Is it ever alright to help someone die?
That was the question asked tonight on the ABC’s flagship Q and A program and it inspired a thought-provoking, factual and emotional ethical debate about euthanasia in our country.
Legendary Australian television journalist Andrew Denton has recently emerged as a passionate campaigner for voluntary assisted dying and appeared on the Q and A panel with Dr Karen Hitchcock, palliative care specialist Ralph McConaghy, retired homeopath Ana Lamaro, and Dr Rodney Syme – to debate the contentious subject.
At times the show was incredibly emotional, particularly when Dr Karen Hitchcock continued to describe euthanasia as giving the state sanctioned power “for organising killing.”
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Denton repeatedly interjected and asked Dr Hitchcock to stop using the word ‘killing’ for euthanasia, giving his view that it was the right of individuals to have a ‘choice about how we die’ and that it was ‘entirely voluntary’.
Denton called out anti-euthanasia arguments as ‘conflated’ and a ‘misrepresentation of the facts’.
The panel took a question from an elderly woman Joan, a quadriplegic, who said she was very concerned about Australians living with a disability who could be made to feel they were a burden on society and therefore pressured to take the decision for “medical suicide” or a voluntary assisted death.
Denton said he was yet to see any credible evidence in his research that people with a disability were being coerced into euthanasia.
Just last week, Denton delivered a landmark speech at The Wheeler Centre about why Australians should be able to ‘die peacefully and on their own terms’.
He has undertaken a year long period of research and travelling the world for an upcoming podcast series “Better Off Dead” where he plans to broadcast and document his findings into the issue of euthanasia in Australia.
Over the last 20 years there have been more than 16 failed attempts by both state and federal governments to legalise voluntary assisted death in Australia.
“It is your choice and that is what I am arguing for, at the end of your life it should be your choice,” Denton said.
The Denton podcast series will look at all sides of the debate – and interviews people from all perspectives from anti-euthanasia activists, to officials in states that have sanctioned euthanasia.
Denton travelled to Oregon, Belgium and the Netherlands to explore different experiences and legal approaches to voluntary euthanasia.