Not Enough Youth in Asia?

Not Enough Youth in Asia?

Over 300 people filled the Colquhoun lecture theatre at Dunedin Hospital on April 26 to hear a panel discuss whether euthanasia and assisted suicide should be legalised. The panel discussion, entitled, “Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A discussion we need to have”, was prompted by Labour MP Maryan Street’s “End of Life Choices” private member’s bill which would allow people to assist those who have a terminal illness or an incurable condition to commit suicide.

The discussion was also timed to coincide with Professor Sean Davison’s release from home detention. Professor Davison was convicted in October 2011 for helping his terminally ill mother to commit suicide in 2006 by giving her a glass of water containing crushed morphine pills. While originally charged with assisted murder, Davison plead guilty to the downgraded charge of “counselling and procuring” his mother’s suicide. This case raised re-ignited the public debate about euthanasia and was one of the reasons behind Street’s proposed bill.

During the panel discussion, Street argued that her Bill would avoid the “meaningless prosecution” of people like Davison who had simply done what was “compassionate”. Professor Davison, himself a member of the panel, argued that while the law might have said what he did was wrong, under the circumstances he believed “any humane person would have done exactly the same” and that it was morally right.

However, Professor Grant Gillett, from the Bioethics Centre, cautioned against allowing doctors to be involved in assisted suicide as Street’s proposed bill would allow. Gillett argued that this would fundamentally and detrimentally alter the role of a doctor. Other concerns about the effect on the vulnerable and lonely, as well as society as a whole, were raised by the head of the Nathaniel Centre, John Kliensman. Kliensman argued that debate over euthanasia had to take place within a broader social discussion about the meaning of life and suffering.

The panel discussion was organised by the Centre for Theology and Public Issues. Director of the Centre, Professor Andrew Bradstock, said that talking about euthanasia was necessary, because New Zealand society needs “as a country, to explore the issues deeply and carefully from all angles and not rush into considering changing the law on the basis of our response to a few high-profile cases like Sean’s.”
This article first appeared in Issue 10, 2012.
Posted 12:51am Monday 7th May 2012 by Bella Macdonald and Staff Reporter.