The Issue Of Euthanasia Legalization In Australia
Euthanasia is often viewed as immoral or unethical, and often, a patient with a terminal illness’s life is much worse than death, as their final days are long and often full of agony and pain. Legalizing euthanasia will give terminally ill patients the freedom to choose, and give them the power in this decision in a life where they often feel powerless. Not to mention, sustaining life in a terminally ill patient is cruel as terminal diseases are often accompanied by excruciating pain and suffering. In saying this, according to statistics, in 86% of worldwide cases, euthanasia shortened a patient’s life no more than one week. This means that legalizing euthanasia will only end their suffering earlier and allow them to die with courage and grace with their loved ones by their side. Terminally ill patients do not want to be remembered as someone frail.
Another positive for Euthanasia is that legalizing assisted death in Australia will free up medical resources and funds. Unlike Australia, when Canada decided to legalize euthanasia, it reduced annual health care spending across Canada by between $34.7 million and $138.8 million.
What are the arguments against Euthanasia?
The euthanasia debate can arise from a range of ethical, moral, religious, and compassionate arguments. The biggest anti-euthanasia argument is the ‘Slippery Slope’ effect. The Slippery slope effect refers to the acceptance and legalization of euthanasia will inevitably lead to permitting other actions that are morally wrong, and lead to non-voluntary or involuntary euthanasia. Although we are unable to confirm whether this will be the case for Australia, in Belgium, there have been several cases where patients were able to access assisted dying for conditions that were curable or non-life-threatening; such as a woman who was euthanized at the request because she was suffering from an eating disorder and mental illness. As well as people being euthanized without their consent. Even with strong legal guards, there is no guarantee this won’t also be the case for Australia, and by the time we find out, it will be too late.
In addition, Euthanasia also goes against medical principles, as the job of medical staff is to keep patients alive. Patients with a terminal illness are often under full-time medical care and have access to resources that assist with physical and psychological pain. In extreme cases, patients may be sedated to keep them comfortable and help with the pain. With euthanasia being legal, it will lead to the decline of care for terminally ill patients, and become the new way of treatment as the poison used for euthanasia costs no more than $100AUD, while the costs of chemotherapy and other treatments cost thousands of dollars. Similar to the slippery slope argument, this may cause government or medical staff to encourage euthanasia to vulnerable patients to save money and free up medical resources. Accepting euthanasia means accepting the lives of those such as the terminally ill, are worth less than those who are healthy. This would be devaluing human life.
Legalizing euthanasia could also have a negative emotional, psychological, and legal impact on the medical staff themselves. Medical staff may suffer from associated guilt from participating in ending another person’s life purposely. Doctors who have been involved in the assisted death of a patient in Belgium, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, describe feeling shocked, guilty, powerlessness and pressured by the patient’s drive for assisted death, even when they believed euthanasia wasn’t in the best interest of the patient. Medical staff is also worried about receiving punishment or lawsuits for participating in the assisted death of a patient, even when legal. In Australia, under the Suicide Act 1961, encouraging or assisting in the suicide or attempted suicide of another person is punishable for up to 14 years imprisonment. To many physicians, encouraging or assisting suicide on a patient is no different from euthanasia.
In conclusion, not legalizing euthanasia in all Australian states means individuals with a terminal illness have to live through pain and suffering until they eventually succumb to their disease.
However, legalizing euthanasia could lead to a very slippery slope of involuntary euthanasia, and lack of care for the terminally ill, and devaluation of human life. I personally am on the fence in regards to euthanasia, as there are a range of positives impacts, as well as negatives. However, the negative impacts could be detrimental to Australia.