Rejecting the Sanctity of Life

“The first shall be the last”. This well-known phrase from the Bible is apposite to describe the legislative journey in Australia of euthanasia legislation, also known as voluntary assisted dying (VAD) legislation. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) became the most recent jurisdiction to adopt a VAD law, scheduled to come into effect in November 2025. As journalist Celene Ignacio, reported, the law’s architects have incorporated what are described as “safeguards that ensure well-informed consent and protection of vulnerable individuals”.[1] VAD legislation had previously been adopted and implemented in Victoria in June 2019, in Western Australia two years later, in Tasmania in October 2022, Queensland and South Australia in early 2023, and in New South Wales as of November the same year.

The only jurisdiction in Australia without euthanasia legislation is the Northern Territory (NT). This is ironic because the NT was the first jurisdiction to adopt, in 1995, a pioneering VAD law in Australia and in the world. However, two years later, the federal government quashed this legislation, relying on section 122 of the Constitution according to which “The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory … and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.”

In the context of the VAD legislative journey in Australia, the phrase “the first shall be the last” thus refers to the NT as the first jurisdiction that modified the ‘sanctity of life’ principle to enhance the scope of end-of-life rights that people are deemed to possess to facilitate their dying with dignity. VAD is an alternative to palliative care but, unlike palliative care, it is not compatible with the ‘sanctity of life’ principle.

According to Vote Compass data – an ABC sponsored poll – almost 90 per cent of voters now support VAD for terminally ill patients. Academic Andrea Carson, commenting on the poll results, opined that “We’ve had more conversations about it, the sky hasn’t fallen in, a lot of concerns about the pendulum tipping too far the other way have not been realised at this time.”[2] Regardless, Carson’s reference to the ‘tipping’ pendulum contains an ominous warning about the unexpected, and often unintentional, ways in which VAD legislation could erode the sanctity of life principle. Indeed, over time, the scope of voluntary assisted dying legislation might well be expanded, and made available to groups that, initially, were not chosen as the beneficiaries of VAD legislation. These groups may include, but are not limited to, the mentally infirm, people living with dementia, those who are tired of life, and children.

For example, in Belgium and the Netherlands, trailblazers of this type of legislation, the law has gradually been extended to allow children now even as young as nine years of age, to avail themselves of VAD to end their lives, and to make decisions about how and when to die. In this context, Matthew Ogilvie notes that “Normally one would caution against ‘slippery slope’ arguments because they rely on predictions that may or may not come true. But in the case of euthanasia, the slippery slope is a reality.”[3] Similarly, Quadrant’s Peter Smith, in a challenging article in which he speculates about the world entering a period of regressive evolution, says that “A common symptom” of regressive evolution “is supporting grand schemes without investigating any downstream consequences.”[4] In effect, VAD has come to be seen as a human right that should be extended to the greatest number of potential beneficiaries.

More importantly, regardless of how one feels about VAD legislation, it has contributed to the belief that our Western civilisation celebrates a culture of death, not a culture of life. In addition to end-of-life legislation, the existence of this culture of death is evidenced by the widespread availability of abortion services, ‘gay conversion’ bans, promotion of transgender ideology, and the ubiquitous use of the Acute Resuscitation Plan (ARP) which encourages patients to refuse resuscitation in the event of an acute deterioration or critical medical episode. As a result, the Hippocratic Oath, according to which medical practitioners shall not “administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so”, and shall not “suggest such a course”, has become an obsolete moral rule.

This journey of VAD legislation in Australian jurisdictions is thus an eye-opening account of the slipping medical standards of Western civilisation. Noting the discernible deterioration of these standards, Brendan O’Neill, in a revealing article, characterises this deterioration as a “moral disarmament” of the West. Specifically, O’Neill argues that moral disarmament is the process in which people are “stripping away the values and virtues that once defined who we are as a society.”[5] O’Neill, supporting his claim, painstakingly and carefully pieces together the many developments that resulted in this moral disarmament. He excoriates the role of government and private institutions, the decisions and policies of which have accelerated the process of moral disintegration. For him, there is no doubt we are engaged in a cultural war, in which conservatives are accused of seeking moral absolutes, including, of course, the sanctity of life. But, ironically, the relativists equally seek to entrench moral absolutes in our culture, including the allegedly undisputed validity and application of the principle of relativity and self-indulgent gratification. Could it be said that VAD is an example of this development?

It is certain that the Northern Territory, when it eventually adopts a VAD law, will be the last jurisdiction in Australia to conclude this journey involving the erosion of the sanctity of life principle. It falls to be seen how this will hasten the disintegration of western civilisation, but hasten it there is no doubt.

[1] Celene Ignacio, ‘ACT Legalises Euthanasia, to Come Into Effect in 2025’, The Epoch Times, 9 June 2024, at https://www.theepochtimes.com/world/act-to-legalise-voluntary-assisted-dying-in-2025-post-5663774.

[2] Catherine Hanrahan, ‘Euthanasia support strengthens to nearly 90pc, Vote Compass data shows’, ABC, 8 May 2019, at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-08/vote-compass-social-issues-euthanasia-transgender-republic-drugs/11087008.

