By Paul Russell:
On the 9th of June, the Parliamentary Inquiry into 'end-of-life choices' tabled its report. The report included 49 recommendations. The final recommendation was for a euthanasia and assisted suicide law for people 'suffering serious and incurable conditions'.
Yesterday (14th September) the Victorian Health Minister, Jill Hennessy, announced that the government would proceed with a bill to create the possibility of legally binding advance care directives in respect to end-of-life care. The Minister was clear that Victorians, under this scheme, will not be allowed to request euthanasia or assisted suicide.
The idea of making a directive 'legally binding' is fraught with difficulties. There is a possible tendency here to treat doctors more like dispensing machines rather than as partners in a conversation about what good care looks like. The news reports covered some of the advance care planning details but not all of them. We will wait and see.
Ms Hennessy also commented that the Government would consider the issue of euthanasia in its response to the inquiry 'before the end of the year'. Parliamentary procedures provide the government of the day six months within which to reply to a report. The six months is up on the 9th of December.
Hennessy told the Fairfax Press that she was carefully examining the work of the committee and the recommendations and that 'if Labor did pursue euthanasia, proper safeguards would be put in place.' She also put ont he record that she had no religious or ehtical objection to euthanasia and that, while she had a 'very open mind' on the subject, any resolution would ultimately for the 'whole of government'.
Greens health spokesperson, Colleen Hartland, used the words 'fail' and 'failure' a number of times in her press statement to press the government to act. Ms Hartland closed by saying that, if the government 'fails' to act, that the Greens will introduce a private members bill.
Assuming that the government makes its response towards the end of the six month period allowed, then, one way or the other, euthanasia and assisted suicide will be debated some time early in 2017.
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