Andrew Denton has made a bizarre pseudo-mercy dash to Queensland to demand that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk introduce a bill to legalise euthanasia before the October 2020 state election. Denton says if the LNP wins office next year, such a law won’t be passed. “That means at a minimum another four more years of bad deaths, all the trauma that brings, and suicides of terminally ill,” he told reporters at Parliament House. The latter was a strange lament. Is he a suicide supporter or not? Denton was described in one report yesterday as “the most high profile advocate of voluntary assisted dying.” While he may or may not regard that as flattering, if true it doesn’t say much for the intellectual firepower of the cause. For money and media coverage, however, the pro-euthanasia lobby is not wanting. In Queensland, the cashed-up Clem Jones Trust play-acts the role of tribune of the little people on the subject. When its exalted boss speaks, reporters listen. Asked yesterday about Denton’s intervention, his response was predictably sectarian and obnoxious:
David Muir, chair of the Clem Jones Trust, says a minority of those who favour life over choice are taking up too much space on the issue.
“That minority is represented by some church leaders here in Queensland who are opposing it … they are opposing something that the congregations want,” he told reporters. [Without any evidence – C.L.].
“The travesty is that we have a small group of people in Queensland who are campaigning to try to stop it, and we need to listen to the majority.”
Muir is also chairman of The Real Republic – another outfit bankrolled by the estate of Clem Jones, the late long-serving Labor mayor of Brisbane. He admires Paul Keating for his willingness to verbally “attack” his foes. You could never guess. (To his credit, in fact, Keating is one of the country’s most eloquent opponents of euthanasia). As for Muir being a spokesman for the average man, nothing says ‘common touch’ like a republican insurance lawyer who boasts of being a Knight of Honour of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. In most Queensland pubs, that wouldn’t be regarded as a rank. Close enough, though. It seems knights, even ones invested in a knock-off order of recent invention, aren’t what they used to be. Attacking divines and minorities on behalf of the mob – to make it permissible to kill the weak – doesn’t exactly reek of chivalry.
Unlike Denton, Campbell Newman is at least a son of the Sunshine State and was its leader from 2012 to 2015. Earlier this year he testified to the parliamentary committee on end-of-life and palliative care. Forgetting he was a mere premier and not a king, Newman told the committee he should have legalised voluntary assisted dying when he was in office. That’s because his mother – former senator Jocelyn Newman – had Alzheimer’s and her suffering at the end was not “dignified.” She died in April, 2018.
In March, Newman wrote an article about his mother’s decline which appeared in several newspapers. “We saw a charismatic and commanding woman change,” he recalled. “The whip smart mind was lost, she became argumentative and aggressive. This then morphed into a state of bewilderment and her body wasted away like her mind.” The first thing I thought on reading this remembrance was, she never ceased being your mother, “morphed” and “wasted” or not. The second: a man who looks back on the premiership with which he was entrusted only to lament that he didn’t make it easier for certain people to die – rather than to regret not having done more to help them live well – is a man who didn’t deserve high office in the first place.
“Voluntary assisted dying” (VAD) is a deliberately contrived euphemism for the illegal aiding of a suicide. In essence, Denton and Newman want parliament to remove that stumbling block (“illegal”) from the Queensland criminal code in relation to one special class of abettor: doctors. Perversely, this would licence as Ian Fleming double 0s the very people entrusted to defend life. It would obliterate the Hippocratic Oath and endorse a fiction rejected at Nuremberg; namely, that killing certain people is morally permissible if a legislature allows it and you were following orders. Nor is it a conflation of categories to speak of assisted suicide as an indictable offence in the hierarchy of homicidal crimes. If a friend in crisis asks you for a Walther and you hand one over, then brother, you’re going to trial – and not just for the gun.
VAD propagandists have released several catchphrase bacilli into the airwaves we breathe. These include “dying with dignity” and the creepy Philip Nitschke’s “peaceful pill.” The same activists have a cynical habit of publicising sad stories told by hand-picked celebrities – even B-list Hasselhoffers who won’t go away. Denton, like Newman, has declared that a parent’s difficult death brought him to the “assisted dying” movement. Conventionally enough in a broader lobby clearly in thrall to Orwell, his organisation is called “Go Gently.” I saw a few of his recent come-back interviews. That’s advice he should consider taking.
Appeals to emotion are not only fallacious logically but vainglorious when accompanied by demands for the corruption of the law to salve personal feelings. Denton must explain why we should now empower medical personnel to kill, against all the evidence of the twentieth century which proves that hard cases make good slogans but bad, murderous law. He must justify the incitement this would constitute for the vulnerable, who will know the state regards their lives as “undignified.” He has to prove – not beyond a reasonable doubt but beyond all conceivable doubt – that the law will never be altered to sanction the killing of not just the terminally ill, but of the depressed and the hopeless as well. (As it has been elsewhere in the world). But you will never hear him or any of his confrères make such a case. Those arguments have been lost at the bar of history. So they hide behind the brown-shirted nastiness of “the majority,” beat up on priests and try to frighten the elderly. All because they saw death once and didn’t like it.