How to draw the line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ reasons to die

12 November 2014

A Senate inquiry into legalising voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill people has recommended a conscience vote on the proposed bill after technical matters, such as what constitutes a “terminal illness”, are clarified. While this is an important step forward in grappling with the idea of the “right to die”, drawing a line at terminal illness for this purpose will be difficult. What’s more, restricting the right to die to people who are terminally ill is very different to what most of us think of as justifiable euthanasia. Research shows more than 82% of Australians support voluntary euthanasia where “a hopelessly ill patient, experiencing unrelievable suffering, with absolutely no chance of recovering” asks for help to end their life. This description covers terminal illnesses as well as other incurable conditions causing great suffering in which death may not be imminent.