Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Is public policy on euthanasia & assisted suicide based on religion?

When giving interviews for all sorts of media about euthanasia & assisted suicide, I'm often asked if HOPE is a religious organisation.

Certainly Dr Nitschke seems to think so as he has often claimed that HOPE is a 'Christian fundamentalist' organisation.

But the answer is NO. HOPE does not espouse any religious views or any objection to euthanasia & assisted suicide based on the tenets of any religion. All HOPE supporters agree on is that euthanasia & assisted suicide legislation is a bad idea, poor public policy and dangerous to the vulnerable in our society.

Whatever else supporters may believe is none of my business. Granted, some respond to my emails with 'God Bless' as a closing comment or offer to pray for this work. That's fine. But I know that other supporters do not hold to any particular religious view and that some, indeed, are atheists. So long as people reject the idea of euthanasia & assisted suicide, they're welcome!

Some commentators also fail to make the distinction between a religious view and the moral framework that underpins our laws. Some seem genuinely confused about this. Certainly, morality is intertwined within most religions because morality, at its most basic sense, is about how we want to be treated and how we should treat others. Some things are intrinsically morally wrong (such as murder, theft etc.) and our criminal codes - the laws intended to promote good behaviour and to shun the bad, reflect this.

Occasionally, as I saw recently on a tweet from the UK, there are those who will claim that the prohibition on assisted suicide is 'morally wrong'. Invariably this claim is based on a false understanding of human rights and contrary to the obligation of society to protect vulnerable people.

I find it curious that, whilst there are pro-euthanasia people claiming that ours is a religious objection (seemingly seeking to frame such statements as pejoratives) that there appear from time to time groups and persons who support euthanasia from a supposedly religious perspective.

That's their opinion, and as far as it goes they are welcome to make such claims even though they would seemingly fly in the face of what we would all expect formal religions to say on the subject. (perhaps a little like 'environmentalists for climate change')

However, in the context of debate on this subject, it seems as though their position is more about trying to neutralize and discredit religious objection than it is about promoting a tenet of religion.

Whilst I do not object to such people holding their views and even promoting them, it sometimes is a catalyst for double standards.

As an example, the recent letter from The Hon Bob Such MP to his fellow MPs in the South Australian House of Assembly promoting and arguing for support of his Ending Life With Dignity Bill (currently before that chamber). Such attaches an article and provides a further link to two articles that clearly hold that euthanasia & assisted suicide can be an acceptable principle of those who hold to the Christian faith.

That, in itself, would not be a problem; except that, in his covering letter he says, "...surely we don't want the imposition of religious views via government or parliament..". I agree. Public policy has to be for the common good. But it seems to me to be contradictory to, on the one hand, promote religious views and then, on the other, attempt to reject them.


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