[3] Matthew Ogilvie,’ Are We a Culture That Celebrates Life or Death?’, The Epoch Times, 26 May 2024, at https://www.theepochtimes.com/opinion/are-we-a-culture-that-celebrates-life-or-death-5657070.

[4] Peter Smith, ‘To whom much is gibbon …’, Quadrant, 16 June 2024, at https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/society/2024/06/to-whom-much-is-gibbon-much-is-undesired/.

[5] Nina Nguyen, ‘‘The Undoing of Civilisation’: What’s Driving the West’s Decline, British Pundit Discusses’, The Epoch Times, 27 April 2024, at https://www.theepochtimes.com/world/the-undoing-of-civilisation-whats-driving-the-wests-decline-british-pundit-discusses-5638102.

12 thoughts on “Rejecting the Sanctity of Life

  • KemperWA says:

    Children being euthanised, what a dystopian nightmare. This is for sure a slippery slope because anything goes nowadays. The West is killing itself slowly. We have declining populations and birth-rates already. Children and young adults who are depressed, lacking in self-esteem, confused about their bodies or suffering psychosis need counselling, counselling and more counselling. Counselling, not cutting, killing, injecting, or hormonal doping. Ironically, many states in the US have banned the euthanasia of vicious pit bull dogs even if they have killed a human child or adult or family pet (“no-kill shelters” and “save them all”). The sanctity of human life, well what does that mean anymore? The awakened foxes are truly in charge of the henhouse. Madness.

  • Podargus says:

    It is obvious to anybody with even half a brain that euthanasia is a moral and ethical nightmare.
    Our self appointed “elite”, prisoners of fashion that they are, have grasped this opportunity to be even more stupid with both hands.
    They have form in so many other ways so we were warned.

  • Katzenjammer says:

    Our glorification of indiviual rights has devolved into extreme degenerate narcissism under the mask of ‘human rights’.

    Dying with dignity – a dignified death is when death in all its stages, however it tests and bruises us, is faced head-on, right to the end, however it comes.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good thoughtful piece Gabriel.
    There’s a problem out there that’s for sure, but I tend to lean towards Brendan O’Neill’s description of a “moral disarmament” rather than a “culture of death” ; of course some people can make hasty off the cuff comments that might give this impression, although I don’t personally know anyone like that but then I never really ask either, or get into discussions over it.
    Sort of reminds me of that quip Bob Hope was reported to have made when asked, as he was approaching the magical 100 years, and I paraphrase, ” well, nobody really wants to live to be 100…….until they’re 99″ !!!

  • Macspee says:

    These days Norfolk Island doesn’t count because it is under the thumb of Canberra so can’t decide for itself. Will Caberra decide that the islanders need to be allowed to kill themselves with help from their friendly medical executioner?

  • Bwana Neusi says:

    Slippery slope on Steroids.
    Remember the Nuremberg code and then have a look at the Covid fiasco where voluntary became involuntary (if you wanted to keep your job etc)
    It is a small step on that slippery slope where the authorities deem it preferable to euthanise a “Real” person because it is uneconomic to provide end of life care.
    Then Voluntary becomes “Involuntary” especially when the burgeoning cost of welfare for an ageing population is considered.

  • lbloveday says:

    I feel death stalking me, but “I have no fear of death, it brings no sorrow”.
    Two concerns:
    My wife, but the, to me, ideal of dying together is a pipedream, so I pray and plan for her.
    The period immediately pre-death. A mate, old football club nickname “The Bull”, had, to me, an ideal death last year (effect on wife maybe excepted), when he drove solo 220km to their home, and parked in the garage. 10 minutes passed and he’d not come in so she investigated and found his dead body lying on the path.
    But far more common is seeing mates in conditions I hope and pray I am lucky or strong enough to avoid – not, in my opinion, an appropriate end for one whose nicknames were “Loophole” for his mental prowess and “Muscles” for his physical prowess. Einstein said “It is distasteful to prolong life artificially” and I’m on board – I’ve long said we live too long because of, in my opinion misguided, medical interventions.
    I will always remember my sobbing mother saying to me “he did not deserve to suffer like that” after father was finally allowed to die after years of treatment whose only function was to prolong his misery with all-but zero possibility of having an acceptable life, of being able to talk, walk, go to the toilet, feed himself, hug…. and finally months of being “fed” via nasogastric tube. I convinced mother that withdrawing the tube was not killing him, just allowing nature to prevail, and just 63 hours later he died.
    That said, I could never contemplate begging a bureaucrat to allow the government to kill me.

  • Bernie Masters says:

    “…over time, the scope of voluntary assisted dying legislation might well be expanded, and made available to groups that, initially, were not chosen as the beneficiaries of VAD legislation. These groups may include, but are not limited to, the mentally infirm, people living with dementia, those who are tired of life, and children.” Pure scaremongering! Governments may just as easily choose to tighten the rules relating to who can seek euthanasia and for what reasons.
    What surprises me is that so few conservatives and people opposed to euthanasia fail to understand that the most important ‘private property right’ relates to our own body and our ability to choose what we do or don’t do to it or with it. So I could commit suicide (which is not against the law) or take up smoking (which is legal) or use addictive drugs or do a wide range of things that most people would agree are bad or silly or undesirable. But these decisions would be taken by me about my body and I would be exercising the most important private property right that any human can lay claim to. People who respect private property rights should be the strongest supporters of euthanasia.

