Arguing in the Public Square: Christian Voices Against Assisted Dying in Victoria
Issue: Vol 30 No. 2 (2017)
Assisted dying is a topic fraught with theological and ethical contention. It has been regularly debated in Australian parliaments and is currently under active consideration in New South Wales and Victoria. The Victorian process involved a public inquiry by a committee of Victoria’s upper house which attracted more than a thousand submissions. This paper analyses the submissions made to that committee by Christian churches and organizations with a Christian affiliation. All bar one of the submissions were opposed to legalising assisted dying. The two most common themes in the Christian submissions were the need to expand palliative care services and that adequate palliative care could be an alternative to assisted dying; and that even narrowly constrained legalising of assisted dying could lead to a slippery slope with further expansions and potential harm to vulnerable populations. These arguments were not successful and the committee supported legalising assisted dying. Possible reasons for the failure of the Christian arguments are explored.
Author: Stephen Duckett
Aquinas, St Thomas. 2006. Summa Theologica Part II (‘Secunda Secundae’), translated by The Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Project Gutenberg.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2004. Australian Social Trends, 2004—Religious Afliation and Activity (4102.0). ABS, Canberra.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2006. Year Book Australia, 2006—Religious Afliation (1301.0). ABS, Canberra.
Badham, Paul. 2009. Is There a Christian Case for Assisted Dying? Voluntary Euthanasia Reassessed. SPCK, London.
Barry, Robert. 1995. The Development of the Roman Catholic Teachings on Suicide. Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy 9(2): 449-501.
Biggar, Nigel. 2004. Aiming to Kill: The Ethics of Suicide and Euthanasia. Darton, Longman & Todd, London.
Bouma, Gary. 2006. Australian Soul: Religion and Spirituality in the 21st Century. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139168526.
Carey, George. 2015. Reassessing Assisted Dying: A Personal Statement. Modern Believing 56(2): 113-19. Doi: https://doi.org/10.3828/mb.2015.11.
Corner, Adam, Ulrike Hahn, and Mike Oaksford. 2011. The Psychological Mechanism of the Slippery Slope Argument. Journal of Memory and Language 64(2): 133-52. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2010.10.002.
Davies, Christie. 1980. Moralists, Causalists, Sex, Law and Morality. In Changing Patterns of Sexual Behaviour: Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Symposium of the Eugenics Society, London, 1978, edited by W.H.G. Armytage, Robert Chester, and John Peel, 13-43. Academic Press, London.
Davies, Christie. 1992. How People Argue About Abortion and Capital Punishment. In Ethics on the Frontiers of Human Existence, edited by Paul Badham, 103-37. Paragon House, New York.
Douglas, Bob, Lindy Willmott and Ben White. 2013. The Right to Choose an Assisted Death: Time for Legislation? Report Following a Roundtable in Brisbane, January 2013. Australia 21 Limited, Weston, ACT.
DuBose, Edwin R., and Margaret Wolters. 1991. Personal Narratives. In Choosing Death: Active Euthanasia, Religion, and the Public Debate, edited by Ron P. Hamel, 1-13. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International.
Duckett, Stephen. 2017. Knowing, Anticipating, Even Facilitating but Still Not Intending: Another Challenge to Double Effect Reasoning. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (in press).
Dworkin, Gerald, Raymond Gillespie Frey and Sissela Bok. 2005. Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide: For and Against. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Edgerton, W. Dow. 2014. Listening to Grief. Exploration Press, Chicago.
Enoch, David. 2001. Once You Start Using Slippery Slope Arguments, You’re on a Very Slippery Slope. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 21(4): 629-47. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/ojls/21.4.629.
Fagerlin, Angela, and Carl E. Schneider. 2004. Enough: The Failure of the Living Will. Hastings Center Report 34(2): 30-42. Doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/3527683.
Frazer, Michael L., and Michael A. Slote. 2015. Sentimentalist Virtue Ethics. In The Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics, edited by Lorraine Besser-Jones and Michael A. Slote, 197-208. Routledge, New York and London.
Gandsman, Ari. 2016. A Recipe for Elder Abuse: From Sin to Risk in Anti-Euthanasia Activism. Death Studies 40(9): 578-88. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/07481187.2016.1193568.
Gandsman, Ari, and Daniel Burnier. 2014. Can’t You at Least Die with a Little Dignity? The Right to Die Debates and Normative Dignity. BioéthiqueOnline 3(8): 13pp.
Goroncy, Jason. 2016. Euthanasia: Some Theological Considerations for Living Responsibly. Pacica 29(3): 221-43. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/1030570X17711957.
Gorsuch, Neil M. 2010. The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Habermas, Jürgen. 2006. Religion in the Public Sphere. European Journal of Philosophy 14(1): 1-25. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0378.2006.00241.x.
Hancock, N., M. Pepper and R. Powell. 2014. Attitudes to Euthanasia. National Church Life Survey Research Fact Sheet 14011. NCLS Research, Stratheld, NSW.
