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Four euthanasia myths

14/05/2013

The Greens are pushing for legalised euthanasia in NSW again and all of the usual myths and non sequiturs are being rolled out in support.

So I thought I’d compile a brief list of some of the misleading statements and sloppy thinking deployed by euthanasia advocates.
Not because I think it will change their minds.
I do it to steal some USI from all of those overblown, euthanasia boosting whingers.
I do it for the lulz.

1. Only religious fanatics oppose legalised euthanasia.

Actually the religious fanatics have been no more successful rallying the troops against euthanasia than they have done against contraception, abortion or gay marriage. Most churchgoers in Australia support legalised euthanasia despite the objections from the pulpit.

If you want to see a demographic that solidly refuses to back legal euthanasia you need to check out the medical profession where more than two out of three practitioners remain against it.

Maybe they know something.

Or maybe doctors just have a conflict of interest. After all the longer you’re sick the more money they make, right?

The strongest and best argued case against euthanasia is being made by secularists in the indigenous and disability rights community.

When I (an agnostic Aborigine on disability benefits) pointed out to a spokesman for Exit Australia that Aborigines in the Northern Territory overwhelmingly opposed the short lived legalisation of euthanasia there his response was that they had been ‘brainwashed’ by missionaries. The thought that their experience of the Australian legal system and bureaucracy might give them perfectly rational reasons to oppose it just never entered his head. This is pretty typical of the sort of patronising racism endemic to liberal Australia that gave us the Stolen Generations and the Intervention (and the suspension of laws against racial discrimination that went with it).

I know the churches have their own (mostly irrational) faith based reasons to oppose euthanasia but I wish that both they and euthanasia advocates wouldn’t keep insisting that they are its only opponents.

2. The medical system forces life extending treatments upon unwilling patients.

Unfortunately there is some truth to this.

Even though current Australian law protects the rights of adults to refuse medical treatment (unless a shrink takes that right away from them) there is a lot of moral and bureaucratic pressure on people to accept life extending treatment whether they want it or not. And in spite of their legal rights, patients and families often succumb to this pressure.

Medical professionals rarely refer to advance directives before making decisions regarding life saving/extending treatment and even when they do the patient’s expressed wishes are often ignored.

So given that the medical profession does not respect current laws preventing coerced treatment, why on earth do euthanasia advocates seem to have complete faith that they will not coerce people into euthanasia should that become a treatment option?

3. There is no ‘slippery slope’ in legalising euthanasia.

Experience suggests the opposite.

Fifteen years ago in Switzerland legalised euthanasia was  available only to terminally ill adults who were certified to be of ‘sound mind’.
Then Dignitas – a commercial euthanasia operation – began lobbying to extend the laws.
Now in Switzerland people who are not terminally ill (e.g. quadriplegics) and those who have been diagnosed with depressive or psychotic illness are regularly euthanised at Dignitas.
For the past five years Dignitas CEO, Ludwig Minelli, has been lobbying the Swiss government to allow him to kill perfectly healthy people who want to die alongside their ill or disabled partners. Although the laws have not yet changed, Dignitas has already killed healthy adults.
Swiss law does not allow euthanasia for profit, but Minelli has become a millionaire since founding  Dignitas and  refuses to open its books to Swiss authorities. A former employee claims he  sells the personal effects of his deceased clients to pawnshops. Dignitas has also dumped the remains of patients into Lake Zurich instead of sending them home for internment as per the wishes of the deceased.

Minelli has stated that he wants to open suicide clinics all over Europe and will not stop until euthanasia is available to all on demand.Aktion T4 propaganda

But perhaps the slipperiest slope of all was the one from Weimar Germany’s ‘enlightened’ euthanasia laws (passed at a time that German institutions were full of horribly maimed WWI veterans) to the Nazi Aktion T4, the wholesale slaughter of hospital and asylum inmates.
That slippery slope led all the way to Auschwitz.

We are currently in a period of economic malaise and institutional decay similar to that of Europe in the 1920s.
We already have utilitarian bioethicists like Peter Singer and Baroness Warnock advocating involuntary euthanasia for disabled children and demented adults as a way of conserving medical resources.Just what the doktor ordered
We already have medicos like Philip Nitschke exploiting legal loopholes to commercialise euthanasia related products and services.

Does anyone really believe Australia is more institutionally or morally robust than Weimar Germany or Switzerland?

4. “No one should interfere with my right to die”

In Australia it remains legal to attempt/commit suicide and to refuse medical treatment.
The only way an Australian adult can be denied these rights is if a psychiatrist deems her of unsound mind and ‘a threat to herself or others’  (BTW, I am active in trying to change this).

Euthanasia advocates talk about their ‘right to die’ as if it were under threat.
It is not (except by our mental health laws).

What they really want is the right to get others to help them die.
Not autonomy for themselves, but power over others.
They also demand the right to terrorise disabled, indigenous and elderly Australians who are far more vulnerable to the institutional abuse of legalised euthanasia than the white middle classes who typically advocate for it.

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