You have to admire those that stand against the zeitgeist and swim against the tide on a principle.
Recently was saw good examples of such courage in the pages of The Australian newspaper with articles by Paul Kelly and Angela Shanahan opposing euthanasia in circumstances where the paper has taken a very clear editorial policy of support.
The same can be said of Rex Jory and his article in today's Advertiser in South Australia. The Advertiser, like other newspapers, seems to have drunk from the same Koolaid; which makes Rex Jory's piece stand out all the more.
Jory opens by declaring his internal struggle with this issue:
"I am impaled on the twin horns of a contradiction. I believe in euthanasia or mercy killing. Yet I also believe legislation currently before State Parliament to legalise euthanasia should be defeated."
This kind of position is not uncommon. Motivated by compassion, many people would like to think that we could create a safe, lawful regime; but reason and an honest assessment of the human condition points in the other direction.
"My misgivings are not moral. I dread the thought of living out the final stanza of my life in pain and isolation. I dread becoming a burden to my family or, indeed, to the medical and welfare system.
"Like most people, I would like to leave life's stage with dignity. Yet I see so many people who don't. The present system won't allow it.
"But as soon as society begins legislating to condone killing we are devaluing the thing which we hold most sacred - life itself. Capital punishment - hanging people for serious crimes - was abolished in Australia because it is wrong to authorise State-sanctioned killing.
"Now Parliament is contemplating a reverse of that belief. It is considering implementing laws encouraging people, under certain specific circumstances, to allow the State through the medical profession, to kill them."
Jory then looks at the bill before the parliament. Some elements, he notes as commendable. But still, his concerns are not diminished:
"It would be naÃ¯ve, even irresponsible, to believe that once the laws are in place they will not be tinkered with by future Parliaments. That would only be in one direction - to make mercy killing more accessible.
"This greasy-pole theory would reduce further the value of life. For example the proposed mercy killing laws can only apply to patients who are aware of their circumstances and able to authorise their own death.
"What about the tens of thousands of elderly or critically ill people unable to speak for themselves? How long before the law is changed to allow concerned relatives to authorise their loved one is given a peaceful end? How long before avarice tempts people to have their loved ones killed to grab their inheritance?
"The ill or frail may feel an obligation to volunteer to be euthanized. Or they may be coerced by family or friends. And how long before lawyers enter hospitals and nursing homes to argue that their client, unable to speak for themselves, has a right to die?"
Unlike many commentators, Jory does not lack insight or the ability to reflect his own thoughts and feelings against the need to maintain a caring society that protects every citizen equally:
"Authorising mercy killing would inevitably, perhaps sub-consciously, alter the way modern society regards life and death. It has the capacity to change our values, lower our standards.
"I would love to end the suffering of people in the final days of their lives. I would love to lift the burden of care from friends and relatives. But legislating to legalise mercy killing is a step too far."
Thank you Rex Jory!