‘35 years of my nursing in aged care and palliative care, I remain convinced’

5 July 2009

Dear Bishop John,

The Mercury (newspaper) article (13/6) was fairly even handed, but on reading the comments from both the nurse and the doctor, it seems that there may be problems convincing both these groups of health professionals to participate even if the (euthanasia) bill became legal. Nurses and doctors take an oath to preserve life. Both professions can be censured for deliberately ending a patient’s life, so it seems unlikely that there would be ready participation. Social mores and convention would be likely to prevail, as it already does, with many doctors and nurses refusing to take part in early or late term terminations of pregnancy; some nurses or doctors also refuse to participate in sterilisation surgery, vasectomy and tubal ligations. This is considered professionally appropriate; so I can only assume that if the bill became law it may run into the same issues.

Jo and I attended a seminar on this matter sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church in Launceston last Wednesday. The speakers, Barbara Baker, a palliative care nurse, Dr Paul Dunn, a palliative specialist and Dr Stan Gauden, a radiation oncologist, reinforced my stand against this bill. Having spent 35 years of my nursing practice teaching and administering in aged care and palliative care, I remain convinced of the sanctity of human life; we do not give life therefore we cannot take it away. It is against the law of the land and also church law.

I shall be writing a submission to the committee, in which I shall give my objections; as in spite of its name (Dying with Dignity) the bill is an affront to human dignity. The countries who already have such a bill, The Netherlands and Belgium are already having to rethink their approach to these matters because of complaints of abuses, and of course we all know where such distortions of the law led to the abuse of power in Nazi Germany.

I realise that many will see my stand as one not to be taken seriously because it is “tainted” by my Christian faith! Well so be it!

I trust these observations will be useful to you.

Yours in Christ,

Marie White

PS Dear Bishop John, yes I am happy to see this letter on your blog. I would urge all Christians to speak against this bill, rather than remain passive. Many elderly people in the Netherlands are frightened of hospital admission because of the laws there.  Marie

NOTE: Suggestions on making a submission can be found at www.makeastand.org.au and details on where to send submissions can be found at http://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/ctee/CTEEnotes.htm.

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