Victoria’s Death Squad

In today’s Australian (paywalled) there is this:

Australia is increasingly likely to get its first legalised euthanasia ­regime, as Victorian Labor moves decisively behind its Premier and opponents privately concede ­momentum is firmly against the desperate, behind-the-scenes “no’’ campaign.

Multiple cabinet sources in the Andrews government have ­confirmed that backing for ­assisted suicide laws is virtually unanimous across the ministry, with firm — philosophical — ­resistance down to as few as two ­ministers.

The Liberal Party also appears set to deliver enough numbers to ensure assisted dying legislation passes through the upper house, although final positions will only be known when draft laws are written by the ­government…..

Before casting their votes, the Garden State’s lawmakers might want to review two Quadrant essays. The first, by retired anaesthetist and palliative care physician Brian Pollard, was published in 2011’s January edition:

The push for legalised medically assisted death in Australia has now increased to the point where bills are before several state parliaments and another is before the Commonwealth parliament to reverse the previous overturning of the Northern Territory legislation. I have analysed most of the previous failed bills and noted their weaknesses. Rather than debate the pros and cons of the social role of euthanasia, I believe that MPs, who have sole responsibility for making safe laws, should direct their attention to ensuring that draft euthanasia bills cannot imperil the lives of innocent people who do not wish to die.

It is evident that the authors of those bills have not read any of the extensive literature on this subject because they invariably include, as so-called safeguards, provisions which are known not to work in practice. A common feature of those who advocate euthanasia bills is their touching faith that certain things will happen, just because the draft prescribes them. If that were true, no crime would ever be committed because all crime is currently forbidden by some law.

euthanasiaLast year, in our July edition, Peter Kurti explored the “assisted dying” movement‘s perversion of language and “human rights”:

… The rhetoric of rights deployed to promote the idea of “dying with dignity” actually entails a grotesque inversion of the very principle of a “right”. Developed for the protection and preservation of the individual against the demands of the state and of other individuals, the language of rights has now been commandeered to promote the wants and demands of the “self” that include the desire for self-negation. This individuated “self” finds its ultimate expression in the self-negating assertion of the “right to die”.

This new rights rhetoric has little to do with the protective function of human rights but is concerned solely with trying to fathom immensely complex moral problems.

It would be nice to think legislators — especially the Liberals — might consider these arguments before granting permission for doctors to hand out their little black pills. Nice, but most unlikely.

— roger franklin

17 thoughts on “Victoria’s Death Squad

  • Jody says:

    The people of Victoria have got what they deserve. If they’d voted more thoughtfully this wouldn’t be happening to them. I really don’t care.

  • Fleetfox says:

    Victoria the Garden State. Gardens – places of beauty, renewal, healing. Eden? No. the serpent has won.

  • en passant says:

    I am all for it, provided the death ritual is performed publicly in Federation Square at Noon on Fridays. This sort of thing has been done before (sometimes gruesomely) and always attracted a good crowd, so this could soon be another tourist attraction.

    The author Terry Pratchett had a TV programme in which he followed an old man with a terminal illness as he made his final journey to Switzerland. He was ready, it was time and when he drank the kool-aid he died quickly and with dignity.

    At my age (and having said goodbye to several people in 2016) I would like the option to choose my time. I would also like invite and be accompanied by about 20-30 execrable politicians …

    • ianl says:

      > “I would also like invite and be accompanied by about 20-30 execrable politicians …”

      Fair enough, but them first, ok ?

      Actually, quite recently I’ve had the agonising experience of home nursing my wife while she suffered unbelievable, despicable cruelty from a terminal, untreatable, aggressive neurological disease. Yes, the palliatives did their best but she wanted to go more quickly than the rate that the “natural order of things” progressed. Describing the advancing symptoms and the depth of cruelty visited upon her by this disease (she was acutely cognisant until really near the end) is not something for these pages. Most people just avert their gaze anyway.

      For those who insist that I’m being “emotional”, I suggest you sit down firmly on the rough end of a pineapple. I’ve *seen* the thing in action, first hand. Nembutal on request of the terminal patient is civilised – the frippery contained in the essay and comments here is barbarously hypocritical.

      End of story.

      • Warty says:

        ianl. ‘Describing the advancing symptoms and the depth of cruelty visited upon her by this disease’ may indeed be ‘something for these pages’. Most of us have seen death. I watched my father, a highly intelligent doctor/surgeon die of Parkinson’s; and I watched my mother die as her organs began to pack up after an attempted suicide gone horribly wrong. Because a number of Quadrant readers are in the winter of their stay, I have the feeling there’d be little that could induce them to ‘avert their gaze’ on any subject. I may be wrong. Having faced the strong possibility of death myself on two separate occasions I doubt if I’d avert my own gaze again, though I’d prefer to opt out of an IS beheading, thank you very much.

    • Warty says:

      Dear en passant, if memory serves me rightly, I remember you declaring your atheism a little while ago, which may explain your statement ‘I would like the option to choose my time’. I have had a great regard for much that you have said in the past, but you may one day regret choosing your time to go. It was never ‘your decision’ when to be born, nor where, nor why and it is no more so for you to take your own life, even though you may have the means. This is not so much a moral judgement as statement about law (and I don’t mean legislative).
      Now, you may dismiss this out of hand, but at least I’ve said my piece.

