Monday, 17 June 2013

Euthanasia - if it's not killing, then what is it?

Advocates for euthanasia know that, to achieve their agenda, they need to change the language with which we discuss the issue.

If, as I have done, I use statements such as 'state-sanctioned killing' or 'when a doctor kills...' or even 'death by lethal injection' I'm said to be being 'harsh',  'inflammatory' or, the obvious: 'that's not helpful!' Not helpful? Indeed, it's not helpful to the pro-euthanasia agenda precisely because such comments are accurate. As any salesman knows, you can dress the product up with fancy words and sweet talk; but, at the end of the transaction, the customer still gets the same product.

Even so, on occasion a commentator will still surprise. Take The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin's Kerri-Anne Mesner. In her contribution of the 13th of June, she described euthanasia as a 'touch of kindness - not akin to murder'.

With respect, Mesner's step-grandmother had died the previous weekend and she describes a particularly difficult last few years of her relative's life. As such, her column could be dismissed as having been written whilst the cloud of loss and mourning was still looming large in her consciousness.

However, Mesner's comments remain a matter of concern because she is suggesting that euthanasia is a public good; not only because she sees it as relieving suffering but also because it would be a saving for the Queensland Health Service.

A comment on the article summed it up well: 
If she is hooked up to machines which are keeping her alive, to my understanding the removal of those machines is legal and not classified as euthanasia. As a society, we definitely need to be investing a lot more in palliative care, but legalising suicide and assisted suicide is a legal minefield and a lot more complex than the simplistic and emotive piece above. Any change to the laws is fraught with dangers of worsening the elder abuse problem. This is very real and has been proven as intensely problematic in nations that already allow such legislation. I'm sorry for your loss Kerri-Anne.
Mesner may well be genuinely unaware of the distinctions between good palliative care and deliberate killing, but the comment, 'Some people see euthanasia of people as being akin to murder' is probably the most dangerous of her assertions.

Why? Because it suggests that the objective fact - the action of deliberate killing of a person - is only murder if you think it is and, perhaps something else if you choose to see it differently.

This might seem to be an obvious error, but, in reality, Mesner is echoing, in straightforward terms, the kind of obfuscation that we regularly note from her fellow advocates. Think of terms like 'assisted dying', 'dignity in dying' etc. 

I ask: Can anyone make a quality decision without objective facts? And what if our hypothetical salesman sold us goods under a false or misleading representation?

Ultimately, Ï have no objection to Ms Mesner writing about her loss. But I do object to the continual fudging and language changing. 

If we're to debate this sensitive subject, then so beit. But let's treat the Australian public with a bit more respect.

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