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To Kill or Not to Kill-bookcover

By: John Fleming

To Kill or Not to Kill

Pages: 560 Ratings: 5.0
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Euthanasia emerged as a talking point for progressives and secularists in the West in the 1960s. Given that they simply appropriated (without anyone’s permission) control of national and private broadcasters, newspapers and university faculties, it became, eo ipso, a matter of public controversy.

Other modish enthusiasms of that period – sexual licentiousness and psychotropic drugs for example – have long been abandoned, but the quest for legislative sanctioning of the killing of the old and infirm and distressed never abated; not a parliamentary year passed in one of the Australian States, it seemed, or even at Commonwealth level, but another bill was placed on the notice paper. Well, in the states of Victoria and Western Australia, that bill is now an act as it is in Canada, various states in the USA, The Netherlands, Belgium and other nation states.

It has remained an Article of Faith for the left throughout all of the decades of post-modernity – just like that other form of authorised killing: abortion. Why is this? What is it about these issues that evoke in the minds and imaginations of liberals and leftists an almost millenarian enthusiasm?

It required a scholar of Father Fleming’s insight and experience to provide us with the explanation, in this, the latest and, in my view, most important of his publications.

His answer takes us to a close examination of the real legacy of the enlightenment, and it is not the benign and rational one that generations of us have been taught to believe in our schools. His careful unravelling of the three centuries of the secular project from Rousseau to Safe-Schools can leave us in no doubt as to what comes next if we don’t stand up for the Christian inheritance of our institutes. It was always about power. And power always ends up being about persecution.

Father Fleming has been a priest, a broadcaster, a controversialist and a scholar in his long and distinguished journey through public life.

His book will be essential reading for the many Christian folk of all denominations who now understand that our age will be one that will call upon them to be soldiers as well as servants for the church.

– Stuart H Lindsay, barrister and former federal circuit court judge

John Fleming is a 77-year-old retired academic.  After completing his undergraduate degrees in politics and psychology, he completed his PhD at Griffith University in 1992 in philosophy and medical ethics.

He was Foundation Director of Adelaide’s Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, 1987-2004, a foundation member of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee (1993-1996), and has served on many Federal and State government policy advisory committees in Australia.  He was an elected delegate to the Australian Constitutional Convention (1998), a member of the Council of the National Museum of Australia, from 2003-2009, and Foundation President of Australia’s first tertiary liberal arts college, Campion College, Old Toongabbie, Australia (2004-2009).  He was a Corresponding Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (Vatican) between 1996-2016.  He is the author of nine books and many articles on bioethics and public policy.

Customer Reviews
3 reviews
3 reviews
  • Selena Ewing

    "Dr Fleming has fired a lively shot into the euthanasia debate with this book. But the reader will soon realise that the book is much bigger than euthanasia. In fact, it seems to contain a lifetime’s experience in understanding the broader cultural and political context in which medical killing arises. This includes historical perspectives, recent high profile cases, the rise of secularism, faith and reason, the family, church and state, democracy, abortion, eugenics, political processes, and more. Clearly no holding back some hard truths in this book. And as I am not a Catholic, I can observe from a safe distance his apparent challenge to some of Pope Francis’s teachings and to revisionist clergy, from his firm and almost evangelical position of being faithful to the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church.
    If you want to join the public dialogue on any controversial medical topic, this is a very useful book. You’ll find medical, legal, philosophical and theological aspects of euthanasia discussed in great detail. And some true stories.
    For lobbying, social media engagement, or lively private conversations, you’ll find plenty of material. Be warned, though, that successful anti-euthanasia advocates inadvertently make plenty of enemies by insisting that euthanasia is murder and must never be allowed. For whatever reason, this makes some people very, very angry.
    I don’t always agree with him, but he sure can write a page-turner on a controversial topic. The fact is, he obviously loves to argue. I find it amusing that he writes, “It is not the role of the Church to impose, endorse, let alone propose a political ideology based on secularist principles…” and you might think he is politically inert. Yet he will proceed to cheerfully engage with any and all secular ideologies he comes across with wit and intellect. Also, he seems likely to have a beer and a laugh later with his opponents.
    My final thought is that someone needs to go through the book and create a bunch of witty memes for the modern generation to understand Dr Fleming’s work and launch it into cyberspace."

