The Euthanasia Debate

It was good to read that beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett – while blasting Dr Philip Nitschke’s act of aiding an unhappy but apparently healthy man’s suicide – supports voluntary assisted dying for the terminally ill (Saturday Age, 5/7).

The Dying With Dignity movement is about establishing strict rules and guidelines under which assisted dying can be legally practised – but only for terminally or incurably ill people who request it, and only by doctors who believe it is justified . Greens senator Richard Di Natale has tabled a draft bill for a Medical Services (Dying with Dignity) Act. Its provisions would not enable Dr Nitschke’s recent act, nor set society onto a slippery slope into abuse. It would just relieve much anguish among a significant number of ill people who dread what they may have to endure before their deaths.

Anne Riddell, Mount Martha

A doctor’s shameful decision

In helping 45-year-old Nigel Brayley – who was suffering from depression but who did not have a terminal illness – to die, Philip Nitschke has disparaged the Hippocratic oath and deserves to be deregistered as a doctor.

David Seal, Balwyn North

Our right to choose our death

Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler says: ‘‘ A patient who has suicidal ideation deserves the opportunity to seek help, to be treated and supported. It has nothing to do with a debate about euthanasia … to suggest a doctor might vacate their obligation to provide support and care for a patient.’’

Many would disagree that the current controversy has nothing to do with euthanasia. Dr Nitschke, and many other medical and lay people around the world, has sought to encourage a more rational attitude to ‘‘ dying with dignity’ ’ and for people to have more rights in managing their own departure from life.

In Holland, these rights have been written into law. Horrifically , when our own Northern Territory voted for and established such law, Federal Parliament overthrew it. It is amazing that we continue to castigate as ‘‘ offensive’ ’ the efforts of someone who is concerned with the welfare of people and assists those who want to leave this life.

Neville Rutledge, Kew

The start of the slippery slope

I am opposed to euthanasia, but have not been able to say so out of sympathy for the cases of terminal illness. Now, the ‘‘ slippery slope’ ’ has arrived. If euthanasia is legalised, confining it to the old and terminally ill is arbitrary.

It is not only the helplessness and pain of illness that can rob a person of their dignity. A prognosis of ‘‘ terminal’ ’ is not the only form of hopelessness. There are many reasons why someone believes no life is better than the life they have, and the one they have to look forward to. They may wish for a more dignified way out than suicide. We now see how hard it is to draw a line.

Gavan O’Farrell , Oakleigh

Exit’s dangerous lack of checks

Philip Nitschke’s comparison of ‘‘ ticking a box’ ’ at the airport with ticking the box on the Exit International website is ridiculous. An airport does not just assume you are telling the truth. There are checks and balances, such as scans, detectors, passports, photo ID. Can Exit International say the same?

Kathleen McGee, Mount Eliza

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