Letter: Shameful exploitation of a family’s privacy

To all Tasmanian MPs.

Dear (Tasmanian MP),

Re: Shameful exploitation of a family’s privacy

We write to express our outrage at the shameless – and shameful – exploitation of a family’s privacy by the Catholic Church in pursuit of a religious crusade against Voluntary Assisted Dying.

On 9 September, the website MercatorNet published a story by Madeleine Dugdale, who identified herself merely as a “writer” from Melbourne. In the article, she claimed an elderly woman, who had voluntarily chosen to access Victoria’s VAD law, had essentially been abandoned by her family and mistreated by her doctors. That woman was her husband’s grandmother.

The facts show otherwise.

Madeleine Dugdale is not just a “writer” from Melbourne. She is, in fact, a leading member of Catholic Voices Australia, whose purpose is “putting the Church’s case in the public square”. Moreover, the website that published her article is operated by the Catholic Church, though it does not admit it. 

While Mercatornet has now removed the article written by Madeleine Dugdale, you can read it for yourself on Dugdale’s alma mater, Campion College. She characterises the situation that led to her grandmother’s death as “an horrendous act of desperation and defeat”. She implies that the family failed to provide support to alleviate “this dear old woman’s fear of pain”, that “there was little my husband and I could do to help”, that medical professionals “whisper into the ears of the vulnerable” to encourage them to choose a “painless suicide”. 

The facts show otherwise.

The family of that elderly woman has now revealed that Madeleine Dugdale “had not visited our mother for more than three years, so had no insight into these matters”, that Dugdale’s accusations “dishonour her memory and have caused great distress to our family”, and that “our much-loved and very strong-willed Mum died at the age of 87 after a 12-year fight with multiple cancers.”

It is no secret that the Rationalist Society of Australia lobbies in favour of legalised voluntary assisted dying as an option for those who want it and need it at end-of-life. And according to RSA Fellow Neil Francis, the majority of all those identifying as religious also favour legalisation of VAD, including three-quarters of Catholics (74%), four in five Anglicans (78%) and Uniting Church/Methodists (81%).  But we are open and honest about our values and our arguments. 

This incident is just one among many that demonstrates the dishonest efforts of the Catholic Church, in particular, to influence public opinion on this matter behind the facade of secular impartiality. The Tasmanian ‘pop-up’ lobby group “Live & Die Well” is another front for the Catholic Church. Its convenor, Ben Smith, is the Director of Life, Marriage and Family Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hobart. But this is not disclosed on its website.

These are dishonest, unethical and deeply offensive actions.

As a representative of the people, we call upon you to condemn these blatant and incredibly hurtful attempts by representatives of the Catholic Church to shamelessly exploit a family’s privacy in pursuit of political goals


Dr Meredith Doig


25 September 2020


All the more reason.