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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2299 ..

MR WHITECROSS (continuing):

Finally, Mr Speaker, I want to touch on one more myth, which is that people will be terminated against their will if this legislation is passed. It is interesting that in talking about this legislation and the Dutch experience we learn that all involuntary death caused by medical practitioners or others is attributed to voluntary euthanasia legislation, but the involuntary death which occurs in our community at the moment is explained away with a wave of the hand. The fact is that involuntary death occurs in our hospitals now. I do not endorse it, but it happens. It happens without the existence of voluntary euthanasia legislation. What voluntary euthanasia legislation does is empower some individuals to take control over the final period of their life. We should not allow illegal acts under existing law or the new law to divert us from the merits of this law.

Mr Speaker, the ethical decisions which have to be made under this Bill are decisions which have to be made by the individual involved, in consultation with their family, their friends, their medical practitioners, their spiritual advisers, whoever it is they want; but it is a decision that ultimately they will have to make because that is how human beings work. We are ultimately responsible for our own decisions. This legislation gives people responsibility for their own decisions.

MR BERRY (4.07): I rise to support this Bill. Mr Speaker, I have long supported freedom of choice, that is, informed choice. That, of course, means choice for the individual.

Mr Humphries: To join a union too?

MR BERRY: Trust Mr Humphries to try to divert attention. Good old Gary!

Ms Follett: He has been in the gutter all day.

MR BERRY: Yes. That means choice for the individual, Mr Humphries. You are the one who screeches "choice" all the time. It would be a pity if you could not direct yourself to the issue of choice for the individual on this issue. That is what I am about. Of course there have to be safeguards in these matters for those who may not be able to reason or who may not be in a position to freely exercise choice or make judgments. I think this Bill does not transgress those requirements and I am wholeheartedly behind the thrust of it. It has all the safeguards.

Euthanasia has always aroused strong emotions, and many of the churches take a particular view on it. I think the tide has turned. There are those who strongly support the introduction of legislation which would allow people to exercise a choice and exercise their conscience in deciding when their time has come. In my view, that is the important thing that we as legislators have to address.

Mr Kaine talked about some experiences overseas. I think he said that only 40 per cent of the people in some sort of survey in New York supported euthanasia. I think that was an inappropriate measure to use, particularly as the outcomes of those sorts of surveys in the US are often skewed by the voluntary voting system. When I went to the US recently, I took the trouble to go to Oregon, where a majority of people had decided to enact a law to allow euthanasia. It was the first State in the United States to do so. I think that is a sign of changing times.

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