The Euthanasia debate has lurched backwards thanks to the misguided efforts of Democrat politician Sandra Kanck. She's an odd bird, Kanck - a Christian of sorts, I believe, with a musical bent. Over the years, I've had cause to love or loathe her, depending on the issue she is embracing. Her stance on euthanasia leaves me fiercely ambivalent. She has chosen to state under Parliamentary privilege the assorted accessible ways in which a dying person may take his or her own life. By law, that which is spoken in Parliament is transcribed and archived for ever in the pages of Hansard - pages which, nowadays, are available to read online. This means that the methods of suicide which are forbidden to be published in the public arena now are there. And, of course, furore has erupted. Rightly so. Kanck has done this to make a brave protest in the cause of euthanasia - but she has done inordinate damage because she has exacerbated the blur between euthanasia and suicide. Now everyone is talking suicide in various forms of strident indignation and the issue of euthanasia has been obscured.
The important thing has always been to make a clear distinction. "Assissted suicide" in the form of euthanasia of those in a terminal state of intolerable suffering is not the same as the suicide committed by the otherwise healthy depressed, disappointed or spiteful.
And it is not "mercy killing" although, good grief, mercy plays a large role in asssissting the suffering. But "mercy killing" has come to mean knocking granny off if she is too old or dependent or turning off the life support. And euthanasia is nothing to do with others making decisions on granny's behalf. Euthanasia has to be a self-made decision acknowledged in its legitimacy by the medical profession. It is between the dying and the doctor - or it should be. But the doctor is forbidden to take any action. Which is were the whole issue becomes so dreadfully messy, becomes an emotive public debate in which suicide gets mixed up with euthanasia.
And, rather like George Bush telling critics of his administration that they are unpatriotic and on the side of terrorists, the anti-euthanasia arguers are telling the pro-euthanasia lobby that it is pro-suicide.
For once and for all, supporting the compassionate measure of allowing those who are dying in pain and loss of dignity to make a graceful exit of their own choosing is absolutely not comparable to condoning lovelorn teens or bankrupt businessmen in cutting off their lives before their time. These are different issues.
Unfortunately, Sandra Kanck, in revealing the not very secret methods by which people may leave this world by their own hand, has thrown the baby of euthanasia out with the bathwater of suicide. And it is all a bloody mess.