Quintus Fabius, the Roman dictator, censor and consul, was the man who turned back the attack of the Carthaginian General, Hannibal, in 217 BC, becoming known in the process as Fabius Maximus, or Fabius the Greatest. His tactics were relatively simple; avoiding confrontation and direct engagement, taking no risks and fighting no pitched battles, concealing intentions and gradually achieving the desired outcome by wearing down the opposition. His primary tactic of gradualism has been commemorated in the Fabian Society, an organisation established in London in 1884, and exported to the colonies, with the express purpose of bringing about a gradual Marxist revolution of British society through a series of subtle social reforms.
During the last thirty years, Fabian processes have resulted in the vast re-working of the Australian social fabric through the gradual undermining of its values, ushering in an era of social disunity and bringing a range of social scourges which beset the nation today. These include the adoption of humanistic atheism as the religion of the age, marital breakdown at unprecedented levels, the dumbing down of our population through educational degeneration, validation and glorification of homosexuality as a lifestyle, the murder of unborn children for the convenience of the mother, blatant discrimination against men, (described, in typical Orwellian ‘newspeak’ as ‘affirmative action’), the emergence of an hereditary and permanently enslaved underclass, unparalleled parliamentary and judicial corruption and an outlook of pessimism and hopelessness as the prevailing social condition All this has been achieved by the Fabian policy of gradualism.
What prompts these musings is the fact that, in typical Fabian fashion, an issue already rejected by the people is re-emerging yet again. We refer to euthanasia. Although previously rejected, it will continue to be re-submitted by Fabian ideologues until they are successful in having it pushed through a parliament. Persistent gradualism is the name of the game.
The term ‘euthanasia’ itself is widely misunderstood and misused. It properly refers to the intentional hastening of a person’s death in order to relieve that person’s suffering. Strictly speaking, it does not include either withholding life-sustaining treatment judged to be therapeutically useless or overly burdensome, or providing treatment for the relief of symptoms of illness, even when that treatment will have the indirect effect of hastening a person’s death.
People of good will disagree about the intrinsic morality of euthanasia. Some think that it is, and always will be, an act of injustice against the person whose death is hastened. Others think that it is morally unobjectionable. The moral consideration revolves around the notion of the inviolability of human life, which is a common morality of the great civilisations, as expressed in the moral tenets of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and great eastern religions, such as Confucianism. As such, it is recognised in Common Law tradition, in international human rights instruments and in the mainstream tradition of health care as expressed in codes of medical and nursing ethics.
The 1994 House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics, in its report on euthanasia, put it this way:
‘Belief in the special worth of human life is at the heart of civilised society. It is the fundamental value on which all others are based and is the foundation of both law and medical practice. The intentional taking of human life is therefore the offence that society condemns most strongly. Society’s prohibition of intentional killing is the cornerstone of law and social relationships. It protects each of us impartially, embodying the belief that all are equal.’
Proponents of voluntary euthanasia argue that this ‘right not to be killed’ can be waived by an individual, thereby allowing a medical practitioner, for example, to legally terminate the life of a patient on request. The example most commonly advanced to support this argument of waiving the right to life is that of people with terminal illnesses who believe that they no longer have a worthwhile life. But there are several problems with this approach.
Firstly, no responsible doctor will routinely kill patients on request, so to be a party to voluntary euthanasia, a doctor is making the patient’s reason for wishing to be killed, his own reason for killing the patient, an unsatisfactory form of clinical judgement, surely. It also makes an assumption that the patient is in a position to make such a judgement about his own life, and that the doctor should be bound by it. Moreover, It further assumes that the only value that attaches to a life is the value placed on it by the person whose life it is. But dying is not only a personal or individual affair. The death of a person affects the lives of others, often in ways and to an extent that cannot be foreseen. John Donne was right; ‘no man is an island unto himself’.
But the most objectionable aspect of the notion that some lives have no value whatsoever is that it supports the argument for non-voluntary euthanasia; that is, legalised murder. Hitler used this argument to rid Germany of hundreds of thousands of people deemed to have no social utility, such as the mentally deficient, the aged and infirm, the handicapped and gypsies. This was all done legally, with courts authorising the destruction of human lives on the basis of their ‘lack of value’.
Present day advocates of non-voluntary euthanasia, such as Peter Singer, justify their views on the grounds that some human beings, such as newborn babies, advanced dementias and the mentally retarded, have lives lacking in dignity and worth. On this account, human worth and dignity is said to belong to those who possess certain developed cognitive abilities involving some degree of intellectual development. This involves drawing a fairly arbitrary line and, if you happen to fall on the wrong side of it, then you are at the mercy of a system that sees you as being of no account and having no value. The only way to avoid arbitrariness about whose lives have value and whose don’t, is to assume that, just by being human, we all possess an inalienable worth and dignity.
In Australia, the argument is often put forward that, in some cases, euthanasia is the compassionate way to deal with terminal or chronic illness. Many people with painful memories of loved ones suffering in their last days are amongst those who are the strongest advocates of legalising euthanasia. But we should be extremely careful about allowing public policy to be at the mercy of personal and emotive experiences. Rather, we should be seeking more creative responses to illness, suffering and dying and, to a great extent, that is happening here in the Rocky River District. Through the training and accomplishments of those trained in palliative care, in community teams and hospitals, the pain and distress of terminal illness can be relieved in the vast majority of cases.
But in the final analysis, there are three compelling arguments against legalising euthanasia.
Firstly, the experience of euthanasia in Holland indicates that it is impossible to frame laws allowing voluntary euthanasia that would provide adequate safeguard against non-voluntary euthanasia.
Secondly, legalisation of euthanasia would put pressure on vulnerable people; the elderly, lonely, sick or distressed, to seek intervention to bring about their premature, unnatural death. We believe that the message that we should be sending to society’s vulnerable and disadvantaged should not, however obliquely, encourage them to seek death, but should assure them, unequivocally, of our care and support in life.
Finally, and most importantly, if euthanasia is legalised, what message is that sending to our young people, at a time when our society is already characterised by a sense of hopelessness and discouragement? At a time when crocodile tears are being shed about youth suicide, isn’t the legalisation of euthanasia really saying that, when life gets too much for you, just pull the pin?