Following the passing of a law overturning a ban on the ACT and Northern Territory passing euthanasia laws late last year, the ACT has now introduced its draft euthanasia laws into the legislative assembly.
As predicted, the laws are set to be the most extreme in Australia.
Canberrans will need to “have been diagnosed with a condition that is ‘advanced, progressive and expected to cause death’, be enduring intolerable suffering and to have lived in the ACT for a year or be able to demonstrate a ‘substantial connection’ to the territory to access the scheme”.
In a significant watering down of the laws in force in other state laws, the ACT laws allow residents to access the scheme without a time frame of predicted death, with the risk of Canberra becoming a “suicide honey pot”.
The draft bill also allows the topic of euthanasia to be raised by nurses, social workers and counsellors. A significant problem with this approach is that it can result in vulnerable patients (rightly or wrongly) feeling encouraged against their inclinations.
When a health professional suggests to their patient that they end their life, this places vulnerable patients at risk of undue influence from doctors. This disregards the influential power that doctors have over vulnerable patients.
Dr Brendan Long, a senior research fellow at Charles Sturt University’s Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture has criticised the extreme laws, saying the model would be the most “liberal” in Australia and warned the removal of all life expectancy requirements would open the gates to “state-sponsored suicide”:
“The government will have to be open to amendments to tighten this scheme or it will simply become a vehicle for people accessing state-sponsored suicide rather than a compassionate approach to end-of-life care,” he said. “The problem also exists that people will be able to shop between jurisdictions that are most favourable to them, and a real risk people from NSW who may not fit the test in that state will travel to Canberra to end their lives – so-called suicide tourism.”
Canberra Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn chancellor Patrick McArdle has questioned the conscientious objections clauses in the bill:
“The Government has indicated that there will be individual conscientious objection and some level of institutional conscientious objection. However, there does seem to be an implication that will require some means of referral to someone else, which calls into question the very notion of conscientious objection.
At no point in war, if I object to killing another person, am I required to identify someone else who will do the killing on my behalf. And so, that seems to me to be absurd”.
If you live in the ACT, please consider contacting your local MLA to express your opposition to these dangerous and misguided laws here.