On 20th May 2010 Greens MLC the Hon Robin Chapple introduced his Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2010 in the Western Australian Legislative Council.
When the president of the council asked if the bill should be read a first time the Hon Nick Goiran (member for South Metro) and some other MLCs loudly responded “No!”. Mr Goiran explained later that although the first reading is usually considered a formality he thought it was important even at that stage to express the view that the Parliament has no business discussing a bill to authorise the killing of the innocent residents of Western Australia.
The Hon Nick Goiran is right. Any law permitting euthanasia would dangerously undermine society’s prohibition of the intentional killing of innocent people, which is an indispensable foundation of the rule of law.
In the light of international experience in the Netherlands and Oregon (USA), as well as experience in the Northern Territory, where euthanasia was legal from 1995-1996, it is clear that it is not possible to enact a law permitting euthanasia that has adequate safeguards to prevent its rampant abuse.
This conclusion would be sufficient reason to oppose this Bill.
However, Mr Chapple’s Voluntary Euthanasia Bill has additional serious flaws. Mr Chapple doesn’t even try to provide the safeguards attempted in the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. The Bill has no requirement for any specialist expertise in diagnosing the condition or determining the prognosis. Nor does it require assessment by a psychiatrist.
The Bill permits any medical practitioner to give a lethal substance to a person who may:
- have years to live (for example, if not properly diagnosed);
- be suffering from depression, suicidal ideation or demoralisation, but is never referred to a psychiatrist for assessment, let alone effective treatment;
- be suffering no physical pain at all, but who merely states he or she is suffering (which may be solely psychological or emotional suffering) or is debilitated (that is, weak or lacking energy).
Terminal illness is normally defined as six months or less to live. Even then, on many occasions, the diagnosis is wrong and patients sometimes live for years. But, Mr Chapple’s bill defines terminal illness as two years or less to live! It is entirely possible that some patients who could be informed that they only have two years to live might live for many years, or might die of other causes, if they are not actively killed beforehand.
Mr Chapple’s Bill also provides protection to doctors who administer lethal substances and kill their patients upon their request. The Bill provides a level of protection from prosecution for doctors involved in killing that is not available to doctors involved in healing. The provision of this protection will be an incentive for shonky doctors to move away from healing and to killing.
Mr Chapple’s Bill will also force doctors to lie. It requires that doctors list on death certificates the cause of death, not as lethal injection, but as the underlying cause (supposedly from which the patient would/could have died within two years)! Doing so will corrupt proper record keeping and statistics. It will make it difficult, if not impossible, for parliamentarians to determine how the law is working because some death certificates will not cite the real cause of death.
If passed, this dangerous Bill will corrupt doctors; it will corrupt medicine; it will corrupt record keeping; and it will corrupt government.
More alarmingly, it will undermine the protection given to all Western Australians by the law against homicide, and it will place vulnerable people at risk of medicalised homicide. Concerned people should vigorously oppose it.
As this is a matter of vital concern, please write to each of your six members of the Legislative Council, and express your strong opposition to the euthanasia Bill. Their names can be located at the front of the White Pages.