May 28, 2024

Blazing Australia

If you are not inclined to be disputatious, don’t visit Australia at the moment. Across the country is a heated debate about same-sex marriage. According to the bookies, the Yes vote is set to win, although the No vote is giving its opponents a good run for the money. Newspapers are full of op-eds for and against; the broadcast media seems to be only “for”; and Twitter is going wild.

But something equally important is being debated: assisted suicide. The lower house of the state of Victoria yesterday voted for a bill which will legalise it. If it passes, other states will almost certainly follow. It will mark a dramatic turn in Australia’s law and medicine. But – compared to same-sex marriage – almost no one is talking about it.

What accounts for the difference? Oxford bioethicist Professor Julian Savulescu, writing in The Conversation, says that people fear death and like talking about sex and that in evolutionary terms, death is less important than reproduction. 

It’s an interesting question. I don’t believe that I agree with his answer. I think that people intuitively understand that control of marriage is the hinge of social life and are reluctant to redefine it.

But what do you think? Why is the debate over same-sex marriage so much more engaging than the equally important debate over euthanasia?

Michael Cook
Down Under everyone is quarrelling about two enormously important issues: euthanasia and same-sex marriage
same-sex marriage