Archbishop Denis Hart released Thursday both written and video statements in response to a growing move in Australia, and particularly in the archbishop's state of Victoria, to re-enkindle the euthanasia debate. In this context, the 18th World Federation of Right to Die Societies Conference is under way in Melbourne through Sunday.
However, the prelate contended that support for euthanasia is just "misplaced compassion." And he affirmed that if the debate is given sufficient time and attention, euthanasia is unveiled for the reality that it is.
The archbishop pointed to the brief period of legalized euthanasia in the Northern Territory in 1996 -- the world's first experiment with such a law -- which was repealed some months after it was enacted. Since then, he said, "advocates have introduced numerous bills into state parliaments around Australia, all of which have been rejected. Why? Because when parliamentarians take the time to debate the issue fully and to consider all the consequences properly they realize that to decriminalize euthanasia and assisted suicide would threaten the lives of other vulnerable people."
He explained that such proposals "would allow some people to be treated differently under the law, such that their lives could be taken at their request. The impact of a law of that kind on those people who fit the description is to make them vulnerable, particularly if they feel that they are a burden to others."
Archbishop Hart said the experience in the Netherlands "confirms just how far such a mentality can spread with pressure to increase the scope of the law so that it includes not just those with terminal illness and unrelievable suffering, but also people who suffer from depression, those who cannot make their own decisions, and even children."
The Melbourne prelate called instead for an increase in respect for the elderly.
"Each generation has much to teach the generation that follows it," he wrote. "We should therefore see care of the elderly as repayment of a debt of gratitude, as a part of a culture of love and care."
"I ask the Parliament to put its energy and creative talents, into positive supports, rather than taking the negative path towards euthanasia or assisted suicide," the archbishop exhorted. "I call on our parliaments to increase their support for aged care and palliative care programs."
And he urged the Australian community to "continue to love and care for those who are sick and suffering rather than abandoning them to euthanasia or supporting them to suicide."
"Our ability to care," the prelate affirmed, "says much about the strength of our society."
--- --- ---
On the Net:
Video and full text: www.cam.org.au/euthanasia/statement-on-euthanasia.html