EDITORIAL: EUTHANASIA is a difficult moral issue, one that political leaders of both persuasions haven’t the stomach to tackle.
Although most Australians would like to see voluntary, doctor-assisted dying made legal, our leaders are too timid to act.
The issue boils to the surface every now and then, the most recent furore being caused by euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke’s alleged handling of a healthy Perth man who sought advice about how to kill himself.
Dr Nitschke was last week suspended from practising medicine by the Medical Board of Australia which used its emergency powers to invoke the ban.
Nigel Brayley, 45, committed suicide in May after communicating with Dr Nitschke. He took an overdose of a drug discussed at euthanasia advocacy group Exit International and had attended one of the organisation’s meetings.
Mr Brayley’s wife Lina, 37, died in 2011 after she fell from the top of a quarry. It was revealed after Mr Brayley took his life that police were investigating him over the death.
Mr Brayley was not terminally ill, indeed he appeared to be in perfectly good physical health. Whatever the sordid details of Mr Brayley’s private life, the fact is Dr Nitschke over-stepped the mark and his suspension is justified.
Although investigations are continuing as to how much involvement there was from Dr Nitschke, sadly the doctor has already maligned the cause he champions.
The case has soured the campaign for legislation that allows euthanasia under certain circumstances, a practice that it is generally accepted happens in hospitals and care homes now under the umbrella of palliative care. Pretending otherwise is ridiculous.
While Dr Nitschke might not be the best standard bearer for the voluntary euthanasia campaign, our leaders must understand that this is not an issue that will just go away.
Brave leadership that will result in progressive legislation that recognises the desires of the majority is long overdue.