Andrew Denton is an extremely likable fellow. I have no doubt that given a chance to get to know him better over a long lunch he’d be consistent with his public persona. He doesn’t mind laughing at himself and likes to make his audience laugh, especially when he’s trying to make a serious point.
And he’s a deep thinker. There wouldn’t be many issues, I imagine, that he hasn’t spent a considerable amount of time on before reaching whatever position he currently holds.
But without meeting him I believe I’ve found one of his blind spots – those pesky things we all have.
He’s too emotional.
Now that can be a good thing. We want our thought leaders – and Andrew is certainly regarded as one, at least on the Left – we want them to be human, not robotic. We have little need for indifference or callous disregard of humanity in public policy.
But it can also be a bad thing. We don’t want our thought leaders – politicians, lobbyists and commentators –blubbering in their soup while we trust them to explain or decide which way we should go. Subjective, empathetic feelings and emotions are not reliable guides by which to see the big picture and the long term consequences of a thing.
And that is what Andrew Denton does when it comes to his new career of professionally lobbying for pro-euthanasia laws.
He wants it to be legal for Australians to kill each other.
I put it bluntly because that’s the simple truth of this debate. We can explore the nuances from here on, but it must be acknowledged up front that if euthanasia is legalised we take a huge step backward as a society by destroying the pillar of placing unconditional value on human life.
No longer could we say a person’s value and dignity is not diminished by their circumstances, and once that gate is open, we will not be able to defend against all comers.
This is not a slippery slope fallacy because the evidence says that in other jurisdictions age limits have been reduced and qualifying conditions expanded. It is a slippery slope by observation. Laws everywhere evolve. While seeking fairy tales like “fairness” and an “end to suffering”, how can one say people with diminished decision-making capacity like children or people suffering from some mental illnesses don’t also deserve such “kindness”?
We might very well intend to protect those people from euthanasia excesses, but what about in the next generation? What about the next crusading progressive whose emotions eclipse the objective reality of the social consequences of normalising putting people down like sick dogs?
In 1899 Queensland put abortion in the criminal code. Today, any woman can get an abortion anywhere for any reason at any time. And it’s still “illegal”. Laws change, Mr. Denton, and you simply cannot ever guarantee that the legislation you come up with today will keep the potential harms at bay. You are fighting to open Pandora’s box because you think you can contain what’s inside.
But you can’t. Society will be fundamentally changed for the worse.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The anti-euthanasia argument does not suggest we should artificially prolong suffering. It’s simply that we should neither prolong nor hasten death, while making the person as comfortable as possible in palliative care. There must be no cruelty inflicted with extraordinary measures to preserve life. There must be no deliberate interference to hasten death. If the double effect of deliberately mitigating pain results in unintentionally hastening death there is no line crossed. The deliberate intention of medical decisions taken is all-important.
The Pro-Euthanasia Myths Offered As Facts By Andrew Denton
FALSE FACT ONE: Only people really sick and really close to death anyway will request to be killed by legal euthanasia.
The Remmelink Report in Holland in 1991 established that people being euthanised were not limited to cancer sufferers or even people with terminal conditions, let alone close to death. It isn’t even limited to people requesting to be put down!
Australia’s own leading euthanasia campaigner, Philip Nietschke, said in an interview that he wants suicide pills to be available in supermarkets for teenage girls suffering depression to be able to access as they wish.
Overseas jurisdictions with legal euthanasia shows the numbers of people being euthanised doesn’t stay low but increases steadily over time as society forgets its moral restraints in the wake of these normalising laws.
FALSE FACT TWO: The elderly and disabled face no increased risk under euthanasia laws.
Andrew Denton relies extremely heavily on anecdotes to provoke fear of not having euthanasia as a legal option. It’s only fair to meet him on a level playing field, so let’s demonstrate the error of the claim that there’s no risk to the elderly or disabled.
An elderly lady in Holland voluntarily went in to hospital to be killed by doctors, but changed her mind at the last minute. Her family had to physically hold her down as the doctor administered the lethal injections. She protested that she’d changed her mind, but to no avail.
FALSE FACT THREE: Euthanasia laws do not change the nature of the relationship between a doctor and his patient.
How can it not affect the relationship with your doctor when he comes to see you and offer solutions right after he’s dispatched someone else deliberately? Will she try to heal to her best ability? Or will he be just that ever so slightly more inclined to bump you off, even if only to help salve his conscience as he struggles to numb the guilt of the last patient he killed still foremost in his mind. The duty to care becomes a duty to kill.
In Holland, many elderly people especially were no longer going to their doctors even for routine check-ups once the government sanctioned the option of taking their life. The doctors who once swore to do no harm are now literally killing them with “kindness”.
FALSE FACT FOUR: There is a powerful palliative effect in giving people the power to choose their ending.
Autonomy is the infinite good being argued here, a golden calf worshipped by secular humanists. Autonomy is the elevation of individual rights above all else. Now I’m a big believer in limited government, but without some government we have anarchy. Which side of the road do we drive on? Who protects private property?
Our own rights to do as we please do not invalidate the consideration of wider contexts and consequences for our actions. As explained already, legalised euthanasia has far reaching ramifications for the whole of society, and the objective social good is dismissed by the subjective assertion of a vast minority’s claim to autonomy.
The Anti-Euthanasia Facts Offered as Myths by Andrew Denton
FACT ONE: Once you write a law legalising euthanasia there is no way to control it.
Andrew Denton assures us that he searched “assiduously” for evidence of this reality, but didn’t find it. He seems to presume that if he couldn’t find it we’re expected to believe it doesn’t exist. But he doesn’t tell us who he talked to when he was overseas in the nation that currently permit euthanasia, or even how long he was there. He doesn’t tell us what their political biases are, or who was unavailable to meet with him.
