Euthanasia lives again

3.05.2013 | Andrew Cameron, Megan Best | Briefing 102  



Social Issues briefing #102, 03/05/2013.

[UPDATE: The Bill described in this briefing failed. Karin Sowada's excellent post outlines the details.]

On Thursday 2nd May 2013, the NSW Greens MLC, Cate Faehrmann, introduced to the NSW Parliament’s upper house a bill to make assisted suicide legal in this State, under certain conditions. It is a private members’ bill, which she has given a speech to commend. MLCs will likely debate it again next Thursday 9th May.

The Bill will make it lawful for persons with a terminal illness who are resident in NSW to receive assistance in certain circumstances if they wish to end their life. That is, it will legalise a form of euthanasia in NSW. The NSW Greens previously proposed euthanasia legislation in 2010, which ultimately failed in the Parliament.

Although this Bill proposes various ‘safeguards’, we don’t believe the basics have changed. Euthanasia is not and never will be a ‘safe’ way to conduct health ‘care’. Our arguments and comments on this topic, arising from previous debates, are collected here:

If you agree that this Bill, though well-intentioned, is ultimately a bad idea, please make your voice heard. You could draw from any of the material mentioned below, but please try to put it on your own words, as an expression of your own convictions. Cutting and pasting impresses no one in politics. Respectful, heartfelt entreaty does make a difference.

Remember how it works:  the Bill must first be passed by the NSW Legislative Council, before it can progress to the Legislative Assembly (the house where you are represented by your NSW local member).

Therefore if you wish to influence the debate, you would first contact Members of the Legislative Council (the NSW Parliament’s equivalent of Federal Senators). They are not the same as your local NSW lower-house member (your MLA).

Contact details for all members of the Legislative Council can be obtained via Correspondence can also be mailed via:

                [Name of Member of the Legislative Council],
                c/o Parliament of New South Wales,
                Macquarie Street,
                SYDNEY NSW 2000

You are allowed to contact one, some or all of these people.

But we also strongly encourage you to make this issue known to your local NSW MLA, in the event that the Bill progresses to the lower house.

Over the page, you’ll find Dr Megan Best’s response to euthanasia in general and to this Bill in particular. Dr Best, a member of the Social Issues Executive, outlines why the Bill should be opposed. She is a bioethicist and medical doctor who specialises in palliative care.      - Andrew Cameron

Notes on the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill 2013
from Dr Megan Best

We call on the State Government of NSW to vote against this bill.  We believe that a civilized society should not deal with the problem of sick and suffering persons by killing them or allowing them to kill themselves, but by relieving their distress and making the required support available.  Furthermore we believe that such a path would lead to vulnerable patients being persuaded to request assisted death when it is not what they really want.

Advances in palliative care make assisted death unnecessary.


Legislation of assisted dying is dangerous

We do not suggest that our current care of the living and dying in our community is perfect.  However, rather than the legislation of euthanasia or assisted suicide we call on the government to:

We call on our government to affirm the value of every human life and not give up on our weaker citizens in terms of supporting them in their most vulnerable moments.

My concerns about this legislation

-          Dr Megan Best
for the Social Issues Executive, Diocese of Sydney

[1] World Health Organization. (1996). Cancer pain relief (2nd ed.). Geneva: WHO.

[2] Sepulveda C, Marlin A, Yoshida T, Ullrich A. (2002) Palliative Care: the World Health Organisation’s global perspective. Journal of Pain & Symptom Management. 24(2): pp.91-96.

[3] Roy FDJ, Rapin C-H et al. (1994). Regarding euthanasia. European Journal of Palliative Care, 1(1), 1-4.

[4] Good PD et al. (2005). Effects of opioids and sedatives on survival in an Australian inpatient palliative care population. Intern Med J, 35, 512–517.

[5] Hudson P et al. (2006). Desire for hastened death in patients with advanced disease and the evidence base of clinical guidelines: a systematic review. Palliative Medicine, 20, 693-701.

[6] Respecting Patient Choices.

[7] News poll (2009) Voluntary Euthanasia Study. Prepared for Dying with Dignity NSW.

[8] Glare, P. A. (1995). "The euthanasia controversy.  Decision-making in extreme cases." MJA 163: 558.

[9] Chochinov H et al. (1999). Will to live in the terminally ill. Lancet, 354, 816–19.

[10] Hudson, ibid.

[11] Passik SD, McDonald MV, Dugan Jr WM, Edgerton S, Roth AJ. (1997). Depression in Cancer Patients: Recognition and Treatment. Medscape Psychiatry & Mental Health eJournal, 2(3).

[12] Ganzini L, Goy ER, Dobscha SK. (2008). Prevalence of depression and anxiety in patients requesting physicians’ aid in dying: cross sectional survey.  BMJ, 337, a1682.

[13] Journal Of Forensic Science 2011

[14] Medische Beslissingen Rond Het Levenseinde – Rapport van de Commissie Onderzoek Medische Praktijk insake Euthanasie. The Hague, The Netherlands: Sdu Uitgeverij, 1991; Sheldon T. (1994). Dutch argue that mental torment justifies euthanasia. BMJ;308:431-432; Dutch 09-02-2010. Tired of life? Group calls for assisted suicide; Verhagen, E,Sauer PJJ. (2005). The Groningen Protocol — Euthanasia in Severely Ill Newborns. NEJM 352(10): 959-962; H Jochemsen Euthanasia in Holland: an ethical critique of the new law; Jochemsen H,Keown J. (1999). Voluntary euthanasia under control? Further empirical evidence from the Netherlands. Journal of Medical Ethics 1999;25: 16-2 1; Hendon H, Foley K. Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon: A Medical Perspective. Michigan Law Review. 2008;106.

[15] U K Select Committee on Medical Ethics, House of Lords. (1994). (Unanimous); New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in the Medical Context, (1994). (Unanimous); Senate of Canada, (1995) Of Life and Death; Community Development Committee, Parliament of Tasmania, The Need for Legislation on Voluntary Euthanasia, (1998). (Unanimous); Social Development Committee, Parliament of South Australia. Report of the Inquiry into the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 1996. (1999).

[16] Palliative Care Australia. (2009). EOL, 1(2). 

[17] Smets T, Bilsen J, Cohen J, Rurup ML, Mortier F, Deliens L. (2010). Reporting of euthanasia in medical practice in Flanders, Belgium: cross sectional analysis of reported and unreported Cases. BMJ 2010;341:c5174.

[18] Hendon H, Foley K. Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon: A Medical Perspective. Michigan Law Review. 2008;106.


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