This article was published by Paul Russell on the Hope Australia website on March 4, 2016.
By Paul Russell, founder and director of Hope Australia, Vice Chair, EPC - International
For those tempted to the thought that a euthanasia or assisted suicide law, once passed, is cast in stone, never to be changed, recent events in Belgium should make you think again.
Not only has the euthanasia statute been subject to continual re-interpretation to the point where euthanasia for psychological reasons is now taking place, the parliament also debated and passed an amendment to the 2002 law only two years ago that removed the lower age limit to now include children. In light of further and more recent events, it seems that change may be just around the corner once again.
How does all this happen? While the words of a statute may stand, the conversation about interpretation never ceases. This is not necessarily evidence of some sinister plot by a person or group continually agitating for change. It is most likely simply that while the lines may have been drawn at a certain place at a certain time, medical issues are rarely that neat and what may be a clear line in theory may well be somewhat blurred in practice. Add to that the possible sense of pressure on doctors, on the family, on the person themselves and even the ideal of informed consent will seem less important.
It is simply not possible to construct a law that can defy and resist these pressures. That such pressures are extended and amplified by those whom we might call ‘euthanasia enthusiasts’ adds to the certainty that the story of the Belgian experiment with euthanasia is far from finished.