The manipulation of language that has been employed by euthanasia activists about euthanasia and assisted suicide has resulted in a level of acceptance amongst many of a practice that for centuries we as a society have rejected; the idea that doctors should be given the power to kill their patients. Where this was once considered an abrogation of the practice of medicine is now being rebranded as ‘health care’.
The relationship between doctor and patient has long been recognised as a sacred one; that is because we literally put our health and our lives in the hands of our doctors and trust them to do the right thing by us. “First do no harm” is a fundamental ethos underpinning this relationship, in recognition of the fact that a doctor has at their disposal the means to do us harm.
And who doesn’t want assistance when they are dying? The problem is that what is actually occurring when someone requests ‘voluntary assisted dying’ is very different to mere ‘assistance’. As columnist Angela Shanahan writes:
“Assistance is very different from giving a medical practitioner the ability to actively kill someone. The trick implicit in the term voluntary assisted dying is to pretend that assisting is the same thing as giving medicos and other people the legal right to administer a lethal injection. The campaigners muddy the waters by constantly insinuating emotional non-reason into their diatribes.”
“...the central issue of the anti-euthanasia argument is not the emotional toll exacted by witnessing a death, nor is it about compassion, and most definitely it is not about popular opinion. Our consciences should not be subject to popular opinion. No, euthanasia, now rebranded as VAD, is about giving the medical apparatus and personnel the right to kill someone. That is the absolute central issue. That is what legalising euthanasia does and that is all we should be discussing.” (emphasis added)
Choosing not to continue living is already a right that every patient has. We don’t need to change the laws to give effect to this.
In Australia, the AMA Code of Ethics spells out the principles that guide doctors as they care for their patients. One such requirement is that the doctor must:
“Respect the patient’s right to make their own health care decisions. This includes the right to accept, or reject, advice regarding treatments and procedures, including life-sustaining treatments.”
No one is compelled to choose any treatment at all, and especially any that they consider burdensome or would, in their opinion, lower their quality of life. It is a fundamental principle of patient autonomy that the decision about whether to accept or reject any treatment option belongs to the patient, even if that choice means that the person’s life is shortened.
So when euthanasia lobbyists argue that ‘a choice not to continue living should be respected’, what they really mean is that a choice to suicide, enabled by the state and facilitated by a doctor, should be respected. The only question is whether the public, fully informed about this reality, decides that it wishes to embark on this path.
The truth is that palliative care doctors are already providing people with ‘assisted dying’ every single day – they literally assist and comfort patients who are dying and provide pain relief and care for them and their families. The difference is that they do this without killing the patient – and that’s where there is a fundamental difference.
“... the truth of legalising euthanasia is not that choice, it is not about a patient’s wishes; it is about giving medical personnel the right to kill them.”
What is really at stake with the changes being pushed by euthanasia activists is a fundamental change in the doctor patient relationship. As David van Gend writes: “Doctors must not be asked to be our patients’ killers as well as healers. We cannot stay uncorrupted by that sort of power, and patients cannot be protected from our abuse of that power.”
“For if we open the door to euthanasia, society would not, contra Andrew Denton, go gentle into that good night; it would go brutal as a culture which chooses to make people dead rather than care for them in dying; whose unproductive burdens will freely jump to their death, but only because of an insidious cultural push.”