Father Brendan’s Thursday Thoughts | OPINION, August 10, 2017

IN SHARING our musings on the current euthanasia debate, although we can all try and leave our beliefs out of the debate, this is impossible. To believe or not believe in life after death and/or to believe or not believe in God are beliefs, and may well influence our views on euthanasia.

The “majority rule” principle as an authority for deciding the rightness or wrongness of any moral issue, including euthanasia, is a dangerous yardstick. Several moral practices considered immoral by most Australians in 1917, are now considered moral by most Australians in 2017. Does what was wrong become right (or vice versa) because the majority say so? If the vote is close, is that what makes the moral issue “grey”?

Does the legalisation of something once illegal, turn that which was once wrong, now suddenly right? If morality equalled what is legal then slavery was not wrong in the United States for most of 19th Century, and for most of 20th Century slavery was good and right in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and part of West Africa.

So what would a priest know about euthanasia? Well, as a priest I have been called by the family of a loved one dying, or by the dying themselves many times over these past sixteen years to anoint the dying and spend time with them and their families and it is based on these experiences that I can express my strong opposition to legalising euthanasia.

Given the current national debate and the blurring of boundaries, it’s as important to state what is euthanasia and what is not euthanasia. 

Euthanasia is not turning off machines. Euthanasia is not the discontinuing of excessive and unreasonable effort to keep the patient alive.  Euthanasia is not increasing the dosage of pain relief for the purpose of pain relief, even though this increase may hasten the death of the patient. 

Euthanasia is lethal injections.   

Is euthanasia “mercy killing”? Yes, but “mercy” for the living, not the dying; it’s those who live interstate and want to get back home or those who have important projects at work that euthanasia grants “mercy” to, not their loved one who is dying for the last time ever. For those who claim the one dying didn’t want to be a burden, it’s sad that any family would allow a loved one to believe they ever were a burden; but what were the dying to think in some cases when they’re grieving family were often either on their phone to work or not there?

Some incredible family reconciliations happen while they wait for the inevitable between long-time fighting family members; reconciliations euthanasia would rob our society of. Who can deny the dying wish of a loved one? The dying can bring more reconciliation to a family in days than we living can in years. As for “dying with dignity” there’s not much more dignified in this world than making peace in your family.

It’s fitting the euthanasia debate will end with a “conscience vote” as the greatest casualty in legalising euthanasia may well be society’s conscience. 

If already so many blame themselves for the death of a loved one, even for no reason, how much more will sensitive and grieving consciences blame themselves, in years to come, that they were responsible for encouraging a difficult decision, at a very traumatic time, that leaves permanent consequences? 

Perhaps the unforeseen legacy of euthanasia will not be the killing of the dying, but the massive increase of pain for those who are left living. 

Father Brendan Lee

Twitter: @frbrendanelee