Notre Dame Euthanasia Forum

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 18-8-2010

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



Euthanasia and palliative care are issues requiring community empathy, concern and careful consideration, as was demonstrated at a recent forum held at The University of Notre Dame Australia's Fremantle Campus.

Organised by the Notre Dame Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society and attracting over 100 community members, key speakers, LJ Goody Bioethics Centre Director, Rev Dr Joseph Parkinson, Francis Burt Chambers Barrister, Peter Quinlan and Notre Dame Professor of Medicine, Associate Professor David Watson, argued the case for a wider range of options for terminally ill patients, taking an ethical, legal and medical perspective.

Providing an opportunity to explore the Catholic position on voluntary euthanasia, speakers stated their case in some depth before opening the floor to public discussion.

In his opening speech, Rev Dr Parkinson clarified the term ‘voluntary euthanasia’, indicating that it requires intent and action to take life.

He made clear that withdrawing futile treatment of the terminally ill is not an example of voluntary euthanasia, since in such cases, while death might be foreseen, it is not intended.

“The Catholic Church does not object to withholding futile or burdensome treatment. Even when that treatment is required to sustain life, if that is what the patient chooses,” he said.

“That choice is the patient’s legal and moral right. If the patient subsequently dies, that death was the result of their choice not to treat the underlying illness. Their death is foreseen but it’s not caused by their action. The cause of death is their illness.”

Mr Quinlan discussed the legal aspects of voluntary euthanasia, drawing attention to the idea of choosing to end life and the implied and questionable ranking of the value of human lives.

“Before beginning to talk about whether any rights, and in particular, the ‘right to die’ are good for us, it is necessary to immerse ourselves in the complicated network of human relationships that make up the community, arrive at some conception at the good or ends of those relationships and then determine what laws will best suit those ends,” he said.

In exploring implications for clinical practitioners, Associate Professor Watson questioned the advisability of allowing doctors to act in a way which is denied to the rest of society and argued for the use of teamwork in improving the care of terminally ill patients.

“Legislating in favour of euthanasia is no substitute for better research, better clinical care, better employment of those tools we currently have and better palliative care,” he said.

Forum host and Director of the Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society at Notre Dame, Associate Professor Sandra Lynch, said the forum was useful in clarifying the Catholic perspective on the issue of voluntary euthanasia and explaining the Church’s opposition to its legalisation.

“Hearing the views of experts in the fields of ethics, law and medicine provided clear illustration of the implications which the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia would have for terminally ill patients, their families, medical practitioners and West Australians,” she said.

To view the speakers notes please select from below:

Media contact: Andrea Barnard 08 9433 0610, 0410 344 040