Christian pro-assisted dying group calls out opponents’ emotive language

Si Gladman / 17 May 2021

A Christian group that supports voluntary assisted dying (VAD) being made available for terminally ill people is urging religious organisations opposed to the reform to stop using emotive and misleading language.

Ian Wood (pictured), of Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Assisted Dying, has told the Rationalist Society of Australia that the use of words such as ‘suicide’ and ‘killing’ in the debate over VAD inflicted more pain on bereaved families.

Among the groups campaigning against VAD across Australia, the Catholic Church and the Australian Christian Lobby have frequently referred to the end-of-life option as allowing for state-sanctioned ‘suicide’.

“Unfortunately – but, sadly, as we have come to expect – those opposing voluntary assisted dying delight in using such emotive words,” Ian said.

“The use of the word ‘suicide’ needs to be retained as the sad loss, often in tragic circumstances, of a person who normally would have a life ahead of them. Voluntary assisted dying needs to be defined as giving a terminally ill person – someone who is suffering and cannot be relieved of intolerable suffering – a rational choice between two ways of dying under strictly regulated circumstances.

“When Christians refer to VAD as suicide, it casts the VAD choice in a deliberately negative way and inflicts all of the adverse connotations of ‘suicide’ on the bereaved family. The use of language in such a way is not what I would say demonstrates Christian compassion for those left behind.”

Ian’s group is made up of Christians who believe that having access to a pain-free, peaceful and dignified death with legal VAD is a demonstration of love and compassion for the terminally ill.

In a presentation to Tasmanian parliamentarians last year, he said many members of his group had died waiting for legislation.

Campaigners against VAD are stepping up their efforts to pressure politicians in South Australia and in Queensland, with the parliaments in these two states likely to soon pass bills to legalise the option. 

Among the other common arguments being used against VAD include that it would lead to a ‘slippery slope’ in which governments lose control of who can access it and vulnerable and elderly people being coerced.

Anti-VAD campaigners also argue that palliative care services are sufficient.   

But Ian rejected these claims and said most Christians were supportive of providing VAD as a compassionate end-of-life option for the terminally ill.   

“Anti-VAD campaigners appear unable to place the terminally ill person as the central focus of the discussion and the need for VAD,” he said.

Hear from Mike Gaffney MLC about his journey of seeing voluntary assisted dying legalised in Tasmania when he presents at the next RSA Webinar on Wednesday 26 May 2021. To attend, register here

Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at sigladman@rationalist.com.au or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman

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