    • lbloveday says:

      As you say, suicide is legal everywhere in Australia, so you can euthanise yourself anytime and anyhow you like.
      My main objection is the government’s role in agreeing to put you down or not based on the opinions of government-approved people assessing you, thus in a way usurping your “private property rights”.
      You will die much quicker than it takes to get the government to kill you by simply not intaking any water either by drinking or eating, a process generally described along the lines “Dying from dehydration is generally not uncomfortable once the initial feelings of thirst subside”.
      Death can be hastened by taking a diuretic, exercising and, or, taking a sauna.

    • KemperWA says:

      Respectfully Mr Masters, I believe the crux of this article doesn’t shy away from the fact euthanasia for terminally ill people will be fully legal throughout Australia. I support the withdrawal of medication/life support to let one pass away. The questions raised here are rather about the slippery slope that this legislation creates. I fully believe we are already on the slide in many issues of society. After all, how many of us 20 years ago would think California would decriminalise theft, or debate measures to decriminalise LGBT paedophilia, state administrators handing animal control over to pit-bull lobby rescues resulting in stray dogs roaming the streets uncollected to protect their 90% release rate. Veterinarians falsifying breed type on rental applications. Or Dr Terry Dubrow of Botched fame remarking “20 years ago it was frowned upon to put breast implant into a male, now it is generally acceptable”. Plastics surgeons could spend a morning cutting out breast tissues from a confused girl, while after lunch inserting breast implants into a man!
      The so-called progressives are excellent at using benign language like ‘gender affirmation’ or ‘gender inclusive care’ to describes practices we not long ago would have considered abhorrent. Who knows how far we would have slid if the constitutional voice would have passed. The old adage ‘give an inch, take a mile’ is the new zeitgeist of society today.
      I give a personal example of my mistrust of Australian government. The careful prescription of my mother’s cigarettes, 8 per day, by her carers. is considered by the Australian government as an ‘Environmental Restraint’ now, so was last year outlawed (See the Regulated Restrictive Practices Guide). This ‘Environmental Restraint’ of her ‘possessions’ is, according to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, denying the ‘dignity and human rights of people with disability’, despite the fact they were bought for her by us as she is immobile. The care home had no choice but to stop this organised handling of her cigarettes, and leave her entire packets in her walker. This resulted in her uncontrollably smoking all in one day, then pestering other resident for more who, fed up, threw a cup of water at her head. So, this government-ordered disruption of her routine directly caused her assault. This caused us and her distress, and caused the care staff to be completely demoralised. Blind Freddy can see one who has dementia (and cannot toilet or feed herself) cannot regulate her cigarette smoking. It is akin to the government giving an alcoholic a bottle of whisky and saying ‘now now, just a nip a day please’.

      The government went over and above my father as her SAT appointed guardian, against the health advice of her treating GP, against the pleas of her carers and the hostel head nurse and manager. Arrogantly, the bureaucrats who enforced this compliance, when invited to visit the residents in the facility after a meeting in the office, said “that won’t be necessary”. Why should I trust the government-enlisted academics who write this legislation when they refuse to meet the people whom their social-agenda pushing will be hurting? They go back to the ACT feeling great about their power, leaving chaos in their wake, while the people whom it affects suffer.

      In my examples here these veterinarians, city officials, government advisors etc. are people we are supposed to trust to act with our best interests at heart, but in this day and age I fear it is not the case. It would be very easy today to find 2 or 3 consecutive psychiatrists who would happily sign off on an ill young person’s wish for euthanasia or sex change. I do not support the extrapolation of euthanasia as an option for young or mentally ill people. Did not the coronavirus pandemic just demonstrate that the government (and big pharma) is in control of our bodily property?
      Respectfully Mr Masters, I don’t believe that government will increase safeguards, rather the opposite. Because isn’t reasonably disagreeing with someone ‘bullying’ nowadays? Maybe we conservatives think too deeply or logically and see too far into the future. We know what the future brings. Rgds.

  • Cincinnatus says:

    The idea is, indeed, as disgusting as it is illogical.

    The idea that “I own myself” and can therefore kill myself and get others to assist me is nonsense.

    On that theory, our parents make us, so they as, in Roman law, should have the right to leave us out to die in the winter or kill us – or even sell us into slavery. Indeed, selling oneself into slavery has historically been practised.

    The truth is none of us make ourselves. What parent ever designed the DNA of his children?

    The truth is that, as St Paul put it, we have been bought and paid for. The theory of human rights really goes back to Christianity – that the recognition that our “rights” are the gift of God.

  • lbloveday says:

    Did not the coronavirus pandemic just demonstrate that the government (and big pharma) is in control of our bodily property?
    As does the law that I have to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle.

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