Labour youths in push for euthanasia

Forum Zaghzagh Laburisti has come out in favour of legalising euthanasia and will be urging the party to include it in its electoral manifesto

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
25 April 2017, 8:30am
ALS sufferer Joe Magro kick-started a debate on euthanasia, and has petitioned politicians to support the right to die
ALS sufferer Joe Magro kick-started a debate on euthanasia, and has petitioned politicians to support the right to die
 The youth section of the Labour Party (Forum Zaghzagh Laburisti) has come out in favour of legalising euthanasia and will be urging the party to include it in its electoral manifesto. 

The FZL’s decision comes in the wake of a public debate on euthanasia it organised that was addressed by ALS sufferers Joe Magro and Challie Agius – both of whom have spoken publicly in favour of euthanasia. 

Questions sent to the FZL on their moral rationale behind its new stance were left unanswered at the time the article went to print. 

However, FZL president Alex Saliba later told MaltaToday that euthanasia should only be permitted for terminally ill people whose degenerative states have been medically proven to be irreversible. The youth group will also pressure for the introduction of living wills.

“FZL gives utmost importance to the principle of individual choice, therefore our stance revolves around the introduction of voluntary euthanasia…Our stance is motivated by cases in which the patient can no longer live a dignified life. The legislator should also ascertain that the individual’s wishes are being fully respected and that it leaves no room for abuse.”

He warned that at present a Maltese person who seeks euthanasia has to go abroad, meaning that they will die in a foreign country instead of at peace surrounded by their loved ones. He also warned that terminally ill people who are denied access to euthanasia could be driven to commit suicide.

“Sweeping the issue under the carpet for so long is not a solution for these situations. We do not believe that life is measured only by the number of years lived, but by the quality of life.”

FZL president Alex Saliba (left) at a recent conference on euthanasia
FZL president Alex Saliba (left) at a recent conference on euthanasia
During the FZL’s recent conference, Saliba delivered an emotional appeal for euthanasia, largely on the grounds that its abolishment is driving people to commit suicide.

“Suicide is often a taboo word in Malta, but the reality is that it is the only choice some people have left. It hurts me to see a person resorting to this option, instead of being allowed to die with dignity surrounded by his loved ones.”

He appealed for the debate on euthanasia to be a mature one, free from “simplistic” arguments such as that its legalisation will allow people to end their lives on a whim, or that it will represent another step towards the introduction of abortion. 

FZL’s intervention is notable in that it is the first time the branch of a major political party in Malta has publicly come out in favour of euthanasia.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil in January ruled out the possibility of an internal debate on euthanasia, arguing that he “is of the firm opinion that there is a fundamental right to life but no right to die”.

In February 2016, Alternattiva Demokratika chairman Arnold Cassola told MaltaToday that while the Green Party has no position on euthanasia, it has no intention to discuss it. 

There have been conflicting declarations regarding the Labour Party’s stance towards the issue. MEP and former Prime Minister Alfred Sant has come out in favour of euthanasia, but during a recent parliamentary committee sitting, government Whip Godfrey Farrugia insisted that Labour was fully opposed to euthanasia. 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said he is personally against the introduction of euthanasia but has called for an honest and non-partisan debate after meeting Magro. “He told me that if he is not allowed euthanasia by law, then when the time comes he will kill myself,” he said.

“Those words shocked me as a politician and as a person, and I was left at a loss as to how to respond.”

When asked what feedback the FZL got from the Labour Party after it took its pro-euthanasia stance, Saliba said that the PL has always been supportive of discussing tricky issues that are not easy to delve into, including euthanasia.

“FZL will always push forward the progressive agenda. We were the first voice within our party structures to speak in favour of the introduction of divorce legislation nine years ago and we will do the same today and lobby both within our party structures and also at national level to bring positive change in Malta.”