Business could make a killing

Dr Dan Fleming (Supplied)

We should consider what end-of-life legislation looks like from the perspective of an insurance company trying to improve its bottom line, writes ethicist Dan Fleming on ABC Religion and Ethics.

Last year, Canada legalised physician assisted suicide and euthanasia (PAS-E). Following this, a recent report noted: "Medical assistance in dying could reduce annual health care spending across Canada by between $C34.7 million and $138.8 million."

That such a report was undertaken in the first place highlights the role that money and markets inevitably play in the roll-out of any such legislation, or any major social intervention. As the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel has demonstrated, when money gets involved, moral issues arise beyond those intended by advocates and legislators.

This fact is neglected in Australia's current debate on the issue, which centres largely on the morality (or not) of the acts of PAS-E themselves. What might the implications of the market's involvement be if or when this legislation passes? How might we think through the implications of this?

Slavoj Zizek, International Director at the University of London's Birkbeck Institute for Humanities, has recently remarked concerning current attempts to develop technology that will provide an interface between the human brain and software, that "[e]very technological innovation is always first presented like this, emphasising its health or humanitarian benefits, which function to blind us to the more ominous implications and consequences."

I would suggest that any major intervention in public life - especially in the technology and health domains - should be considered in a way that unmasks its "more ominous implications and consequences."

We should consider what the impact of private, for-profit, companies which specialise in the provision of euthanasia might be. Such companies would have as their primary purpose profit or return to share-holders. They would, assumedly, be required to increase business in order to produce better annual results.

One can quickly imagine a strategic planning meeting whereby the market of those who are dying or those who are close to someone who is dying become the aim of the product, perhaps also particularly those who would not be able to afford other forms of end of life care, or those who are suffering from some form of depression.


Can we trust markets when it comes to the end of life? (ABC Religion and Ethics)

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