Media Release

ACT Sidelines Concerns Regarding Consent and Pushes for Liberal Euthanasia Laws

Australia’s Capital Territory is considering a proposal to expand its voluntary assisted dying scheme so that those with reduced mental capacity can consent to their death.  

The suggested amendments, put forward by Marisa Paterson MLA, would allow patients who have experienced a decline in mental capacity towards the end of the Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) process to end their lives through a “VAD attorney”, that is, someone who they appointed earlier in the process to sign off on their death. 

If passed into law, which is expected, the ACT would have the most liberal VAD framework in the country. 

Wendy Francis, Director of Politics for the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), said “Parliament’s readiness to discuss VAD for patients who have lost the ability to give personal and direct consent is frightening, especially given the high rates of elder abuse in our country. The ACT is seriously undermining principles of “first, do no harm”, consent and autonomy”. 

“Internationally, alarm bells are being sounded on the culture of death and suicide being promoted through social media, manipulating vulnerable minds, whilst in the ACT, VAD attorneys may effectively remove vulnerable patients’ ability to change their mind towards the end of the VAD process.” 

In its debates last week, the ACT Parliament also entertained the idea of allowing dementia patients to access euthanasia through advanced directives. 

“Like all countries which have legalised euthanasia”, Ms Francis continued, “This is way past any ‘slippery slope’ argument. Australia is watching impounded waters now spurt through the open floodgates. There is no doubt that the ACT’s proposed law will heighten the risk of wrongful death and the abuse of vulnerable Australians.” 

“We should not underestimate the kind of messages such legislation sends to the community, nor the risk it exposes to suffering Australians”. 

The ACL calls on the ACT Government to drop Paterson’s proposals for expanding VAD access, and instead focus on providing adequate palliative care and mental health services for every Australian.  

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