Victorian MPs embrace after the voluntary assisted dying bill passed in the upper house
The Australian state of Victoria will soon legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia. On Wednesday, after a marathon 28-hour debate, the bill was finally approved in the upper house. A few amendments need to be ratified by the lower house next week, but that is expected to be a mere formality.
So, from June 19, 2019, just 18 months away, patients who have a life expectancy of less than six months, whose illness is incurable and causes intolerable suffering, are over 18 and live in Victoria will be able to request “voluntary assisted dying”.
Legalisation in Victoria has ominous implications for other Australian states and territories. Similar bills have failed only by the narrowest of margins in South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales. The “dying with dignity” lobby will be strengthened everywhere.
Premier Daniel Andrews has consistently argued that the new law is the safest and most conservative scheme in the world.
Whether that is true or not, the law can always be amended to make it less restrictive at some stage in the future. Its six-months life expectancy requirement can be amended to 12 months; its lower age limit of 18 can be changed to 12; its exclusion of mental illness as grounds for assisted dying can be waived. Australia’s most notorious euthanasia activist, Dr Philip Nitschke, has already complained commented that the law is far too conservative.
“It’s one of the world’s most unworkable end-of-life laws, which really won’t address the needs of a growing number of people who want control at the end of life. It’s not going to change the growing demand by elderly people to have access to their own choice.”
The cornerstone of safe “voluntary assisted dying” laws everywhere is consent. “Conservatives” like Daniel Andrew insist on consent. “Radicals” like Philip Nitschke insist on consent. All supporters are sure that people who take advantage of the law will make a rational, fully informed decision to choose to die.
But there is another area of life where the notion of rational, dispassionate, fully informed consent is being shredded – sex. For decades the fundamental rule of sexual encounters between men and women was clear: women had to consent. Non-consensual sex was rape and was clearly criminal.
What the Weinstein saga shows is that powerful men easily manipulate consent; there are vast grey areas in which Yes and No lose their clarity. Actress and former investment banker Brit Marling, who was molested by Weinstein, penned an perceptive analysis for The Atlantic in an article titled “Harvey Weinstein and the Economics of Consent”:
The things that happen in hotel rooms and board rooms all over the world (and in every industry) between women seeking employment or trying to keep employment and men holding the power to grant it or take it away exist in a gray zone where words like “consent” cannot fully capture the complexity of the encounter.
Because consent is a function of power. You have to have a modicum of power to give it. In many cases women do not have that power because their livelihood is in jeopardy …
Can anyone seriously believe that consenting to dying will be less complex than consenting to sexual encounters? No one is more vulnerable than the seriously ill, not even the Hollywood starlets victimised by Weinstein.
You have to take into account their depression, their demoralisation, their greedy relatives, their sensation of being a burden, their poor or non-existent palliative care, their social isolation, their bullying carers and a host of other pressures.
And despite the fact that the “casting couch” had been joked about for decades, the full horror of how powerful men in Hollywood manipulated “consent” did not emerge until now. Women were too afraid or ashamed to talk about it.
How long will we have to wait for similar stories to emerge from the legalisation of “voluntary assisted dying”?
Even longer? At least Weinstein’s victims are still alive to voice their complaints. The victims of euthanasia no longer have voices.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.