February 22, 2024

Peter Singer debates Sydney Archbishop

Civil but sharp-edged.

If you can bear the bizarre squealing sounds at some moments in this video, it makes interesting viewing. It is a public debate between world-renowned bioethicist Peter Singer, a utilitarian and a staunch advocate of legalised euthanasia, and the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, a PhD in bioethics from Oxford who has published several books.

It was a very civil occasion. Both contestants wore their uniforms: the Archbishop in the flowing white robes of a Dominican friar and the ethicist in the slightly dishevelled look of an Ivy League professor (with an Order of Australia pin in his lapel).

Singer’s argument centred on the experience of Oregon, where, he said, years of experience have shown that there is no slippery slope. He criticised Fisher: “I have to say I am disappointed by what I can only regard as Anthony Fisher’s wilful refusal to look at the evidence about the countries that he has described.”

Fisher emphasised the dangers of bracket creep in Belgium. “My big question was: who dies in a euthanasia regime? It is, of course, the frail, elderly, sick, lonely, disabled, babies. So what seems to me to be ultimately at 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?”

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Peter Singer