Friday, March 09, 2007

Death at the ABC

What is it about the supposedly religious themed Compass that makes it keep coming back to stories about euthanasia? Last Sunday, we had the story of a New Zealand woman who was looking after her dying mother at home, and killed her by morphine and putting a pillow over her face. She was not charged originally, but then she decided to press her luck by publishing a book about it. End result: 6 months in prison. Of course, international death hound Philip Nitschke was there offering his support, and the whole documentary was done in a way that was meant to elicit sympathy.

Only problem was, I didn't find the daughter very likeable at all. (Admittedly, she was put in a terrible situation, and the medical system didn't work as it should; but still, smothering relatives with pillows is something I think few people want to see encouraged.)

Then this Sunday coming, I see Compass is about a woman with a terminal illness giving a party before she heads off to Holland to hopefully [sic] be legally put down. Again, I am expecting nothing less than an emotional appeal for legalised euthanasia to be the main aim of the documentary.

The thing about this is that it would seem palliative care specialists are usually against euthanasia and insistent that the right sort of care can mean a relatively "good" death for most people. (OK, there will be always be exceptions. Nothing's perfect.) Yet the views of such practical experts rarely seem to get an airing. To my surprise, and to his credit, Norman Swan's Health Report on Radio National recently did devote a show to one such doctor. The transcript is here. I am guessing, though, that the audience was not large.

In a way, I don't like talking about this topic because it feels too much like tempting fate. No one who speaks against euthanasia wants to be personally tested in their attitudes by watching a close relative slowly die, or having a painful terminal illness themselves. Still, the pro-euthanasia lobby seems to get a pretty much unfettered run when it comes to the print media and television documentaries, and that bugs me.

UPDATE: I started to watch last night's Compass program (the one about the woman holding a party before heading off to Holland.) Unfortunately, I didn't get far past the first five minutes, then woke up as the end credits rolled. (I should not lie down on the sofa past 10 pm.) From the introduction, it seemed that maybe the party process made her change her mind about euthanasia, but I am not sure. People who are all for it don't often seem to be the type to change their mind. If anyone saw it, perhaps you could enlighten me? The show's transcript is not up yet.

On a general point, Compass is generally a pretty dull show these days. Maybe there is a lack of good religious themed documentary being made by anyone, which is a pity.

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