The Art of Dying: A Christian Alternative to Euthanasia


Archbishop Julian provides thoughts on renewed calls for euthanasia legislation in the Tasmanian parliament, and offers a positive Christian alternative which promotes a “good death” for those at the end of their life.

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Grace & Truth is a weekly podcast with Archbishop Julian Porteous, continuing from the Q&A with Archbishop Julian series.

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  1. The Art of Dying – A Christian Alternative to Euthanasia. Archbishop Julian Porteus. Interview on Cradio, Tasmania.

    A Christian response to the Archbishop from Ian Wood.

    I urge the Archbishop and readers to take the time to view two contrasting deaths, from the many I have on file.

    The assisted death of John Shields in Canada. “At his own wake”
    A fascinating depiction of how John, raised in a Catholic family, was ordained as a priest, but left the Church after being barred from preaching when he challenged the church opposition to birth control. Read about John’s life as a social worker, his diagnosis with terminal neuropathy and then his advocacy for Medical Assistance in Dying, and using that choice at the end.

    Please compare John’s death with that of Flora Lormier from Multiple Sclerosis.

    Yes, Archbishop, as you state, there have been advances in palliative care, but their own data clearly shows that as many as 1 in 6 patients in the terminal stage of their terminal illness report moderate to severe distress from pain and breathing problems. In jurisdictions with Assisted Dying choice, two facts become clear – 1) palliative care improves and 2) assisted dying choice is not an either/or with palliative care but simply another compassionate end-of-life option.

    A terminal patient is, by definition, going to die. Voluntary Assisted Dying is not a choice between life and death, but gives an alternative way of dying for the patient to consider. Those who view voluntary euthanasia and assisted dying as against their beliefs simply do not go through the rigorous process of requesting this assistance!

    [Voluntary] euthanasia or an assisted death does not deny the person the opportunity to say farewell, as the Archbishop suggests. If anything the opposite is correct – knowing when you are to have that assistance gives the time to say goodbye to friends, make amends for family problems or disagreements, etc – time that may not be possible if you are hooked up to machines as you die, or in that last resort of palliative care when all else fails, put into a coma with terminal sedation until you dehydrate or starve to death!

    The real problem arises when various church hierarchy use their adherence to church doctrine and dogma to override and deny the majority of Australian Christians THEIR CHOICE to follow what they believe is a true final act of love and compassion.

    Desmond Tutu, renowned Archbishop Emeritus of Capetown, advocates this choice here >

    I am very happy to discuss this issue further, but for now leave you with the words of Governor Brown of California. Gov. Brown, who had trained as a Jesuit and is a committed Catholic, and had this to say when signing the California Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation. “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death. I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

    Ian Wood
    National Coordinator and Spokesperson
    Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia
    Mittagong NSW

  2. Dominique Bellonte on

    Any one that want out of this life, be it a child or an old person should be given the proper counselling and allowed to choose the time and the hour to go with dignity and with their people around.

  3. Geoffrey Williams on

    Archbishop Porteous doesn’t mention any parishioner he has ministered to at the end of life, suffering an excrutiating death process, for whom palliative care does not provide the relief he so glowingly speaks of. He didn’t mention any such parishioner saying something like: “Father, I’m so grateful to be allowed the privilege of dying an excrutiating death, just as Jesus did! I hope I can go on suffering like this so that I can understand just how Jesus suffered.” If such a statement had ever been made, I’m sure a Catholic priest would have quoted the encounter. I have yet to hear about even one.
    I agree that Palliative Care is wonderful for the vast majority of patients, but honest palliative care specialists such as Dr Roger Hunt will admit that they cannot provide a relatively easy, painfree death in every single case. It is only a very small minority who need the choice of medical assistance in dying, and everyone else can continue with the excellent care already available.
    I do not believe that we Christians have the right to deny other people who are suffering at the end of life the right to choose for themselves, and themselves alone, to request medical assistance to die more peacefully.
    In Oregon, experience over 20 years has shown that in fact, some people live longer than they might otherwise have lived, simply because they have the assurance that their death is not going to be painful. This knowledge has a very powerful palliative effect which Palliative Care as such cannot provide.
    The Churches object to voluntary assisted dying because of the commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, but we are only here talking about people whose death is imminent and inevitable. Religious dogma has no place in this debate.

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