Euthanasia Debate With Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Prof Peter Singer Exposes Major Rifts in Culture
With Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese
Photography: Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese
A capacity crowd of around 1200 filled Sydney Town hall last night to witness two of the world’s leading ethicists debate the topic, “Should Voluntary Euthanasia be legalised?”
Australian-born Professor, Peter Singer AO, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton, argued the case for the affirmative. Professor Singer is a moral philosopher at Princeton University specialising in applied ethics and former chair of the philosophy department at Monash University.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP (previous Bishop of Parramatta), argued the case for the negative. The Archbishop is a prominent bioethicist, a leader in moral theology and philosophy, and a formal lawyer.
Archbishop Fisher has argued against euthanasia many times in articles and publications, interviews, addresses, homilies and debates. He holds a doctorate in Bioethics from Oxford University.
Professor Singer has also written and lectured extensively on euthanasia as well as selective infanticide, abortion and animal rights.
Following the Thursday evening debate, the Archbishop said, "The debate was civil and probing and before a large audience, mostly of very thoughtful young people who were engaged with all the issues. It exposed some major rifts in our culture with respect to the vulnerable and those who are suffering, to healthcare and the law, and to the responsibilities of freedom."
The two men put their case and rebuttal forward and took around 40 minutes of questions from the audience, guided by the moderator Scott Stephens, the ABC's online editor of Religion and Ethics. Both had a strong support base in the audience.
The questions were varied and opened up the floor for insightful discussions from the two renowned minds.
Professor Singer wanted to stick strictly to the topic of voluntary euthanasia only for competent adults with a terminal illness - no deviation and no broadening the discussion.
Archbishop Fisher argued the subject could not be kept within such narrow confines and was happy to take questions from a broader scope.
Reflecting on the debate, Archbishop Fisher said, "My big question was: who dies in a euthanasia regime? It is, of course, the frail, elderly, sick, lonely, disabled and babies.
"So what seems to me to be the issue is what kind of community we will be in the future. Will it be one in which the young and frail, the sick and sorry, the depressed and disabled are devalued, and more and more at risk? Or one where they will be protected and nurtured?"
It was a great debate that remained focused on the issue and did not descend to personal ill-mannered quips. Viewers walked away with a greater insight into the two opposing arguments and with a greater motivation to look more deeply into the subject topic.
At the conclusion of the debate, Archbishop Fisher and Professor Singer exchanged copies of their latest books - although there is little doubt they are both very familiar with each other's work.
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