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Let’s be clear: the foot in the door is euphemism in the euthanasia and assisted suicide debate

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The recent events involving Dr. Philip Nitschke, Exit International, and the suicides of two non-terminally ill men in Australia have prompted a national debate on the topic of assisted dying. As noted by Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt, this is not a new issue, nor is Dr. Nitschke’s outspoken commentary uncommon, particularly when legislative bills are under consideration in Australian parliaments.

Dr. Nitschke’s forthright advocacy for euthanasia or assisted suicide, regardless of terminal illness status, often prompts discomfort among supporters of such legislation at the state level. While these organizations generally share the goal of legal change, they distance themselves from Nitschke’s direct approach, deeming his comments “unhelpful.”
In contrast to many proposed laws that aim to restrict access to those with terminal illnesses, Nitschke advocates for unrestricted access for any consenting adult.

This fundamental difference highlights divergent visions of the future of assisted dying. Even proponents of limited legislation may unwittingly contribute to an incremental shift toward broader access. While some genuinely seek a constrained model, others recognize the potential for incremental expansion once a foothold is established.

It is therefore unsurprising that Dr. Rodney Syme, often referred to as “the other Dr. Death,” characterizes Nitschke as an extreme figure in the debate, highlighting his maverick status on the issue. The dialogue surrounding assisted dying continues to evolve, with differing perspectives shaping the path forward.

The report continued: “He (Syme) is eager to demonstrate that there is a significant discrepancy between his advocacy group and the controversial views of Dr. Nitschke.” Dr. Syme stated, “He is not supported by the organizations that support Dying With Dignity.”

Syme’s organization, the euphemistically titled “Dying With Dignity Victoria (DWDV),” is currently engaged in efforts to advance its agenda at the Victorian State elections scheduled for later this year. Syme is evidently concerned that the media attention surrounding Nitschke and Exit may impede the pursuit of his agenda. To be frank, the controversy surrounding Nitschke and Exit has the potential to negatively impact the organization’s reputation.

It is accurate to note that some state-based groups have distanced themselves from Nitschke on their websites. However, as far as I can ascertain, DWDV is not one of them. It is worth noting that the DWDV website does state that in 1998, Syme’s group “organized and supported Philip Nitschke’s election campaign as an independent in Menzies, standing against Kevin Andrews.”

It is inevitable that individuals and groups will take divergent paths and that relationships will evolve. Aside from the frustration that organizations like DWDV must experience when Nitschke undermines their efforts, this formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society has, itself, shifted its stance in recent years. However, it remains essentially the same entity.

Syme and DWDV now eschew the use of the terms euthanasia and assisted suicide, with Syme himself arguing in The Saturday Paper a few weeks ago that the focus should be on voluntary assisted dying, not assisted suicide. As previously reported, the term “voluntary assisted dying” or “assisted dying” has emerged as a popular alternative in the UK and elsewhere in recent years, largely due to the lack of progress on euthanasia and assisted suicide bills. This use of euphemisms was recently documented in an excellent article by Jacqueline Harvey on the website The Public Discourse.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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