Media Release

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is right to be concerned about whether ‘safeguards’ in any proposed euthanasia legislation would work, the Australian Christian Lobby said today.

Managing Director Jim Wallace said despite ‘safeguards’ in the Northern Territory’s short-lived euthanasia laws in the mid 1990s, serious doubts remained about whether or not two people euthanized by Dr Phillip Nitschke were even terminally ill.

The ‘safeguards’ set out in the Rights of the Terminally Ill (ROTI) Act were also allegedly breached when Dr Nitschke euthanised patients without the required medical or psychiatric checks.

Dr Nitschke admitted to a Tasmanian Parliamentary Inquiry last August that he probably breached the ROTI Act but said that it was a “breach that was motivated, I would say, by compassion”.

He also told the Tasmanian Parliament that the difficulty in defining ‘terminal illness’ should not be a barrier to euthanasia and that the safeguard of a psychiatric assessment should be scrapped in future legislation.

Dr Nitschke’s extraordinary testimony before the Tasmanian Parliament, where he also stood by his belief that the ‘peaceful pill’ should be available to troubled teens, failed to convince politicians it was safe to legalise euthanasia.

Mr Wallace said this and the experience in The Netherlands where up to 1200 people a year are euthanized without their consent under ‘voluntary euthanasia’ laws showed that politicians are right to be cautious.

“The Prime Minister is rightly concerned that euthanasia is open to abuse and that is poses a threat to vulnerable people who will feel the pressure to ‘do the right thing’ by society.

“Euthanasia fundamentalists see this as their top political priority and are happy to brush aside evidence of failure in pursuit of their goal.”

Mr Wallace said the overwhelming opposition to euthanasia from people aged 65-74 should not be ignored.

With four State Parliaments rejecting euthanasia in the past two years, Mr Wallace said Greens Leader Bob Brown was trying to achieve his top political priority through the smaller Territory Assemblies which did not have the same checks and balances.

“It would seem he is hoping to see a precedent for the nation achieved through the 17 member ACT Assembly where four Greens hold the balance of power,” Mr Wallace said.