Live or let die

Mr Abdul. Photo by Helena Abdou.
Will religious beliefs decide the outcome of voting on moves in State Parliament to introduce euthanasia in Victoria? Helena Abdou reports.

He lost his older brother to cancer two years ago but says he would not have considered voluntary euthanasia even if it had been available.

Mr Abdul is a devout Muslim who believes that a terminally-ill person should allow nature to take its course rather than people playing the role of God.

The 77 year-old retired factory worker watched on as his elder brother suffered in the months leading up to his death but wouldn’t go back and change a thing if he had the chance.

“I knew my brother was suffering but I could never imagine him wanting to go down the route of Euthanasia. It goes against everything we believe in,” said Abdul.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced in July that all recommendations by an advisory panel were accepted and a bill will be voted on later this year to potentially introduce assisted dying in Victoria.

The issue was raised in Parliament earlier this year when Victorian Upper House MP Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins spoke about community concerns over the bill.

The Democratic Labour Party MP, who confirmed earlier this year she would join federal senator Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives party, was in the news recently when she revealed that her estranged husband had been convicted of child pornography. She has campaigned against euthanasia.

Mr Abdul said religion would have “the final say” on the vote. “It’s a big part of a lot of peoples lives and therefore we make such decisions based on our beliefs.”

Dr Valerie Peers, who owns and operates her own medical clinic, shares similar beliefs to those of Mr Abdul.

“I don’t agree with legalising voluntary euthanasia,” she said. “I’ve dealt with terminally ill patients and I’ve seen them make a turn for the better. I’ve seen them go in a lot less pain.”

Dr Peers, raised a Christian, works by her religious guidelines. She does not prescribe contraceptive pills and believes that it is not anyone’s place to take the life of another.

“Thou shalt not kill. It’s in the Bible. We shouldn’t be making these decisions about a person’s life. It’s not our place,” said Dr Peers.

She said politicians should take their own religious and personal beliefs into consideration. “Whichever way they choose to vote will come down to that politician’s religious beliefs,” Dr Peers said. “They better hope they don’t get it wrong because they’re also representing the views of their electorate.”

Live or let die
Dr Peers. Photo by Helena Abdou.

Colleen Hartland, Greens MP for the Western Metropolitan Region, said  the party was in favour of the Bill.

“We’ve been pretty supportive of the process it’s been through to get to this stage,” she said.

Ms Hartland is aware of the role religion will play in the votes.

“It’ll play a huge part in this and that’s why we have what we refer to as a conscience vote. People will decide according to their own beliefs as to what they will do,” Ms Hartland said.

The ministerial advisory panel put together by the Victorian government comprises of legal experts, medical professionals and people living with disabilities who provide advice about any implications with the Bill.

However, some Victorians are opposed to not only voluntary euthanasia but also the use of a panel and said they’ve been too active and biased in their reporting.

“I understand that people who have different religious views or that are opposed to this will say it’s not the best way to do it, but I think they’ve done a pretty good job,” said Greens MP Ms Hartland.

Mr Abdul said there was too much ambiguity surrounding the issue. “You just don’t know if it’s really over for the person and who are we to decide that,” he said. “It’s all in God’s hands.”