Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2268 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
Those judgments are subtle judgments in many cases. They result in decisions being made about the allocation of resources between different people in our system. Having knowledge that those judgments are made, I do not believe that we assist people in that position one iota by legislating in this way. In fact, we complicate their position extremely.
Economic considerations may also extend to downgrading of the provision of palliative care services. I share the support of other members for the quality of our own palliative care services in this city, but I have to say that a regime that provides for some members to be taken out of that palliative care arrangement into the option of terminating their lives must present a threat to the very high standards of palliative care we have been able to achieve in this city. I believe that the issue of patient suffering, the experience of intractable pain, is an issue in this debate that is highly emotive but, on the part of the proponents of euthanasia, has been greatly exaggerated. One doctor put it to me that a medical practitioner who could not substantially relieve the pain of a terminal patient was not much of a doctor. It is wrong, I think, to link the issue of intractable pain to the availability of active euthanasia, even if there were such cases occurring on a wide scale. There is no way of limiting the principles inherent in this Bill simply to those who are suffering from intractable pain, rare as those individuals might be. The principles will be applied to those who seek it because of their state of mind, not just because of their state of body. We in this place cannot foresee where the application of those principles will lead, if we are in that position. (Extension of time granted)
I want, finally, to make a reference to the position of the Labor Party in this debate. Mr Connolly described his party's position on this question of euthanasia as being a sign of its maturity. I take a very different view of its general position in this debate. I would describe its position on this and other issues of considerable moral complexity in the last few years as being one of duplicity rather than maturity. Before the 1992 election there was some discussion about issues of abortion, for example. At the 1992 election no party took any position in relation to abortion and presented that to the community. Shortly after the 1992 election, of course, legislation was presented to radically alter the law in the Territory with regard to abortion. Similarly, a little over a year ago the then ACT Government told the community that it would not proceed with the issue of active euthanasia because of widespread concern in the ACT community. The then spokesman for the Labor Party on that issue, Mr Connolly, said:
The Government is aware that a great deal of genuine concern exists in the community on the issue of active euthanasia. Accordingly, the Government did not intend at this time to support those sections of the ... Bill which provided for active euthanasia.
I think he was right to say that at that stage; but I am greatly concerned that less than a year later, with no contribution having been made to any public debate by the Australian Labor Party - it is worth bearing in mind that Mr Moore has been the sole carrier of the issue of euthanasia in this place and, indeed, largely out in the community as a whole, despite the so-called policy of the Labor Party - with no indication to the community at the time of the 1995 election on this issue, the Australian Labor Party came to this place and at least at one stage purported to bind all of its members to a view that supported active euthanasia.