Victorian assisted suicide bill – NOT the most conservative scheme in the world

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 was tabled in the Victorian Legislative Assembly on Thursday 21 September 2017. The Bill, it has been repeatedly claimed by Premier Daniel Andrews, would set up a system that was the “most conservative, careful and safest in the world”. Some simple fact checking shows this to be a big fat lie.

ELIGIBILITY 

  • The Victorian scheme would allow assisted suicide or euthanasia for people told by two doctors that they are expected die in less than 12 months;
  • The Oregon scheme only allows assisted suicide for people who are told by two doctors that they are expected to die within 6 months.

Research shows that the longer the prognosis of time to death the less accurate the estimates. Many people told they have 12 months to live may have years to live. 

Which scheme is more conservative? – not the Andrews Government scheme for Victoria.

SUFFERING 

  • The Victorian scheme would not allow anyone, including the doctors assessing a person’s request for assisted suicide or euthanasia, to question or assess a person’s claim that the person is experiencing “suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person considers tolerable”;
  • The Netherlands scheme requires that before assisting suicide or performing euthanasia on a person two doctors must hold the conviction, with due care, that “the patient's suffering was lasting and unbearable”.

Which scheme is more conservative? – not the Andrews Government scheme for Victoria. 

DEPRESSION 

  • The Victorian scheme would provide for either of the assessing doctors to refer the person requesting assisted suicide or euthanasia to a health practitioner with appropriate skills and training to determine whether the person has decision-making capacity only if the doctor considers that he or she can’t determine this. The test is a very low bar with a presumption that the person has the capacity. The Victorian scheme makes no reference to screening for depressionor other psychological disorders that may be affecting the decision making of a person provided the doctor thinks the person still has the cognitive capacity to understand the relevant matters;
  • The Oregon scheme specifically requires doctors to refer a psychiatrist or psychologist if the person “may be suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder ordepression causing impaired judgment”.

Which scheme is more conservative? – not the Andrews Government scheme for Victoria. 

ASSISTED SUICIDE AND EUTHANASIA 

  • The Victorian scheme would allow both assisted suicide in which the person is given a lethal substance to self-administer and euthanasia in which a doctor kills a person by administering a lethal substance;
  • The Oregon scheme only allows assisted suicide

Which scheme is more conservative? – not the Andrews Government scheme for Victoria. 

REPORTING ON REASON FOR REQUESTING ASSISTED SUICIDE 

  • The Victorian scheme does not require any reporting of the nature of the suffering being experienced by the person requesting assisted suicide;
  • The Oregon scheme requires reporting as to the reasons persons request assisted suicide. This enables annual reports to be published containing this useful information, which shows for example that feeling a burden on others is more of a concern than physical pain. In Victoria this information will remain unknown.

Which scheme is more conservative? – not the Andrews Government scheme for Victoria.

Daniel Andrews is speaking more like a snake oil salesman touting the latest cure all pill than a statesman proposing a considered public policy change. Victorians and the MPs who represent them in Parliament need to examine with great care what the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 actually would allow, and how practically enforceable the so-called safeguards are, rather than drink the Kool Aid being promoted by Daniel Andrews.

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