It almost goes without saying that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) are foaming at the mouth about the Victorian Ministerial Advisory Panel’s model for assisted suicide to be considered by the Victorian Parliament. The panel was chaired by the former president of the Australian Medical Association, Professor Brian Owler.
Of course, the ACL have stated that Victoria is now on a very slippery slope and recommended safeguards are already being discarded, seemingly ignoring the supposed 68 safeguards still in the model. The panel have discarded the proviso that patients must be in ‘enduring and unbearable suffering’, and now allow that the suffering is not to be subject to any limitations2. This is logical, a concept with which the ACL are unfamiliar, in that the person who determines the degree of pain is surely going to be the patient. In addition, the patient will have been told by one or more doctors that the pain they are experiencing will presumably get worse, unless they are doped up to the eyeballs with narcotics. From a personal point of view, if I was in that position, I’d stick it out as long as I could, but I’d choose to end my life prior to being put in an effectively vegetative state on massive doses of morphine, or whatever is the drug of choice these days.
In the Victorian model, to qualify for assisted suicide, one must be of “sound decision-making capacity” and the condition from which the person is suffering must be expected to lead to their demise within 12 months1. Dementia patients will therefore not qualify.
In Oregon, in the US, it has been legal for terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have assisted suicide for 20 years, and there have been no cases of abuse, and the law has not been extended beyond terminally ill adults. Seemingly there is no slippery slope in Oregon. It is not as if palliative care in Oregon is below standard, either. Evidence shows that 90% of people who had an assisted death in Oregon were already having palliative care. This is twice the US average of 45%3,4.
Of course the ACL are also disingenuous in their use of terminology, indicating in their statement that 49% of Oregon patients did so because they didn’t want to be a ‘burden on their family and friends’. I am already a burden on my family; my kids are forced to visit, or suffer the possibility of being written out of the will! However, all jokes aside, the insinuation by the ACL is that this burden is the only reason given by nearly half of the patients. This is lying by omission. Of the 991 patients to obtain assisted suicide (and who answered the survey), 91.4% said they were concerned about losing autonomy; 89.7% were concerned about being less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable; 77.0% were concerned about loss of dignity; 46.8% were concerned about losing control of bodily functions; 42.2% were concerned about being a burden, 26.4% were concerned about inadequate pain control, and perhaps peculiar to the US because of their diabolical healthcare system, 3.4% were concerned about the cost of treatment4.
You will notice the disparity between the ‘burden’ percentage above (42.2%) and that used by the ACL. There are three columns in the Oregon report; one for 2016, one for 1998-2015 and one for the total. I use the total (42.2%) whereas the ACL uses the 2016 figure of 48.9% (rounded to 49%) presumably because it is the largest4. Another instance of lying by omission (so much for not bearing false witness).
The ACL have used the same disingenuous technique when arguing against same-sex marriage5. They either invent problems or only give you part of the story. Many Christians whine about freedom of religion, seemingly thinking that they are under attack from the secular world. Their human rights are not under attack. The only right of theirs which is under threat is the right to inflict their antediluvian views on others. They have indulged in this addiction for well over a millennium, and people will not put up with it any more. In the case discussed here, the clue is in the word ‘voluntary’; if you are a member of the ACL or any other Christian group, nobody is forcing you to have assisted suicide. If you do not want to avail yourself of the service, you do not have to do so. Just stop trying to interfere in other people’s deaths as well as their lives. Freedom of religion is guaranteed in a democracy, but so is freedom from religion.