Archived News Item

When Life is Ending

Dr Caroline Ong rsm



To coincide with National Palliative Care Week, the Archdiocese of Melbourne is promoting the official release of ‘When Life is Ending’, a booklet by Dr Caroline Ong rsm discussing the ethics of dying, assisted suicide and euthanasia. The release also coincides with the Tasmanian parliamentary decision against legalising euthanasia.


Author and GP Dr Caroline Ong rsm explains how her text came about: ‘As I began to write this booklet, I asked myself “How did we get to the stage in our society that such a booklet needed to be written?” There are of course many reasons, but two came to mind rather strongly: firstly the medicalisation of our dying and secondly, the move from a paradigm of community to one of individualism.

“Another aspect that has always stood out for me in listening to the debates on euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS), and in my own discernment, is the significant confusion about what constitutes EAS. For instance, that the proportional dose of morphine given to relieve suffering does not directly cause the death of the person … perhaps all it did was to relieve the pain and suffering, so that the level of adrenaline running around in the person’s system because of the pain and distress, that kept the heart pumping, then falls. The disease then does its part causing the death of the person,” she said.


“This booklet was written to remind ourselves that dying does not need to be medicalised and that the only ‘medicalisation’ of our dying lies in the service that palliative care offers.’ Sr Caroline says. “It reminds us that we have come far enough in our medical knowledge and life-knowledge, to assist each other in the dying process, so as to be able to die peacefully. If that is not happening to us or our loved ones, we perhaps need to ask the person in charge why it isn’t so.

“In another section of this booklet, we begin the conversation of the significant impact that the proposed legislation would have on our psyche as a society, on our understanding of the dignity of life and on the possibility that a foundational norm and value of our society would be changed forever.


“This booklet was written for both believers and non-believers, so as to begin the conversation with each other on this critical issue and in our own discernment about EAS. In commending this to you I would like to thank all those who contributed to it and helped make it what it is”.



*This story originally appeared in Melbourne Catholic


29 May 2017