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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 2 Hansard (18 February) . .

Page.. 659..


Detail stage

Bill, by leave, taken as a whole.

MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (4.56): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at 670].

There is no doubt that the issues that we are discussing here are complex, they are difficult and they are important. As I indicated in the in-principle part of the debate, we broadly support the bill and we understand the opportunities that may be offered to some people in dire circumstances. However, we also recognise the vexed ethical problems that arise from those same circumstances for different people in different circumstances. The issues engage with the most fundamental ethical problems in medicine but also the deep personal convictions of those in those circumstances.

In response to these concerns, I have drafted an amendment which has been circulated and I am hoping to get support from parties in this place, although I do note I have received correspondence from the Deputy Chief Minister that would allow us to go forward with the support of all parties. Our amendment that has been circulated contains two elements: first, that experimental or trial treatments should not be administered to a person without their knowledge or consent; and, second, that the consent be explicit and fully informed.

The amendment achieves both of those aims. It expressly requires that the power of attorney include permission to make a decision in medical research matters. It also, by the removal of the clause that allows a retrospective application of the law to be made, means that it can only be made prospectively, not retrospectively.

As I said, I have circulated my amendment, and I hope for support. I have received a letter from the Attorney-General. I am disappointed that we will not get support but I thank the attorney for his response and for outlining why he will not be supporting the amendment. I would like to address some of those issues in the letter and why I still believe that the amendment is valid and a better way forward.

The first point that the Attorney-General makes is that the amendment would undermine the primary purpose of providing equal access to medical treatment for all residents of the ACT, including those already suffering a mental incapacity. However, with respect to anyone faced with these extremely difficult choices, such an argument does not address the fact that all of the other residents of the ACT are also free to refuse. It is difficult to assume what another individual would or would not want to do in relation to trial medical procedures. But if any group requires the best protection we can offer, it is already those suffering from mental incapacity. Unfortunately, under the bill as drafted, the right to refuse is removed from those same people. We carefully considered this issue and we did come down on the side of the belief that such a right should not be removed.

Mr Corbell's letter also points out that the person who may authorise a treatment must already be appointed to make decisions about healthcare matters—and I appreciate the


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