WA Expert Panel to Create a Unicorn
The unicorn is a lovely, delightful creature with just one unfortunate defect – it is a creature of fantasy that doesn’t exist in the real world.
In a media release dated 12 November 2018 the McGowan Labor Government has formally announced its intention to “introduce a Bill into State Parliament to legalise voluntary assisted dying in Western Australia.”
The Bill will be drafted in consultation with a panel of 11 experts who are tasked with providing “advice to government on a safe and compassionate framework for voluntary assisted dying in Western Australia”.
The Australian Medical Association’s Western Australian branch has stated its opposition to the legalisation of assisted suicide or euthanasia but nonetheless is supporting the involvement of leading doctors on the expert panel.
AMA WA President Dr Omar Khorshid is reported as saying “I think it’s reasonable to say that there are regimes that are less dangerous and regimes which are more dangerous”, while adding that even under the “best regime” there were safety concerns. He went on to say that “If there’s bad legislation the AMA and many other people will be fighting hard against a regime that could be dangerous and could allow unlawful deaths here in WA.”
The reality is that all existing regimes permitting assisted suicide or euthanasia, as well as the brief experiment in the Northern Territory in 1995-96, put people at risk of wrongful deaths.
Just as there is no unicorn in the real world – as opposed to the dreamworld of fantasy – so there is no assisted suicide or euthanasia regime in the real world that is safe.
Rather than there being “regimes that are less dangerous and regimes that are more dangerous” the evidence shows that each regime has its own set of dangers.
For example under the euthanasia regime in the Netherlands it is evident that some doctors get so used to euthanasia as the go-to response that in 2015 there were 431 people euthanased without a request and in 2016 a woman with dementia was held down by family members as she struggled against the nursing home doctor who was giving her a lethal injection.
But in Oregon, where doctors prescribe the lethal drugs with the intention that the person self-administered them there is no doctor or other witness present in two out of three cases so there is no independent evidence that the person took the lethal medication voluntarily. It may well have been administered to them by a family member or other person under duress, surreptitiously or violently. We can never know!