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License to kill

Is Australia's moral compass being called into question as opinions change about euthanasia?

Last Modified: 19 May 2013 10:22
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It is illegal in Australia, taboo across Asia, and a political and moral minefield to boot, yet poll after poll shows 80  percent of Australians want voluntary euthanasia introduced.

The nation shocked the world in the 1990s when the Northern Territory became the first place in the world to permit voluntary euthanasia.

The controversial law was almost immediately repealed, but now euthanasia is back on the agenda as it grapples with an ageing population coupled with huge advances in technology that mean many people face a medicalised, prolonged and costly death.

As Australia’s state parliaments debate euthanasia bills, the hysteria surrounding the issue is matched only by its ethical complexity and the number of heart-rending stories it generates.

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Is it the ultimate act of blasphemy, a wrecking ball at the heart of the medical profession, legalised murder of the vulnerable, or a victory for compassion and personal choice?

We join euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke as he runs confronting suicide workshops, and 'Right to Life' campaigner Paul Russell who is determined to bring him down.

We meet a chronically ill man who wants to kill himself but cannot under Australian law, as well as a quadriplegic who thought he would want to die if he was paralysed but lives a full and happy life.

These human stories are given nuance by the views of a Catholic Archbishop determined to prevent it, and a moral philosopher who coolly strips the debate to its ethical core.

The term "euthanasia" stems from the Greek – meaning "good death" - but for its vociferous opponents such a thing will only come to pass over their dead bodies.

Is Australia finally about to grant its citizens the human right to die with dignity or has an entire nation lost its moral compass? And is voluntary euthanasia a solution?

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Al Jazeera
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