“If you want a puppy, start by asking for a pony.”
I can’t find where that quote comes from, but I know I’ve heard it before and I think it characterises the news of the supposed “failure” of the proposed euthanasia legislation in South Australian parliament. The conscience vote for the legalisation of euthanasia was scheduled tomorrow will now not occur.
Any holding off of euthanasia is good, don’t get me wrong. But it seems a little tactical to me.
The original bill, the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016, was tabled by Labor MP Steph Key and was almost unbelievable in its breadth.
As a starting point, the legislation had no requirement for a person to be suffering from a terminal illness to be eligible for euthanasia. All that was required was that they were suffering from a “medical condition.” That “medical condition” did not need be a physical condition, nor did it need to cause any physical suffering. Mental suffering alone was sufficient for a person to have access to euthanasia.
What’s more, there was no “minimum” level of pain or suffering needed to access euthanasia. All that was required under the draft legislation is that the suffering was “unbearable” based on the subjective judgment of the person making the request. The bill went far enough to prohibit anyone challenging or questioning whether an applicant’s suffering was “bearable” or “unbearable.”
There was no need for opponents of this legislation to argue that there would be a “slippery slope,” because almost anyone could already access euthanasia under its terms.
As an example, I suppose that under Ms Key’s bill, even I would be eligible. In fact, all I would have needed to do is move to South Australia for six months to be eligible. I have an eye condition which means that if I want to see, I need to wear rigid contact lenses – soft contact lenses don’t work for me, nor do glasses. The rigid contact lenses can be uncomfortable at times, particularly when I am taking antihistamines to manage my hayfever, because they make my eyes terribly dry. Absent transplants (which I think is quite an extreme step!) there is really nothing they can do about my condition.
Ms Key and others pushing the legislation (including comedian Andrew Denton) made it all too easy for euthanasia opponents to find problems with the legislation.
There was no way that the legislation was going to pass in that form. Even euthanasia advocates could see it went too far. So, instead of having a vote tomorrow – which would have surely been the 15th time euthanasia legislation has been rejected in South Australian – a revised bill will be tabled, requiring a terminal illness and the exhaustion of “acceptable” options to ease suffering. So, while there is still a subjective element to the level of suffering, the provisions are more restrictive. These changes are designed to placate euthanasia opponents, and will mean that more MPs will vote in favour of legalised killing.
Because if you want a puppy, start out by asking for a pony.
We know that promised safeguards never stay that way. Take abortion as an example. The legalisation of abortion began with an exception to the prohibition of abortion being made for the life of the mother. The exception for the mother’s “life” was extended to the mother’s “health,” and then “physical health” was expanded to “mental health” and then finally to include “social” health.
Any thoughtful MP should reject the “safeguards” promised by euthanasia advocates, because they are only there temporarily.
Monica Doumit, catholicTalk contributor