Nitschke urges radical ‘no limits’ euthanasia laws in NT

Philip Nitschke has lost no time in urging the Northern Territory to pass radical euthanasia laws, now that the prohibition on the ACT and Northern Territory enacting euthanasia and assisted suicide laws has been lifted.

While the Northern Territory government has stated that it won’t introduce legislation until after the next election, Mr Nitschke is nevertheless lobbying the government to pass laws that give the public “maximum freedom”, by imposing almost no restrictions on the ability of people to request euthanasia and assisted suicide. Mr Nitschke wants NT laws to allow people to be “assisted to die whether they are sick or not”.

He is scathing of euthanasia laws passed in other Australian jurisdictions:

“Basically they’ve tried to codify the degree of sickness that you have to have before you’re eligible, and you have to submit yourself to an adjudicating panel, usually doctors, to decide if you’re eligible.

“What we’ve got now in the other states of Australia, with their proudly proclaimed 60 and 70 safeguards, is elderly people jumping through hoops trying just to demonstrate eligibility to die”.

Others, like Sue Shearer, chief executive of the Council on the Ageing (COTA) NT, are advocating a different approach, calling on the government to pass “conservative legislation at first” in order to get the laws through the Legislative Assembly.

This is despite Ms Shearer’s acknowledgment that members of COTA have raised concerns about the risk of coercion under euthanasia laws:

“Quite a few people are worried that if they do get dementia, that if they do have money that they’ve saved over all their life, that their children might want their inheritance early, so they are the real concerns of people”.

In addition, Ms Shearer dismisses concerns raised by Indigenous people the first time euthanasia laws were passed in the Territory as a “scare campaign”, advising the government to “go ahead cautiously and keep it to the terminally ill”.

“Let’s just proceed with caution and not frighten people”.

What’s clear is that the end goal is the same – liberal euthanasia laws that go much further than that passed in other jurisdictions. As we’ve seen in Canada, broad euthanasia laws have led to people choosing euthanasia because of poverty or disability or lack of access to medication or resources.

Were such laws to operate in the Northern Territory, there is no doubt that vulnerable people would be at risk of wrongful death. This is particularly concerning given the high Indigenous population in the Territory, and could negatively impact efforts to Close the Gap.

The Northern Territory deserves better than state sponsored death on demand.