  • Arlene Macdonald

    Should voluntary euthanasia be legalised? Why? Why not? The current public and political debate in Australia (and elsewhere) mainly lacks any sign of understanding the range of issues which must be considered for a good decision to be made. These include philosophical, historical, medical, ethical and social issues. Most who discuss the matter, whichever side they take, do not have this background which has produced poor debate and consequent decisions. This book provides a major resource as it considers these wider issues in some depth before dealing with the specific matter of voluntary euthanasia.

    There are three groups of people who should read this book: those who are in favour of the legalising of voluntary euthanasia, those against, and those who haven’t yet decided.

    Unfortunately, this will not be a ‘popular’ book because of the conclusions it draws that voluntary euthanasia should not be legalised and so will be mainly ignored by the very people who would gain the most from reading it. That group will not even consider doing so because they have already formed their view and are convinced they are 100% correct. Many of them simply cannot understand or imagine how anyone could disagree with the idea of properly controlled voluntary euthanasia to allow the ending of unbearable suffering. They ask how anyone with any true sense of compassion could dispute the right of someone else to freely choose to be mercifully put out of their suffering. They consider the reasons must be based on prejudice or misunderstood religious grounds. If they can overcome their certainty (or prejudice) that they are right, then this excellent book should interest them and will enlighten them even if it does not totally convince them.

    Fleming demonstrates the absence from the euthanasia debate of any awareness of the seriousness of allowing an exception to the fundamental obligation of the State to protect impartially the lives of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. The impulse to “disencumber” society of its financial and social obligations to protect those whose “lives are not worth living” is fully discussed as, too, is the propensity of politicians to cloud the debate with their “personal horror stories” and their euphemisms. For Fleming, the real task is to understand the full implications of weakening a cornerstone of a democratic society, the prohibition against killing the innocent.

    Dr John Fleming has an academic and practical background in the relevant fields including the history and philosophy of western civilisation, politics, bioethics as well as theology. In this book, he provides a scholarly examination of the reasons for and against the traditional prohibition on the killing of the terminally ill or others with unbearable suffering even should they competently ask to be killed. In this examination of the move to legalise voluntary euthanasia, Fleming explores the philosophy and politics behind this change and some of the important and influential individuals and organisations who promote it, and who seem to have successfully influenced many in society to accept this change as simply giving people “choice”.

    Fleming not only explores the “in principle” moral arguments. He identifies the reality of the slippery slope, that many are killed without their knowledge and consent, and that once a society accepts euthanasia for a few hard cases it expands the range of cases where people may be legally killed. These cases include those who cannot consent to be killed because of old age, difficulties with the dominant vernacular language including indigenous Australians, children, the demented elderly, and people with other severe mental or physical disabilities.

    He is able to explain and link complex and diverse concepts with clarity which makes this long and detailed book surprisingly readable. He explains his reasoning with clarity showing that arguments against legalising voluntary euthanasia are wide ranging and far from the simple arguments based on a right to self-determination or the perception of compassion.

    Dr Fleming’s book is an enlightening and valuable contribution to the debate and should be read by all who are interested in the topic.


    The book carefully defends the sanctity and violence of life and is a powerful argument against society’s adoption of a culture of death.

    The book is a real treasure trove, providing an in-depth discussion of the many relevant issues against which the adoption of euthanasia laws are considered and evaluated.

    Fleming aptly notes that “Euthanasia as an issue is only a part, but a representative part, that is something to Christianize Western societies in order to free society from the most important ingredients of civilized society.”of the determination of the elite.”

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