South Australian MP and euthanasia advocate Steph Key MP announced today that she wants to be able to create 'options' in Living Wills for people to be able to choose death. 'Living Wills'- once used to describe what are now known more accurately as 'Advance Care Directives', are instruments where a person can make a determination, in advance, of what type of care they want and/ or reject at the end-of-life. The use of the word 'Living' in this context simply modifies the normal understanding of a Last Will and Testament. Key's use, however, seems to be a deliberate and macabre play between living and dying.Advance Care Directives can be useful instruments. They can also be problematic in situations where the request is poorly worded or does not account for unforeseen circumstances. Regardless, they were never intended to be used for the person to direct that they be killed.
Key is confused here. The article in the Adelaide Advertiser today records Key as saying that the Oregon laws allow a patient to carry out euthanasia themselves. She later defines her 'preferred model' as creating an option for euthanasia. One cannot carry out euthanasia for oneself - it is either suicide, pure and simple, or suicide with the assistance of another - assisted suicide. If it is euthanasia, then another person, normally a medical practitioner, takes the direct action to kill.
These comments come at a time when the South Australian Upper House will soon begin to debate a government bill that seeks to reform the entire notion and application of Advance Care Directives. Contrary to the article's assertion and in spite of the claims in that bill, it does allow for euthanasia and assisted suicide in some circumstances. It may be that Key's announcement is more about deflecting attention from the current bill's agenda than it is about setting up her own regimen.
Given the problematic nature of advance care directives as mentioned earlier, it is impossible to conceive or construct a 'death wish' statement that could not be misinterpreted. This would provide opportunities for abuse when a relative or other person who stood to benefit from the estate of the person, pushed for their deliberate demise.
Nor is it difficult to accept the possibility that the drafting of an advance care directive could be done under duress. This is a recipe for Elder Abuse.
Key mentions Belgium as providing a model for her thinking. Yet studies on the Belgium statistics from the Flanders Region make clear that opportunities for abuse abound. In 2010 in that region, 32% of euthanasia deaths occurred without consent or request and a staggering 47% of cases were not even reported.
The Advertiser article closes with a statement from a local euthanasia activist who claims that there's been a 'paradigm shift' in the thinking of young people towards support for euthanasia. Just like the assertions in the Advance Care Directives Bill - just because someone says it is so doesn't make it so.
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