July 19th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY / MERCHANTS OF SLEAZE: Sexualised marketing targets young girls

EDITORIAL: Throwing cold water on global warming

FOREIGN INVESTMENT: Australia's sovereignty at stake

CANBERRA OBSERVED: The economic costs of the Garnaut Report

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: WA Liberals sliding towards defeat

REGIONAL COMMUNITIES: Could an Asian regional grouping work?

EUTHANASIA: I'm not sick - can I commit suicide too?

UNITED STATES: Health care - America's shame

EDUCATION: What is the advantage of rote-learning?

SCHOOLS: Political correctness rules in the classroom

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Faith restored / Buyers' remorse / French resistance / New world disorder / Back to my favourite bête noire / America

Natasha Stott Despoja a trail-blazer? (letter)

Partial-birth abortion (letter)

BOOKS: THE CHINA FANTASY: Why capitalism will not bring democracy to China, by James Mann

DVD: APOCALYPSE? NO! Why global warming is not a crisis, by Christopher Monckton

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I'm not sick - can I commit suicide too?

by Tim Cannon

News Weekly, July 19, 2008
A law which enshrines a right-to-suicide is very bad news for the suicidal, writes Tim Cannon.

In stark contrast to the concerted efforts of assisted-suicide advocates in many Western nations, the German parliament is reported to be considering legislation to tighten restrictions on assisted-suicide.

A fiery debate over assisted-suicide has erupted in Germany, after former Hamburg justice minister Roger Kusch, a long-time proponent of the right to die, helped an elderly woman commit suicide in her home. The woman was neither ill, nor suffering; she simply wanted to die rather than move into a nursing home. Of her right to suicide, Kusch said, "I am for self-determination until the final breath."

The episode exposes the real - and chilling - agenda of assisted-suicide advocates worldwide. Forget about compassion for the suffering, or dignity in death. Assisted-suicide legislation is about establishing a legal right to commit suicide.

Agenda concealed

Of course, you won't hear much about the right-to-suicide from the supporters of Victoria's Medical Treatment (Physician-Assisted Dying) Bill. In fact, the bill goes to great lengths to conceal its pro-suicide agenda. Clause 17 of the bill states:

"Neither permissible actions taken under, nor a death resulting from, the provisions of this Act constitutes a suicide..."

This is just wordplay. Suicide is the killing of the self. The actions permitted under the bill are explicitly directed towards enabling sick, suffering people to kill themselves.

The architects of the bill - Dying With Dignity Victoria - are worried that if the public know that this is a pro-suicide bill, they might not support it. And rightly so. Suicide is not an activity that healthy societies tend to encourage. We protect the suicidal whenever and however we can. Love of neighbour compels us to do so.

Thus, DWDV have a tightly controlled message. Words are very important. The bill speaks of a patient's "right... to end his or her life peacefully", rather than suicide. Colleen Hartland, the Greens MLC who advanced the bill in the Victorian upper house, incessantly emphasises the bill's safeguards.

What's more, support for the bill is garnered by the repetition of highly emotional anecdotes of loved ones in excruciating pain, suffering undignifiedly through their final days, against their wishes, to the distress of their loved ones. This bill, we are told, provides a compassionate solution, ending unnecessary suffering, and restoring dignity.

In all of this, the flecks of truth glitter: compassion for the suffering is good; dignity in death is desirable for all. But don't be fooled. Compassion and dignity are just a smokescreen for a far more radical proposition: that individuals have the right to self-determination, including the right to choose when and how one dies. That is, humans have the right to commit suicide. Full stop.

Don't expect to hear anything remotely like this from the supporters of the current bill, who are treading on eggshells, making sure that their message is harmless and appealing.

But stray from the tightly controlled centre, and the real picture begins to emerge. In an article supporting the bill published in the Melbourne Age, former chairman of the Victorian Law Reform Commission David Kelly had this to say: "Individual autonomy demands that the sufferer, not someone else, choose the circumstances and moment of his or her death. This is one of the most important of human rights."

Influential euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke went one step further in a 2001 interview with American news journal National Review, suggesting that "[a] 'peaceful pill' should be available in the supermarket so that those old enough to understand death could obtain death peacefully at the time of their choosing...".

These deeply troubling appeals for suicide-on-demand are inseparable from the current bill; they simply reflect it's logical consequences. After all, the bill speaks of a patient's right to end his or her life peacefully.

But ours is not the kind of society which likes to limit certain rights to certain categories of people. If the sick have the right to suicide, why not the healthy? Are the healthy incapable of deciding that life is no longer worth living? The bill's discrimination is inexplicable, and completely arbitrary.

And, if suicide is to become a legally protected right, what is to become of those heroic organisations which work day and night to prevent suicide? I suppose they could just revamp their phone menus: "If you would like to be talked out of committing suicide, dial 1 now. If you would like advice on how to commit suicide peacefully, dial 2 now."

It is good to show compassion to the sick and the suffering, but don't be fooled: a bill which enshrines a right-to-suicide is very bad news for the suicidal.

- Tim Cannon works as a research officer with the Thomas More Centre, Melbourne.

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