Tasmanian Times poster boy and MP Senator Brown has had his proposal to legalise euthanasia shredded as thoroughly as any of his well-hugged trees have been by Gunns Inc. Brown planned to do this through the back doors of the Northern Territory and ACT legislatures by restoring their powers to pass laws in this matter.

Editor-at-large for The Australian, Paul Kelly, claims that the bill’s “essence is to open the door to euthanasia in Australia”, and, given how one parliament can influence others, it is hard to disagree with that assessment.

First, do no obfuscating – what is ‘euthanasia’?

The relevant Wikipedia article opens with “Euthanasia (from the Greek εuθανασία meaning “good death”: εu, eu (well or good) + θάνατος, thanatos (death)) refers to the practice of ending a life in a manner which relieves pain and suffering”, which seems clear and straight-forward enough for this forum.

Link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthanasia

(The ‘eu’ prefix is also found in such words as ‘eulogy’, ‘eupeptic’, ‘euphemism’, ‘euphoria’ and, in a more sinister but relevant sense, in ‘eugenics’. But not ‘eunuch’.

Link – http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/eu-)

Kelly points out a vital distinction –

“The entire key to the euthanasia debate lies in its great paradox: . . . most people think that turning off life-support machines and discontinuing life-preserving treatment is euthanasia. In fact, this is nothing to do with euthanasia. Indeed, it is the precise opposite of euthanasia. If a family turns off a life-support machine, the patient dies because of their illness, not because of the doctor. But if the doctor gives a lethal injection, then the patient is killed. This is a fine yet critical distinction”.

Next, recall that signature medical command which many associate with the Hippocratic Oath, “First, do no harm” –

“ . . . is one of the principal precepts of medical ethics that all medical students are taught in medical school and is a fundamental principle for emergency medical services around the world. Another way to state it is that ‘given an existing problem, it may be better to do nothing than to do something that risks causing more harm than good.’ . . . It is invoked when debating the use of an intervention that carries an obvious risk of harm but a less certain chance of benefit. Since at least 1860, the phrase has been for physicians a hallowed expression of hope, intention, humility, and recognition that human acts with good intentions may have unwanted consequences.”

Link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primum_non_nocere

For Kelly, the clinching argument, akin to the Judaeo-Christian “Thou shalt not kill”, is provided by –

“Australian-Canadian lawyer and ethicist Margaret Somerville in evidence to the Australian parliament: If you look at the most fundamental norm or value on which our type of societies are based, it is that we do not kill each other. No matter how compassionate and merciful your reasons for carrying out euthanasia, it still alters that norm that we do not kill each other to one where we do not usually, but in some cases we do.

[Which is the main ethical reason for our abolishing capital punishment.]

“Once this threshold is crossed and killing is sanctioned, what are the terms, conditions and safeguards? Given the frailty of human history, does anybody doubt the scope and scale for abuses?”

Often called, for reasons one would hope obvious to all TT readers & posters, the ‘slippery slope’ argument, Somerville’s case is that no set of defining terms, limiting conditions and safeguards against abuse can prevent serious enactments of the “old joke that euthanasia is putting us out of your misery”: doctors being persuaded to euthanase on demand or with suitable inducements, or the elderly being emotionally blackmailed into offing themselves for ‘the family’s sake’, so that, say, Nigel & Fiona can shorten their tedious wait in getting that X million dollar family mansion in Lower Sandy Bay, or Sheenah & Kahl not needing scholarships go to Hutchins, or Nigel & Fiona and Sheenah & Kahl getting the hell out of cold & boring old Tasmania to head for the Sunshine Coast.

Significantly (given the accusations of anti-Labor and anti-Left bias often thrown at The Australian), Kelly cites support from ALP MPs such as Gillard government minister Burke and former Labor MHR Tanner, as well as former NSW Premier Carr, who, –

“said this question was ‘the bottom line that we must face as legislators: Was it possible to legislate euthanasia with the safeguards necessary to assure the sick, vulnerable, indigenous and invalid? I do not think it is possible,’ Carr answered as the parliament found against euthanasia”.

Kelly’s full text –

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/commentary/browns-euthanasia-bill-a-perilous-test-for-gillard/story-e6frgd0x-1225931193178

And death is just sooooo final, especially when it occurs a month before the approval of the exact new medicine Gran needed.

Note: the writer and the proofer of this article each have a definite biochronic interest in this issue.