Darryl Budge, Vice President of the Coalition and Spokesperson for the counter protest said, “We value our doctors and their commitment to preserving life. Euthanasia would turn doctors from healers to killers. It would cause them to dishonour the Hippocratic Oath to ‘First Do No Harm.’”
Furthermore, Mr Budge stated, “We must offer patients dignity, not death. A 2005 Canadian and Perth trial of dignity therapy showed better, more targeted palliative care dramatically altered desire for death.”
Mr Budge fears that euthanasia laws would “put vulnerable and innocent people at risk, including the Indigenous and disabled communities, who feel assisted suicide fundamentally undermines their trust in the medical establishment.”
The committee’s alarming 229-page majority report recommends going beyond granting access to those with terminal illness to include chronic and neurodegenerative conditions “where death is reasonably foreseeable as a result of the condition”. Similar clauses in Canada have been interpreted by the Ontario Supreme Court to allow assisted suicide for a 77 year old woman with osteoarthritis, which is a non-fatal condition. Doctors who object to assisted suicide will be forced to refer to a doctor willing to assist suicide.
Pro-life MP Nick Goiran released a 245-page comprehensive dissenting minority report, which refutes the claims of the majority report.
According to Mr Goiran, evidence from jurisdictions around the world, and even closer to home in the Northern Territory, demonstrates that no jurisdiction has yet created a safe legislative model to protect vulnerable members from a wrongful death. Patient capacity, mental health, medical error in prognosis, misdiagnosis, undue influence, elder abuse and duress on people living with disability are just some of the many areas in which assisted suicide laws present far too great a risk especially given that the consequences are final. What we can say with certainty from the lived experience in other jurisdictions is that casualties are guaranteed.
As a co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Palliative Care, I am convinced that the Government’s greater priority ought to be the making of specialist palliative care accessible throughout Western Australia. In the end I agree with Dr Michael Gannon who in May this year as President of the Australian Medical Association said: “I have serious concerns about a community where we make arbitrary decisions about whose life is valuable enough to continue and whose should be ended under the law. A society should aspire to look after people who are struggling and to make sure that their lives are worth living. We should aspire to even better end-of-life care. We should aspire to better palliative care.”
The majority report notes FamilyVoice Australia’s contribution to the euthanasia inquiry committee on page 445: “[w]e cannot afford to send mixed messages about the value of life or about suicide. So in a sense giving in to a person, whether older or younger, when they are for one reason or another suffering and desiring to end their life, in my view is bad policy and actually is counterproductive.”
FamilyVoice also opposes euthanasia for these reasons:
• Euthanasia turns doctors from healers to killers – it dishonours the Hippocratic oath to First Do No Harm
• We must offer patients dignity, not death. A 2005 Canadian and Perth trial of dignity therapy showed better, more targeted palliative care dramatically altered desire for death.1
• Killing laws put vulnerable and innocent people at risk, including the Indigenous and disabled communities, who feel assisted suicide fundamentally undermines their trust in the medical establishment.
• Consent will be a slippery term. The Dutch Government’s 2005 report found that 1 in 7 patients who had been ‘euthanised’ in the previous year had not given explicit consent.2
• There is no logical basis for refusing to expand the criteria to whoever demands loosening of criteria, including psychological distress, and minors in Belgium. Over 2016 and 2017, it has been officially reported that in Beligum a nine-year-old was euthanised for having a brain tumour and an 11-year-old for having cystic fibrosis. A 17-year-old was killed due to suffering from muscular dystrophy.
1. Harvey Max Chochinov et al., ‘Dignity Therapy : A Novel Psychotherapeutic Intervention for Patients Near the End of Life’ Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 23, No 24 (August 20), 2005: pp. 5520-5525.
2. Agnes van der Heide et al., “End-of-Life Practices in the Netherlands under the Euthanasia Act.” New England Journal of Medicine (2007) 356:1957-65, at 1957.