Church and States battle
There are non-religious people who are wary of introducing voluntary assisted dying laws, but the Catholic strain is obvious and contentious. It was the organisation and funding from the broad Catholic church – as well fierce opposition from the AMA and concern from some Indigenous groups – that defeated the NT law in 1997.
Dr Rodney Syme from Dying with Dignity Victoria says that the professional authority of the AMA and the moral authority of Christian churches, especially the Catholic church, is weakening. According to Dr Syme, “There is a fundamental opposition on moral grounds to assisted dying, but you’ll very rarely find the church coming out saying that because that moral argument does not carry any weight in discussion. They set up a huge number of organisations that don’t reveal the fact they are religious or Catholic organisations. One is Hope. Hope sounds nice, doesn’t it? But it’s actually a Catholic front.”
Right to Life is targeting key marginal Victorian seats ahead of the state election next year. The American state of Oregon has allowed doctors to prescribe lethal drugs for terminally ill patients for almost 20 years, and Dr Toffler, a member of the Catholic Medical Association in the US is in Australia to tell Australians it has been a disaster. Toffler’s Australian tour marks the start of serious resistance to a new wave of attempts to legalise assisted dying in Australia, particularly in the big states of Victoria and New South Wales.
Dr William Toffler is a controversial member of the religious right and was part of a very small minority in the Oregon Medical Association who opposed a woman’s right to choose abortion. He has publicly aligned himself with the discredited view that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer. He is being sponsored in his visit to Australia this week by Victorian Liberal MLC Inga Peulich. DWD NSW VP, Shayne Higson, is reported as saying “I don’t think Dr Toffler would be considered an expert in Oregon…His views are not really credible. It’s disappointing that Australians, especially the Victorian Parliament, are going to be exposed to his views. We deserve a better, evidence-based debate.”
In the latest article in The Age, Dr Toffler is reported to have told his audience at the Victorian Parliamentary briefing that “Perhaps you should have veterinarians, who have training and skill in giving overdoses to living things, living animals,….at least you’d keep the House of Medicine from an apparent conflict of interest, and you’d have trust in your doctors.” According to The Age, he also said “In my 40 years [in the medical profession] I am yet to see somebody who we can’t get on top of the pain,”, a statement which goes against the accepted evidence and admissions by Palliative Care Australia. Asked about Toffler’s presentation, Sex Party MP Fiona Patten said “For a doctor he made the curious observations that you couldn’t trust the evidence nor could you trust the doctors,” click for ‘Assisted dying: Vets should assist, not doctors, says anti-euthanasia campaigner’ in The Age 2 July 2017
In the first article in his DyingForChoice.com series on Oregon, Neil Francis (pictured) examined claims and speculations made by Dr Toffler and others, that Oregon has the second-highest suicide rate in the USA (or is always in the top 10), that Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act has resulted a massive increase in the state’s general suicide rate, and other astonishing statements. Click for blog’s on Oregon (go down page to blog posted on Saturday 2nd January 2016) or download full report Physician use of misinformation to speculate assisted dying suicide contagion in oregon by Neil Francis January 2016
A more recent blog by Neil Francis, who operates DyingForChoice.com, observes that the Catholic Church in Australia is currently reeling from “revelations at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (link is external), of a shocking number of cases (link is external) that have occurred under its ‘pastoral umbrella.’ Yet it presumes to tell the rest of us about the hypothetical moral dangers of assisted dying laws for ‘the vulnerable.’ “ Francis contends that “if the Catholic Church were indeed genuinely concerned about coercion of ‘the vulnerable,’ then it would equally oppose the right to refuse medical treatment, particularly if the treatment were life-prolonging.” Click for DyingForChoice.com blog 22 June 2017