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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2295..


MR CORNWELL (continuing):

I also have a problem with the effect this Bill will have legally if it goes through and is later repealed, as may occur with the legislation in the Northern Territory, where I understand the vote was very evenly balanced. The Northern Territory has a law in relation to euthanasia - and let us not muck around with the term "Medical Treatment (Amendment) Bill" - but let us suppose that at some time in the future the Northern Territory legislature votes to repeal that legislation. What sort of legal tangle would they be in then in relation to the people who assisted in what had now become illegal? I do not know. Would there be some retrospectivity so that such people would not be charged? I simply do not know. Somebody asked me recently where people would stand with their life insurance if you passed this legislation.

I am not being flippant; I am raising what I believe are serious issues that may not be directly germane to the issue before us but are certainly factors that could have profound effects on sections of society. I believe, therefore, that too many moral difficulties are unresolved in this legislation. I believe also that there are too many unanswered legal questions. Accordingly, I too will be opposing this legislation.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (3.47): I will be extremely brief. Having been on the committee last year when the Medical Treatment Bill was first looked at, I suppose I have been through the mill on this issue. Unlike many others in this Assembly, I have no religious convictions. I have no religious basis upon which to make a decision on this issue. But, having heard all of the evidence that was put before the committee last year, and having been the Assembly's token health professional at that stage, I think my view on this comes down to the issue of intent. I believe strongly that there is a substantial difference - in fact, it is as between chalk and cheese - between the intent to kill and the intent to relieve pain. I believe that the Medical Treatment Bill is the basis of very good legislation. I must admit that I would like to see the words that were initially put forward by the committee reinstated, or similar words inserted, to ensure, once and for all, that a patient has a right to adequate pain relief. I know that an amendment to that part of the Bill watered it down substantially. I think that was a retrograde step.

I believe, as many people do, that patients must be allowed to die with as much dignity as possible; but the next step of involving health professionals in terminating people's lives, with the intent of terminating people's lives, is a step that at this stage I am unable to take. I know that, if I were presented with a prescription to dispense with the intent of terminating somebody's life, I would be unable to fill that prescription. If I were presented with exactly the same prescription to dispense exactly the same dose with the intent to relieve pain, I would have no trouble whatsoever.

Mr Berry: That is hypocrisy.

MRS CARNELL: I do not believe it is hypocrisy. I think this is an issue of conscience. Everybody in this house has searched their soul on this. I believe that at this stage the legislation should be based upon the right to adequate pain relief. We have almost achieved that with the Medical Treatment Bill. I am hopeful that without any change to the intent clause that Bill will be able to achieve the ends that I hope everyone in this


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