Melbourne News

Forum discuses implications of assisted dying

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Media and Communications Office
On the eve of the introduction of euthanasia to the state of Victoria, a discussion forum called The Discourse: Truth Set Free was held at St Peter and St Paul’s Catholic Church Hall on Tuesday evening as an initiative to provide a public discussion forum on contemporary issues facing Australia today.
Facilitated by Fr Dean Mathieson OFM CAP, three panelists took to the stage before an audience of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, as they encountered some key questions texted through that shaped the topics discussed for the night.
On the topic of euthanasia, anaesthetist Dr Eamonn Mathieson, who works in a number of private and public practices across Melbourne began by addressing how society has arrived at this point in its history.
Dr Eamonn addressed Canada as the leading country of this particular movement of introducing assisted dying and explained that the Canadian experience of legalising euthanasia in recent years provided the playbook for how the advocates of euthanasia would pursue its legalisation here in Victoria.
He also said: 'The push for euthanasia throughout the world is an international project that is very well resourced and well organised.' He believed that Victoria was ‘chosen’ or ‘targeted’ as an opportune environment to fall following Canada due to the political and cultural circumstance in our state.  He also pointed out that in 2017 when the VAD Act was passed that over 40 legislatures around the world rejected the push to legalise euthanasia.
Speaking on progressive culture, Dr Andy Mullins, author of Parenting for Character: Equipping Your Child for Life suggested, ‘to fight clearly in Parliament House we need to get more organised about the level of education in terms of raising young people who will see a greater reason to put up with discomfort where it’s necessary and that’s a massive call,’ he said.
 ‘We need to teach that suffering has meaning, otherwise, we won’t win that battle with euthanasia,’ he said. 
Adding to the discussion, was Anglican Minister Rev. Heather Centrangolo who serves at a Chaplain to International students at Trinity College, Melbourne University. ‘The language of atheism speaks about dying with dignity and not to be afraid of death and staring death in the face. But if you don’t have a belief in God, if there’s no sense that the timing of my life and moments of my life have a sovereign purpose over them then what does dignity look like and what does dying with dignity and courage look like?’ 
Dr Eamonn, discussed the issue of Palliative Care and its role and what it has to offer. He said that many Palliative Care specialists still spend their time educating other doctors about their role which he said remains poorly appreciated and misunderstood among the medical profession as well within our society. He said: 'The palliative care offers so much more than a ‘painless’ death. It focusses on flourishing and living well during the dying process and addresses all the aspects of the human person including their relational familial, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs in addition to their physical needs of symptom control and pain relief.'
 He also said that early referral to Palliative Care specialists by doctors and the provision of excellent palliative care and resources, as well as support from family and communities would diminish and remove any need for requesting euthanasia in the future.
‘If such a negative view of death takes hold of our society we’ll be paying for it with mental health and so many other different ways,’ added Dr Mullins.
‘So much of our decision making is now based on our emotional responses rather than a considered position and when we think we make our decisions rationally I think we’ve been driven by our internal biases,’ said Dr Mullins.
‘I think we’ve got a lot of work to do in education and in families to raise children so that they are not driven simply by emotion.’
Other topics which arose also included the relevance of Christianity and the church’s role in the lives of people in today’s society.
‘I think we want to be critical of the world around us and of evil and movements based on ideology that would say for us as Christians is essentially not just wrong but dangerous and harmful to people’s lives but at the same time but what we also need to be critical of is internally and what is happening inside the church and to hold intention that the reason for decline not just in church attendance at churches in general that have influenced the Christian thought and Western civilisation but in social change and cultural change that has happened around us,’ said Rev. Centrangolo.
‘Stepping back if we look at what our purpose is in our life, because it seems to be that every problem is trying to solve a situation of how we form the future and I suppose Christianity talks about we need truth and we need to learn how to love,’ added Dr Mullins.
‘We need to teach our kids how to love, we have to teach the idea of service, and it seems to me that there are two ways that we form a future. First of all, one is through our families that we are educating kids so that they’re capable of loving but the second, I think, is through our work. If you see our work as service then we can create a world that’s wonderful,’ he said.
Adding to this point, Rev Centrangolo expressed that this was also about ‘doing church life very well’.
‘It’s a difficult thing for Christians as marriage is so central to the way God has shaped society and to the life of the church and marriage matters a lot but on the other hand we have come to a point in this society where we idolise romantic love, idolise marriage,’ she said.
‘We’ve lost getting back to the core in finding our identity in Christian community in our church family where your life, has worth in the eyes of God and that family identity comes out of a community filled with all different kinds of people,’ Rev Centrangolo said. ‘Church community does it well, it’s beautiful, it changes lives and it destroys isolation and I think we want to recapture that.’
The night concluded with a Q and A session and there will be more forums to come in future.
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