Garth George: Thoughts of euthanasia are wrong

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The subject of euthanasia keeps on regularly raising its ugly head.

Euthanasia is defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary as "the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable disease or in an irreversible coma".

It defines murder as "the unlawful premeditated killing of one person by another".

So logic and reason dictate that, stripped of all the emotive and emotional claptrap that surrounds the word euthanasia, it is in fact murder.

The Hippocratic Oath, which bound the medical profession for nearly a millennium and a half but is generally no longer observed, states: "I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion."

A modern version, written by an American medical academic in 1964 and still sworn in many American medical schools today, states: "Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death.

"If it is given me to save a life, all thanks.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

"But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty.

"Above all, I must not play at God."

I have no fear of death. I will go, I hope willingly, when the Lord calls my name. But that is not to say that I do not have any concern about the nature of my passing.

I am persuaded that one of the fundamental reasons for all the murder and violence we are confronted with almost daily is that our traditional belief in the sanctity of life has been diluted, and even in what we fondly call civilisation, life is becoming cheap.

Back in the late 1970s when abortion was "decriminalised" many people predicted that abortion on demand would soon follow.

But never in our wildest nightmares did we foresee that the abortion law reform would give birth to a multi-million dollar industry, putting to death 18,000-odd potential New Zealanders every year.

And the same thing will happen if euthanasia is legalised.

For incontrovertible evidence of that we just have to look at the Netherlands, where in 1984 the Dutch Supreme Court ruled voluntary euthanasia was acceptable, provided doctors followed strict guidelines.

In 1993, the British House of Lords formed a select committee to study at first-hand voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands.

The committee consisted of eminent medical professionals, with 80 per cent of them predisposed to the idea of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

However, after visiting the Netherlands, the select committee published its findings and Lord Walton of Detchant wrote the conclusion in February of 1994.

This is what he said, and it should be memorised by every MP and every member of our medical profession:

"We concluded that it was virtually impossible to ensure that all acts of euthanasia were truly voluntary, and that any liberalisation of the law in the United Kingdom could not be abused.

"We were also concerned that vulnerable people - the elderly, lonely, sick or distressed - would feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to request early death."

One of the members of the committee later revealed that its members had met a Dutch "euthanasia doctor" on the last day of their visit.

They asked him how he felt administering the lethal injection.

He replied: "The night before the first time, I couldn't sleep.

"The second time, it wasn't so bad - and after the third [he grinned] it was a piece of cake."

The select committee stood appalled. "We had just witnessed," said one, "the 'slippery slope' personified."

Has anything changed?

garth.george@hotmail.com

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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