Denton suggests that the Victorian Parliamentary Committee investigating euthanasia which also travelled and researched extensively confirms his own results, concluding there is no evidence of a slippery slope. Denton omits the fact that two of the eight members of this committee did find the evidence he could not. He omits the fact that the committee’s heavy political bias meant that their findings were predetermined before they even left to begin this research. He omits the reality that facts are not personal property which individuals are entitled to their own version of, and a majority committee report does not exclude the validity of the findings of the same committee’s minority report.
That report is over 400 pages long, and Denton proposes we accept on good faith his equally biased summary of it.
Well if good faith is good enough for you, you can accept my assurances that the minority report is full of the evidence that the euthanasia slope is indeed very slippery. It concluded that, “Overseas experience over almost two decades suggests that, while such a change may benefit a small minority of people toward the end of life, many more may be worse off as a result.”
If you find contradicting assurances insufficient, please access the report yourself from this link to the Victorian Parliament’s website: https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/file_uploads/LSIC_pF3XBb2L.pdf. Beware of the biases of all summaries of this report, and never accept the lack of evidence as some kind of evidence.
Here’s another small quote from this minority report, derived from the extensive research Andrew Denton placed great confidence in while assuring us there was no evidence of a slippery slope.
“The evidence is clear that the number of instances of euthanasia and assisted suicide is growing rapidly in all major jurisdictions where it is legal. This has been occurring for almost two decades in some jurisdictions, with no sign of abatement.
The usage of euthanasia and assisted suicide in practice is far out of proportion to the situations that were originally used to justify the practice in these jurisdictions: namely, that small minority of cases where the symptoms of pain are unmanageable. Moreover, the rapid growth in documented cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide probably materially understates the actual prevalence of the practice given low rates of reporting.”
So let’s say it clear and move on – there definitely is a slippery slope.
FACT TWO: No law can be written to safeguard the vulnerable.
Andrew Denton begins his attempted rebuttal of this fact by saying the evidence for this is comparable to the evidence for the slippery slope. Given how wrong he was about that, his case is not off to a great start.
He briefly cites that some representative groups overseas didn’t raise any concerns with him, and quotes an Australian researcher as rejecting the existence of any data to support concerns for increased risks to the elderly and disabled.
Unfortunately for Mr Denton’s fragile dismissal of these groups’ very valid concerns, it’s really easy to simply find another expert or ten who say the opposite. Denton has again selectively used the available data and medical experts to make the case he wants, while ignoring everybody else. More is needed to actually make the case.
The undeniable fact is the last few years of our life are generally much more expensive than all the years prior due to greatly increased health care costs.
In 1994 the Economic Planning & Advisory Council (EPAC) recommended considering euthanasia as a solution to saving on the lack of resources for caring for the elderly. It wasn’t about limiting suffering or terminal illness or end of life autonomy – it was about saving money.
The existing safeguards have been broken with impunity time and time again. Already in Australia the laws are often being flouted by medical professionals who think they know better than the law. Doctors admit this. Denton admits this in his next point. How can he possibly think that the same could not continue after it’s legalised, then under the cover of claimed consent?
FACT THREE: If things get bad Doctors will help you die faster anyway.
This isn’t actually an anti-euthanasia argument. I don’t know anyone claiming it doesn’t need to be regulated because it’s already happening.
Andrew Denton asserts this isn’t fair because you might or might not get that extra morphine if a doctor fears prosecution. He deliberately makes it personal and subjective (although hypothetical) despite earlier railing against what he called “F.U.D.” – fear, uncertainty, doubt. This is not a rational or coherent argument.
He suggests that the current lottery of doctors willing to break the law assisting their patients to die (do no harm?) leads to a covert context where some people might be killed against their will, and that regulation will bring the euthanasia industry into the light and prevent doctors doing the wrong thing.
No, Andrew, it won’t. It will simply provide them a social context where they don’t have to hide the fact that they killed their patients. Calling the wrong thing “right” doesn’t reduce the rate it occurs, as so comprehensively demonstrated with legal abortion.
FACT FOUR: Powerful drugs and palliative care can eliminate pain and distress at the end of life.
Andrew Denton acknowledges that palliative care is extremely successful in Australia. Around just 4% of palliative care patients are “beyond” the help of those carers.
Denton doesn’t contest this fact. Instead, he is suggesting that all of society be fundamentally changed forever by saying human life is only precious in certain circumstances, all for the benefit of a very tiny number of hard cases.
Denton appeals to subjective emotions instead of objective rationality to reshape social values and boundaries. This is the terribly myopic blind spot of so many on the political left, with little regard for wider contexts and long term consequences.
The evidence is in.
Andrew Denton’s arguments sound persuasive and smooth initially, but upon closer inspection rest entirely on subjective emotions, stories and anecdotes – and not evidence.
We have the countries which have gone done the path that Andrew Denton is suggesting for Australia, and they’ve failed – every single one. The so-called “safeguards” have been abandoned, people are fleeing the countries, and abuse is prolific.
It’s a first world fantasy that life is fair. Coincidentally, developing nations stricken with poverty have comparatively low suicide, euthanasia and abortion rates. It’s a ridiculously self-harming indulgence that developed nations are so dismissive of the value of life at every stage and in every circumstance. It seems that where it takes more effort to survive there is more will to survive and unconditionally value human life as a society.
Let’s not be the society that places conditional value on life, if the circumstances are just right. Let’s refuse to remove the ancient wisdom of requiring our doctors to take an oath to “do no harm”.