Can there be a more difficult subject?

Whatever you choose to call it, it amounts to the same thing.

Euthanasia, "assisted dying", "assisted suicide", "end-of-life choice". People in favour choose sugar-coated euphemisms to make it sound more palatable; those against go for the shocking epithet.

Whether you should or should not help someone die before their natural term comes to an end is always going to be a very confronting and highly emotional issue.

Most of us have experienced the loss of a loved one, in pain, and wished we could

do something to alleviate their suffering and speed up their death. Many will also reflect on this and think, deep down, this is not the way they wish to die.

It would not be so formidable a topic to discuss or consider actioning if it was something reversible. But of course it is not. With it must come the feeling that, yes that person is no longer in pain, but I had a hand in their death.

Euthanasia is not just a very difficult subject to talk about. It is also very difficult to write about. Whatever one says, however much one tries to be fair in explaining both sides of the issue, one camp will be ready to pounce on any perceived bias in favour of the other. And not being partisan, not coming to a thundering conclusion for or against, is likely to leave you under fire from both sides.

Public submissions on Act MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill close tomorrow. According to the Bill, this legislation would give people with a terminal illness and perhaps less than six months to live, or those with a "grievous and irremediable medical condition", the option of requesting euthanasia.

The Bill lists those who might be eligible, outlines what provisions would be in place to ensure this is a choice made freely and without coercion from others, including family members who may benefit from the death, and covers the steps and safeguards to make sure the individual understands the consequences and the level to which doctors must be satisfied the person meets the criteria.

It is difficult to gauge with accuracy the amount of support for the Bill, although it is possible, perhaps, to sense a slight swing in public opinion in favour of assisted dying. But confusing figures are swirling around. During 2015’s parliamentary inquiry, 77% of the roughly 20,000 submitters were opposed to laws allowing assisted dying. Yet on the Life Choice website, it says, depending on the wording of the question in surveys, there is now between 65% and 75% support for it.

In the 2015 inquiry, those against believed the public would be endangered, outlining concerns for vulnerable people, such as the elderly and the disabled, those with mental illnesses and those vulnerable to coercion. They argued that life has an innate value and voiced concerns that eligibility for assisted dying could quickly expand beyond what was first intended.

On the other hand, supporters were worried about their loss of dignity, independence, and physical and mental capacity if terminally ill, and were fearful of pain and of having to watch loved ones suffer from a painful death. They also talked of personal choice and believed they should have the right to end their life when they wanted.

It is not just individuals and their families that are affected by this. If the Bill becomes law, doctors will find themselves in an invidious predicament. For some, it would be intolerable having to take the lives of their patients.

People vehemently in favour of, or against, will say they are clearly on the right side. But probably a much larger proportion of the population have less firm views and can see both sides of the argument.

We all know we are mortal, that it is going to come to an end for us one day. It is right to debate euthanasia. But is is one of those subjects where many will wonder if there is ever a right answer.


The thing to avoid is deception. On the one hand people with certainty of returning to health should not be deceived into believing their life is at its end, and on the other hand people who are certain to be dead in a short amount of time should not be deceived into thinking that a miracle recovery is imminent.

My concern is that a person such a doctor will then be put in the position of taking a life. I can also imagine in the future this leading to pressure to end lives so that money and medical resources can be used elsewhere.

You are right, curios. In the first case, assisted dying is not an option. In the second, it might be an option, which would be patient choice and no one else's.