There's been a great deal of media around Senator Di Natale's talk of a national euthanasia law. That's understandable: it is the first of its kind and will clearly generate significant debate.
The Senator calls his bill an 'exposure draft' bill. He hasn't introduced it into the Senate - he has simply asked the chamber to refer the bill to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for an inquiry.
He told The Sunrise program last week that, 'we want to get as much feedback as we can. We want to get feedback from the medical community, from the legal community and we're prepared to make modifications to the legislation in order to get broad support.'
Get it? You and I, medicos and legal eagles and sundry other individuals and organisations making submissions to the inquiry will all help the Senator craft a bill that will get 'broad support' amongst politicians.
Did we hear the Senator say: I want to make this bill totally safe - so no-one will be at risk of being pressured; so no-one will lose their life that didn't ask for it or want it; so no sections of our community will feel threatened by the existence of such a law? No. His priority is to get the bill through both houses of parliament.
We might expect that, after the inquiry, the Senator may claim some sort of further mandate for change based on having 'listened to' the Australian public.
Curiously, interviewed alongside the Senator on Sunrise was an Oregon Professor Courtney Campbell who, after outlining how the Oregon assisted suicide legislation works said, in response to a question about abuse of the law, "Not really - there's so much oversight and regulation."
I say 'curiously' because Professor Campbell reviewed the 10 years of operation of the Oregon law in 2008 and, seemed then to be a dispassionate observer noting, as he did, some concerns about the process in operation. (You can read his response to correspondence on this matter from both sides HERE). Curious also because Di Natale's bill includes both euthanasia and assisted suicide whereas Oregon only allows the latter.
How much of this rhetoric is really the same-old-same-old that surfaces time and time again in these debates? Like US journalist, Lincoln Steffens, who after returning from Communist Russia in 1919 told a friend: "I have seen the future; and it works," Di Natale, like many before him says it is 'operating effectively' overseas. No need to worry folks; the Senator says it's all fine and dandy!
As though to distance himself from recent failed bills in the Australian states - four in the last year alone - the Senator insists that, 'the debate has moved on'. Where the debate has moved to, he does not really say, but we get the point. Quebec recently adopted semantic gymnastics to usurp Federal jurisdiction over euthanasia & assisted suicide, so why not here in Australia?
Ultimately, this is a clever if not expected move by Senator Di Natale.
No, we won't do his work for him; but we will make submissions outlining the fallacy of any claim that killing patients or assisting them to kill themselves could be considered as a genuine medical service and we will make submissions pointing out the unsafe nature of safeguards.
I hope you'll join us!
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