Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP said he was very pleased to debate Professor Peter Singer on the subject of euthanasia to a packed Sydney Town Hall.
“The debate was civil and probing and before a large audience, mostly of very thoughtful young people who were engaged with all the issues. It exposed some major rifts in our culture with respect to the vulnerable and those who are suffering, to healthcare and the law, and to the responsibilities of freedom,” the archbishop said following the Thursday evening debate.
The audience of around 1,200 saw two well-prepared presenters. Archbishop Fisher is a prominent bioethicist, a leader in moral theology and philosophy and a formal lawyer.
Peter Singer is a moral philosopher at Princeton University specialising in applied ethics and former chair of the philosophy department at Monash University.
Their topic was “Should Voluntary Euthanasia be legalised?”
Archbishop Fisher has argued against euthanasia many times in articles and publications, interviews, addresses, homilies and debates.
Professor Singer has also written and lectured extensively on euthanasia as well as selective infanticide, abortion and animal rights.
The two men put their case and rebuttal and took around 40 minutes of questions from the audience, guided by the moderator Scott Stephens, the ABC’s online editor of Religion and Ethics. Both had a strong support base in the audience.
Professor Singer wanted to stick strictly to the topic of voluntary euthanasia only for competent adults with a terminal illness – no deviation, no broadening the discussion.
Archbishop Fisher argued the subject could not be kept within such narrow confines and was happy to take questions from a broader scope.
Reflecting on the debate, the archbishop said, “My big question was: who dies in a euthanasia regime? It is, of course, the frail, elderly, sick, lonely, disabled, babies.
“So what seems to me to be ultimately at issue is what kind of community we will be in the future: will it be one in which the young and frail, the sick and sorry, the depressed and disabled are devalued, and more and more at risk? Or one where they will be protected and nurtured?”
At the conclusion of the debate which was hosted by the Catholic Society of St Peter student association at Sydney University, Archbishop Fisher and Singer exchanged copies of their latest books.