KEATING: Voluntary euthanasia 'constitutes an unacceptable departure in our approach to human existence'

Former prime minister Paul Keating. Photo: Mick Tsikas-Pool/ Getty Images.

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating has expressed his opposition to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017, debated in the Victorian Parliament this week, saying: “No matter what justifications are offered for the bill, it constitutes an unacceptable departure in our approach to human existence”.

In a column for Fairfax Media, Keating said the vote on the bill was a “threshold moment for the country” and if passed could have a negative consequences for broader Australian society.

“In both practical and moral terms, it is misleading to think allowing people to terminate their life is without consequence for the entire society,” he says.

He also raises concern over the lack of safeguards that would be available to protect the vulnerable.

“If there are doctors prepared to bend the rules now, there will be doctors prepared to bend the rules under the new system. Beyond that, once termination of life is authorised the threshold is crossed.”

Instead, he says the attention should be turned to assisting people to live longer, arguing the bill “sends the wrong message to people contemplating suicide and undermines suicide prevention efforts.”

He says: “The issue is not how many people will choose to die under this proposed law. It is how many people may die when otherwise they wouldn’t.”

He continues:

“Once this bill is passed the expectations of patients and families will change. The culture of dying, despite certain and intense resistance, will gradually permeate into our medical, health, social and institutional arrangements. It stands for everything a truly civil society should stand against. A change of this kind will affect our entire community not just a small number of dying patients. It is fatuous to assert that patients will not feel under pressure once this bill becomes law to nominate themselves for termination.

“Opposition to this bill is not about religion. It is about the civilisational ethic that should be at the heart of our secular society. The concerns I express are shared by people of any religion or no religion. In public life it is the principles that matter. They define the norms and values of a society and in this case the principles concern our view of human life itself. It is a mistake for legislators to act on the deeply held emotional concerns of many when that involves crossing a threshold that will affect the entire society in perpetuity.”

Read the full column in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

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