Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2264 ..
MR CONNOLLY (continuing):
legislation in the ACT. I put to the Chief Minister and Health Minister that, while the legislation did not itself require annual reporting or require a register to be kept, this is a matter of sufficient importance that the Government may advise the community of how often that occurs.
The other matter we debated without fully realising how important it was, I think, although certainly Mr Moore made it clear that it was an important step, is the provision in the ACT legislation that, essentially, provides a right to pain relief. I found it very significant that in the report of the Canadian Senate on euthanasia, to which some members have referred, they said that this was the most important issue. They rejected active euthanasia, but they said that there was a major problem with the law in Canada, and that is, of course, an environment where medical malpractice actions tend to be based on the American model. Doctors were scared to prescribe pain relief because they felt that they could be sued if the person died as a consequence of that high level pain relief. Mr Moore put forward an amendment last year, as part of his Bill, which we supported, which makes it clear that, provided the intention of that pain relief is pain relief, a doctor is protected from any action if a side effect of that pain relief is to hasten death or cause death. Provided that legitimately the motive is pain relief, we have given protection to doctors. I think that is a very important provision, and certainly the Canadian Senate report found that that was an important gap in the law in Canada.
Mr Speaker, for the reasons I have given, I am unable to support this legislation. I say that, acknowledging the goodwill of proponents of the Bill. I think it is unfortunate that there has been some suggestion that anyone who opposes this Bill lacks compassion. Some would say the opposite - that anyone who supports the Bill lacks compassion because they are taking life. I think the better view is that members, who have all thought deeply about this issue, have a common compassion. We may differ on whether the state should sanction the ability to actively end a life. I particularly say to those members and supporters and friends of the AIDS Action Council: I regret that I cannot support you on this issue, but this is an issue on which each member must examine their conscience and say, "Here I stand. I can do no other".
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (11.49): Mr Speaker, this Bill obviously has a very heavy emotional overtone and in many respects, as we have seen, has the capacity to divide the community. To what extent it does so, of course, is a matter for some debate. It has been put to me in some of the correspondence I have received, and all members have received a great deal on the subject, obviously, that opinion polls have demonstrated clearly that the majority of people are in favour of euthanasia and therefore it is my responsibility as a legislator to enact laws to that effect. I reject that argument, partly because I reject the concept of people operating on the basis of opinion polls - the member who operated on that basis left the Assembly some 12 months ago - but also because I question whether people fully understand the implications of the term "euthanasia". Sometimes euthanasia will be meant, in the mouths of some people answering these polls, to reflect a desire to see people be allowed to refuse treatment.
Mr Moore: No; the question was specific and modelled on my legislation.