Living with ‘assisted dying’


Now that ‘assisted dying’ has been legalised in Victoria, and may well be in other Australian States and Territories, there are important lessons to be learned for Christian communities before such laws come into effect (in Victoria, in 2019).

In the public debate, opponents of ‘assisted dying’ relied heavily on consequentialist arguments while proponents argued on the basis of the principles of respect for individual autonomy and of the obligation to relieve suffering, mainly through emotive appeals based on anecdotes of ‘bad deaths’. Arguments on the basis of the principles of the sanctity of human life and of biblical justice were largely missing. Should we rethink our reliance on consequences rather than principles in future discussion on this and other public moral issues?

Within Christian communities, an alternative to both principles and consequences, virtue ethics, might be a more fruitful approach.  We need to form communities based on an alternative narrative to the culture that enthrones individual choice as the ultimate value that trumps the common good, and that regards all suffering as meaningless and to be avoided at all costs.


Dr. Denise Cooper-Clarke
Adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne
Voluntary researcher with Ethos

Denise is a graduate of medicine and theology with a PhD in medical ethics (end of life decision making). She is an occasional adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne, a voluntary researcher with ethos: Evangelical Alliance Centre for Christianity and Society, Moderator for Philosophy and Ethics for The Australian College of theology and a member of the Social Responsibilities Committee of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. She has particular interests in virtue ethics, professional ethics and sexual ethics. Denise and her husband David have three adult children and seven grandchildren.