For release: Thursday 21 April, 2011

The Australian Christian Lobby has today welcomed the comments of Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson that he was opposed to the reintroduction of euthanasia legislation should federal law be changed to allow it.

The ACL’s Northern Territory spokesperson Lois Fong said that reintroducing euthanasia laws into the Territory would be a mistake.

“Four state parliaments have knocked back legalised euthanasia in the last three years because of fears euthanasia could never be made safe for vulnerable sick and elderly patients. The Northern Territory’s experience with euthanasia laws shows that such fears are well founded.

“Of the seven deaths associated with the Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act three patients were socially isolated and symptoms of depression were common. ‘Consensus over the terminal nature of illness proved difficult to reach in two cases’.[1]

“In evidence before a Tasmanian euthanasia inquiry in 2009 Dr Philip Nitschke, who was involved in each of the four deaths to have occurred directly under the ROTI Act, admitted that a psychiatrist had probably breached the law by giving ‘a rather cursory assessment’ of a patient’s psychological capacity.”[2]

Ms Fong said that it was misleading to claim there was widespread suffering in the community because euthanasia was not legal as the administration of modern palliative care is able to relieve suffering at the end of life for the vast majority of patients.

“Instead of revisiting a flawed and dangerous experiment with euthanasia, we encourage the Territory government to continue investing in modern palliative care services.”

[1] Kissane, D., Street, A. & Nitschke, P. (1998), ‘Seven deaths in Darwin: case studies under the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, Northern Territory, Australia’, The Lancet, 352, 1097-1102, p. 1098

[2], pp. 112-113