Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill (Aug 2021)

Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill

As part of our community, we all from time to time, may be asked about our Christian perspectives on social issues.

Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, an independent member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for the seat of Sydney, intends to introduce into State Parliament a voluntary assisted dying bill in the last sitting week of August.

To help raise awareness of this issue, some introductory information is presented below. It is not meant to

be exhaustive.

Introduction

We live in a fallen world where many people live with a desire to end their lives. Perhaps you or someone close to you is one of them. It might be because of serious illness, or severe mental distress. It might be out of concern not to be a burden to others, or fear that a progressive condition will make life unbearable.

The question is, should others be free to help us end of lives?

To help understand the issue, it is useful to clarify some definitions:

Euthanasia- is the killing of another person with the intention of relieving their suffering.

Voluntary euthanasia- is the killing of someone who has asked for their life to be ended.

Physician assisted suicide- is assistance provided by a doctor in the suicide of a patient who has chosen to end their life.

It is anticipated that the bill to be presented intends to make legal Physician assisted suicide.

Arguments for:

Slogans like “My Life. My death. My choice” appeal to a culture that has embraced individual freedom as the ultimate good. Those promoting euthanasia have rebranded it “assisted dying” or “dying with dignity’. Proponents suggest that far too many terminally ill patients are faced with bleak options and are dying in untreatable pain and suffering.

Practical Arguments against:

Whilst legislating for physician assisted suicide may seem merciful in some individual cases it ignores the broader ethical problems that arise from creating a law that allows Doctors to assist people to commit suicide.

The elderly and chronically infirm may feel pressured.

If assisted suicide becomes a legal and cheap option, it is not hard to see how vulnerable people could feel it was their duty to die, so as not to be a burden on others.

It cheapens life.

People who choose to end their lives are declaring “my life is not worth living”. If as a society we agree to help them die we are effectively saying “We agree with you.” As a result, those facing similar circumstances could easily feel less valued.

The doctor/patient relationship would be compromised.

The introduction of assisted suicide would result in an inevitable strain on doctors. It would mean a strange conflict of responsibilities. Whereas doctors have always had responsibility for promoting the patient’s health, if such a law passes, they would also have the responsibility of helping to kill them. That would surely lead to an erosion of trust between doctor and patient.

Family pressure

Doctor’s would sometimes be put under pressure from family to encourage their patient to choose assisted suicide.

The grounds for assisted suicide are likely to be extended.

As Vaughan Roberts says in his book entitled “Assisted Suicide” Attempts to introduce a change in the law tend to begin with limited proposals. For example, making provision for the terminally ill. But experience elsewhere suggests that this would just be a first step towards progressive liberalisation. There is certainly no logical reason why this should not occur. The Guardian newspaper reported that. “The Dutch government intends to draft a law that would legalise assisted suicide for people who feel they have “completed life”, but are not necessarily terminally ill. This is barely 15 years since assisted suicide was legalised.

Biblical arguments against:

We are created in God’s image.

Every human life has special value and purpose in God’s eyes. Because we are made in the image of God, we cannot treat any human life, including our own, as lacking value and purpose.

You shall not murder.

The fact that human beings are made in God’s image and therefore special is the reason why God says in the 6th commandment, “You shall not murder”

In Acts 17 we read that “God himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else…For in him we live and move and have our being.” Psalm 139 tells us that “All the days ordained for us are written in his book before one of them comes to be.” Our days are numbered by God.

The dignity of interdependence.

A third and often forgotten biblical reason against assisted dying is the dignity of interdependence. Not only are we dependant on God, but as human beings we are also made to be dependent on each other.

A better way forward - Palliative care:

Given that the arguments against assisted suicide are substantial, both practically and biblically, does this mean that people with terminal illnesses must die in pain and without dignity? No, not at all. There is a better way forward.

Palliative care is a branch of healthcare that specialises in the relief of the pain and distress caused by an incurable illness. The main goal is to help people live as well as possible during the time they have left, rather than seeking to cure them. In Australia today with widespread quality palliative care there is no reason a person needs to die in pain or without dignity and makes the need for “assisted dying laws” completely unnecessary.

Challenge:

In the light of all this, we come to the challenge. As Christians we ought strongly to oppose the push to legalise “assisted suicide” and strongly support the ongoing funding of quality palliative care facilities throughout our state. You can do this by writing to your MP and the Premier.

A draft letter follows.

Mr Damien Tudhope, MP

Member for Epping

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Dear Mr Tudhope,

I read recently that Mr Alex Greenwich intends to introduce a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill to be debated in the NSW parliament. I would like to urge you not to support this bill. Whilst legislating for physician assisted suicide may seem merciful in some individual case it ignores the broader ethical problems that arise from creating a law that allow doctors to assist people to commit suicide. Let me briefly outline thepractical and biblical arguments against:

The practical arguments against:

The elderly and chronically infirm may feel pressured.

If assisted suicide becomes a legal and cheap option, it is not hard to see how vulnerable people could feel it was their duty to die, so as not to be a burden on others.

It cheapens life.

People who choose to end their lives are declaring “my life is not worth living”. If as a society we agree to help them die we are effectively saying “We agree with you.”

The doctor/patient relationship would be compromised.

The introduction of assisted suicide would result in an inevitable strain on doctors. It would mean a strange conflict of responsibilities. Whereas doctors have always had responsibility for promoting the patient’s health, if such a law passes, they would also have the responsibility of helping to kill them. That would surely lead to an erosion of trust between doctor and patient.

Family pressure

The result of passing such legislation is that doctors would sometimes be put under pressure from family to encourage their patient to choose assisted suicide.

The grounds for assisted suicide are likely to be extended.

Attempts to introduce a change in the law tend to begin with limited proposals. But experience overseas suggests that this would just be a first step towards progressive liberalisation.

The biblical arguments against:

As a Christian I also believe that there are more basic arguments against assisted dying, which come to us from the Bible.

We are made in God’s image.

In Genesis 1:27 we read “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” It means every human life has special value and purpose in God’s eyes.

The 6 th commandment says “You shall not murder”

While we may choose to put down a dog to put it out of its misery, we may not choose to do so for a human being. It is called murder, and it is wrong in God’s eyes. In Acts 17 we read that “God himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else…For in him we live and move and have our being.” Psalm 139 tells us that “All the days ordained for us are written in his book before one of them comes to be.” Our days are numbered by God.

A better way forward

Given the arguments against assisted suicide are substantial, both practically and biblically does this mean that people with terminal illnesses must die in pain and without dignity? No, not at all! There is a better way forward. Palliative care is a branch of healthcare that specialises in the relief of the pain and distress caused by an incurable illness. This better way forward makes the need for “assisted dying laws” completely unnecessary.

In the light of the arguments above I would urge you to vote against any Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill presented to the NSW state parliament, and support instead the ongoing funding of quality palliative care facilities throughout our state.

Yours sincerely