12 October 2015: A 2011 DVD recording of a seminar on ‘Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide’ at University of Otago organised by the Religion & Public Issues Department led by Ian

We heard from an academic study the aspects that arise when considering the topic. These included:

Compassion – good in itself but does not determine any action. Is it OK to act on emotion alone? Can pain be completely eliminated as claimed – perhaps not in some cases. Does this devalue the elderly?

Mortonomy – avoid a ‘painful death’. Risk of copy cat suicides, the impact on society as a whole. Does having the ability to end life infer an obligation to die rather than justifying the right to live?

Securism – autonomous self-determination. The law can only say what is not right not what is right. If there was such a law would this amount to the State determining the right to die? Out of home care (eg hospice) needs better support. We use the phase ‘committing suicide’ as though it is a crime – need better terminology. Do suicide bombers control their own death or is this really in someone else’s hands?

We then heard a very moving account from a son who assisted his very ailing mother to end her life. He noted that at the time (emotional involvement) the many questions around assisted suicide had incredibly good and satisfactory answers! The terminally ill have a right to die in civilised societies he argued.

In discussion, we noted that euthanising pets is commonplace and seen as the humane thing to do!

Ian Harris