Life as God’s gift

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An ongoing push in Australian parliaments for euthanasia or “assisted dying” has been unanimously rejected by Sydney’s Synod on its first sitting day.

As the NSW Parliament prepares to consider a new Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, Synod also called on state MPs to reject the legislation and prioritise the improvement of palliative care, encouraging Anglicans across the Diocese to contact their local member as well as engaging in any public debate on the issue.

The mover of the motion, Dr Karin Sowada, said that with the exception of the Northern Territory parliament’s vote to legalise euthanasia in 1995 (which was overturned by the Federal Government), there had been more than 50 failed attempts to introduce euthanasia legislation since 1993 – the most recent being a “resounding” defeat in Tasmania, where the vote was 18-6 against.

She said it was important to acknowledge that many people came to the debate with “personal stories of family, friends and relatives who have suffered greatly” from terminal illness, but warned that experiences from overseas showed the dangers of normalising death by choice.

Dr Sowada cited a report in the British Medical Journal that found 32 percent of all euthanasia deaths in one region of Belgium “occurred without the request or consent of the patient” – and said the country’s laws had gradually broadened to allow children and the mentally ill to seek permission to die.

“The bracket creep happens very quickly,” she said, adding that, “The elderly are very vulnerable to coercion by family… People must have the right to live the extent of their natural life without the guilt of ‘hanging on’.

“We must remain clear-eyed as to what represents the common good and what euthanasia represents: a fundamental change to social and medical practice. At its core, it contradicts the Christian view of life as God’s gift.”

Dr Sowada said Archbishop Davies has written to members of the NSW Legislative Council to express the Diocese’s “very strong opposition” to the pending legislation.

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