The Australian Christian Lobby has questioned the ability of the Greens' proposed euthanasia bill to prevent people who are not terminally ill or in intractable pain from being killed.
Giving evidence at this afternoon's Senate inquiry in Canberra, ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton gave six examples from Belgium and The Netherlands where people had used euthanasia legislation without complying with its safeguards.
"Despite the best intentions, it is clear that euthanasia in Belgium and The Netherlands has moved beyond something strictly available to the terminally ill or those in intractable pain," Mr Shelton said.
"Despite the Greens' extra safeguards of requiring medical practitioners including a psychiatrist to give the green light to voluntary euthanasia, we have seen this flouted in the past."
Mr Shelton told this afternoon's hearing that similar safeguards were circumvented when people were euthanised under the Northern Territory's short-lived euthanasia laws in the mid 1990s.
"Apart from pressuring vulnerable people and changing the doctor-patient relationship, practice shows euthanasia cannot be contained to the very small cohort of people the Greens envisage."
Mr Shelton told the inquiry there had been 10 failed attempts to legislate euthanasia since 2008. Many of these had been instigated by the Greens which nominate euthanasia and same-sex marriage as top political priorities.
"Persistence is a virtue in politics. But I think questions now need to be asked about the Greens' parliamentary tactics and their strategy of trying to bring about legislation by fatigue," Mr Shelton said.
Marc and Eddy Verbessem were deaf Belgian twins. After discovering they would both go blind, they sought euthanasia. It took them two years to find a doctor willing to perform euthanasia, who euthanised them at the age of 45.
Francis (89) and Anne (86) are a Belgian couple who are planning to be euthanised because they fear being alone when one of them days. The couple have planned it with their children, who said they would not be able to care for them if one of them died. They are also concerned that a good retirement home would be too expensive. They are not terminally ill.
A Belgian woman who became depressed after a botched sex change left her “a monster” was euthanised in 2013.
- She was euthanised on the grounds of “unbearable psychological suffering”, despite not being terminally ill.
Frank van den Bleeken, a Belgian murderer and rapist serving a life sentence, has been allowed to have euthanasia after arguing that he could not overcome his violent sexual impulses and so had no prospect of release. He had been refused a transfer to a Dutch psychiatric centre. Van den Bleeken is 50 and has spent 30 years in prison.
In the Netherlands, a doctor euthanised a woman in her 80s who had suffered a stroke because she didn’t want to live in a nursing home. The woman had indicated in writing her desire not to live in a nursing home 20 years before her stroke, and repeated this verbally 18 months prior. She was unable to communicate properly after her stroke.