Euthanasia is where someone intentionally kills a person whose life is felt not to be worth living. Euthanasia does not include stopping or starting a medically useless treatment, relieving pain when the intention is to kill the pain but not the patient, or refusal of medical treatment by a competent patient. Euthanasia is illegal in NSW.
Voluntary euthanasia is when a competent patient consents and Non-voluntary euthanasia is when the patient lacks the competence to make an end-of-life decision.
The Catholic Church teaches that life as sacred and that the taking of an innocent human life is always wrong and immoral.
The Church also believes that no one needs or ought to suffer a long, painful death and that the sick must always be treated and the dying must be comforted.
The alternative to euthanasia
Compassion for the sick and suffering is something which unites us all. Many of us have accompanied friends or family as they face the fear and uncertainty of a serious illness. Our heart goes out to them and we wish only the best for them.
From time to time euthanasia or assisted suicide is proposed as the compassionate choice for people who are facing such illness. Euthanasia may be defined as intentionally bringing about death by active intervention, or by neglect of reasonable care in order to end suffering. Physician Assisted Suicide is when a person is prescribed lethal drugs with which to kill themselves, with the purpose of eliminating suffering.
We hear people saying that this would allow people to 'die with dignity' and that it is each individual's 'right' to choose the timing and manner of their death.
This view, although born of compassion, is misguided and even dangerous. Killing people is wrong, and this principle is fundamental to our law. In the very few jurisdictions overseas where euthanasia or assisted suicide have been introduced, there is already ample evidence that the system is being abused and the legislated safeguards are being ignored.
All Australians seek a compassionate response to illness and suffering. We ask you to consider the following considerations outlining why euthanasia or government authorised killing, is never the best expression of compassion.
Human dignity is honoured in living life, not in taking it.
Even though an act of euthanasia or assisted suicide may be motivated by a sense of compassion, true compassion motivates us to remain with those who are dying, understanding and supporting them through their time of need, rather than simply acceding to a request to be killed. It is right to seek to eliminate pain, but never right to eliminate people. Euthanasia and assisted suicide to represent the abandonment of those who are in greatest need of our care and support.
Mistakes and abuse are impossible to avoid
No ‘safeguards’ will ever guarantee that deaths under the proposed laws will be completely voluntary. There will always be a risk of error, fraud or coercion. Mistakes happen, and those who are most vulnerable, whose ability to speak up for themselves is limited by fear, illness or old age, are exploited.
Government endorsed suicide
Endorsing suicide as a solution to pain and suffering sends a confusing message to our society, particularly to the young and the vulnerable. Suicide is a tragedy that impacts not just the person whose life is lost, but also their family and community. IT would be counter-productive to legally endorse any form of suicide when our governments and community groups are working so hard to persuade others that it is not a solution to take their own life.
Undermining trust in doctors
Once the fundamental principle to do no harm and never kill is removed from medical practice, the integrity of our health system is compromised. It will affect the confidence that seriously ill patients nearing the end of life can have in the treatment and the quality of care that they might otherwise have expected. When euthanasia or assisted suicide is an option – even if unspoken – option, how long will it be before the option becomes an expectation?