This was a mightily attended forum held by the Centre for Theology and Public Issues in the Colquhon Lecture Theatre in the Dunedin Public Hospital.  The theatre was packed nearly full.  I estimate at least 500 people.  As always, what follows is my notes:

What is at stake?  The arguments for euthanasia are based on compassion, dignity or autonomy, and secularism.  I didn’t write down the details of these arguments which were summarised from a thesis done under the Centre for Theology and Public Issues.  Instead I noted two questions.  Can we die with meaning?  To die pointlessly and painfully seems to me one of the most horrible fates to end a life.  My second thought was, Is this part of the triumph of the individual over the social contract?  There is no one answer.

Listening to Sean Davison speak I became concerned, Is euthanasia the end of life choice for people who have lived with no regrets.  He described the life of his mother as an ex-doctor, well travelled, well-loved, living in a beautiful home and garden with a view of the harbour from Broad Bay.  I can’t claim to enjoy a life like that.  It belongs to a tax bracket above mine.  The kind of person who came out to support him seemed to be representatives of the same kind of people.  I wondered if classicism is one of the elephants in the room in the discussion about euthanasia.

At the same time I did keep vigil with a dying aunt.  It marked out several long days and when she was awake I did not find her coherent.  If I was in the similar situation I would willingly consider the option to accept the pill to end my life.

The decision is made in the moment.  At the same time the decision made in the moment is not objective.  The person making the decision can make a mistake.  Human life has a value.  Putting down a life is a tragedy.

This will be a conscience vote for parliament.  The first time a euthanasia bill was put before parliament the vote was two to one against.  The most recent time a similar bill was put before parliament it was almost balanced.  Whether it passes this time is speculation.

The quality and funding for palliative care in New Zealand is not consistant, and it needs to be before such a bill can be passed by parliament.  Safeguards need to be ensured.  If euthanasia is provided for the terminally ill will it be provided eventually for the non-terminally ill, or for disabled dependents?  There are troubling questions that follow on passing such a law.

Euthanasia is not a crime in New Zealand.  Instead we have laws for taking a human life: homocide, manslaughter, and assisted suicide.

I always look forward to question time after a lecture.  It is like ice cream after a meal.  Sadly this time I felt disappointed.  The questions did not provide me with more insight.

Stuff has its own report on the debate, which I found selective in what it reports.  It just goes to show that you can’t believe everything in the news.  The Otago Daily Times has its report here.  The forum itself will  available as a podcast from the Centre for Theology and Public Issues website.

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