Last month, to the surprise of all, a bill to legalize euthanasia in South Australia was voted down by the upper house of the SA parliament. In the weeks leading up to the vote, proponents of the bill argued that it would secure the rights of the terminally ill to end their lives at a time and in the circumstances of their choosing, while opponents pointed out the slippery slope from voluntary euthanasia to in voluntary euthanasia.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister of South Australia, which appears as our second On the Square essay for today, bioethicist Nicholas Tonti-Filippini offered the perspective of one who suffers from chronic pain caused by terminal illness and argues that euthanasia does not offer a release from pain, but increases it:
Facing illness and disability takes courage and we do not need those euthanasia advocates to tell us that we are so lacking dignity and have such a poor quality of life that our lives are not worth living.
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Such legislation depends on each of us, who have a serious illness and are suffering, not losing hope. If euthanasia is lawful then the question about whether our lives are overly burdensome will be in not only our minds, but the minds of those health professionals and those family members on whose support and encouragement we depend. The mere existence of the option will affect attitudes toward our care and hence our own willingness to continue.
That desire to live is often tenuous in the face of suffering and in the face of the burden our illnesses impose on others, our families, and the wider community. You would gain nothing worthwhile for us by supporting the legalization of deliberately ending the life of those who request death. Such requests warrant a response in solidarity from our community, a response that seeks to give us more support and better care, rather than termination of both life and care.