Intelligence Squared Debate: Euthanasia Should be Legalised
Death is the most personal of matters, but it’s also a political hot potato.
Most of us don’t choose (or even expect) the way in which we die, but for the terminally ill, death is a looming certainty to be dealt with. And as humans live longer – largely thanks to the interventions of modern medicine – we’re more likely to die of serious illness, and to have our deaths medically postponed.
There has long been a call for governments to grant us the right to choose our own death, by legalising euthanasia. But what are the circumstances in which this right should be granted? Who gets to decide – and when? And then there’s the sobering knowledge that this is one life decision that can’t be reversed.
From medicos to philosophers, politicians to law enforcers, the terminally ill to their loved ones, this one issue we all have an opinion on – and a possible stake in.
Speakers for the motion include Beth Wilson, the outgoing Victorian Health Services Commissioner, Professor Loane Skene, an ethicist at the University of Melbourne, and Dr Philip Nitschke, the founding director of pro-euthanasia group Exit International.
Speakers against the motion include Dr Shakira Hussein, from the Asia Institute at University of Melbourne, Scott Stephens, religion and ethics editor for ABC Online, and Associate Professor Bill Silvester, Director Respecting Patient Choices Program at the Austin Hospital, and Intensive Care Specialist.
Beth Wilson became Victoria’s Health Services Commissioner in 1997. She is a lawyer by training and has worked mainly in administrative law. Beth has had a long-standing interest in medico/legal and ethical issues.
For more than a decade, Dr Philip Nitschke MBBS PhD has been the face of the voluntary euthanasia debate in Australia and around the world. He is the author of the banned Peaceful Pill Handbook and Killing Me Softly: Voluntary Euthanasia and The Road to the Peaceful Pill published by Penguin in 2005.
Professor Skene is a professor of law in the faculty of Law and an adjunct professor in the faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. She is a member of the NHMRC Legislation Review Committee on Human Cloning and Embryo Research (the Heerey Committee), the Australian Health Ethics Committee (one of the principal committees of the National Health and Medical Research Council), and the Australian Workforce Advisory Council.
Shakira Hussein is a writer and researcher based at the University of Melbourne. She is the author of From Victims to Suspects: Muslim women since 9/11 (Yale University Press/New South) and her work has been published in a wide range of academic, literary and media publications.
Scott Stephens is the religion and ethics editor for ABC Online. He is the editor/translator of the selected writings of the philosopher Slavoj Zizek, and is currently working on books with theologian John Milbank and literary critic James Wood. He is a regular commentator on ABC Radio National and ABC TV.
Associate Professor William Silvester is The Director of the Respecting Patient Choices Program at the Austin Hospital. He is also an intensive care specialist and a medical consultant for DonateLife, the Victorian Organ Donation Service and the president of the International Society of Advance Care Planning and End of Life Care.