Each and every part of the body politic and the fourth estate in Tasmania have a responsibility for clarity when talking about euthanasia & assisted suicide. It's 'life and death' - it's serious and therefore requires a higher-than-normal attention.
I'm not referring to problems with an occasional over-egging of the pudding or not remembering precisely a particular statistic - we can all get a little excited about prosecuting our agendas and remembering statistics with a microphone or camera in one's face is not always easy.
It's statements like, "Doctors are doing it already" that stick in my craw. What is it that doctors are doing already? If it's killing people, then prosecute. If it's something else, (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) then what is being implied here? Are we saying that doctors are acting in an unethical manner and breaking the law?
And there 's this from ABC Hobart yesterday:
He (Nick McKim MP) says this legislation is needed as medical professionals are already helping some terminally ill patients hasten their death and this legislation will set strong safeguards for both doctors and patients.
"We know that doctors, through surveys in Australia, are delivering services to their patients, moved by compassion, that hasten the end of life of their patient and what we think is we need to reform the law to not only provide legal protection for doctors...but also mandate an appropriate and rigorous system and framework to provide protection for the patients," says Mr McKim.
This does at least have the redeeming feature of being more than a simple unqualified one-liner, but it is either quoted incompletely, betraying a misunderstanding about intention or is a false aggregation of appropriate end-of-life care with acts of homicide.
If McKim is suggesting that doctors are already breaking the law then we have, in the first instance, a problem with law enforcement. Tasmanian's should not accept lawmakers turning a blind eye to doctors who kill. Such an assertion and tolerance of supposed law breaking undermines public confidence and is a slur upon the medical profession.
More than that, what the euthanasia law would do is simply shift the dividing line a little. Isn't that a bit like saying that we know that there's a small group of hoon drivers out there who repeatedly drive above the speed limit, so we plan increase the limit and then apply strict controls. Would anyone really believe that?
If we accept the assertion that 'doctors are doing it already', do we really believe that patients'rights will be any more protected by shifting the clear bright line?