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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2246 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

People may also have less than honourable intentions in promoting euthanasia to their aged and infirm relatives. I am afraid, Mr Speaker, that this, no matter how much we deny it, is an unfortunate trait of human nature. So even initially, given these few points, you would have to agree that there are reasonable grounds for concern that even professed voluntary euthanasia decisions may not be genuinely voluntary at all. This view was an important component of the report by the United Kingdom's Select Committee on Medical Ethics. It states:

It would be virtually impossible to ensure that all acts of euthanasia were truly voluntary and that any liberalisation of the law in the United Kingdom could not be abused. We were also concerned that vulnerable people - the elderly, lonely, sick or distressed - would feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to request early death.

Mr Moore himself was concerned by these issues, and I would suggest this is why he put his Bill up in exposure draft form initially - to try to help us develop safeguards. With respect, Mr Moore, such safeguards are impossible to implement. Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, as has been well documented, our current law does not stop doctors doing euthanasia. How on earth can we expect that laws to regulate it will not also be flagrantly violated, as they have been in the Netherlands?

The United Kingdom Select Committee on Medical Ethics bases its unanimous rejection of euthanasia on evidence drawn from that experience in the Netherlands. Euthanasia is not technically legal in the Netherlands but has been allowed there for in excess of 20 years. Five criteria were laid down by the Dutch courts to be followed by physicians who were administering euthanasia. These criteria include that euthanasia be by entirely free and voluntary request only; that this request be persistent; that the patient be suffering intolerably, with no chance of improvement - it sounds pretty familiar, does it not, Mr Speaker?; that euthanasia be a last resort; and that it be conducted by a physician in consultation with an independent colleague. It is claimed by those opposite that these criteria are sufficient to ensure the appropriate use of euthanasia and that the criteria are indeed adhered to by those responsible for carrying out euthanasia. Euthanasia, it is said, would only be voluntary and "would not lead to other forms of medical killing which would violate the patient's autonomy or right to choose". Mr Speaker, I would suggest that it is a bit like saying that because we have laws against speeding no-one will drive over the speed limit.

Suspicions that doctors were taking the lives of their patients without need or request have been confirmed, according to research conducted by the Netherlands Government Committee to Investigate the Medical Practice concerning Euthanasia, the Remmelink report. I know how fond Mr Moore is of this report, and I am sure he will try to convince us that this will not happen here; that no-one will slip through the safety net that he claims that he has set up. Figures show that in 1990 over 14,500 people died in the Netherlands by involuntary euthanasia. In 45 per cent of these cases not only the patients but also their families were not aware of what was being done. The deaths of 8,750 people were caused through the withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment

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