Debate will commence on Senator Leyonjhelm's Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015 this week. Please telephone your Senators to ask them to vote AGAINST the bill. Even if you have phoned their offices, please contact them again. It is essential you act today to stop the death lobby in its tracks!
- A Call to Action against Euthanasia Push in Federal Parliament
- Voluntary euthanasia is a threshold moment for Australia, and one we should not cross - Paul Keating
- Stop assisted suicide
- Simple letter writing hints
- Details of your senators
Recently we were appalled to learn the Federal Parliament will be debating the issue of euthanasia commencing Tuesday 14 August 2018. Debate will begin in the Senate as soon as the Parliament resumes August 2018, after the winter break. The bill is called the Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015 (debated twice since its initial introduction in 2015).
If it passes the Senate – which is very likely – it will then have to go to the House of Representatives to be passed. Some pundits even predict the legislation will go through the House of Representatives which will mean the Australian Parliament endorsing physician assisted suicide!
What is the background on legislation on euthanasia in NT and ACT?
In 1995 - then Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Marshall Perron moved a euthanasia bill called the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill 1995 (NT). Australian protagonists of legalised patient killing thought that it would be easy for such legislation to pass the Northern Territory legislature because there would not be much opposition to it up there.
The Aboriginal community were opposed to the bill, many of them being denied proper healthcare as it was.
Sadly, the bill passed the parliament at 3 am one morning. Marshall Perron had needed one more vote for victory! I was there watching as he walked from the chamber, went to the ALP rooms and came back with one Aboriginal MP to vote for the bill! The MP in question had been brought into the parliament from the Casino. He was not in good health – he was diabetic.
Despite this he provided the necessary vote to ensure passage of the legislation!
In 1996, Kevin Andrews, federal member for Menzies, moved a bill known as the Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996. It was designed to overturn the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 (NT). The federal parliament had the power to do this with the Territories such as the Northern Territory (NT) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The Andrews’ bill was very successful having huge support in the House of Representatives and passing the Senate in early 1997 by a much smaller margin.
What will the passage of the Leyonhjelm bill mean for Australia?
The current push by a euthanasia protagonist in the Senate – Senator David Leyonhjelm – if passed, would authorise both the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory to legalise euthanasia.
The ACT is - as you know - Canberra. Their tiny legislature comprising 17 seats is very pro-euthanasia and will readily pass euthanasia legislation.
If passed – our federal parliament will have endorsed legalised patient killing – i.e. physician assisted suicide, thereby opening the floodgates for other states to follow suit! For a start the ACT is situated right in the middle of New South Wales.
The pressure on all other states to legalise physician assisted suicide will be immense with the Federal Parliament endorsing it!
Senator Leyonhjelm: “My bill addresses two issues: territory rights and the right to die. I am a firm believer in both” (ABC News 28/6/18)
By Paul Keating
Photo: Nic Walker
There is probably no more important issue in contemporary bioethics or a more serious ethical decision for our parliaments than that raised by the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 being debated this week in the Victorian Parliament. Under this bill, conditions and safeguards are outlined that will allow physicians to terminate the life of patients and to assist patients to take their own life. This is a threshold moment for the country. No matter what justifications are offered for the bill, it constitutes an unacceptable departure in our approach to human existence and the irrevocable sanctity that should govern our understanding of what it means to be human.
The justifications offered by the bill's advocates – that the legal conditions are stringent or that the regime being authorised will be conservative – miss the point entirely. What matters is the core intention of the law. What matters is the ethical threshold being crossed. What matters is that under Victorian law there will be people whose lives we honour and those we believe are better off dead.
In both practical and moral terms, it is misleading to think allowing people to terminate their life is without consequence for the entire society. Too much of the Victorian debate has been about the details and conditions under which people can be terminated and too little about the golden principles that would be abandoned by our legislature. One of the inevitable aspects of debates about euthanasia is the reluctance on the part of advocates to confront the essence of what they propose. In this case it means permitting physicians to intentionally kill patients or assisting patients in killing themselves. Understandably, the medical profession is gravely concerned by this venture.
An alarming aspect of the debate is the claim that safeguards can be provided at every step to protect the vulnerable. This claim exposes the bald utopianism of the project – the advocates support a bill to authorise termination of life in the name of compassion, while at the same time claiming they can guarantee protection of the vulnerable, the depressed and the poor. No law and no process can achieve that objective. This is the point. If there are doctors prepared to bend the rules now, there will be doctors prepared to bend the rules under the new system. Beyond that, once termination of life is authorised the threshold is crossed. From that point it is much easier to liberalise the conditions governing the law. And liberalised they will be. Few people familiar with our politics would doubt that pressure would mount for further liberalisation based on the demand that people are being discriminated against if denied. The experience of overseas jurisdictions suggests the pressures for further liberalisation are irresistible. While there are different views strongly expressed within the medical profession, the president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Michael Gannon, has explained that the formal position of the AMA is opposition to interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person's life.
Dr Gannon recently said: "Once you legislate this you cross the Rubicon. The cause for euthanasia has been made in a very emotional way and this is the latest expression of individual autonomy as an underlying principle. But the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the chronically ill and the dying must never be made to feel they are a burden." Palliative Care has issued the most serious warnings. It says at least one in four Victorians who die each year (about 10,000 people) do not have access to needed palliative care, that access in aged residential care is "very low", that between 2 and 10 per cent of older Australians experience abuse in any given year and that its funding is inadequate to meet growing demand.
