Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Dignity of Euthanasia

tearsNo one likes to suffer. But even more so, no caring person likes to see another person, especially a loved one, suffer. This is especially the case when it comes to how we feel about the terminally ill trying to endure intolerable pain. Some people propose that the kindest thing we can do for a person in this condition is at least what we would do for any animal- put them out of their undignified misery (read: euthanasia). It is perhaps this motivation that has led Mr Nick McKim to introduce a Private Members Bill, Dying With Dignity 2009. (A copy of the Dying With Dignity 2009 Bill can be found here.) But there is another way of looking at this problem. Rather than thinking that euthanasia is the solution, it may exacerbate a whole set of other even worse problems.

Here's some of the main points that I think that we need to be aware of and why we should play a role affecting the outcome of this Bill.

  • Human life is uniquely valuable, or rather: humans are uniquely invaluable.

  • Euthanasia is the taking of a human life. It is therefore (i) Assisted suicide; or (ii) Unjustified Homicide.

  • Euthanasia is therefore a violation of the 6th Commandment and an obscene mockery of God's image uniquely borne by human beings (Genesis 9:6).

  • We do not consider a terminally ill patient's refusal to accept life-saving treatment as Euthanasia.

  • The unrelenting physical pain of the terminally ill is an opportunity for, and more often than not a display of, dying with great dignity.

  • Death beds often bring great healing to fractured families.

  • People who are religious, and especially Christians, have long held that suffering is not meaningless or without purpose, and that it has the potential for great good to result. The epitome of this is the Cross of Christ where from one man's intense suffering the availability of salvation to the entire world as a result.

  • This Bill proposed by The Tasmanian Greens' Leader presupposes the following-
    (i) There is no meaning or purpose in the suffering of the terminally ill;
    (ii) That Frederick Nietzsche was correct when he taught that a human-being is just the sum of their chemical elements and that after their death there is no other form of existence for them. Therefore, there is no moral dilemma in ending a person's life since, according to the "Nietzsche's Naturalism" there is no spiritual realm where such moral choices will be judged;
    (iii) That a person who wants to die has the right to do so in a manner of their choosing;
    (iv) Governments have no right to stand in the way of a person who wants to take their life;
    (v) Justification for Euthanasia may include psychological or emotional "pain". (Suicide is not the solution to this type of pain!);

* Allowing this Bill to be passed would send a desperately sad message to those providing palliative care for the terminally ill; those involved in suicide-prevention among vulnerable teens; the elderly who feel pressured to stop being such 'a burden' to those around them.

1. We require as many thoughtful and considered submissions to be made as possible. The Parliament has set up an Inquiry which has quietly called for submissions by July 31st 2009.These submissions can incorporate an elaboration of any of the above points but would be enhanced by personal accounts (which pastors perhaps more than many in society should be able to provide) of people close to us who have died with dignity.

Written submissions to the Committee should be addressed to the Secretary, Joint Standing Committee on Community Development, Parliament House, Hobart, 7000, and forwarded prior to the close of business on Friday, 31 July 2009. Hon Kerry Finch MLC (CHAIRMAN). The Committee encourages the lodgement of submissions in electronic form. Emailed submissions must include name, phone number and postal address. Guidelines for witnesses and the preparation of a submission are available here or by contacting the Secretary – Ph: (03) 6233 2248 – Fax: (03) 6233 8103 –Email.

2. Attend the upcoming Pastors and Church Leaders' Briefing Sessions-
Hobart: St David's Cathedral, Bishop John Harrower's office
Thursday July 9th, 9:00AM - 10:30AM
Speakers: Rev. Dean Richard Humphrey, Mr Nick Overton and Dr. Andrew Corbett

Launceston: Legana Christian Church, Bridgenorth Road
Tuesday July 14th, 8AM for a complimentary cooked breakfast.
Speakers: Mr Nick Overton, Bishop Ross Nicholson, Dr. Andrew Corbett

--An Information Pack will be provided to all attendees. RSVP for either events to Nick Overton

I hope to see you at these briefings, and I hope you can make a submission as well.


  1. I had to laugh when I saw the "6th commandment" and "God" in the same sentence.

  2. Why? God commands that we do not murder each other. He has never murdered anyone. If you find the 6th Commandment and God in the same sentence it is not a measure of your humour, rather it may be a statement of recalcitrance.