The Diocese of Parramatta is joining with the Diocese of Broken Bay to host a series of three talks in August ahead of the expected introduction of a draft Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill to NSW Parliament.
The series, entitled “Euthanasia, Dying and the Dignity of the Human Person”, will feature speakers in theology, medicine and communications. The free Zoomed talks, focused on providing alternative viewpoints to assisted suicide, were initiated as a result of growing community alarm at the proposed Bill which The Catholic Weekly reported on last week.
The following is an edited version of a Catholic Weekly report from 9 July 2021, updated with new details about the online talks.
Medical experts including specialist palliative care doctors will give key talks at online meetings over the next month on the dangers of legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia, and what people can do in response to the latest push in NSW.
With Independent MP Alex Greenwich set to introduce a draft Bill to parliament in August, NSW Labor Opposition Leader Chris Minns said he would not support assisted dying and would allow his party a conscience vote on the issue.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also expressed her opposition, and it is unclear how the Bill would progress as she also gave an assurance following the 2019 abortion debate that there would be no further conscience votes during the current term of parliament, which is due to run for two more years.
In a statement, Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP warned that attempts to “sugarcoat state-sanctioned killing” of certain citizens and assisting in suicides are a “disastrous move”. The Archbishop said that such laws are “diametrically opposed to the spirit that inspires the care Catholic institutions offer”.
Horror at the revelations from the Aged Care Royal Commission and the response to the pandemic showed the principle of the sanctity of life is still widely held, he said.
Archbishop Fisher also warned of the possibility of “bracket creep”.
“Already in Australia’s short experience of this we have found the law applied to far more people than was first expected and there has already been a concerted campaign to relax the supposed ‘safeguards’ that were put in place to sell those laws,” he said.
“Looking overseas we see voluntary assisted suicide laws in some countries, originally applicable on a voluntary basis for dying adults only, gradually extended to those whose condition is not terminal, or not even medical, and to children and the unconscious.”
The Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship of Australia (CMDFA) is running a petition calling for Premier Berejiklian to oppose the introduction of new laws which would allow euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the state.
National chair Professor John Whitehall told media the organisation rejects Mr Greenwich’s suggestion that euthanasia and assisted suicide “constitute a form of medical care”.
“The CMDFA agrees with the World Medical Association that the practice of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession,” he said.
According to media reports, Mr Greenwich said he intended to introduce his Bill in the last sitting week in August and that he had listened to the concerns of religious groups.
The Zoomed series of talks entitled “Euthanasia, Dying and the Dignity of the Human Person” will start on Monday 2 August with Vicar General of the Diocese of Broken Bay Fr David Ranson discussing the theology of suffering and death.
Talks from a team of doctors follow on Monday 9 August. The doctors will explain how palliative care is both misunderstood and underfunded, and when employed effectively, addresses all the concerns of those who advocate for assisted dying.
Monica Doumit, Director, Public Affairs and Engagement for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, will explain the best ways to bring up the topic of euthanasia with friends and family on Monday 16 August.
To register for the free talks held online on Monday 2 August, Monday 9 August and Monday 16 August at 7.30pm, go to parracatholic.org/euthanasiatalks by 29 July.
Reproduced and edited with permission from The Catholic Weekly, the news publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. The original story was written by Marilyn Rodrigues for The Catholic Weekly (print and online).