Monthly Archives: September 2010

Let there be sung Non Nobis and Te Deum!

The Western Australian bill for Euthanasia has been defeated! 24 votes to 11! From the SMH “WA euthanasia bill rejected”:

Voluntary euthanasia will remain illegal in Western Australia after the bill was defeated in parliament. MPs were granted a conscience vote on the legislation, which was introduced by Greens MP Robin Chapple. The private members bill would have allowed people over the age of 21 with a terminal illness who were sound of mind to ask a doctor to end their life.

Labor MP Kate Doust, who is opposed to euthanasia, told AAP she had always been “fairly confident” that the legislation would be rejected. “It’s a very good outcome. The actual vote should send a clear message that the members of the council do not regard it as good policy,” she said. “What Robin Chapple proposed was a simple solution to what is a complex issue. I’m very happy that we’ve put this matter to rest.”

Liberal MP Nick Goiran, who also voted against the bill, told AAP he was “relieved” with the decision but did not think it was the end of the debate. “The Greens have a track record of putting these bills up on a regular basis…I have no doubt that it will come up again,” Mr Goiran said.

The same article goes on to provide some background to this:

The decision in the Upper House comes after Health Minister Dr Kim Hames revealed he helped a terminally ill patient die with a lethal dose of morphine. Speaking to ABC radio on Wednesday, Dr Hames, who voted against euthanasia, said he had helped a patient pass away by issuing a strong dose of morphine.

“I warned the family that the dose of painkiller that I was about to administer was a respiratory suppressant, can stop that patient breathing,” he said. “Did they want me to do that? Did the patient want me to do that? The patient and the family said yes, so I administered that dose of painkiller.”

Dr Hames said his actions were legal and rejected any notion that the incident was euthanasia. “What I did was give pain relief, and the side effect of that pain relief resulted in that patient dying then rather than in half an hour’s time,” he said. “That’s very different to me putting in a drip and administering a concoction of drugs deliberately to take the life of that patient.”

And that’s the simple matter here – not a complex matter at all, really. The distinction surrounds the intention of the act. If the act is intended to relieve pain, rather than hasten death, it is legal. It was a therapeutic act. The dose of morphine was intended to relieve pain in the living patient, not to end the pain by killing the patient, even though a side effect was to hasten the death itself.

Note too that the article reports that the Green MP who introduced the bill “has told reporters he will re-introduce the bill if he wins another term in parliament.” It is clear that they will not take no for an answer. They will keep chipping away at public resistence to their ideas.

(Incidentally, The Age published my short letter on Euthanasia in their “….and another thing” column this morning:

RANJANA Srivastava’s story (Comment, 22/9) demonstrates perfectly the difference between shooting dying cows and euthanising dying human beings. We shoot cows to put them out of their misery. We want to euthanase human beings to put them out of our misery.

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“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! MAN SENDS EMAIL TO OPPOSITION LEADER!”

Is this supposed to be a news story? Basically it amounts to the headline “Man sends email to Baillieu”, which provides a rather flimsey opportunity for the Fairfax media to beat the gay marriage drum once more.

We have a State election coming up here in Victorian in November. As I have mentioned before on this ‘ere blog, I am very impressed by my local member, James Merlino. A Catholic and a man of principle, he is also a minister in the current Labor Government, and this may be the first time in my life that I “cross the floor” and vote Labor. And while I am not particularly impressed by the present government, the paper today did contain two other bits of information. First, the “man sends email” article also contained the closing point that that “Premier John Brumby, like Prime Minister Julia Gillard, is opposed to same-sex marriage”, and a separate article, “Euthanasia Debate Back on the Agenda”, reports:

Premier John Brumby, who has long opposed euthanasia laws, said there were no plans for the government to re-examine the matter, or refer the issue to the law commission.

That doesn’t entirely reassure me, but makes me feel a bit better about my current voting intention.

Keep an eye on Western Australia today too – and a pray for their government. They are voting on Euthanasia legislation there today.

