If Mike Gaffney MLC is alarmed by arguments that his assisted suicide bill is a slippery slope to tragedy, he need look no further than the strong voices pointing out serious problems with his bill.
“Mr Gaffney claimed this week that there is no ‘slippery slope’ but some eminent Tasmanians beg to differ,” Australian Christian Lobby State Director Christopher Brohier said.
- the former chief justice and governor William Cox said the state should not authorise people to administer lethal doses to end a sufferer’s life.
- AMA president Helen McArdle said there is no evidence that Tasmania’s palliative care system isn’t good enough.
- Minister Michael Ferguson – a former health minister – said the bill will encourage assisted suicide, and
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists updated their position statement this month with matters to be considered in VAD debates generally (not expressly in relation to the Gaffney Bill as follows:
- the primary role of medical practitioners to facilitate the provision of good-quality, comprehensive and accessible healthcare, including end-of-life care.
- the need to consider mental health as a core factor in comprehensive end-of-life care.
- the role of psychiatrists in end-of-life care to assess and treat mental health conditions that are contributing to suffering, and to treat those conditions in the first instance.
- the importance of medical practitioners being allowed to make their own ethical decisions with regard to their involvement with VAD, in line with relevant legislation.
“In addition to these very important concerns, the Gaffney assisted suicide bill must also be rejected because it is carelessly drafted, unclear and promotes hopelessness and fear.
“For instance, the Bill does not require the suicide-prescribing doctor to be an expert in the patient’s actual condition, palliative care or the complications that might arise from administering the lethal dose.
“The Bill is also unclear as to when death from the underlying condition is expected to occur. There could be 20 years of life expectancy, yet the patient would be eligible for assisted suicide. Among other problems with this approach, modern medicine may produce better palliative care or even a cure in that timeframe.
“This Bill opens the floodgates. It allows a person to access assisted suicide due to their fears about what may happen in the future, not due to their current condition. No regard is given to the potential positive effects of present or future treatments.”
ACL called on the Tasmanian Upper House to heed the warnings from eminent Tasmanians and experts, reject the Bill and establish a proper inquiry into end of life matters.