“Last week SA Independent MP Bob Such introduced his Ending Life with Dignity (2) Bill 2013 – his ninth euthanasia bill since 2000, and his second try this year,” FamilyVoice SA state officer David d’Lima said today.
“Sadly, even though Dr Such claims that his November bill is tighter than his February version (which he had claimed was as tight as anyone could get), it still has huge loopholes you could drive a hearse through.”
David d’Lima said he is concerned that the new bill is likely to be debated and possibly voted on next week – 14 November – before MPs and other bodies such as the Law Society, AMA, palliative carers and the insurance industry have had time to trawl through its 25 pages and determine its full implications.
“We are alerting MPs to some glaring deficiencies we have noted,” David d’Lima said. “The February bill required two medical practitioners acting independently to personally examine the person seeking euthanasia. The November bill no longer requires the doctors to act independently. They could be part of the same medical practice. The second doctor may feel under subtle pressure to agree with the first doctor’s diagnosis. Dr Nitschke could set up a death clinic with a partner and the two could work together.
“Key loopholes in the February bill remain unchanged. ‘Terminal illness’ could include conditions like asthma, diabetes, obesity and so on. There is no requirement in the November bill for the condition to cause imminent death: a person just diagnosed with MS could qualify for euthanasia, even though natural death may be 30 years away. There is no requirement for the person to have treatment – he or she can simply say any treatment or pain relief is unacceptable and demand a lethal dose of drugs. There is no absolute requirement for a consultation with a psychiatrist to assess possible depression, even though depression is often a trigger for euthanasia requests.”
David d’Lima said the second bill increases penalties for non-compliance – but while loopholes remain, mere penalty increases cannot provide additional safeguards.
“The bill again requires the death certificate to falsely state that death was caused by a medical condition, not suicide or homicide – allowing the rorting of life insurance provisions. Clause 27 includes the withdrawal of treatment (eg life support) as a means of providing euthanasia, even though such withdrawal can be part of good clinical practice. Including it in the bill could mean that palliative care doctors would have to satisfy the bill’s many onerous provisions, merely to allow a patient to die naturally.
“There are a number of drafting errors as well. This bill was prepared in haste, and it shows. We are urging SA MPs to reject it at the second reading,” David d’Lima said.
- Human life and dignity