Advance Care Directives Bill could lead to suicideWednesday, November 28, 2012
“The SA Advance Care Directives Bill is very complex legislation designed to simplify current laws,” FamilyVoice SA state officer David d’Lima said today. “However it could in effect legalise assisted suicide or lead to unintended death.”
The Bill, currently before the Legislative Council, passed the House of Assembly on 15 November on the voices despite attempts to amend its more dangerous clauses. Adelaide nurse Marion Seal has expressed serious concerns. She says current laws about advance directives are working well.
“The Bill would make a patient’s advance directive for the withdrawal of health care binding, even though the patient did not understand the full implications at the time of writing the directive,” David d’Lima said.
The WA Law Reform Commission has pointed out potential flaws in advance care directives, saying that they could prescribe a form of treatment without knowing the precise circumstances when the directive is required to be used.*
“Take for example an 18 year old who has written an advance directive saying, ‘Do not resuscitate if I am unconscious’,” David d’Lima said. “If this Bill passes and he later accidentally overdoses on a drug, paramedics would not be allowed to treat him.”
In July 2004, Western Australian Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker warned carers in nursing homes about their legal duty to ignore “refusal of treatment” cards promoted by euthanasia societies.
The Coroner was reporting on the death of Grace Parsons, who died in a Busselton nursing home after choking on her lunch. The Coroner found that staff at the nursing home did not give Grace Parsons life-saving medical treatment because they were aware of the refusal of treatment card.
“Would Grace Parsons have imagined when she signed the card that she would be left to choke to death on a piece of roast beef?” Mr d’Lima asked.
“But the SA Bill would make such directives binding. It needs to be seriously amended if not rejected.”
* 1. Medical Treatment for the Dying: Discussion Paper, p 13 at: http://www.health.wa.gov.au/publications/documents/Medical%20Treatment%20for%20the%20Dying%20Discussion%20Paper%20May%202005.pdf
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