Claims by proponents of a new South Australian euthanasia bill that it was possible to provide adequate safeguards to protect the aged and vulnerable are disingenuous and do not reflect what is occurring in jurisdictions where state-sanctioned suicide exists, warns the Australian Christian Lobby. 

ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton urged South Australian parliamentarians to listen to international warnings and the deep concerns from the Australian Medical Association, and reject the bill.

The Death with Dignity Bill, which is expected to come to the vote in the South Australian Parliament next week, is a dangerous development for South Australia’s vulnerable such as the disabled or mentally ill.

 “We cannot ignore the growing alarm among doctors and mental-health professionals in Europe who are witnessing euthanasia being extended beyond the terminally ill and now being carried out on those with depression, mental illness or disabilities,” Mr Shelton said.

Last month, the Washington Post revealed that the euthanasia of people with mental illnesses or cognitive disorders, including dementia was a common occurrence in Belgium and the Netherlands.

“Belgium and the Netherlands are held up as ‘best practice’ examples by euthanasia proponents such as Andrew Denton, but over time so-called safeguards had been whittled away,” Mr Shelton said.

“Statistics coming from the Netherland and Belgium demonstrate state-sanctioned suicide is anything but safe.”

A recent report from Belgium’s Federal Commission on the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia, and reported in the Washington Post, shows that the unthinkable was happening in that country; 3.1 per cent of all euthanasia cases in the period 2014-15 were for mental and behavioural disorders.

“If you follow the logic of euthanasia proponents, it is easy to see how safeguards are removed, if not immediately, then in the future,” Mr Shelton said.

In Belgium, more than 20 per cent of non-terminally ill patients were administered lethal injections during the 2014-15, leading doctors in that country to call for a ban on euthanasia for the mentally ill.

In 2014 Belgium extended its laws to provide lethal injections to terminally ill children of any age.

In the Netherlands, 13 psychiatric patients were euthanised and a further 49 patients in the early stages of dementia were euthanised.  

“As a just and compassionate society we can find better ways to deal with the suffering which do not draw us into providing state-sanctioned killing,” Mr Shelton said.

Mr Shelton said the ACL and its supporters understood and supported the aim of making end of life as comfortable as possible for those suffering pain.

“While ACL understands and shares the desire to see people relieved of their pain, this can be better achieved by taking advantage of the tremendous medical advances in palliative care,” Mr Shelton said.

“Palliative care is a more prudent and ethical way of ensuring a dignified death than public policy which is open to abuse and which unwittingly or wittingly puts pressure on the ill and vulnerable to end their lives.

“The ACL is working with parliamentarians to ensure they are informed of the consequences of introducing any euthanasia laws which have a track record of failing individuals and the community.”