Media Release

Telehealth appointments for “Voluntary Assisted Dying” is suicide counselling and an offence

On Thursday 29 November 2023 Justice Abraham held that counselling or promoting Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) is counselling or promoting suicide and so contrary to section 474.29A and 474.29B of the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

Chrisopher Brohier the ACL Director of Public Policy said “In Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’, Humpty Dumpty says, ‘When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less’. Perhaps Humpty was correct in Wonderland but not so in law, according to Justice Abraham of the Federal Court.

“All existing VAD – assisted suicide (AS) – statues in Australia allow the use of telehealth to counsel people with respect to taking their own lives. Some enact the fiction that AS is not suicide. Justice Abraham has uncloaked that deception”.

Justice Abraham said, “In 2005, a doctor who assisted a patient with voluntary assisted dying in ways now authorised by the VAD Act would have committed such an offence. That is based on the ordinary meaning of “suicide”; as it was in 2005 and remains today, the intentional taking of one’s own life. Assisting a person to commit suicide via a carriage service, regardless of the circumstances, was an offence. Parliament chose to use the term “suicide” without definition. Consequently, it is to be given its ordinary meaning, unless an intention to the contrary is evident.”

Mr Brohier said, “Justice Abraham ruled there is an inconsistency between the Victorian VAD Act and the Criminal Code and “the VAD Act is inoperative to the extent of the inconsistency.” The same would apply to every state and territory AS/VAD Act.

“The Federal Parliament must set its face against the promotion of suicide. The pro-death lobby will now seek a change to the Criminal Code. This is an acid test for the Labor Government. Will it promote death or life? The people will judge it on its actions”.

The ACL calls on the Federal Government to retain the prohibition of suicide promotion by electronic carriage services. Anything less is abhorrent.

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