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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2250 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

threatened, because all life is lacking some quality. We as human beings will no longer be equal at law. We will have a quality of life at law if this legislation goes through. Once we as an Assembly introduce a quality of life ethic, replacing the existing quality of life ethic, you will have a whole new ball game well beyond the point under discussion.

You might argue, Mr Speaker, that I am taking a long shot in saying this, but the point is that an individual can choose to be an autonomous individual only in the community. To be is to belong. To say that autonomy is absolute is ridiculous. We are social by definition. To legalise voluntary euthanasia on the grounds of quality of life is not just a matter of discussion or debate; it is a matter of fact. In February of this year the Justice Minister for the Netherlands saw no reason why involuntary euthanasia should not be legalised and extended to those not in the terminal stage of their illness. It is a noteworthy fact, Mr Speaker, that the Patients Association set up a hotline to counsel patients concerned about that practice in their country. There are doctors in the Netherlands who advertise that they do not perform euthanasia. The elderly fear doctors and often fear taking medication. In the Northern Territory sensitivity to the indigenous people seems to be forgotten, as many of the indigenous people fear approaching hospitals in light of the legislation there. (Extension of time granted) I find it ironic that legislation introduced on the grounds of compassion threatens the most vulnerable. What is introduced in the guise of choice becomes expectation and perhaps, one day, obligation. We as a society should be doing more to alleviate the stress that people, not only the patients but also the doctors and the loved ones, suffer. We should be looking at better funding for the ageing population.

Finally, Mr Speaker, what message are we sending the young people of the ACT? A huge number of them are unemployed. The suicide rate per capita amongst these people in the ACT is the highest in the country. Here we are considering legalising the killing of people who are innocent, simply because they lack quality of life. Would they surely not see through the hypocrisy of the moral outrage against nuclear testing in the Pacific as a threat to life as we know it, when the people who protest long and loud are the ones in favour of the legalised killing of innocent people? Where is our consistency, Mr Speaker? We live in a real world in which things are not perfect. Let us relieve the human being's distress rather than kill that human being.

MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (10.54): As members will know, I am supporting Mr Moore's Bill. I have certainly not taken this position without a great deal of thought and careful consideration of the rights of the terminally ill and the responsibilities of those who care for them. Mr Speaker, I would like, first of all, to explain my reasons for supporting the Bill. I will then deal with some of the comments that I have received from the community on this issue. Like most people, I cannot imagine any circumstances in which I would wish to take my own life or would wish my life to be brought to an end by someone else. However, it seems to me to be quite presumptuous to seek to make this judgment for anyone else, especially where their circumstances are radically different from my own. For example, we all know that people commit suicide, even though as a community we put considerable resources into preventing suicide. This is a cause which Mr Osborne has raised and which I believe we should put even more resources into. But we also know that suicide is not a crime in the ACT.

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