Monthly Archives: March 2012

How will you die?

Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to members and friends of Dying with Dignity NSW at their 2012 AGM and conference.

The transcript of my speech (fully referenced) is now available on the DWD NSW website.

But I wasn’t just there to speak – I was there to learn. What I learned was concerning.

Dying with Dignity groups throughout Australia, and their umbrella group, Your Last Right, are lobbying tirelessly towards end of life law reform. As you will see from my speech, their efforts are continually stymied by a deluge of misinformation and propaganda produced, principally, by unscrupulous religious zealots who aren’t averse to lying and dissembling in order to achieve their aims.

The Catholic Church and its fundamentalist representatives are a prime source of propaganda – despite the fact that 74 per cent of Australian Catholics actually support voluntary euthanasia. The church doesn’t even represent it’s own constituency.

But it is powerful and wealthy. Worldwide, the Catholic Church invests many millions of dollars into opposing voluntary euthanasia. When some brave politician agrees to introduce a bill into parliament, the church goes into overdrive, doing everything they can to make sure that when you come to the end of your life, your choices will be limited by their doctrine.

How can small, grass-roots organisations like DWD NSW compete with the might of the Catholic Church?

Well, they can. First, they have overwhelming public support. 75 per cent of Australians support VE law reform, and only 13 per cent are implacably opposed to it. Second, the facts are on their side. Every piece of credible medical and sociological research shows that in countries and jurisdictions where VE is legal, it is being managed responsibly and safely. There is no evidence that people are being killed against their will or that vulnerable groups are at risk. None.

And yet, even our Prime Minister Gillard has been conned, saying recently that she didn’t see how a VE law in Australia could be managed safely.

In a scholarly book on Euthanasia and Law in Europe, John Griffiths has this to say on the kind of propaganda which has obviously influenced Ms Gillard:

“Imprecision, exaggeration, suggestion and innuendo, misinterpretation and misrepresentation, ideological ipsedixitism, and downright lying and slander (not to speak of bad manners) have taken the place of careful analysis of the problem and consideration of the Dutch evidence.”

This is where you come in. How will you die? And is it worth a small investment of your time and/or money to help ensure that when your time comes, or that of your loved ones, your choices are not limited by the religious beliefs of others?

DWD NSW was hit hard by the Global Financial Crisis and I assume the same is true of other groups. They need to re-build their war-chests. As their Treasurer pointed out yesterday, doubling their (already considerable) membership, increasing donations and bequests, and attracting more volunteers would make a huge difference and ensure the long-term viability of the group.

The subscription for DWD NSW is a measly $35 per year. That seems like a very small investment in your end of life choices. I’m going to be joining both DWD NSW and my local DWD Maroochydore group.

I’d urge you to seek out DWD in your state and become a member. If you have a skill and a little time, please consider offering your support. Perhaps you could manage a small (or large) donation. And, importantly, consider leaving a bequest in your will. Bequests are very important in helping these kinds of organisations combat the considerable resources of the churches.

Here are some useful links for you:







NTVES: Northern Territory Voluntary Euthanasia Society ( or GPO Box 2734 Darwin NT 0810

If you’re a Christian and appalled by the way some of your fellow religionists are conducting themselves in this debate, you may consider supporting

  • Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasiaa growing group of Christians who believe that, as a demonstration of love and compassion, those with a terminal or hopeless illness should have the option of an assisted pain-free, peaceful and dignified death if that is their choice

Chrys Stevenson

The Debate on Assisted Dying: Distortion, Misinformation and the Influence of the Religious Lobby

I’m very honoured to announce that I will be the guest speaker at Dying with Dignity’s NSW AGM and Conference to be held from 2pm – 4pm on Saturday, 24 March at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts at 280 Pitt Street Sydney.

The topic of my speech is:  “The Debate on Assisted Dying: Distortion, Misinformation and the Influence of the Religious Lobby” . However, I will not be focusing solely on voluntary euthanasia. I’ll also be talking about dominionism and the impact of religious propaganda on a range of socially progressive issues, including VE, gay rights, women’s reproductive issues and more.

My argument is that campaigners for these issues are fighting discrete battles within a larger ‘war’ – an international war against secular government and policies. The organisation, resources, international networking and sheer rat cunning of the religious right – together with the astonishing volume of propaganda they produce – makes it difficult for any single group to combat their onslaught.

In my speech I will suggest that it’s time for greater interaction between socially progressive activists (whether Christian or secular) to expose this campaign of disinformation from the religious right, shame those who uncritically disseminate such propaganda, and demand that politicians be far less credible in accepting ‘evidence’ from religiously biased sources.

My speech is not ‘anti-Christian’. Indeed, the majority of Australian Christians are at odds with religious bureaucracies in supporting socially progressive issues. Christians should, of course, have a voice in the public square and should, of course, have the right to hold a range of views on social issues. My contention is simply that they have the right to base their views on reliable information and that religious lobbyists have a public and ethical responsibility not to weight their arsenals with pseudo-science, political spin, urban myths, anecdotal ‘evidence’ and other scare-mongering strategies. In doing so, they not only harm the causes they oppose, but deceive their own followers and do untold damage to the reputation of the religion they purport to represent.

Of particular concern are organisations which conceal their religious bias behind secular sounding ‘fronts’ and individuals who claim academic neutrality but whose work is clearly methodologically flawed and ideologically biased.

My speech will run for about 40 minutes with question time afterwards.

If you’re in or near Sydney, please come along. I’d love the opportunity to meet as many of my readers as possible.

If you have your own contact networks, please consider spreading the word – we’d love a packed house and voluntary euthanasia/assisted dying is such an important subject for all Australians.

Entry to the event is free and afternoon tea will be served.  I will, of course, be mingling after the event and might even be persuaded to adjourn to a nearby pub!

There’s more information on this flyer or you can contact DWD NSW here.

Chrys Stevenson

Dr Jim McDonald, Greens candidate for Noosa in the forthcoming Queensland state election says he believes that people who are living with a terminal illness should be able to make informed choices between palliative care and ending their life with dignity. If elected, Dr McDonald says he will support legislation to that effect.

Dr McDonald and Neil Francis, Chairman and CEO of Your Last Right will be speaking in support of assisted dying at Dying with Dignity Maroochydore (Qld) on Wednesday, 21 March at 2pm. DWD Maroochydore meets in the CWA rooms directly opposite the Maroochy RSL. For more information contact June or Alistair Henderson on 0402 989 433 or at vessq at bigpond dot com.