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Starting the discussion on Euthanasia: The Difference Between Cows and Humans

Thre is a story in today’s Age by oncologist Ranjana Srivastava: “Family’s pain multiplied at pointlessly lingering death”. It tells the story of a dying 97 year old woman and the way her family dealt with the process of her dying. She fell into a coma and the family expected her to die soon, but she was still alive, still in a coma thirteen days later, and that’s where their patience ran out. Except for one daughter who remained with her (out of a sense of duty, it seems), the others all went home and said “tell us when its over”. Srivastava describes the following conversation with one of the woman’s sons:

Outside the room, I run into her son. A burly man, he is bleary-eyed from having slept in a chair for the past seven nights. He comes straight to the point. ”Doc, this is inhumane. I can tell you that if it was one of my cattle dying like this, I would have shot it, done anything to end its suffering.”

The analogy is a familiar one to many oncologists; although it makes sense on one level, I find it difficult to base my decisions by equating cattle to human.

”Surely, in this modern era, there is something you can do?” he pleads.

”I assure you that we are doing everything to keep her comfortable and nothing to prolong her life.” It sounds odd, an apology that says, ”I am sorry your mother won’t die.”

It is then, his voice muffled by wads of tissues, that he drives the point home.

”I started off feeling sad for mum. But we had talked about it and I really felt that she was ready to die. She misses dad and all her friends, there is nothing that she longs to do any more, and she just wants to go in peace.

”But here she is, something in her body just not surrendering when her mind is made up. And you know what this does to us as a family? It replaces images of a wonderful and rich life with those of aimless suffering and a drawn-out death.”

I desperately want to help. But this time, for a change, there is no life support to unplug or chemotherapy to stop. It is simply waiting for nature to takes its course.

”Euthanasia is against the law,” I say gently.

He chokes on his tears. ”I hate myself so much for being angry that mum won’t die. I should be sad, but I am not. This is not my mum any more, I want this to end.”

I find myself telling the truth, ”I, too, wish she would die.”

He looks up at me, as if suddenly he has found an ally. ”Doc, I don’t know how you guys deal with this stuff. This is painful. I am going home, call me when it’s over.”

Srivastava ends her article by saying: “Some days I muse about the slippery slope argument but today would have been a good day to discuss euthanasia.”

Well, yes, discuss it by all means. Let’s do that. Let’s start with the way that this story demonstrates so perfectly the difference between shooting dying cows and euthanasing dying human beings.

We shoot cows to put them out of their misery. We euthanase human beings to put them out of our misery.

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Anglicans to move against Euthanasia

According to this report in The Age, Bishop Phillip Huggins has proposed a motion to the National Synod of the Anglican Church (currently meeting in Melbourne) to oppose the moves of the Federal Labor Government to move toward allowing Euthanasia laws in the Territories. The motion includes the words: ”Our task is to protect, nurture and sustain life to the best of our ability.”

Bishop Huggins correctly points out the rather underhand way in which the Greens have acted in regard to this matter:

Bishop Huggins said: ”This was not a matter of pre-election debate. Would people have voted the same way if they knew a Labor government with the Greens would, as a near-first action, promote a conscience vote on euthanasia?

”There would be more integrity in foreshadowing this proposal before an election rather than immediately after. It should have been made plain during the election campaign. There should be a broad-based public debate.”

This point was echoed in a short letter to the editor on The Age’s opinion page (not currently online), which commented that there were more than twenty Green’s policies listed on Andrew Bandt’s election pamphlets – not one of them mentioning Euthanasia, and this was their very first move once they got a candidate into the lower house.

Lesson No. 1: If you paint your agenda Green it is easier to hide it in the woods.

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Happy 200th Birthday Great, Great, Great Grandpa Schütz

Johann Gottfried Schütz (1810-1900)

Well, okay, I am a few days early, but I don’t want to miss this occasion. On 13th October 2010, my great, great, great grandfather, Johann Gottfried Schütz, turns 200. With a bit of luck, we hope to make a pilgrimage to his grave in the next week or so.

Here is a picture of his gravestone, which is online at this site:

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Australian “German” Churches on a German Website

The beautifully named "Hochkirche", Tarrington, Victoria
The fittingly named “Hochkirche” in Tarrington, Victoria.

Well, how about this? I’m doing a bit of research on the net to find out about the burial places of my ancestors, and (Lo and Behold!) I find this German website with nifty pictures of a lot of Australian Lutheran “country” churches. Josh has just been talking about these wonderful buildings which he encountered on his recent trip to the Barossa Valley. Now you can get an eyeful too.

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Newman’s Laity

The Pope quoted Newman in his beatification homily:

“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.”

Pray for us, Blessed John Henry Newman!

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