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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2302 ..

Mr Humphries: Dear, oh dear!

MR BERRY: Mr Humphries says, "Dear, oh dear!". I know what it was like to fight the Liberal Party on the establishment of a hospice. We would not have one if we had left it to the Liberal Party. We know the attitude of the Liberal Party, but that is not the answer. There comes a time when the need for palliative care ends, a time when people should be allowed to let go. We as legislators should not stop them. That time has to be at the choosing of the individual.

I heard one of my colleagues - I think it was Ms Follett - say that euthanasia was not something she could envisage resorting to. Likewise, it is not something that I have considered in respect of myself. Many of us from time to time think that we are invincible, although after we spend a bit of time here we feel less so. I will fight for as long as it takes to ensure that other people have the right to exercise that choice. It is always a difficult issue for individuals and for their loved ones; but if people want to end their pain and suffering, be it physical or mental distress that cannot be tolerated, we cannot force them to go on unnecessarily. It is on that basis, Mr Speaker, that I think it is time that we had this provision for euthanasia, and that is why I will be supporting the Bill.

MR MOORE (4.22), in reply: Mr Speaker, I seek leave to speak without limitation of time.

Leave granted.

MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, I think of Gladys lying in her hospice bed in great pain, dying with cancer in great indignity. She is a prudish woman who all her life has looked after her own body but now has other people taking care of her most fundamental needs. Doctor 1 comes in and he provides morphine, with the intention to relieve pain. He provides so much morphine that he knows that she is going to die. That is legal. Doctor 2 comes in and she requests of him that he provide enough morphine for her to die because she is in such pain and such indignity. He does. That is illegal. That is our current system.

Some people think that is okay. For me, Mr Speaker, it does not seem okay. The irony of the system is that seven doctors in Victoria admit to being like doctor 2 and the authorities and the Premier, who are invited to prosecute them, refuse to do so. What we have, Mr Speaker, is a form of common law that is decided outside the courts - because nobody will prosecute - without any regulation whatsoever and without any safeguards whatsoever. Yet people here today tell me that this legislation that I have put up will lead to the slippery slope. I think that needs reassessment, Mr Speaker.

Twenty years ago doctors believed that it was entirely inappropriate to tell some people that they were dying, that they had a terminal illness, because at that stage doctors believed that their decisions were always paramount. Mr Speaker, legislation still provides that a doctor's decision is paramount and the decision of a patient is not.

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