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Legally Permitting Euthanasia Essay

2168 words - 9 pages

Legally Permitting Euthanasia

A law permitting euthanasia, which was passed by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory of Australia in 1995 (and which came into force in July last year) was overturned last month by a law passed by the Australian Federal Parliament. The 'Andrews Bill' had been passed by a large majority in the House of Representatives, but the result in the Senate remained uncertain up to the day of voting. In the event it was passed by 38 to 33 votes. The Linacre Centre was gratified to learn that several Senators said they had been influenced to change their minds and oppose the legalization of euthanasia by a talk given in 1995 by Luke Gormally at the John Plunkett Centre in Sydney, which the Centre subsequently published and distributed widely. The article below is an edited version of a Submission made last year by Luke Gormally to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, which reported on the issue of legalization prior to the Senate vote.
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Seven Reasons Why They Should Not Be Legalized
Luke Gormally [1997]

1. The 'justification' of voluntary euthanasia involves rejection of a tenet fundamental to a just framework of laws in society
Voluntary euthanasia is the killing of a patient at his or her request in the belief that death would be a benefit to the patient and that the killing is for that reason justified. The mere fact that someone says, in an uncoerced fashion, that he or she wants to be killed does not in itself provide a doctor with a reason for thinking death would be a benefit to that patient. No doctor would accede to an apparently naked request to be killed, however seemingly uncoerced, if he thought the patient had prospects of a worthwhile life. A request to be killed appears to be a ground for euthanasiast killing only if the doctor believes that the patient does not have a worthwhile life.

Now, to say that the ongoing life of a person lacks value amounts to denying value or worth to that person, since the reality of a person is not something distinct from his or her ongoing life. What underpins euthanasiast killing are judgements on the overall worth of certain human lives.

It would be contrary to any legal system which purports to protect and enforce a just social order to legalize killing which rests for its justification on the belief that certain lives lack worth. Why? Because justice in society itself requires a non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory way of identifying who are the subjects of justice. But the only way of avoiding arbitrariness in identifying the subjects of justice is to assume that all human beings, simply in virtue of being human, are entitled to be treated justly and are the subjects of certain basic human rights. In other words the basic human dignity and worth which are recognised in respecting human rights must be seen as attaching to our humanity. Basic dignity and worth would not, however, be a title to...

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