Hare, R.M. 1975. Euthanasia—A Christian View. Philosophic Exchange 6(1): 43-52.
Hausmann, E. 2004. How Press Discourse Justies Euthanasia. Mortality 9(3): 206-22. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/13576270412331272798.
Jackson, Emily, and John Keown. 2014. Debating Euthanasia. Hart Publishing, Oxford.
Jefferson, Anneli. 2014. Slippery Slope Arguments. Philosophy Compass 9(10): 672-80. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/phc3.12161.
Kant, Immanuel. 2012. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Translated by Mary Gregor.
Karsoho, H. et al. 2016. Suffering and Medicalization at the End of Life: The Case of Physician-Assisted Dying. Social Science and Medicine 170: 188-96. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.10.010.
Kissane, David W., Annette Street and Philip Nitschke. 1998. Seven Deaths in Darwin: Case Studies Under the Rights of the Terminally III Act, Northern Territory, Australia. The Lancet 352(9134): 1097-102. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(98)05406-3.
Küng, Hans. 1995. A Dignied Dying. In Dying with Dignity: A Plea for Personal Responsibility, edited by Hans Küng and Walter Jens, 1-40. SCM Press, London.
Lowis, Michael John. 2015. Euthanasia, Suicide, and Despair: Can the Bible Help? Guidance when Faced with Ethical Dilemmas. Wipf & Stock, Eugene, OR.
Marty, Martin E., and Ron P. Hamel. 1991. Some Questions and Answers. In Choosing Death: Active Euthanasia, Religion, and the Public Debate, edited by Ron P. Hamel, 27-46. Trinity Press International, Philadelphia.
McCarthy, Joan et al. 2011. End-of-life Care: Ethics and Law. Cork University Press, Cork, Ireland.
McInerney, Fran. 2000. ‘Requested Death’: A New Social Movement. Social Science & Medicine (1982) 50(1): 137-54. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0277-936(99)00273-7.
McInerney, Fran. 2014. Death and the Body Beautiful: Aesthetics and Embodiment in Press Portrayals of Requested Death in Australia on the Edge of the 21st Century. Health Sociology Review 16(5): 384-96. Doi: https://doi.org/10.5172/hesr.2007.16.5.384.
Murtagh, Fliss E.M. et al. 2014. How Many People Need Palliative Care? A Study Developing and Comparing Methods for Population-based Estimates. Palliative Medicine 28(1): 49-58. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0269216313489367.
Plattner, A.L. 1997. Australia’s Northern Territory: The First Jurisdiction to Legislate Voluntary Euthanasia, and the First to Repeal It. DePaul Journal of Health Care Law 1(3): 645-53.
QSR International Pty Ltd. 2015. NVivo Pro Qualitative Data Analysis Software—Version 11.
Rawls, John. 1997. The Idea of Public Reason Revisited. The University of Chicago Law Review 64(3): 765-807. Doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/1600311.
Rhee, Joel J., Nicholas A. Zwar and Lynn A. Kemp. 2012. Uptake and Implementation of Advance Care Planning in Australia: Findings of Key Informant Interviews. Australian Health Review 36(1): 98-104. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1071/AH11019.
Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 1980. Declaration on Euthanasia. Vatican City.
Saunders, Cheryl. 2000. Australian State Constitutions. Rutgers Law Journal 31(4): 999.
Shemesh, Yael. 2009. Suicide in the Bible. Jewish Bible Quarterly 37(3): 157-68.
Slote, Michael. 1995. Agent-Based Virtue Ethics. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 20(1): 83-101. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4975.1995.tb00306.x.
Stefan, Susan. 2016. Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws: Examining Current Approaches to Suicide in Policy and Law. Oxford University Press, New York. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199981199.001.0001.
Stone, D.A. 1988. Policy Paradox and Political Reason. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman & Co.
Tobin, Bernadette. 2008. More Talk, Less Paper! Why Health Care Proxies Are a Better Means of Extending Traditional Morality Than Are Living Wills. Bioethics Outlook 19(3): 1-7.
van der Burg, Wibren. 1991. The Slippery Slope Argument. Ethics 102(1): 42-65. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1086/293369.
Victoria. Parliament. Legislative Council. Legal and Social Issues Committee. 2016. Inquiry into End of Life Choices: Final Report. Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne.
Victoria. Parliament. Social Development Committee. 1987. Report Upon the Inquiry into Options for Dying with Dignity: Second and Final Report. Parliament, Melbourne.
Walton, Douglas N. 2011. Slippery Slope Arguments. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Whitman, Jeffrey P. 1994. The Many Guises of the Slippery Slope Argument. Social Theory and Practice 20(1): 85-97. Doi: https://doi.org/10.5840/soctheorpract19942012.
Willmott, Lindy et al. 2016. (Failed) Voluntary Euthanasia Law Reform in Australia: Two Decades of Trends, Models and Politics. University of New South Wales Law Journal 39(1): 1-46.