Dignifying The Dying

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
13 Nov 2015

Confronting the pain and suffering of a dying person calls for a human solution, not a medical fix

Instead of reducing a person to their condition and then eliminating the condition by ending the life of a suffering person, Australians are being encouraged to the higher goal of respecting the lives of the suffering with good palliative care and personal ¬accompaniment - "dignifying the dying" rather than "dying with dignity."
Pushing popular slogans, such as dying with dignity, in the battle for legalised euthanasia is dishonest and just a lie.
"Adopting emotive slogans to bolster one's own position, while belittling the reasoning of your opponent, might pass as acceptable in political engineering but it is not a ploy that should determine debate over the life and death of fellow human beings, our neighbours," according to the Australian Catholic Bishop's spokesman on euthanasia and Bishop of Broken Bay, Bishop Peter A Comensoli.

The conversation over the legalisation of euthanasia has been reignited this week after comedian and television personality Andrew Denton began campaigning for legislative change.  He delivered the annual Di Gribble lecture on the topic of An Argument for Assisted Suicide in Australia.  He has also announced that he will launch a podcast series titled Better Off Dead next year, further pushing the campaign to introduce both assisted suicide and euthanasia in Australia.

Mr Denton also gave a number of radio and television programs, and featured heavily on Monday night's Q&A episode which focussed on the push to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia in Australia.

Following this, Bishop Peter Comensoli wrote an opinion article for the Daily Telegraph which ran under the title "Dying with dignity is just a lie" (

Bishop Comensoli challenged the "dying with dignity" slogan as a euphemism which purports to speak of something ennobling when its true meaning was "entirely menacing."

Rather than buying into the dishonest euphemism of "dying with dignity", we would do better, and more human, by dignifying the lives of the dying - Bishop Peter A Comensoli.

After the article was published, Bishop Comensoli spoke to 2UE's Justin Smith.  He explained that the various forms of euthanasia legislation which have been proposed seek to medicalise rather than humanise the reality of dying.  He challenged another euphemism, that of "ending suffering." "This is not about ending suffering as such, this is about ending lives," he said.  "That's what euthanasia does, ends lives."

He also noted the substantial increase in the number of people seeking euthanasia in the Netherlands, where it has been legal for more than a decade and the "bracket creep" of the euthanasia laws.  Statistics show that euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands have tripled in the period between 2002 and 2013, and deaths are increasing at a rate of around 25% each year in Belgium.  Reports also indicate that euthanasia is becoming increasingly available to those who are not terminally ill.   Twins who were hearing impaired, a woman who had been experiencing persistent suicidal thoughts and a patient whose gender reassignment surgery had been unsuccessful were all euthanised under the Belgian legislation.

Bishop Comensoli also provided the recent submission on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference into the current Victorian inquiry into end of life choices.  The submission called the proposal to overturn the prohibition on the intentional killing of citizens "ethically unjustifiable."  Additionally, such a law could not ensure the legal protection of the vulnerable and would fail to uphold the dignity of the dying.

Bishop Comensoli is a member of the Bishops Commission for Family, Youth and Life and served as the Episcopal Vicar for Life, Marriage and Family for the Archdiocese of Sydney before being appointed as the third Bishop of the Diocese of Broken Bay.  Among his other qualifications, he holds a Master of Letters in Moral Philosophy from the University of St Andrews and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Theological Ethics from the University of Edinburgh.
You can read the full submission on end of life choices here.  and the interview with Justin Smith is available here.