Detailed scrutiny of WA’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 (VAD) continued in the Legislative Council during November, with only a handful of the bill’s 184 clauses being considered and eventually passed. MLC Nick Goiran, who is spearheading the attack, has indicated he will move over 350 changes to the bill, with MLCs Martin Prichard, Colin Tincknell and Charles Smith also moving amendments. One of the amendments will be that patients receive mandatory psychiatric assessments.
The slow progress means the bill is unlikely to pass before Christmas, with the Legislative Council scheduled to rise on 6 December this year. WA Premier Mark McGowan blasted opponents of the bill this week, telling the ABC Mr Goiran was “just trying to wreck the bill.”
Despite the Premier’s frustration, confirmation this week that the Government is going to move amendments of its own has vindicated opponents of the bill. It has also exposed the shallowness of the Government’s repeated assurances in the Legislative Assembly that the bill included all safeguards and that it did not need any amendments. In a concession that the bill does have problems, the Government has given notice of seven amendments, including one which will change the rules so that a doctor must outline palliative care options to patients requesting euthanasia.
Mrs Liza Harvey MLA, the Leader of the Liberal Opposition, is under considerable pressure from the Government, the Premier, lobby group Go Gentle and others, to “rein Goiran in”, essentially expecting her to exert pressure on Legislative Council/Upper House members to restrict the time spent debating the VAD Bill, and dissuading them from moving amendments.
Last week, more than 770 medical professionals involved in end of life care wrote to all WA members of the Legislative Council in an effort to challenge misinformation used by euthanasia advocates. Advocacy group Hope reports they took particular aim at the claim that many people with terminal illnesses would take their own life without access to legalised euthanasia, saying that a study of coronial cases in Victoria found that the majority of cases were ineligible for “assisted suicide” even if it was legal, and that over a third had a history of mental illness. Saddest of all, only 14% of 118 cancer patients who took their own lives in Victoria had any contact with palliative care services.
MLC Charles Smith, in an article he authored for The Spectator magazine, observes:
Even the most ardent of supporters should raise an eyebrow about this clearly rushed legislation.
Dogma and emotion over substance has dominated the discussion over this bill, with Labor even turning on their own for their concerns over the insufficient safeguards. In September Labor Member for Armadale Tony Buti put forward an amendment to the VAD bill noting his concern regarding the bill permitting doctors to bring up VAD with their patients, noting that particularly vulnerable people, such as his own adult daughter, are more easily prone to influence from outsiders and may, feeling the need to please or follow instructions, seek VAD. This minor amendment was voted down in a coalition of Labor and Nationals votes. The Victorian model specifically precludes doctors from raising VAD with their patients and is noted as an important safeguard in that model—which the WA model is based on. …[The bill] does little to stop “doctor shopping”—which sees patients go to multiple doctors until one gives them what they want.
Preventing coercion and doctor shopping are two safeguards entirely lacking in both Victoria and WA, and definitely the hardest thing to police, and easiest to abuse. A real-life example would be the 2010 case of Justins v Regina. In this case, a wife and her friend assisted the wife’s husband in committing suicide. However, the husband had Alzheimer’s disease, the wife took him to a different doctor to her usual GP who certified the man was of sound mind (having no knowledge of the man’s Alzheimer’s) and the man was then taken to a solicitor and had his will changed to change his wife’s share of his $2 million estate from 50 per cent to 98 per cent with the remaining going to their two daughters. …[T]he complete lack of debate on the issues is alarming—instead, debate is largely limited to sob stories. Tragic as they may be, we should not pass any law solely on feelings. Bills should be challenged for their weaknesses and improved. The government threatening overnight stays in Parliament, demanding no one ask questions, and even voting against their own MPs shows that debate has gone out the window on this Bill.
Whether you support VAD or not, the complete lack of scrutiny of this law should be concerning to the public.
Call to Action:
1. Please continue to remember this matter before God in prayer.
2. Please consider phoning Mrs Liza Harvey on 08 9204 2777 or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org and in your own words, indicate your support for the Liberal Party’s commitment to allow its Members an authentic conscience vote on the VAD Bill 2019, and request that the Council be given the opportunity to properly scrutinise and debate this legislation.
Sources: (1) “Euthanasia: VAD legislation is now unlikely to pass before Christmas and a call to action”, Laurence Van der Plas and Henry Hamelink, Association for Reformed Political Action (Australia) and (2) “Dogma is dominating debate on euthanasia in the West; emotion frustrating facts”, Charles Smith, Spectator Australia, 1 November 2019 – https://www.spectator.com.au/2019/11/euthanasia-debate-western-australia/