Western Australia is set to become the 18th jurisdiction in the world to legalise some form of assisted suicide or euthanasia. Last week its state upper house voted resoundingly in favour of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 24 to 11. A special sitting of the lower house on Tuesday is expected to consider some amendments and then pass it into law.
Labor Premier Mark McGowan has dismissed concerns about the government-sponsored law as “ridiculous”, and has accused opponents of “scaremongering”. He is being unduly sanguine. The Western Australian assisted dying bill is significantly more permissive than the one passed by Victoria in 2017.
At 4.11pm on Thursday, 5 December 2019, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 passed its third reading vote in the Legislative Council of the Parliament of Western Australia by a decisive vote of 24 to 11.
Only one member changed her vote between the second and third readings: Labor MP Adele Farina.
In her speech explaining her vote Ms Farina highlighted the defeat of a series of amendments designed to address the inherent problems with a law permitting the prescription of a lethal substance for a person to keep at home for self-administration at some later time.
Members of Parliament have feelings and emotions that guide them into making correct ethical decisions, but they also have a mind and they must use their intellect to harness these gifts when deliberating on euthanasia.
Three people were euthanased in Quebec between April 2018 and March 2019 for a hip fracture. This is just one of the warnings about where legalisation of euthanasia leads that can be drawn from the latest report on euthanasia in Quebec.
Euthanasia in that Canadian province now accounts for nearly one out of fifty deaths (1.9%) with significantly higher rates in some health regions including the capital (3.28%) and Bas-Saint-Laurent (3.45%).
The World Medical Association has reaffirmed its long-standing policy of opposition to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
After an intensive process of consultation with physicians and non physicians around the world, the WMA at its annual Assembly in Tbilisi, Georgia, adopted a revised Declaration on Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide.
This states: ‘The WMA reiterates its strong commitment to the principles of medical ethics and that utmost respect has to be maintained for human life. Therefore, the WMA is firmly opposed to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.’
In a petition to the members of the Parliament of Western Australia one hundred and fifty medical practitioners, including senior oncologists, geriatricians, psychiatrists and palliative medicine specialists, call on the Parliament to reject the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
We the undersigned medical practitioners of Western Australia urge you to vote against the passage of any bill that would legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia, which are sometimes referred to as “voluntary assisted dying”.
We do not believe that such legislation is needed in Western Australia and that it would be a regressive not a progressive change, putting the lives and wellbeing of many Western Australians unnecessarily at risk.
Assisting our patients to commit suicide or intentionally killing them by euthanasia is never acceptable. It is not and can never be regarded as medical treatment or medical care.