Efforts to adhere to limitations on assisted suicide and euthanasia have failed in other jurisdictions, an inquiry has heard in an Australian Christian Lobby submission.
The submission was provided in response to the Victorian Department of Health & Human Services Discussion Paper on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill.
Although providing a commitment not to move on this issue at the last election, the Victorian Government now supports assisted suicide and euthanasia and has stated its intention to introduce the bill in the second half of 2017.
ACL’s submission highlighted the stories and data available from other jurisdictions which have legalised either assisted suicide, euthanasia, or both. The examples reveal the impossibility to legislate adequate limitations on assisted suicide or euthanasia and the permissive slide that inevitably occurs once it is introduced.
At its heart, ACL’s objection to assisted suicide and euthanasia is the way it disregards the inherent dignity of human beings through the intentional taking of life. Every human person is endowed with an inherent dignity regardless of their physical or mental capacity, or their health. Good heath practice emphasises the dignity of the person, not only by providing care and relieving pain, but also by refusing to present the intentional death of a patient as a solution to suffering.
Legalisation allowing assisted suicide and euthanasia also disregards the benefits of palliative care, which is an effective and compassionate approach towards caring for persons approaching the end of their life.
The submission revealed that wherever assisted suicide and/or euthanasia have been legalised, such as in The Netherlands, Belgium and Oregon, the law is clearly open to abuse and can never include adequate safeguards. Examples abound of breaches of the law, lives ended without consent, a lack of reporting, and further legislative liberalisation, or incremental extension.
In Belgium, initial restrictions have also been subjected to erosion. Euthanasia for adults, which came into force in 2002, was followed by a law allowing euthanasia for minors of any age by 2014. The first terminally ill minor was legally euthanised in Belgium in 2016. The 2014 law means that minors of any age can now choose euthanasia providing they are able to demonstrate rational decision-making capacity and be in the final stages of a terminal illness. Belgium has become the first country to remove all restrictions on age.
The story is no different in The Netherlands where again initial restrictions have been seriously eroded. In 2002, the law came into force for anyone 16 years and older. Only two years later, a proposal for the euthanasia of infants was adopted. The Groningen Protocol, as it was dubbed, contains directives and criteria which set out how physicians can perform euthanasia on infants up to one year of age while also avoiding legal prosecution. The Dutch Paediatric Association (NVK) are now advocating to allow euthanasia for children of any age.
Assisted suicide and euthanasia permanently damages the relationship between patient and doctor. The role of the medical profession has never included hastening a patient’s death as a solution to suffering or illness. Over a millennia of medicine, doctors have had a deep obligation to preserve life and taken oaths to do so. The trust between a patient and a doctor is fundamentally important and is eroded when doctors assume the conflicting roles of both healers and arrangers of death.
Do you live in Victoria?
If yes, then email your local MP with your objection to euthanasia here.
You can read our full submission here.
Get informed on this issue by tuning in to ACL’s Lyle Shelton as he interviews University of Notre Dame bioethics professor, Margaret Somerville, for Voice for Values.