The following quotes are from speeches on The Hon Cate Faehrmann MLC's Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill in the chamber debate on the 9th of May. The bill is likely to be heard further on the 23rd of May. Clearly focusing on the real issues makes for a good debate.
Here are some of the many great comments:
Hon. MARIE FICARRA: My opposition to the bill is based on the ability to abuse any safeguard against the wrong taking of life.
No legislation anywhere in the world has prevented abuse or errors of judgement—either the person wanting to end life and/or the medical practitioner assisting in this quite unnatural process.
Hon. WALT SECORD: Several years ago I reached the conclusion that it is not possible to codify this aspect of human desire and the desire to determine the timing and manner of one's death. I believe it is impossible to develop adequate legislative safeguards to protect people from the misuse of these laws and I have not yet seen a legislative model that cannot be exploited.
The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: … the bill proposes a highly controlled and regulated system that would be impossible to circumvent.
"Impossible" is a high threshold, and one that portrays a lack of appreciation of reality. Whilst spiring to improve the human condition is laudable, death is not, and can never be, a perfect event. As humans we cannot make it perfect; as legislators we cannot, through words in a statute, make it perfect, no matter how hard we might try.
On the polls:
Hon. MARIE FICARRA: Polls indicating high public support for euthanasia are always associated with emotive questions based on the case of a hopelessly ill patient dying in pain. No background information is given to the respondents regarding palliative care, medical and nursing responsibilities, and the incidence of treatable depression in such cases and the range of patient care options available to the patient. These poorly constructed, emotive and simplistic polls do not change my responsibility as a legislator for all the community, a responsibility we all share on behalf of our constituents.
The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY: I find it curious that many articles relating to the rights of the terminally ill often quote reports that claim that the majority of Australians state in opinion polls that they would like voluntary euthanasia legalised. Yet a recent survey conducted by Palliative Care Australia reported that the majority of Australians have not even discussed dying with their loved ones. To me, therein lies the issue.
Hon. MARIE FICARRA: Doctors, as healthcare providers, are expected to protect and promote life, not end life or encourage the ending of life. The focus should be on providing excellent medical care, palliative care and other forms of support to patients. Patients already have the right to refuse medical treatment and advanced care directives.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE: This bill changes the role of doctors and nurses from saving life to taking life. It changes the role of hospitals from saving life to taking life.
The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: Why are we asking our doctors, who took an oath to preserve life, to assist in ending life? Why are we proposing measures to assist in the killing of our sick and suffering when we can generally relieve their distress through increased palliative care and support? Why are we sending a message that suicide and assisted killing is a valid choice and promoting the availability of suicide-enabling drugs when we can offer psychiatric care and other support?
On Elder Abuse:
Hon. WALT SECORD: The third issue—and this is most troubling—is the prospect of financial manipulation. Unfortunately, it is said that people overseas have hastened the death of a family member if they were anticipating a substantial financial again. That is disgusting and sickening, but unfortunately it is a reality. That is assisted by the fact that the primary reason cited by people in Oregon for deciding to end their life is that they no longer want to be "a burden" to others. Not wishing to be a burden is a common response to illness. It is a selfless and natural response, but regrettably it makes exploitation of vulnerability far too easy.
On vulnerable people:
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE: Although we do accept that some small number of individuals will want to exert their autonomy—that is, the right to choose the timing and manner of their own death—we believe the role of government is to protect the vulnerable who would be at risk if this bill were passed. This is the conclusion of government-sponsored inquiries into similar euthanasia legislation that have been conducted in the United Kingdom, Canada and United States of America, as well as in Australia.
The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: This bill tolls loudly for the most vulnerable people in our community. In my view it is a dangerous and destructive response to those who deserve our compassion and support in the most vulnerable stages of their lives. Today we must not let them down. The experience of other jurisdictions that have gone the slippery slope towards State-sanctioned assisted murder is salutary. One need only look to the Netherlands and Switzerland, where the debate has now moved on to automatic entitlement to assisted homicide for babies born with a disability and for people over 75 who have become a burden to our society. Is that really the path we wish to tread? To me this bill is itself a cry for help—its message is abundantly clear. The time has well and truly come for us as a society to take full individual and collective responsibility for our sick, our disabled and our dying.