Terminally Ill Woman: The Debate Over Legalizing Assisted Suicide Scares Me

National   |   Erin Parfet   |   Jan 18, 2017   |   7:47PM   |   Washington, DC

Julie Morgan received grave news that no one at any age, 20, 40, 60, 80 or 100 wants to hear.

“The doctors have told me I have a few months to live,” the mid-50s woman wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald.

During the past four years, cancerous growth originally isolated in Morgan’s breast metastasized to the spinal column, hips, ribs and lungs. Surgery, chemotherapy, hormone replacement therapy, and radiation were unsuccessful, she said.

Despite the grim news delivered by her physicians, the Australia woman said she wasn’t ready to die, and had plenty of things she wanted to do yet with her life.

She also mourns the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Australia.

“No doubt one of the key ideas will be the notion that we ought to have a ‘free choice’ when it comes to the manner of our death. This is coupled with the different understandings that people have about what it means to die with dignity,” Morgan told the newspaper.

“These are vitally important conversations. However, it often feels to me that the voices who want physician-assisted dying are given extra amplification by celebrities, and that, because they talk about dying with dignity, they somehow must be right. But the past four years have confirmed for me everything that my two ethics degrees have taught me: that human dignity is so inherent that it is expressed even in extreme vulnerability and not just in the good times.”

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In 1995, Australia’s Northern Territory became the world’s first jurisdiction to enact legislation authorizing physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in restricted circumstances, according to the Parliament of Australia. Passage of the legislation sparked international controversy and ethical debates. Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal in the remaining Australian territories, even at the request of patients, and carry criminal charges.

However, lawmakers in New South Wales and Victoria currently are debating bills to legalize the deadly procedures. In the past few years, other Australian territories have attempted to pass similar legislation, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Since that time, three bills seeking to legalize assisted dying (in New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia) have been rejected by state parliaments,” Morgan stated. “To hear politicians blithely debating euthanasia laws is particularly galling, having experienced the painful end of this process.”

Morgan concluded: “Recognizing the full scope of human dignity, we stopped capital punishment a long time ago. Now bringing in legislation that allows a group of experts to determine who can “legally” die, seems a retrograde move. Intellectually, that worries me. And once the legislation has been approved, experience tells us that it is likely to grow exponentially…that scares me.”