On rights and obli­ga­tions

The Saturday Paper - - Letters & Editorial -

Vol­un­tary as­sisted dy­ing is strongly op­posed by Right To Life Aus­tralia through its tried and tested tac­tics of po­lit­i­cal in­tim­i­da­tion and by fram­ing com­pas­sion as “killing” (John Power, “Un­writ­ten end­ings”,

Au­gust 5-11). Its web­site cites the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights and states, “The Right to Life is the most fun­da­men­tal right of all human rights. With­out it, all other rights are mean­ing­less.” The ar­gu­ment that vol­un­tary as­sisted dy­ing con­tra­venes this in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised in­alien­able right to life is de­void of sub­stance. If I have a right to life that I can nei­ther be de­prived of, nor trans­fer to any­one else, it fol­lows that my life can be no one’s prop­erty but my own. I am there­fore en­ti­tled to make de­ci­sions about it, even to end it, and ask for com­pas­sion­ate as­sis­tance to that end pro­vided that I do not harm oth­ers. The sanc­tity of human life, which Right To Life en­dorses, re­gards human life as a gift from God, who alone may de­cide when it shall end. It fol­lows that it may not be given up, or taken by an­other. Per­sonal au­ton­omy in this re­spect is over­rid­den by “God’s pur­pose” for be­liev­ers and non­be­liev­ers alike: al­beit not if life is pro­longed med­i­cally. Right To Life so­ci­eties do not up­hold life as a right to be ex­er­cised, but as an obli­ga­tion to be com­plied with and en­dured, no mat­ter how bit­ter or mean­ing­less it may be­come. The ti­tle “Right To Life” so­ci­eties presents an un­for­tu­nate and cruel para­dox. They may be more fit­tingly named Obli­ga­tion To Life so­ci­eties, and or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Dy­ing With Dig­nity and vol­un­tary eu­thana­sia ad­vo­cacy so­ci­eties be named Right To Life so­ci­eties.

– Dr Ju­lia Anaf, Nor­wood, SA

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