Media Release

For release: Thursday May 26, 2011

The Australian Christian Lobby has rejected claims by euthanasia advocates that palliative care can complement euthanasia.

The ACL’s Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton said the group’s suggestion that palliative care would go hand in hand with euthanasia was misleading.

“Legalising euthanasia is likely to take away the imperative for Governments to adequately fund palliative care, which is where our efforts as a society should be concentrated as we seek to provide dignity at the end of life,” he said.

“Euthanasia involves the deliberate killing of a patient using a lethal substance which is very different from the quite legal and compassionate practice of relieving a patient’s pain even if it does hasten death.

“Four state parliaments have already knocked back legalised euthanasia in the last three years because of fears euthanasia could never be made safe for vulnerable sick and elderly patients.

“It’s clear there is no way to build safeguards into euthanasia law to stop the vulnerable and the depressed from being killed through subtle coercive pressure.

We know this because 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]

[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