issues of life and death do not lend themselves to clear definition, and without that it would not be possible to frame adequate safeguards against non-voluntary euthanasia if voluntary euthanasia were to be legalised. It would be next to impossible to ensure that all acts of euthanasia were truly voluntary, and that any liberalisation of the law was not abused. Moreover, to create an exception to the general prohibition of intentional killing would inevitably open the way to further erosion whether by design, by inadvertence, or by the human tendency to test the limits of any regulation. These dangers are such that we believe that any decriminalisation of voluntary euthanasia would give rise to more, and more grave, problems than those it sought to address.

The New York State Task Force on Life and the Law also unanimously came down against legalising either assisted suicide or VE.

Some Task Force members do not believe that assisted suicide is inherently unethical or incompatible with medical practice.  On the contrary, they believe that providing a quick, less prolonged death for some patients can respect the autonomy of patients and demonstrate care and commitment on the part of physicians or other health care professionals.  Nonetheless, these members have concluded that legalising assisted suicide would be unwise and dangerous public policy.

Scaring the public into permitting the killings of the innocent

It is not difficult to get the results you want from opinion polls.  One way is to scare the pants off the punters.

Capital punishment serves as a useful demonstration case.  When society is relatively calm most oppose capital punishment.  But throw in the “terrorist” wild card, then opinions rapidly change.  So in 2014, a Morgan Poll showed that

a small majority of Australians (52.5%) favour the death penalty for deadly terrorist acts in Australia while 47.5% don’t.  This is a significant increase from 2009 when only 23% of Australians supported the death penalty being imposed for convicted murderers.  Today’s special SMS Morgan Poll was conducted with a cross-section of 1,307 Australians who were asked “If a person is convicted of a terrorist act in Australia which kills someone, should the penalty be death?”

The same applies to euthanasia. Ask a question which strikes fear into people’s hearts and you will, no doubt, get the answer you want.  Hence the Newspoll question:

Thinking now about voluntary euthanasia, if a hopelessly ill patient, experiencing un-relievable suffering, with absolutely no chance of recovering asks for a lethal dose, should a doctor be allowed to provide a lethal dose?

No one wants to die like that.  And in many families, there are stories handed down from the past, stories which serve to frighten decent members of society who may well not be aware the achievements of modern palliative care had not been developed to today’s standard of excellence.  No wonder, then, that so many responded they way they did to such a highly inflammatory question.

The first duty of politicians

Politicians are duty-bound to secure the population from external threat (ie from other countries) and internal threat (ie from each other).  The abandonment of the full discharge of its duty to protect impartially the weak and vulnerable through subservience to an inhuman ideology, or out of culpable ignorance, represents a very real threat to the well-being of society for which they will be ultimately held responsible.  As Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), put it so succinctly in his The Prince:

Men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.