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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 August 1995) . . Page.. 1313 ..


MEDICAL TREATMENT LEGISLATION

Exposure Draft and Paper

MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, I ask for leave of the Assembly to present an exposure draft of the Medical Treatment (Amendment) Bill and a related document, and to make a statement relating to the draft.

Leave granted.

MR MOORE: I present an exposure draft of the Medical Treatment (Amendment) Bill and a black line copy of the Medical Treatment Act 1994. In seeking to table the exposure draft of the Bill, along with the black line version indicating how the Medical Treatment Act would look if these amendments were implemented, I seek to have the broadest possible debate on the matter of voluntary active euthanasia. The last time I presented a Bill on this subject, as some members will remember, it went to a committee of inquiry and eventually resulted in the Medical Treatment Act 1994.

The Medical Treatment Act allows for patients to have more control over the withholding or withdrawal of treatment when suffering a terminal illness. Many believe that this clarification of the existing common law and the legal position of the medical practitioners involved was as far as we needed to go in patient control over their own terminal phases of their terminal illness. However, there are many more who do not agree with this belief. The withholding or withdrawal of treatment may result in an agonisingly slow and torturous death. Morally, it is extremely difficult to see the difference between active euthanasia, that is, doctor assisted death, and passive euthanasia, the withholding of treatment necessary to keep life going, if the intention in both cases is to cause the death. Ultimately, if both acts cause the eventual death, with aspects of one being within the law and the other completely illegal, why should the form which is painless and distress free not be legalised?

There are many reasons why voluntary active euthanasia ought to be legalised. First of all, it allows people to make a choice about their own end when they are in the terminal phase of a terminal illness. As research shows, many people view this choice as belonging fundamentally to the individual and not to the church or the medical profession. Those who do not believe it to be morally right to have assistance ought to be protected against having any intervention; and those who do wish to avail themselves of this choice will be assisted under the strictest of guidelines.

I know that the churches and the Right to Life Association always refer to medically assisted death as “killing”. At this point I would like to quote this response to these lobby groups made by a doctor who admitted to acting illegally by medically assisting patients to die on request:

It is ridiculous. I am not killing the patient ... the disease is doing just that. All I am doing is changing the date on the calendar and using compassion, as any good doctor should do; helping the patient to die a little earlier without having to suffer to the bitter end.


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