SYDNEY, Nov. 11 -- Legalizing euthanasia in Australia would send a 'wholly negative message' to young people and might even encourage teenagers to consider suicide, a British bioethics expert warned. Luke Gormally, director of the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics in London, told a Sydney news conference Friday night that new research has shown that lobbying to legalize euthanasia generally occurs during economic slumps. The government of Northern Territory has already legalized euthanasia, and Australian philosophers Peter Singer and Helga Kuhse have called for the legalization of so-called mercy killing. Gormally said Singer and Kuhse had 'no coherent concept of justice,' and said the underlying philosophical reason for legalizing euthanasia is the judgment that certain lives were not worthwhile. 'Not only is that concept subversive of the foundations of justice in society, but it would be an educational message of the kind Australian society just does not need,' he said. He said legalizing euthanasia would sent young people the message that suicide is an acceptable solution to problems. 'Now it seems to me that a society that, through the law, is underwriting the notion that certain lives are not worthwhile is positively validating a perception that young people can lapse into at critical moments in their lives,' he said. 'It's sending a wholly negative message about human live and human worth,' Gormally said. He added, 'I gather that the rate of teenage suicide in Australia is rather high,' although he did not provide statistics. Gormally, in Australia to give public lectures in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, said a study by U.S. researchers had shown that calls to legalize euthanasia increase during times of economic depression.
'It traced the waxing and waning of the euthanasia movement since the late 19th century and has, in fact, correlated it with economic cycles,' he said. 'At times of crisis it seems to be in the ascendant and at times of relative prosperity (it is) not.'