The pressure is on in a number of countries for the legalization of euthanasia. In England, Lord Falconer is making yet another attempt to get Parliament to change the law.
On Wednesday, Falconer tabled a bill that would allow adults to request assisted suicide if they have a terminal illness and have been given a prognosis of six months or less to live.
Prior to the introduction of the bill the BBC reported on May 7 that the Church of England bishops in the House of Lords would strongly oppose the proposal. As well, the British Medical Association is firmly against any introduction of assisted suicide.
Conflict over euthanasia is also under way in the courts. The widow of Tony Niclinson, Jane, has joined forces with Paul Lamb, who has been paralysed for 23 years. Niclinson died last year following a failed judicial bid to allow assisted suicide. A third case before the courts involves a man, known only as Martin, who suffered a stroke in 2008, the Times newspaper reported May 14.
According to the Times the three are appealing a Divisional Court decision of August last year that ruled it was constitutionally improper for the courts to decide on this issue.
Meanwhile, in the Australian state of New South Wales a member of the Green Party, Cate Faehrmann, has introduced in the Upper House of Parliament a bill that proposes allowing assisted suicide for those who have a terminal illness and are suffering pain. Debate has started on the proposal and will continue later this month.
Love and support
The Catholic bishops of New South Wales issued a statement calling upon members of Parliament to oppose the bill. The May 7 message also called upon the community to safeguard the lives of all vulnerable people and to give them appropriate care.
Instead of telling people they would be better off dead, those who are old or dying need to be reassured that they are loved and will be supported, the bishops said.
“Despite talk of ‘compassionate death,’ compassion is not expressed by killing those who are suffering. True compassion should drive us to do all we can to address people’s pain, loneliness or fear,” the statement continued.
The push for euthanasia is also under way in the United States, where proponents of the cause scored a success on Monday in Vermont, with Representatives approving a bill, already passed by the Senate, that allows assisted suicide for the terminally ill.
Governor Peter Shumlin has already indicated he supports the proposal and will likely sign the bill, the Associated Press reported May 13.
Once the bill is signed Vermont will become the fourth state to allow assisted suicide. The other states are Oregon, Washington and Montana.
Good news, however, came from Ireland, where the Supreme Court ruled that the country’s constitution did not include any “right to die.”
Marie Fleming, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was challenging the ban on assisted suicide, the Irish Times noted in its April 29 report on the decision.
The Supreme Court rejected the idea that the ban on assisted suicide represented a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
While advocates of euthanasia often declare that all they want to do is to provide relief for the terminally ill, there is a very real danger that it will eventually be allowed for more general use.
This was demonstrated in a case earlier this year in Canada. In February, Ruth Goodman, 91, committed suicide in spite of being in good health. Apparently she was worried about becoming dependent on others and she also hoped that her example would help push for a change in the law on euthanasia, the National Post newspaper reported Feb. 12.
Then, there is the case of Belgian twins who were both born deaf and asked for euthanasia after finding out that they were going blind. They said they could not bear the idea of not being able to see each other, London’s Telegraph newspaper reported, Jan. 13.
They were given lethal injections at Brussels University Hospital last December.
Belgian law allows euthanasia in cases of terminal illness or unbearable pain, but the twins did not satisfy either of these conditions. The article also reported that those who die as a result of euthanasia are having their organs taken for transplants.
Commenting on this event, in an article published on Australia’s ABC Web site, Craig Wallace, president of People with Disability Australia, expressed the fear that given the predominant ideology of economic rationalism, the availability of euthanasia may well be seen as a cheaper and easier option to providing support for those suffering from disabilities.
He said he has known many people with disabilities who pass through periods of grief and suicidal feelings, but who come out the other side “with joy and a love of life.” There is, however, “no ‘undo’ button for death.”