This article is taken from The Australian Christian Lobby website at www.acl.org.au . . . . . .
The battle to stop the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 is raging in the Legislative Council. In the second reading speeches, many speakers who support the concept of euthanasia, called for amendments.
The Bill has just entered the ‘consideration in detail’ stage in the Legislative Council (Upper House). This is the stage where each of the 184 clauses will be scrutinised and amendments can be moved.
The Government refused to accept any amendments in the Lower House. The Ministerial Expert Panel and the well-funded Go Gentle pro-euthanasia lobby group are pressuring MPs to ram it through the Upper House without any amendments. But that won’t happen thanks to a group of MPs who are committed to doing their utmost to stop this Bill becoming law.
Politely remind your six Legislative Councillors of your opposition to the VAD Bill and ask them to consider on its merits every amendment that is proposed. Ask them to support at least the amendments that you mention from those listed below.
- Violation of doctor’s rights to conscientious objection
The provision that doctors who have a conscientious objection, must still provide documentation produced by the Health Department that tells a person how to access euthanasia, is a serious violation of the religious and civil rights of medical practitioners. (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art 18). This requirement (Section 15(5)(d)) should be deleted from the Bill.
- Treating doctor need not be informed
The Bill does not require a patient to inform his/her treating doctor(s) that they are making arrangements for VAD with another doctor. Likewise, the doctors organising the patient’s access to VAD, do not need to inform the treating doctor.
The Bill should be amended to require either the patient or the coordinating doctor to inform the treating doctor of the plan to apply for Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD).
- Family need not be consulted
There is no requirement in the Bill for the patient nor the co-ordinating doctor to communicate with the next of kin. The VAD Bill is claimed by its proponents to be about being compassionate. However, not communicating with the family shows no compassion nor respect to the surviving family.
The Bill should be amended to require the next of kin to be informed and consulted as to whether any of them are aware of any possibility of subtle pressure being applied to the patient to seek access to VAD. Without such a conversation with the next of kin, the coordinating doctor may get an incomplete picture of the dynamics at play. Such a check was recommended by the Chief Psychiatrist but is not in the Bill.
- Doctor can raise the subject of VAD
The Bill allows doctors to initiate conversations about VAD. There is no provision to prevent a doctor encouraging a patient to opt for VAD as the best treatment option. A vulnerable patient, weakened physically and mentally by their illness, would not have the capacity and stamina to push back against a doctor who is presenting physician assisted suicide as the best treatment option. Dr Tony Buti in the Legislative Assembly addressed this issue very poignantly using the very personal situation of his own daughter.
The Victorian legislation forbids a doctor raising VAD with a patient, and I urge you to support such an amendment to the WA Bill.
- Doctors do not need to be specialists in the patient’s condition
Neither of the two co-ordinating doctors needs to be a specialist in palliative medicine or the terminal illness suffered by the patient. The Bill should be amended to require one of the coordinating doctors to be a specialist in the patient’s condition, or a palliative care specialist.