Criminal Law

By Ben Aulich


Bite the bullet – it’s time to legalise euthanasia

The NSW Government has finally got around to decriminalising abortion.  Last week the Bill passed the NSW Lower House and is expected to pass the Upper House any day, making NSW the last Australian jurisdiction to make abortion legal. With the amendment all but in the bag, you can expect debate about abortion will simmer down shortly.

Notwithstanding huge debate and hundreds of millions of dollars unnecessarily spent by the government we have also sorted same sex marriage. A hot political potato with so much emotion on both sides of the fence. This only happened some months ago and I can’t help feeling that people are saying “how could we have said no for so long?”.  That legal issue now seems sorted and we are, on the whole, getting on with things. The world hasn’t ended.

But there’s more to do and more to change. It is extraordinary we have still not given people a legal right to die. We all know assisted death causes hot debate and religious leaders going spare. But think about it – the slippery slope argument is just religion dressed up in some kind of perverse logic. Not dissimilar to the argument advanced to stop same sex marriage – “the next thing people will do is marry a tree or a goat”.

What is needed is help for those who are terminally ill, have severe physical and/or mental illness, and for whatever reason, are not capable of ending their own life. Surely, it is perfectly reasonable to say that humans can decide their own fate and end their life in a painless and dignified manner? Who in their right mind would think otherwise?

If it offends someone’s moral or religious code – that’s ok, they don’t have to do it. But to say that we should not give people the right to die in certain circumstances, because of religious or moral views is just plain wrong.

Without a change in the law there are only two scenarios available. One, terminally ill people are given more and more doses of drugs until “it just happens”. Don’t be naïve – this is common. That leaves no real way of properly regulating it and perhaps exposing decent and caring palliative care health professionals to murder charges. Or two,  cruelly we force people to live in pain, sometimes for many years, wanting to die with dignity and grace but not allowing them to do so. Neither option is acceptable and surely is not what we want.

I hope that one day soon, when the right to die is discussed we are able to say “how could we have said no for so long?”. But in the meantime, my heart goes out to the people and their families desperately waiting for change?