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Euthanasia: Is It Just? Essay

1686 words - 7 pages

Position paper on euthanasiaBackgroundIn the last decade or so several countries have taken action aimed at guaranteeing the right of adult patients of sound mind to direct that extraordinary measures to prolong life be stopped. South Australia passed the Natural Death Act in 1983, Victoria the Medical Treatment Act in 1988, the Northern Territory the Natural Death Act in 1988 and the Australian Capital Territory the Medical Treatment Act in 1994. NSW issued "interim guidelines" in 1993.To the extent that these legislative provisions dealt with the right of a patient to refuse current medical treatment, it is doubtful whether they made a significant difference to medical practice. Even without the legislation, the right of patients to withhold consent to treatment was generally accepted. This paper is not about withdrawal or rejection of unwanted medical treatment. It is about euthanasia - ie, active killing.The perceived need to legalise euthanasiaSuicide is legal in all Australian states and territories. If you want to kill yourself, you can do so. Noone has any right to stop you, unless they can show you are insane. Various popular books are available which give details of reliable methods. If a person says (s)he wishes to die, is not immobilised by disease, yet remains alive, (s)he is plainly not serious about wishing to die, but has expressed a false wish for some reason (eg in order to gain attention or sympathy). However, some people who wish to commit suicide are incapacitated to such an extent that they would be unable to commit suicide without assistance. Killing a person in these circumstances can be described as "voluntary euthanasia".Both mental and physical incapacity are relevant. Solutions which have been proposed to address impediments to suicide which arise from various forms of incapacity.Bills presented in the ACT, the NT and SAThree Australian legislatures have given major consideration to euthanasia over the past two years: the ACT, the NT, and SA, in each case as a result of a private member's Bill. Bills were introduced by Mr Moore in the ACT (Voluntary and Natural Death Bill 1993), Mr Perron in the NT (Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill 1995), and Mr Quirke in SA (Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 1995). In addition, some non-government organisations (eg the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Victoria) have produced draft Bills. NOTE: The NT Bill has been enacted, but has been rendered ineffective by overriding legislation. Full details are available at the site entitled Rights of the Terminally Ill Act &The Society has no objection in principle to allowing people to formalise requests in the circumstances covered by the Bills. If someone through incapacity is unable to do something of major personal importance which an able-bodied person can do, it seems reasonable and moral that the disabled person should be given the opportunity formally to request assistance, and that such assistance should be permitted. Also, it seems...

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