The Interim Report of the Ministerial Advisory Panel, released by the Victorian Government this week, proves there are no effective safeguards for the proposed assisted suicide legislation in Victoria, argues the Australian Christian Lobby.
“Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said last year, we ‘should ignore policy purity and just get it done.’ The lack of policy purity and safety in this proposed legislation is evident from the Interim Report” said ACL’s Victorian Director, Dan Flynn.
“The proposal that lethal medication be prescribed to terminally ill people who are ‘suffering from a serious and incurable condition’ is the lowest possible subjective threshold. The report admits that suffering is not limited to pain but includes lack of quality of life, loss of independence or loss of autonomy.
“The Panel supports the Government’s position that the patients take the medication home, store it and consume; if and when they wish to. Lethal medication in Victorian bathroom cabinets is a recipe for disaster.
“There is no guidance about where the fatal dose will be taken, how long the patient will take to die and where the dead person would likely be discovered. How is an attending ambulance officer to treat a patient who has regurgitated the medication, in agony or not yet dead?
“No wonder the Victorian Coroners Court advised the Advisory Panel that these assisted suicides should be reportable. Disturbingly, the Advisory Panel appears to conclude that such reporting is too burdensome and indiscrete.
“This legislation provides a framework that anticipates the unsupervised ingestion of lethal medication, lethal medication being stored in homes, no sufficient protection for doctor’s conscience and lying to insurance companies. It is neither safe or responsible.
“If the Andrews Government proceeds to legislate assisted suicide it will be the single most divisive step it takes in the 58th Parliament.
“The report rightly points out that the mentally ill may argue that it is discrimination not to allow them to access assisted suicide even though they are not terminally ill. The mentally ill are currently making exactly that claim in Canada,” he said.
“Many doctors and pharmacists will not wish to participate in killing their patients. That is acknowledged in the report. But the hard edge of the law is likely to force them to refer patients to doctors or chemists that will provide the lethal dose, leaving the objecting doctors participating in the process against their conscience.
“Many submitters to the Panel pointed out that coercion against an elderly or frail patient is almost impossible to detect. Coercion is a likely scenario when financial benefits of the patient’s death accrue to others.
“The Panel is supportive of not informing the life insurer of the assisted suicide and misleading the insurance companies that the cause of death is the underlying illness, to avoid suicide exemption clauses for relatives.
“The unresolved concerns demonstrate that Victoria should not be involved in the killing of its citizens, however frail and vulnerable” Mr Flynn said.