South Australia - going for Gold!

With the London Olympics coming to a close and the questions about Australia's overall lack of performance against high expectations, two South Australian MPs look certain to make sure that at least one Australian state holds a world record. If The Hon Bob Such Mp and Steph Key MP are true to their words on the last evening, then they will both be introducing new euthanasia bills into the parliament when sitting resumes in September. These will be the sixth and seventh bills introduced since this parliament began in March 2010. Readers are welcome to challenge my assertion, but I'm confident that this feat has not been achieved anywhere else on the planet.

ABC 7:30 Report (SA)

Such's bill, by his own words after the defeat of his last attempt a month ago, will be a're-jigged' bill based upon his last effort. The ABC report suggested it would have strict safeguards. Clearly Such's last bill wasn't as-safe; so even he should be glad that it failed!

The report suggested that Steph Key is looking to do some legislative work on palliative care, advanced directives and euthanasia. It's a little hard to imagine what this might mean - particularly if Key plans to deal with all three areas in the one bill. This would fly in the face of the clearly articulated opinion of the Australian & NZ Society of Palliative Medicinein their recent statement:

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine Inc., (ANZSPM), believes that the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide are outside the discipline of Palliative Medicine. The Society endorses the New Zealand Medical Association's Position Statement on Euthanasia, and similarly the World Medial Association's which state that euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide are unethical.

The 7:30 Report followed the standard format for this kind of advocacy journalism: interview someone living with a difficult condition who wants euthanasia then bring in the saviour MP (MPs in this case) who clearly want(s) to champion the persons cause. At least in this report, the editors chose to give a little time to the voice of the person's oncologist who did not agree.

The gentleman who was the focus of the story, Max Bromson, does live with pain and faces a difficult prognosis. He was articulate and is clearly a lover of life. We can and should have every sympathy for him. He expects that the cancer in his bones won't kill him but, rather, leave him debilitated; left for 'months and months' in palliative care, which he says would be a lack of dignity. He claimed, with a wry grin, that he's 'too proud' to sit there for months on end with others looking after his basic needs. Yet his oncologist rightly observed that it is the role of his profession to maintain his dignity and quality of life adding, 'I believe we can achieve that.'

Yet in the press release from The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine mentioned above, Dr Ian Smiley GP and ANZSPM membersaid "with good palliative care there is no reason for people to suffer." The press release was issued in response to a 60 Minutes show on NZ television recently to which the society took issue, saying: "(The) program was completely biased in favour of euthanasia. It did not describe the work of hospice and palliative care doctors and nurses who on a daily basis strive ceaselessly throughout New Zealand to relieve the suffering of people facing imminent death. The national focus should be on achieving and maintaining excellence of palliative care for every person in this country". Could we not say the same in this country and in this circumstance?

It's always difficult to get the message across in digestible sound bites for the media that euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation is never safe. Reason and argument are often left standing at the starting gate as compassion and rhetoric surge for the line. While those in favour of euthanasia & assisted suicide legislation in Australia have a very poor win-to-loss ratio, it is nonetheless sobering to remind ourselves that they only need win once!