‘Significant dangers’: Faith leaders urge WA MPs to oppose euthanasia

Gavin BoxGeraldton Guardian
File image: Getty
Camera IconFile image: Getty Credit: Marcin Moryc

Geraldton’s two most senior clerics have joined leaders of other WA faith communities in urging MPs to oppose voluntary euthanasia legislation before State Parliament.

Anglican Bishop of North West Australia Gary Nelson and Catholic Bishop of Geraldton Michael Morrissey are among 14 Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh leaders who signed a letter emailed to MPs on Thursday.

The letter contends that “contrary to some media claims, the fact is with best practice palliative care, no one needs to die in excruciating pain”.

Contrary to some media claims, the fact is with best practice palliative care, no one needs to die in excruciating pain

It also questions why proponents claim legislation is needed for cases where pain can supposedly not be adequately controlled, yet the Bill “does not require a patient to be suffering physical pain to be eligible to access its provisions”.

Bishop Michael Morrissey .
Camera IconBishop Michael Morrissey . Credit: The Geraldton Guardian, Tamra Carr, The Geraldton Guardian

Bishop Morrissey said a need to dramatically improve palliative care had not been acknowledged.

“I don’t believe euthanasia is a solution,” he said.

“There are other ways we can really support people in dying, which is good palliative care.”

Bishop Nelson has called on congregations in his diocese to lobby MPs and said faith communities had as much democratic right as secularists to join the debate.

“For me, obviously the Bible informs my view on everything, but I would say the dangers to our society from this legislation are significant,” he said.

Bishop Nelson believes the law would leave the door “wide open to mistreatment of the elderly and vulnerable” and, amid shrinking health budgets, lead to pressure on medical workers to end lives.

“Once this is in, the way we view doctors and hospitals changes, especially for the aged and vulnerable,” he said.

Anglican Bishop Gary Nelson is calling on WA MPs to oppose euthanasia legislation.
Camera IconAnglican Bishop Gary Nelson is calling on WA MPs to oppose euthanasia legislation. Credit: Gavin Box, Geraldton Guardian, Gavin Box

“Think of people in the Aboriginal community, where lots of people are fearful of doctors and hospitals now, let alone something like this.”

Bishop Morrissey can see dangers in government over-reach in areas of individual conscience for medical professionals.

“That would be a dangerous area for government to go into, because it goes to that internal forum of people’s personal, spiritual and religious views, which I think is sacrosanct in our Australian democracy and society,” he said.

Bishop Nelson is concerned about medical mistakes and is mindful euthanasia laws in Europe, once introduced, went beyond their original scope.

He cites the case of prominent Perth scientist David Goodall who, at age 104, last year travelled to Switzerland and legally ended his life.

“He wasn’t terminally ill, wasn’t in great pain. He was just tired of life and was able to go across there and have voluntary assisted dying,” Bishop Nelson said.

“Why should we spend heaps of money preventing suicide if we are saying at the same time as a society we consider voluntary assisted dying acceptable?”

Catholic service providers, including Nazareth House Geraldton, released a joint statement last week opposing euthanasia and calling for better palliative care.

“We don’t believe helping someone to end their life, directly and intentionally, can ever be an expression of genuine care for them,” the statement said.

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