December 13, 2022

When Voluntary Assisted Dying Becomes Coercive Assisted Dying

The voluntary assisted dying (VAD) push in Australia is set to win the aesthetics of the ethical war, as it inevitably does elsewhere. And the latest stoush with the Catholic Church over comments by Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, who warned that the last rites may be withheld from those who undertake VAD has ramped up the language.

As reported in The Australian:

TV identity Andrew Denton, whose powerful advocacy was important to the state by state rollout of VAD, rejected the comments by Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge as “a shameful act, devoid of love or Christian mercy towards the dying”.

Denton, from the group Go Gentle Australia, which has been a long term lobby group on this issue, goes on to link the draining away of adherents from the Catholic faith from the position that the church is holding on this. Denton goes on to say this:

“If the leaders of this institution – which receives enormous subsidies from Australian taxpayers – wish to continue their acts of ferocity and contempt towards the wishes and laws of the broader community, then they can expect to see more of the same.”

So a funding warning fired across the bows. Interesting isn’t it that the wishes and laws of the broader community are not even put under the microscope. Last time I checked, the wishes and laws of the broader community were not always the best test of whether something was ethical or not. Even modern history would tell us that.

Look, I get that there are some pastoral sensitivities around all of this, and not being a Roman Catholic, I clearly have no concern over last rites in terms of whether it is efficacious for salvation or eternal destination, but once again the church, and the Christian perspective on what it means to be human, will be sidelined in the debate. And I get too that the church is often seen as pastoral cack-handed in these areas. But here’s what is interesting about so much public theology in the Catholic Church, it’s able to telescope such issues very clearly. It’s ahead of the rest of the pack.

And here’s what else will be side-lined, the disturbing stories from places like Canada and Europe that are even being allowed to reach the mainstream press, in which inevitable mission creep takes place.

For what’s the issue in Canada? Well I spoke about it in this Delorean Philosophy podcast episode. Assisted dying is now seen as a financially helpful way for a stretched medical system to get its way out of a fiscal hole by putting you into one.

That’s right, it’s now being offered to people with long term health issues who are not in danger of immediate death. In fact the laws in Canada will, in March 2023, be changed to allow those with suicidal ideation to die at the hands of the state. Even the normally progressive mainstream media in Canada is getting squeamish about this one.

Writing in Spiked online journal, Kevin Yuill, reports just how far that mission creep has come in the supposedly gentler, kinder Canada:

Shockingly, many Canadians are now requesting a medically assisted death for economic rather than medical reasons. As one woman put it: ‘An increase [in income support] is the only thing that could save my life. I have no other reason to want to apply for assisted suicide, other than I simply cannot afford to keep on living.’

Painted in the golden glow of a choice for those in pain, the recent call that those religiously based medical groups who oppose it should be shut out of funding, is another example of how the smiling face of hard secularism hides a grimacing skull. And as the Canadian situation surely shows, if you’re just a bunch of meat and synapses, then the financial risk of you to the rest of the community may end up being too much. You are simply being selfish if you refuse to be a drain on taxpayers.

And once the government gets the idea of cost-savings into its head, it’s hard to let go of it right? So Yuill goes on to report:

Perhaps most disturbing is an official Canadian government document, published in 2020, to little fanfare at the time. An unnamed Canadian senator requested details on the potential financial impact of Bill C-7. The authors estimated that Bill C-14 was likely saving $87million in taxpayer-funded healthcare costs, while expanding the right to euthanasia, with Bill C-7, would save a further $62million.

A majority vote on that would be interesting. But I bet Western governments will salivate over that, and all at a time when the harder wing of environmental groups believe that the problem with the planet is the humans that inhabit it. It would be so good down here without all those pesky types created in the image of God.

Yet when economics is god then stuff like this happens, as reported in Canada’s National Post:

Earlier this year, a 51-year-old Ontario woman received a medically assisted death after she failed to find an affordable apartment that was free of the cigarette smoke and chemical cleaners that aggravated her condition, known as multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS).

“It was an easy fix,” Dr. Riina Bray, the medical director of the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital, told CTV News. “She just needed to be helped to find a suitable place to live, where there wasn’t smoke wafting and through the vents.”

Yet, despite two years of requesting help from government officials, it was ultimately easier for her to end her life than find a place to live.

I hope the Australian media, so often in thrall to the most progressive ideas, actually make this part of the serious debate. I hope that Denton and his cohort are asked the hard questions instead of just being lobbed with soft-focus queries. Though I probably hope that in vain. It would be good if there were at least some secular voices who would stand up and ask the ethical questions. For every time someone says there’s a slippery slope to a bad idea, they get drowned out and accused of being a Chicken Little.

You see, here’s the point: I don’t believe the sky is falling. I believe it is slowly descending and suffocating the life and humanity out of us in a way that we cannot even see at the time. That’s how wise we are as a people.

So Denton et al will continue to wail on the likes of the Catholic Church (and hopefully some Protestant churches, but when it comes to ethical courage in the face of progressive pushback in the public square I don’t hold my breath on our lot), while the mission creep elsewhere will be ignored. And Denton et al will continue to paint themselves as the merciful crowd, when history will show them to be the unwitting advocates of what will become an economic efficiency machine.

For when it comes to the future of assisted dying in Australia, as we’re seeing around the rest of the economically-prioritised West, there’s nothing gentle about it.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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