Labor MP warns WA euthanasia bill is a white flag of surrender

Labor MP, Margaret Quirk, has warned that the WA euthanasia and assisted suicide bill poses a particular risk to First Nation people; to the elderly; and to regional Western Australians without equitable access to palliative care.

It is an easy option - the white flag of surrender - instead she called on MPs to woprk together to "marshal the considerable resources in our health system to allow those with a terminal illness to enjoy a quality of life in their remaining time".

Margaret Quirk spoke powerfully on the dangers of legalised euthanasia for indigenous Western Australians:

We have failed to address the health issues suffered by First Nation people to date. With so many of our people suffering complex health conditions at an earlier age, there is a desperate need for culturally appropriate palliative care services in regional and remote areas. A review recently commissioned by the Australian government confirmed that more needs to be done to ensure First Nation people receive palliative care within their community. It states —

“Where First Nations people are already overrepresented at every stage of our health system, it is irresponsible to vote in favour of another avenue to death.”

Paving the way for euthanasia and assisted suicide leaves First Nation people even more vulnerable when our focus should be on working collectively to create laws that help to prolong life and restore the right to enjoy a healthy life. The only concessions I can see to these challenges for First Nation people in remote WA is the ability to use a nurse practitioner to deliver the lethal dose, the use of interpreters, if necessary, and the need to significantly expand culturally appropriate delivery of palliative care.

She also warned of the risk of a new, deadly form of elder abuse:

Incidents of elder abuse are significantly under-reported with victims ashamed to report it because perpetrators are often family members. I am strongly of the view that these laws will be seen as a way out for those poor souls who feel that they have outlived their usefulness, have had a full and satisfying life and do not want to become an unproductive burden. This throws some of the bill’s safeguards into stark relief. How thoroughly will possible coercion be investigated or considered?

Margaret Quirk concluded with a strong call for real action on access to palliative care instead of waving the white flag of surrender:

The passing of this bill is akin to unfurling a white flag of surrender. In waving that white flag, we are conceding that we cannot marshal the considerable resources in our health system to allow those with a terminal illness to enjoy a quality of life in their remaining time. We are conceding that in a state like WA, we cannot provide timely access to palliative to all Western Australians irrespective of where they live. By giving up, we consign the vulnerable, depressed, mentally ill and socially isolated to the risk of coercion or, worse still, that they have no choice but to accede to an early and untimely death. We are ultimately choosing between two systems in which some suffering may be difficult to treat or manage and one in which regulation is very difficult to perfectly enforce.

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