The Culture Of Death Suffers Two Setbacks In Australia

Author: Alberto Carosa

The Culture Of Death Suffers Two Setbacks In Australia

By Alberto Carosa

The voluntary euthanasia law, which came into effect in July in Australia's Northern Territory, was partly overturned by a bill that Canberra's House of Representatives later adopted. If the Upper House, expected to vote on the bill this year, follows suit and backs the anti-euthanasia bill, the territorial law will be scrapped. The national parliament can in fact quash laws in Australia's territories, but not in its six states.

This is an undoubted setback for the culture of death, a setback which one of Australia's most prominent Catholic pro-life leaders, Babette Francis, anticipated. She was a member of the international pro-life contingent which lobbied the recent UN- sponsored FAO World Food Summit in Rome. Francis, a Catholic from India, is married to an Australian and has lived in Australia for many years. She is the national and overseas coordinator of Endeavour Forum, which is a political pro-life and pro-family lobby. It's not specifically Catholic. About 75 % of its members are Catholic, while the other 25% belong to other denominations. Francis is also on the editorial team of the Catholic Women's League monthly magazine, ; the magazine gave her credentials to attend the Food and Agriculture Organization summit.

"Euthanasia has been legalized in the Northern Territory," she noted. "This is an area in the north of Australia which is not yet a state and has a small population. It is a territory which is ultimately governed by the federal government. There is a bill in the federal parliament to override the Northern Territory legislation. I think that it will go through the House of Representatives quite easily. We may have a bit more difficulty in getting it through the Senate. But I am optimistic that in the end we'll be able to override the Northern Territory legislation."

Darwin's Unnatural Selection

But it has been a terrible tragedy for Australia, she pointed out, and "I feel ashamed as an Australian that one man has been put to death, executed under this assisted suicide, legalized euthanasia." She was referring to an Australian cancer patient, Bob Dent, who in September became the first and thus far only person to use the voluntary law. He did so in the capital of the Northern Territory, Darwin, through a computer-delivered lethal injection. Ironically, this first legalized mercy killing took place in a city named after the theorist of evolution! Dent is the only one "thus far" because another cancer patient, Janet Mills has announced in a press conference her intention to end her days in an "open, dignified, and human manner" by benefiting, so to speak, from the law before it is repealed (see , Dec. 13th, 1996).

In an article in significantly headlined "A Day of Mourning and Horror," the paper's official theologian, Fr. Gino Concetti, condemned the Australian law in the strongest possible terms. After noting that Australia has ushered in the "tragic season of legalized assisted suicide," Fr. Concetti said that "nobody has the power to decide the end of one's own life. " This practice is justified with the same arguments as those used for divorce and abortion, he contended, namely, the absolutizing of the freedom of conscience as a "personal religion, an idol, which replaces God and His Revelation." Thus the doctors become "notaries of death. Not 'sweet,' as is claimed by their upholders, but cruel, absurd, and appalling." He quoted Edward Cardinal Clancy of Sydney as saying that "it is a day of shame for Australia." And "not only of shame," Fr. Concetti concluded "but also of mourning and horror. Assisted suicide is murder legalized by the state. One of the most abhorrent forms in history."

The Fears Of Aborigines

The Northern Territory has the largest percentage of aborigines of any area in Australia. But the aboriginal population doesn't like euthanasia at all, Francis explained. The aborigines are frightened to death now going to hospitals because in the past they were badly treated-not in hospitals, but generally, as ethnic minorities are. And they are very afraid that they will be the target of euthanasia. Most of the aborigines now won't go to a hospital for treatment they need to go there to receive. According to Francis, the liberals, who generally support multiculturalism and aboriginal rights, have simply ignored the fears of aborigines.

Francis attended the 11th World Congress of the Right to Die Society, which was held in Melbourne, and, significantly, the people there promoting euthanasia were blurring the distinction between stopping useless medical treatment and the deliberate giving of lethal injections. There is a very important difference of principle involved here, because if a patient has an advanced cancer, the pro-life leader argued, he doesn't have to accept painful operations that are not really going to even prolong life. The patient can say, "I have had enough, the medical treatment or operations must cease." And medical personnel give only food and water and pain relief treatment. There is an evident difference between the common law right of every human being to refuse unnecessary or extraordinary medical treatment, and the deliberate giving of a lethal injection, which is designed to immediately kill.

At this conference, reported Francis, a doctor was sliding from one to the other. He seemed to be saying, "Isn't it terrible that we resuscitate someone who's dying of pneumonia or has got advanced cancer and so on," and then he noted these requests for lethal injection. "So they're really trying to confuse the public on this," was her indignant comment.

Conflict Of Interest

Moreover, there was a doctor there, a chief public prosecutor from the Netherlands who is the president of the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society, and Francis challenged him about the Remmelink report of the Dutch government's 1993 general statement. It showed that a very high percentage of the people who suffered euthanasia in the Netherlands had not requested it. They were simply murdered. They were given what is called involuntary euthanasia.

"So I challenged him: How do you explain this? And he said, 'Oh, it'll take too long to explain.' He refused to answer me. This prosecutor gave a very interesting talk. He said that although euthanasia is illegal in the Netherlands, just theoretically illegal, they don't prosecute if certain safeguards and codes are followed. But he said that actually only one or two cases have ever been prosecuted, and they never really came to the higher court. It turns out that he is the chief prosecutor and he decides which cases are going to be investigated. So he is the president of the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society, and also the chief prosecutor of a big county, and then he is deciding which cases are to be prosecuted! This is the most obvious conflict of interest that I could think of. No wonder, then, that so few cases in the Netherlands are prosecuted. "

Another Victory

But the culture of life in Australia scored perhaps an even more significant victory last Oct. 25th. The Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal forced a Prahran homosexual and lesbian bar dubbed Virgin Mary's to change its name by ruling that Virgin Mary's Pty. Ltd was unacceptable for corporate registration. The Catholic archbishop of Melbourne, the World Apostolate of Fatima, Human Life International, and Endeavour Forum, among others, had appealed to the tribunal to reject this registration on the grounds that it was offensive to the religious sentiments of a vast section of the Australian population. An Anglican minister and an Islamic representative also gave evidence. "This decision represents a victory for all in our community who demand proper reverence for holy names," Francis exulted, "and it is all the more important because it sets a significant precedent."

For example, she is convinced that citizens of the United States should start asking their hotels and bars to remove the name of the drink "Virgin Mary" from their drink menus. "This is sacrilegious and blasphemous and offensive to Christians. And it made it very difficult for those of us in Australia who were fighting the name registration of the above company's homosexual and lesbian bar. It made it very difficult for us to fight this case because lawyers for the bar said, 'Oh, this is named after the American drink.' We were able to prove that in fact the owner was mocking the Blessed Virgin Mary, but at the same time it would be good if our American colleagues would try to persuade their hotels and bars not to use the name Virgin Mary for their drinks."

This article was taken from the March 6, 1997 issue of "The Wanderer," 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733. Subscription Price: $35.00 per year; six months $20.00.

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