As the spokesperson of a Catholic bioethics centre, there are some who discount my message because of my religious affiliation, rather than on the basis of its merits. It’s a classic case of “playing the man instead of the ball”. As two commentators noted in response to comments I recently made about the dangers of legalising euthanasia: “I am sick of the religious trying to force their narrow views on society.
“Dictate what you like to your own flock, stay the hell out of the affairs of people who want nothing to do with your beliefs.”
The point being made by these commentators is that religion should have nothing to do with the debate about euthanasia.
While I think Christians have as much right to express their views as any other New Zealander, I am, in all honesty, not interested in imposing my religious views on anyone. Actually, with respect to euthanasia, my own personal view is irrelevant.
But so, I would argue, is every other personal view. Whether or not people are personally in favour of, or opposed to euthanasia, is ultimately beside the point. To ask this question, as a recent Sunday Star-Times’ poll did, is to ask the wrong question. The crucial question is whether euthanasia can be safely implemented in the current context. Maryan Street, MP, glibly asserts that it can, while ignoring overseas evidence that says otherwise. I and many other New Zealanders of no religious persuasion believe differently. Our argument centres on safety and protection of those who are vulnerable. As another commentator puts it: “No-one’s trying to force their religion down your throat so take a deep breath, try and consider the argument in a rational manner.”
That the dangers of euthanasia are real is readily acknowledged by those wanting to legalise it. It explains why a lot of emphasis is placed on building in so-called safeguards. It has also been admitted by Maryan Street, in a public debate, that no amount of safeguards can stop the law being abused. So the argument about dangers cannot be dismissed as the rantings of “meddling god-botherers”.
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