The Euthanasia Debate Continues

Debate over euthanasia continues in many countries. Opinions were divided for months in Italy over the case of Piergiorgio Welby, who died Dec. 20 when he was administered a sedative and his artificial respiration was turned off.

More recently, in Australia, cancer sufferer John Elliot traveled to Zurich, Switzerland, to put an end to his life with the aid of the organization Dignitas. As often happens with these cases, pro-euthanasia activists exploited the emotional appeal of a suffering and terminally ill patient to push for a so-called right to die.

Elliot was accompanied in his journey by Australian euthanasia advocate, Philip Nitschke, as well as a reporter from the Melbourne-based Age newspaper, the periodical reported Jan. 27. Nitschke openly admitted that he hoped the resulting publicity would help his long-standing campaign to allow euthanasia in Australia.

Nitschke recently published a work on how to commit suicide called "The Peaceful Pill Handbook." Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock is appealing the decision made by the Classification Review Board to allow the book's publication in Australia, the Age reported Jan. 13.

Reacting to the news of Elliot's death, Australia's health minister, Tony Abbott, warned that legalizing euthanasia would put the elderly at risk of being "bumped off," the Age reported Jan. 29.

Abbott distinguished between the legitimate use of pain relief that could hasten death as a secondary effect, and the deliberate intention to die. "If the intention is to cause death, then that is wrong and it should continue to be wrong," said Abbott. The article noted, nevertheless, that other politicians have declared their support for allowing euthanasia.

The Swiss clinic Dignitas, where Elliot went to die, is well known for its promotion of euthanasia. The clinic's founder, Ludwig Minelli, said on a recent trip to England that he was even in favor of helping depressed people to end their lives, the London-based Times newspaper reported Sept. 21.

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