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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2245..


MEDICAL TREATMENT (AMENDMENT) BILL 1995

Debate resumed from 20 September 1995, on motion by Mr Moore:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR OSBORNE (10.32): Mr Speaker, I really have no idea what we are doing here today. What is wrong with this world that we live in? The people who made it harder to be born want to make it easier to die. This is the great euthanasia debate. I think it is very important that I make clear from the outset what I understand the various forms of euthanasia to mean. Euthanasia itself is the intentional taking of life for compassionate motives, whether by an act or by an omission. Euthanasia is voluntary when it is at the request of another person in respect of himself or herself; non-voluntary when there has been no request by the person, because he or she either was immature or mentally incompetent, or was competent and was not asked; and involuntary when it is in defiance of a request that it not be done.

I also think it very important, Mr Speaker, when considering the possibility of bringing change to society, such as would be done by allowing euthanasia, that we examine both the findings of other jurisdictions who have considered such a step and the consequences of taking such actions. First, Mr Speaker, I will bore you a bit and turn to the considerations of the Canadian Law Reform Commission. I have to say that I think we need to look at other jurisdictions as we are consistently asked to do when we look at issues they raise and laws they have, an example being a Bill of Rights. The commission states clearly that the legalisation of euthanasia is undesirable. It states:

From both the legal and social policy points of view, we believe that legislation legalising voluntary active euthanasia would be quite unacceptable.

The commission was concerned about the possibility of incorrect diagnosis, the subsequent development of new treatments or the refinement of existing ones and principally the possibility of abuses. It states:

There is a real danger that the procedure developed to allow the death of those who are a burden to themselves may be gradually diverted from its original purpose and eventually be used as well to eliminate those who are a burden to others or to society ... there is also the constant danger that the subject's consent to euthanasia may not really be a perfectly free and voluntary act.

I think, Mr Speaker, you would have to agree that this latter point is most important, as much of the talk about euthanasia focuses on the voluntary nature of the desire to die. However, the legalisation of euthanasia sets up a range of pressures that bear upon the patient, no matter how long and hard Mr Moore and his friends try to deny it. The patient is immediately susceptible to the view that they are a drain on the resources of society, that these resources would be better directed to someone who can recover and that they should do the honourable thing by society and opt to end their life by euthanasia.


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