Submission to WA Ministerial Expert Panel
In a submission to the Ministerial Expert Panel appointed by the WA Minister for Health, Roger Cook, to advise him on "fully informed and workable legislation, to ensure safe and compassionate processes for voluntary assisted dying" the Australian Care Alliance has pointed to eleven categories of wrongful death that any such scheme must address.
These categories of wrongful death are:
1. a wrong diagnosis
2. a wrong prognosis
3. unaware of or unable to access effective treatment
4. no access to palliative care
5. denied funding for medical treatment
6. mentally ill at risk
7. “better off dead” than disabled
8. bullying or coercion
9. social contagion of suicide.
10. killed without request or while resisting
11. inhumane deaths by assisted suicide or euthanasia that are neither rapid nor peaceful.
The challenge for the Panel then is to transparently examine the evidence and to attempt to propose de novo a scheme that, unlike any other scheme yet enacted or proposed, ensures that in assessing candidates to be prescribed or administered lethal substances:
1) Doctors never make errors in diagnosis
2) Doctors never underestimate a prognosis
3) Doctors are aware of all available effective treatments and that all persons in Western Australia, including in remote and indigenous communities, have equitable access to those treatments
4) World’s best practice palliative care is available to every Western Australian, including in remote and indigenous communities
5) No Western Australian considers assisted suicide or euthanasia because of financial concerns about the cost of treatment or care
6) Doctors never miss diagnosing clinical depression or demoralisation in persons with a terminal or chronic illness
7) Doctors never project a discriminatory attitude towards persons with disabilities being more readily inclined to the view that a person with disabilities would be acting rationally in choosing to end their life
8) Doctors never fail to identify elder abuse, coercion or undue influence by family members or others including any influence on a person’s decision to request assisted suicide or euthanasia based on subtle societal expectations
9) There will be no suicide contagion
10) No doctors will become used to ending the lives of their patients and, regardless of the letter of the law, take actions to intentionally end the lives of other patients who do not make an explicit request
11) Every death from the self-administration or doctor-administration of a lethal substance under the scheme will be guaranteed to be both rapid and peaceful and that there will be no complications such as seizures, regurgitation, lengthy periods between ingestion/administration and loss of consciousness or between ingestion/administration and death.
Alternatively, the Panel could acknowledge that these guarantees are not achievable and that introducing a scheme to meet some Western Australians demand for societal approval and assistance in ending their lives at a time of their own choice necessarily means that other Western Australians will die wrongfully or inhumanely.