Transcript from Victorian Legislative Council debate about euthanasia

Here is an abridged version of the transcript of the debate about Colleen Hartland's motion to refer euthanasia to the Victorian Law Reform Commission. This debate took place in the Victorian Legislative Council on Wednesday 15 April. Thankfully the motion did not go to a vote, but it may be brought up again at a later date.

Victorian Debate in the Legislative Council (abridged)


Motion: to refer Voluntary Euthanasia to the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC)

Colleen Hartland opened with, “To access assisted dying a person must be terminally ill, have consulted with two independent doctors, have consulted with a psychiatrist, be of sound mind, be well informed, be free from duress and be able to change their mind at any time… The legal framework must also protect physicians who provide medical assistance.”

Mrs Peulich: “In Ms Hartland’s first attempt to introduce a bill she was calling for physician-assisted dying not just for those who are terminally ill but also for people who experience existential pain… In Holland, where after an audit of 5 years of the practice they established that 1000 people had been accidentally euthanased… There can be no safeguards to prevent the innocent and the vulnerable from state-sanctioned death…”

Ms Pulford: “I voted against this in 2008. I do not support law reform in this area.”

Ms Wooldridge: “I drew heavily on the work done during the abortion law reform debate... I will be supporting the motion.”

Ms Shing: “… I am aware of the very strong sentiment in maintaining a direct and meaningful connection with the importance and sanctity of human life, the importance and sanctity of dignity and the importance and sanctity of care for those people who are suffering... I am not convinced that a referral to the VLRC is the most appropriate mechanism to further debate on this issue….the inclusion of the community in this conversation is, to my mind, as important as any other component of the subject matter itself… I look forward to reading additional correspondence.”

Ms Patten: “A recent Newspoll study done on behalf of found that well over 80% of Anglican Australians want this reform….I support the motion to refer the issue of voluntary euthanasia to the VLRC.”

Mr Finn: “We hope that those who are making life and death decisions on our behalf at that time are thinking more about our interests than they are about the value of our house or any legacy they may receive as part of our demise… I do not see anything dignified about giving people a jab and shunting them off this earth… Can there be a bigger question for us as MPs to consider than who lives and who dies? I ask members to reject this motion today.”

Dr Carling-Jenkins: “I will not be supporting this motion. As I see it, the only purpose for this referral is to give credibility to future voluntary euthanasia legislation. The VLRC is not elected by or representative of Victorians… it is unaccountable to the public, unlike ourselves as elected politicians…In 2012 Newspoll, which both Ms Hartland and Ms Patten have already referred to, received 82.5% of approval for an assisted dying scenario by asking an extremely emotionally loaded question, This question was:

Thinking now about voluntary euthanasia, if a hopelessly ill patient, experiencing unrelievable suffering, with absolutely no chance of recovering, asks for a lethal dose, should a doctor be allowed to provide a lethal dose?

This was an extremely emotionally charged question, and both News Limited and Fairfax media acknowledge that such online readership polls run by newspapers are in no way scientific. Therefore generalisations cannot and should not be made from such polls.

Euthanasia will always be discriminatory. It will always classify a group of people as having lives that are not as valuable as the rest of the population…. We do not want to step back into eugenics-type arguments here. It is important to remember that everyone has a right to live… Every life is of infinite value, whether that life is on a boat in the East Timor sea, in a prison cell in Indonesia or is a hospital bed in Wyndham.

The Australian Medical Association, for example, opposes euthanasia. It said, “… medical practitioners should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life.”

The World Medical Association, a very respected body, has also stated it opposes euthanasia. It said: “…euthanasia is in conflict with basic ethical principles of medical practice,” and “The World Medical Association strongly encourages all national medical associations and physicians to refrain from participating in euthanasia, even if national law allows it or decriminalises it under certain conditions.”

A dignified death is about palliative care, not euthanasia… The Law Reform Commission… is not a consultative body but a law-drafting body…I have proposed that we discuss elder abuse more openly to protect people before they feel as though they are being pushed towards voluntary euthanasia.”

Mr Davis: “I voted against the bill that was introduced into this chamber because I thought there were a number of practical problems in it that would not see it achieve what it sought to achieve… It is complex and it carries with it a series of challenges in communication, in regulation and in cultural understandings and practices…”

Mr O’Donohue: “I voted in favour of the legislation in 2008 and I intend to vote in favour of this motion.”

Mr Drum: “We can judge the work for what it is and it will form just a small part of our reasoning and reckoning. We are not going to be obliged to agree with what the Commission says.”

Ms Crozier: “We need more information on this issue from as many people as possible within areas of law, health, religion and palliative care. I support the motion.”

Mr Leane: “When Ms Hartland brought forward that private members’ bill, which was on the same issue that this motion refers to I was convinced to the point of casting my vote in favour of the bill… my opinion is more solid with the journey of time.”

Ms Lovell: “I welcome the motion to refer the matter to the VLRC. I support the motion.”

Mr Melhem: “The intention of both sides is to preserve human dignity. No one wants to see their loved ones suffer. I am still conflicted as to which way I should vote. If I were asked the question today, my answer would be no. We believe all Victorians are entitled to quality end-of-life care which relieves pain and suffering and provides empowering support to family, friends and carers...human life is very precious.”

Mr Ramsay: “I made a commitment to many terminally ill patients who came to my electorate office in Ballarat seeking an opportunity to express their views in relation to the Parliament debating the issue of terminally ill patients being afforded the right to voluntary euthanasia. I will be supporting the motion.”

Ms Tierney: “… this issue needs to be more fully discussed…there is also the issue of trust that we place in the medical profession… to refer this issue to the VLRC. This is a little too narrow from my perspective. My preference would be for a whole range of people to come and put their views forward and document their experiences in this area.”

Mr Dalidakis: “…there are many different issues and factors at play that can potentially affect that outcome… depression, pressure, the fallibility or invincibility of medical technology and discovery... It is genuinely and legitimately an issue of life and death. I do not support the motion.”

Mr Barber: “I agreed with a large amount of what Mr Dalidakis said.”

End of debate

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