Media Release

ACT Government Tramples Basic Human Right to Conscience 

This afternoon, the Select Committee on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2023 released the majority report, presenting 27 recommendations to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. 

Among the 83 stakeholders consulted on the legislation, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) firmly advocated against the availability of assisted suicide in the territory. Additionally, the ACL suggested that if the bill were to progress, there should be comprehensive protection for conscientious objection, both at an individual and institutional level, throughout every stage of the Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) process. 

ACL’s State Director of NSW/ACT, Joshua Rowe, said, “The many concerns raised by the community about this bill has prompted the committee to identify numerous issues requiring the redrafting of this legislation. If the committee report is to be taken seriously, the ACT government must refrain from rushing this bill through.” 

Continuing, Mr. Rowe remarked, “Despite the committee’s many recommendations, there is a noticeable absence of constructive comments on conscientious objection.” 

Mr. Rowe quoted section 9.4 of the report, which states, “conscientious objection is a considerably personal issue related to one’s own morals, ethics, and values. Therefore, members of the Committee have been provided with the opportunity to express their own views in an appendix to this report. The Committee does not seek to make any specific recommendations in relation to this matter.” 

Emphasising the significant contradiction in the committee’s stance, Rowe noted, “The committee acknowledges the seriousness of conscientiousness related to assisted suicide and then paradoxically justifies not making recommendations about protecting and respecting one’s conscience.” 

He elaborated, “The committee recognises a balancing of rights in this context. However, it is evident that the right to individual autonomy in choosing to end one’s life is considered more important than one’s right to conscience and, indeed, the sanctity of life.” 

Concluding his remarks, Mr Rowe asserted, “When the health profession, and society at large, deviates from an ancient and historical moral code of ‘thou shalt not kill,’ it sets us on a slippery slope towards increasingly dangerous legislation.” 

 The ACL urges the Government to reconsider any implementation of assisted suicide in the Territory. Alternatively, they call for a redraft that provides complete conscientious objection for both individuals and institutions, following the model of South Australian laws proposed by MLA Cox and Castley in their minority report. 

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