Paul Keating has an important op-ed in the Fairfax press:
The justifications offered by the bill’s advocates – that the legal conditions are stringent or that the regime being authorised will be conservative – miss the point entirely. What matters is the core intention of the law. What matters is the ethical threshold being crossed. What matters is that under Victorian law there will be people whose lives we honour and those we believe are better off dead.
In both practical and moral terms, it is misleading to think allowing people to terminate their life is without consequence for the entire society. Too much of the Victorian debate has been about the details and conditions under which people can be terminated and too little about the golden principles that would be abandoned by our legislature.
An alarming aspect of the debate is the claim that safeguards can be provided at every step to protect the vulnerable. This claim exposes the bald utopianism of the project – the advocates support a bill to authorise termination of life in the name of compassion, while at the same time claiming they can guarantee protection of the vulnerable, the depressed and the poor.
No law and no process can achieve that objective. This is the point. If there are doctors prepared to bend the rules now, there will be doctors prepared to bend the rules under the new system. Beyond that, once termination of life is authorised the threshold is crossed. From that point it is much easier to liberalise the conditions governing the law. And liberalised they will be. Few people familiar with our politics would doubt that pressure would mount for further liberalisation based on the demand that people are being discriminated against if denied. The experience of overseas jurisdictions suggests the pressures for further liberalisation are irresistible.
Now Paul Keating is using a slippery slope argument here and I well realise that it could just as easily be applied to other social policies that are currently being debated. It seems to me, however, that there is far more mischief that can result from killing the old, the weak, the unwanted, the frail but with plenty of assets, the too-expensive for the socialised health care system, and ultimately the annoying and inconvenient than there could be from any other social policy change. If you examine my list – I’m sure it is incomplete – a state sanctioned euthanasia law creates incentives for relatives to murder each other and it ultimately creates incentives for the state to murder too.