Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to members and friends of Dying with Dignity NSW at their 2012 AGM and conference.
The transcript of my speech (fully referenced) is now available on the DWD NSW website.
But I wasn’t just there to speak – I was there to learn. What I learned was concerning.
Dying with Dignity groups throughout Australia, and their umbrella group, Your Last Right, are lobbying tirelessly towards end of life law reform. As you will see from my speech, their efforts are continually stymied by a deluge of misinformation and propaganda produced, principally, by unscrupulous religious zealots who aren’t averse to lying and dissembling in order to achieve their aims.
The Catholic Church and its fundamentalist representatives are a prime source of propaganda – despite the fact that 74 per cent of Australian Catholics actually support voluntary euthanasia. The church doesn’t even represent it’s own constituency.
But it is powerful and wealthy. Worldwide, the Catholic Church invests many millions of dollars into opposing voluntary euthanasia. When some brave politician agrees to introduce a bill into parliament, the church goes into overdrive, doing everything they can to make sure that when you come to the end of your life, your choices will be limited by their doctrine.
How can small, grass-roots organisations like DWD NSW compete with the might of the Catholic Church?
Well, they can. First, they have overwhelming public support. 75 per cent of Australians support VE law reform, and only 13 per cent are implacably opposed to it. Second, the facts are on their side. Every piece of credible medical and sociological research shows that in countries and jurisdictions where VE is legal, it is being managed responsibly and safely. There is no evidence that people are being killed against their will or that vulnerable groups are at risk. None.
And yet, even our Prime Minister Gillard has been conned, saying recently that she didn’t see how a VE law in Australia could be managed safely.
In a scholarly book on Euthanasia and Law in Europe, John Griffiths has this to say on the kind of propaganda which has obviously influenced Ms Gillard:
“Imprecision, exaggeration, suggestion and innuendo, misinterpretation and misrepresentation, ideological ipsedixitism, and downright lying and slander (not to speak of bad manners) have taken the place of careful analysis of the problem and consideration of the Dutch evidence.”
This is where you come in. How will you die? And is it worth a small investment of your time and/or money to help ensure that when your time comes, or that of your loved ones, your choices are not limited by the religious beliefs of others?
DWD NSW was hit hard by the Global Financial Crisis and I assume the same is true of other groups. They need to re-build their war-chests. As their Treasurer pointed out yesterday, doubling their (already considerable) membership, increasing donations and bequests, and attracting more volunteers would make a huge difference and ensure the long-term viability of the group.
The subscription for DWD NSW is a measly $35 per year. That seems like a very small investment in your end of life choices. I’m going to be joining both DWD NSW and my local DWD Maroochydore group.
I’d urge you to seek out DWD in your state and become a member. If you have a skill and a little time, please consider offering your support. Perhaps you could manage a small (or large) donation. And, importantly, consider leaving a bequest in your will. Bequests are very important in helping these kinds of organisations combat the considerable resources of the churches.
Here are some useful links for you:
NTVES: Northern Territory Voluntary Euthanasia Society (firstname.lastname@example.org) or GPO Box 2734 Darwin NT 0810
If you’re a Christian and appalled by the way some of your fellow religionists are conducting themselves in this debate, you may consider supporting
- Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia — a growing group of Christians who believe that, as a demonstration of love and compassion, those with a terminal or hopeless illness should have the option of an assisted pain-free, peaceful and dignified death if that is their choice