  • Warty says:

    I’m very attracted to the ‘slippery slope’ argument, not necessarily as an explanation for everything (it has nothing to say on interplanetary travel, as far as I know) but a good indication as to trends in human rights legislation, and the steady rundown of our society. For me ‘sanctity of life’ has a certain ring to it, otherwise it now seems downright old fashioned.
    I have mentioned Cory Bernardi’s famous (not infamous) 2012 ‘slippery slope’ argument regarding same sex marriage where he indicated it could lead to ‘marriage between humans and their dogs or budgies or other loveable animals’, and how in June 2016 the Canadian Supreme Court judges voted 7-1 in favour of bestiality, so long as there was no penetration.
    Cory’s comment was flippant, but deemed highly inflammatory and sufficient pressure was put on Tony Abbott to send Cory flying off to the backbenches. But could it be the case that a High Court in Germany, a country which has apparently condoned child marriage by Muslims, next year create a level playing field by allowing for ‘full on’ bestiality? Could the Supreme Court in New Zealand, that weird country that co-sponsored a Security Council Resolution condemning Israel for the continued building of settlements in Area C, legalise the euthanasia of elderly parents, who’d outlived their welcome, say in 2019?
    Well, perhaps not in two years, but who would have thought an Anglosphere country would legalise bestiality just four years after Cory’s tongue in cheek prediction?

  • en passant says:

    Ian L & Warty,
    I watched my father die over several months. It was horrible for him, his loving wife of 50 years and for everyone concerned. So, I was not entirely being flippant, but realistic.

    I am in good health, but arithmetic tells me I have single digit years left even if I wanted to stick around longer. Death is inevitable and I have determined that what occurred with my parents will not happen to me. Yes, I am an atheist and have nowhere to go, which annoys me as I have worked hard to gain knowledge and do ‘things’, all of which will disappear like footsteps in the sand. I rarely think of it, and I do not fear death.

    My concern is the possibility of the gruesome experience of death IanL describes and that I witnessed. Life is not so valuable to persevere beyond a certain condition.
    At some point while I can control events I will exit Stage Left with or without the aid of others. I will do so while there is sufficient life and sensibility left for me to make the choice. I may go too early, but so what? What are a few extra days, months or even years if the quality of existence is ‘not worth living’?

    Between now and then, I have much to do and enjoy. However, even in good health I can envisage situations in which I would choose to die rather than continue.

    Feel free to call the police and prosecute me for murder. I would enjoy that irony.

    • ianl says:

      > “and I do not fear death”

      No. It’s the dying that is fearful.

      By the way, lumping me with Warty, who resolutely refuses to engage in discussion of the actuality (averting his gaze), is of itself either silly or sardonic. Either way, it is erroneous.

      And no, I will not describe my wife’s terminal 6 months here. Respect trumps prurience with emphasis, every time.

      • Roger Franklin says:

        I’m sure you have the sympathy and respect of all commenters — you certainly have mine. But let me put another case to you.

        An elderly lady I know lost her husband four years ago and plunged into a deep depression. Infirm herself, she was lonely, grief-stricken and ashamed, irrationally so, that she had come to depend on her children for such basics as trips to the supermarket, the care of her pets, even changing light bulbs. “I hate being a burden,” she often said, “I wish I was dead.”

        As it happens, her kids are decent people and they invested a lot of effort in cheering her up. She is still given to dark days, but no longer expresses a desire for death.

        But what if her brood had lacked that decency? What if their priority was a nice inheritance?

        Given her many infirmities it would be easy to persuade a doctor that her “quality of life” had been so compromised it would be a crime against human dignity to deny her oblivion’s black pill.

        That’s my concern in a nutshell: That a law of which your wife might have taken advantage, and justly so (in my view), has a greater overall downside in terms of its capacity for coercion and abuse.

        As to the able rest of us, Bunning’s sells rope and there is a handy rafter in most garages. The state can pass all the laws it likes, but if I want to top myself I’ll go right ahead. — roger

      • Warty says:

        Now here’s a pretty pass: ianl has a horror of being ‘lumped in a joint email with Warty’ not unlike the petty thief finding himself in the back of the Paddy with the serial killer. And then en passant apologises for inadvertently putting the petty thief in the back of the Paddy with the serial killer.
        Incidentally, I don’t recall refusing to ‘engage in discussion’ of anything, and having come from Africa, it would be very strange indeed if I were to be sensitive enough to avert my gaze from anything, having seen my first human ‘road kill’ when I was but a boy.

        • ianl says:

          > ” … not unlike the petty thief finding himself in the back of the Paddy with the serial killer”

          A really silly comment, but there you go …

          And you haven’t addressed the actual point yet – what is your answer for those terminal patients suffering enormous agony, despite the best efforts of the palliatives, and who genuinely wish to end that but are physically unable to do so ?