The submission highlights the problems with this bill – it is a disproportionate response to the real problems of patient pain and suffering, a situation that demands greater priority in public care and funding. It is true that if this bill fails then some people will endure more pain and this is difficult for legislators to contemplate. It is also true, however, that more people in our community will be put at risk by this bill than will be granted relief as its beneficiaries. This is the salient point. Palliative Care said the bill 'sends the wrong message to people contemplating suicide and undermines suicide prevention efforts.' How could this not be the case? Suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 15-44 and the second leading cause of death among people aged 45-54. International studies offer no support for the view that legalising euthanasia is associated with a decrease in non-assisted suicides. The bill's failure is pre-set by its design.
The issue is not how many people will choose to die under this proposed law. It is how many people may die when otherwise they wouldn't. As Dr Gannon says it is "commonplace" for patients to tell doctors in front of their loved ones that they have no wish to be a burden on families. Once this bill is passed the expectations of patients and families will change. The culture of dying, despite certain and intense resistance, will gradually permeate into our medical, health, social and institutional arrangements. It stands for everything a truly civil society should stand against. A change of this kind will affect our entire community not just a small number of dying patients. It is fatuous to assert that patients will not feel under pressure once this bill becomes law to nominate themselves for termination.
Opposition to this bill is not about religion. It is about the civilizational ethic that should be at the heart of our secular society. The concerns I express are shared by people of any religion or no religion. In public life it is the principles that matter. They define the norms and values of a society and in this case the principles concern our view of human life itself. It is a mistake for legislators to act on the deeply held emotional concerns of many when that involves crossing a threshold that will affect the entire society in perpetuity.
Paul Keating is a former prime minister of Australia.
Did you know in September 2015, the British Parliament voted overwhelmingly against legalising assisted suicide? The Scottish and Welsh Parliaments did likewise.
Why? Too dangerous!
They saw the increasing numbers of deaths for an increasing number of reasons – in places like Holland, Belgium and the US state of Oregon, where it has been allowed for some time - even for mental illness!
Official figures from Holland in 2015 (Central Bureau of Statistics, The Hague) show 431 people had their lives ended without request.
Former Judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, House of Lords (UK) MP (The Times 8/9/15):
“My experience of presiding over the family division of the High Court showed me again and again how subtle and calculate the pressure, coercion and even control asserted on a vulnerable individual can be. The safeguards provide no real protection to the truly vulnerable and they will fall apart if this bill becomes law.”
Excerpts Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill House of Commons UK (11 Sep 2015):
Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): “Not surprisingly, more than half the people polled think that assisted suicide involves no pain or discomfort. Well, assisted suicide can take two forms. The first, which this Bill says it advocates, is as follows. The person is given a powerful medication to stop them from being sick.
That is because the barbiturates that are used to kill them are a powerful emetic. The urge to throw up is strong and can be distressing and uncomfortable. The barbiturates are then dissolved in a tumbler full of water and have to be drunk. It takes between one minute and 38 minutes until the person falls into a coma.
“In around 7% of cases, the person suffers from vomiting or spasms. In one in every 10 cases there can be problems with administering the barbiturates. In Oregon, it takes, on average, 25 minutes for the person to die. But the longest period before someone died was four days. In addition, in about 1% of cases, the person has woken up.”
Assisted Suicide debate, House of Commons UK (27 March 2012):
Mr Frank Field MP (Birkenhead) (Lab): “…we seem to think this country is populated exclusively by husbands who love their wives, and wives who love their husbands, and grannies, uncles and aunties who all gather around to do the right thing.
“I know perfectly well that in certain circumstances some individuals would have no hesitation in trying to persuade a person that the decent thing to do is to end their life – and especially where money is involved.”
- This bill will enable assisted suicide, under the guise of giving rights to the Territories.
- Assisted suicide is helping someone to kill themselves! Euthanasia is patient killing.
- Safeguards have and will fall apart.
- Once assisted suicide/euthanasia bill is passed, numbers and categories of people who are killed increases. See Holland, Belgium, Oregon.
- Killing people is not medical treatment.
- Doctors and even psychiatrists admit it can be hard to diagnose depression.
- No bill can stop ‘doctor shopping’.
- We need better access to palliative care, not killing.
- Elder abuse and coercion can occur, and is occurring overseas.
The Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015 will be debated and voted on first in the Senate. This is because it is a private members bill introduced by Senator David Leyonhjelm. Therefore it is important you contact your senators now. Each state has 12 senators. Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory both have 2 senators each.
There is no need to contact Australian Greens senators, as they will all support Senator Leyonhjelm's bill. Senator Leyonhjelm himself and Senator Derryn Hinch also do not need to be contacted as their positions supporting euthanasia are well known.
Click here to view senators details on the Parliament of Australia website. Note: this does not include email addresses.
Writing a letter to your senators in the mail is the most effective method of communicating with them. You can also telephone or email. Note though with emails particularly, politicians are inundated with them and are forced to filter through the emails they receive.