Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2296..
MRS CARNELL (continuing):
house wants to achieve. That is my position at this stage. I will be voting against the legislation. I hope that an amendment along the lines I have spoken about is brought forward soon to achieve the end that I am sure we all want. I agree with Mr Connolly that a requirement for annual reporting would be a beneficial improvement to the legislation.
In front of me I have a clause-by-clause breakdown of this Bill and the difficulties that arise. The first issue is the definition of "terminal phase of a terminal illness". Mr Lamont, Mr Moore and I spent hours discussing this in our committee. The benefit of the legislation giving people a right to adequate pain relief is that you do not have to define the terminal phase of a terminal illness. I think that was the reason, in the end, that the committee came down with the recommendations that it did. Once you have to define it, it becomes very difficult. I believe it is possible, but at this stage there is no real definition. I would like to take a step back, amend the legislation to make sure that people have a right to adequate pain relief, as determined by the patient themselves, and see whether that achieves the end we all want to achieve.
MR WHITECROSS (3.52): Mr Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of Mr Moore's Bill. I am happy to speak in favour of it. I think it is a Bill which attempts to restore as much dignity as possible to dying people. Death, by its nature, is not a dignified business but we do the best we can with those circumstances. A lot of the debate surrounding this issue goes to some very basic issues about the role of law and how law contributes to our society. A few false doctrines creep into that discussion.
On the one hand, you have the argument which says that the law is in fact no more than a moral code which says what is right and what is wrong and which we all abide by. That is one view of the law. It is a view of the law which is often promoted by people of strong convictions and particularly by churches, but it is a position which denies the complexity of the society we live in and the different values that exist in our society, and it seeks to push everybody into the same moral position. On the other hand, we have heard an equally strange doctrine, which is that this is an issue of such complex moral dimensions that there is no role for legislators in it. Quite frankly, that is a position which I think is completely unsustainable. The legislators are involved. It is the legislators who have proscribed assisting people to die in the terminal phase of a terminal illness, so it is up to the legislators to resolve that problem. It is not open to the legislators just to say, "This has nothing to do with us".
It seems to me that in deciding how we should address this issue we should not take the attitude that says, "I am going to decide whether I in my conscience would want to be involved in the ending of someone's life and whether I in my conscience would want any of my family and friends to be involved in the ending of their life in the way contemplated in the Bill". The issue is: Is there a reason why I should not allow others to exercise their conscience to make that choice for themselves?
My leader - Rosemary Follett - and Roberta McRae have made quite strongly the point that the issue is not what I think now, in a good state of health and without knowing the kind of death I face, about how I might feel if I were dying and about what decision I would make. I may feel confident that I would never avail myself of the provisions of this Bill, but I am not in a position to make that judgment. I have talked to people,