Hobart Anglican Bishop, John Harrower, writes to Tasmanian MPs. Sensible straight talk. This letter was published on the
I note with concern the recent introduction of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2013 by the Members for Franklin.
I am writing to add my voice to the many who are calling on you to vote against this Bill in the House of Assembly.
My concern with the Bill is at its most most fundamental level of principle. There is no form of implementation or bureaucratic safeguards that can alleviate its fundamental flaws.
I draw your attention to the 1998 Inquiry by the Community Development Committee of the House of Assembly which emphatically rejected the legalising of euthanasia. The only thing that has changed since that inquiry is that the expertise of palliative care has improved.
In particular, I note, that the Bill is:
â€¢ DISCRIMINATORY. As the 1998 Inquiry into this issue concluded, "the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia would pose a serious threat to the more vulnerable members of society and that the obligation of the state to protect all its members equally outweighs the individual's freedom to choose voluntary euthanasia."
â€¢ UNCOMPASSIONATE. The unavoidable characteristic of a framework for euthanasia is to implement procedures that affirm the sentiment that a person's life is not worth living. Compassion affirms life and denies that human value is contingent on circumstances or attitudes.
â€¢ UNSAFE. We are currently being made aware through advertising campaigns of issues of elder abuse, often perpetrated by family members and involved decisions that are "voluntary" in an administrative sense but coerced in reality. This Bill expands the scope of elder abuse to literal matters of life and death.
â€¢ UNNECESSARY. Despite the protestations of individuals that euthanasia is happening already in the guise of pain management, serious inquiries such as that in 1998, have concluded "â€¦that a doctor was not legally culpable for manslaughter or murder if his intent in withholding or withdrawing medical treatment from a patient who subsequently died was to relieve the patient of the burden of futile treatment in accordance with prudent medical treatment. Likewise the administration of sedative and analgesic drugs to terminally ill patients for the relief of pain and suffering even when it is foreseeable that such action will shorten life is not illegal whilst the intent is to provide palliation and not to deliberately kill the patient."
â€¢ IRRESPONSIBLE. Civilised societies rightly restrict their governments from being explicitly and deliberately involved in the death of their citizens. This is an absolute line in the sand that is a fundamental protection. This legislation would add an exception to this principle so as to render that protection non absolute and contingent.
â€¢ ILL-ADVISED. There has been little consultation of any substance by the proposing members. The discussion paper produced earlier this year was notable for its lack of rigour and balance. A change of this magnitude to Tasmanian society warrants, should it be considered at all, warrants a process that is above reproach.
I have also asked some of my Anglican colleagues from your electorate to make themselves available if you should like to discuss this matter with them.
In your electorate you may contactâ€¦
Bishop of Tasmania