          Answer this direct question, please … show some courage, rather than petty offence.

          This issue always devolves to this pointless squabbling. It’s why I have no hope for sensible resolution.

          • Warty says:

            A needless amount of angst. Here is a direct question that can indeed be answered, but believe me there is no short answer, because it touches on existentialism; changes to community thinking post-Enlightenment; and even the hippocratic oath.
            The safest way to avoid religious controversy is to refer to Shakespeare. Everyone loves Shakespeare, forgetting that he drew heavily on the Bible. Alright, he also drew upon Plato, Aristotle, Marsilio Ficino and prevailing community attitudes, but we won’t go into that. But reflect on his famous ‘To be,or not to be’ soliloquy, where, in one interpretation, he is reflecting on taking his own life (certainly in the Laurence Olivier interpretation). He considers on the one hand the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, and believe me they were very used to death, sometimes on an industrial scale, in those days. Say, hang, drawing and quartering? OK, a little bit of overkill on my part (and theirs). But what about a misdiagnosed burst appendix on my very first wedding anniversary (to the day). An appendicitis, correctly diagnosed by the doctor who sent me to Concord Hospital, on that fateful 4th of May, 1985. But, behold, the appendix decided it had had enough of all the gunk it was filled with and spilt the whole caboodle all over my insides, creating entirely asymptomatic conditions, that had the trainee doctors all befuddled.
            Now, my fair wife, by my side, did address the numbskull trainee doctor and told him that the first doctor had diagnosed an appendicitis (I was no longer able to speak, speech being restricted to a series of self-pitying groans) but he treated her like a dumb female, pointing authoritatively to the area that would show a typical appendicitis. “Well, you could at least give my poor bastard of a husband some of your heaviest-duty pain killers, couldn’t you?” But she was wisely told these things would mask the symptoms, which they’d have to peruse and nut out . . . like. So this went on for the entire night, not the discussion, but my turning yellow, and the surrounding patients audibly praying that I’d get a hurry on and die. Another doctor, fortunately correctly diagnosed the problem and I was operated on that following day, with antibiotics and fluids being mainlined into me.
            So, pain? Off the chart, and every time I thought it could get no worse, it ramped the level up a notch or two. When I thought well, no, I can’t handle any more, it would perform the same dastardly trick and ramp up yet further. I was incoherent, but I know what my semi delirious thought were, at that was that the Absolute would shuffle off my mortal coil without buggaring around any more. He didn’t oblige, and I’m very grateful he didn’t .
            OK, so that’s one interpretation of ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, not Olivier’s, but mine. Now there’s that other bit ‘To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
            For in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause . . .’ There are many interpretations of this consideration of life after death, one that those taking a life may not consider, nor those giving consent to having their lives shuffled off (regardless of the horrific torment they may be going through) may not either. Let me give you my very controversial interpretation, and one you will most certainly disagree with.
            As I said it is not up to us to decide when, where or how we die: circumstances will do that for us. But that is another (albeit important issue). The point is what we know not what we may we face when we do die an untimely death. It used to be the case that suicide was deemed unlawful/taboo etc. that is one point. The other more pertinent point is that we know not what we may face when we do take the apparently less painful option (assisted suicide) and avoid a less pleasant aspect of our ‘journey’. And remember, Shakespeare also says, via Macbeth, ‘out out brief candle. Life is but a walking shadow . . .’. Life is but a blink of an eye; a flash in the pan. We put such great emphasis on this one little part of a journey and seek to cherry pick the more pleasant aspects and leave aside the rotten bits. Life is not really like that. Our role is to live our lives to the best we can, as though preparing for the final hour, so that we can depart with a hopeful clean conscience.
            Should I dictate how others should live? A simplistic question, when I believe that each and every one of us is part of a community and are responsible for that community’s standards. Do I believe those standards have deteriorated? You bet your sweet life (excuse the pun) I do.
            I have had one more opportunity to face death, two years ago, and this time I joked with the surgeon on my way to the operating theatre (obviously before being anaesthetised) focusing the mind, so to speak, in the event of . . . Alright, I seem to be patting myself on the back, but it is not the point, the philosophy is.
            I know, I have confirmed your worst fears: a complete and utter nutter, but you did ask my to specifically answer your question. A rambling, chaotic response, I know, but one does the best one can.

  • en passant says:

    I apologise for apparently lumping you with Warty, it was simply a matter of making one post rather than two.

    My mother was depressed after my father died. My brother and I were his executors so we simply took some of the inheritance and packed my mother off on a long tour of Europe. It worked and she lived for 14 tolerable years after that. The last two were intolerable for her – and there was no way back. Unfortunately, although her body had given up, her mind did not, so she could contemplate her situation every day. Memories only compensate for so much.
    You may not be at the end of your tether, but there comes a time when Bunnings is the better option than continuing – for what reason? If you believe in an after-life then you have the answer. If you do not, like me, then you have the same answer, and just the same outcome …

  • Dallas Beaufort says:

    Politicians Federally, State and local councils mainly read only the ‘executive summaries’ which are slanted for political effect.

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