Monday, February 4th, 2013

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has rejected claims by proponents of voluntary euthanasia that the assisted dying model proposed in a discussion paper released yesterday in Tasmania would be safe.

ACL’s Tasmanian Director Mark Brown said parliaments around Australia have knocked back legalised euthanasia in the last four years because of fears euthanasia could never be made safe for vulnerable, sick and elderly patients.

“The relatively short experience of legalised euthanasia in the Northern Territory found safeguards to be ineffectual,” Mr Brown said. “A report looking into the practical outworking of the legislation stated ‘four of the ‘seven deaths in Darwin’ revealed prominent features of depression, highlighting its strong role in decision-making by those seeking euthanasia. Alarmingly, these patients went untreated by a system preoccupied with meeting the requirements of the Act’s schedules rather than delivering competent medical care to depressed patients’[i],” said Mr Brown.

“According to a Tasmanian Council of Social Services Report (TasCOSS) elder abuse is already a growing social problem affecting an estimated 4,000 elderly Tasmanians every year. With such legislation proposed there is still the possibility of coercion even with doctor assessments and cooling off periods,” Mr Brown said.

“We have no confidence in the proposed model put forward in preventing people being euthanised without their consent – as shown in Belgium after it allowed assisted suicide. A Canadian Medical Association study in 2010 found that 32 per cent of euthanasia deaths in Belgium are carried out without explicit request, even though it is legally required,” Mr Brown said.

“In 2002, Holland passed euthanasia legislation aimed only at those suffering with a terminal illness. Now, however, 20 per cent of doctors in Holland are willing to help a patient who is simply ‘tired of life’

“The Belgian government is now looking at amending its legislation to allow euthanasia of children and Alzheimer’s suffers.

“The compassionate response to suffering is care, not killing. We should be willing to journey with people through their struggles; this should be the value placed on human life in a caring society.

“Premier Lara Giddings and Greens leader Nick McKim should be allocating resources into improving palliative care, not wasting parliamentary time and resources on debates that have already been had,” Mr Brown said.