Allan Takes Aim Blog

What is Euthanasia?

Posted on: 13 October 2010


First posted The Chronicle Canberra, Tuesday 12 October  

The subject of euthanasia is again a subject of major debate between two groups, a pro euthanasia and an anti euthanasia group which, although they disagree about euthanasia, share the same degree of righteousness as they pursue their disagreement.

Among the pro-euthanasia group, are people of strong religious belief who, and regardless of the views of their leaders, believe, nevertheless, that people suffering from a terminal disease, have the right to choose the time and mode of death.

The anti euthanasia group also has members with strong religious beliefs who, while having the deepest sympathy for people suffering a terminal disease, are equally adamant that acceptance of euthanasia, is giving legitimacy to suicide or, and this is a fine distinction, being accessories to murder.

 (Let me also put to rest a pro euthanasia group idea that all atheists and agnostics share their belief. I am not a member of an anti euthanasia group but as a non-believer and an agnostic, let me assure them they are not.) It must be said also, that because both groups continually assert that only their view is right, not even a Solomon could give a judgement to satisfy either of them.

The pro group recently attempted to give substance to their assertion by citing a newspaper report that said 73% of Australians supported euthanasia. Perhaps there is such a report but the anti group argued that the result was open to question on a number of points: no details were given about the questions asked; the report did not say how many people were polled; and no information was given about who conducted the poll. Some also suggested that pro euthanasia journalists were often the source of such reports.  

No matter the source, such reports are less than useful: they muddy the water rather than clear it. Indeed, as the question of legalising euthanasia is a matter for Federal, State and Territory Governments, it seems to me it seems to me it would make greater sense if both groups co-operate in the development of an a education programme for the electorate that laid out both views.   

Once the education programme has been completed It would make sense if the legalising euthanasia or otherwise should be the subject of a referendum. Considering that Australia does not have a death penalty, a referendum asking the people to say yea or nay to giving the Federal Government the authority to create legislation that would approve the death of a fellow human being.   

At present, end-of-life laws are a hotch-poch and different in every State and Territory. They comprise Advance Medical Directive and Power of Attorney laws, none of which allow a person to ask for active assistance to die. Access to these laws depends on where you live which means that, although you think you might have covered this eventuality, if you move to a different state before the situation arises, it might not be covered.

 Let me give you brief explanations of an Advance Medical Directive (AMD) and a Medical Power of Attorney. An AMD is a legal document that people sign in advance to extend their absolute right to refuse medical treatment in circumstances where the ability to communicate is lost. Thus even if they become unconscious or demented, the AMD ensures their wish to refuse treatment is respected.

A Medical Power of Attorney, Agent or Proxy, is also an important strategy that will ensure your voice is heard if you are unable to communicate about the appointment of a person to make medical decisions for you. This legislation also varies depending on the state in which you live.  In practice a Medical Power of Attorney carries out the same function as an AMD document.

However, people considering euthanasia should also consider that new medicines and medical procedures that will affect both longevity and quality of life, are emerging daily.

They might also like to think about matters such as: Is euthanasia simply legalised murder? Do they want Government involved? Do they think euthanasia has implications for doctors? Do they think special social groups will be at risk? Do they think palliative care a better option?

Euthanasia is not a simple matter but one deserving of the deepest consideration.

For the best Community News.  The Chronicle, Canberra. Published every Tuesday  

   
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