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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 2664 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

. The Head of the School of Nursing, University of Canberra; and

. The Anglican and Catholic Bishops of Canberra and Goulburn.

Paragraph 4.9 states:

In general there was major support for the provision of the Bill; although each of the opinions sought raised particular matters of concern - none of which, in the opinion of the Committee, impinged on the integrity of the Bill itself.

There was no negative comment about the clause on pain relief. The report goes on:

The matters of concern were considered by the Committee and, where appropriate, were incorporated into the Bill.

A copy of that Bill was appended to the report. It really formed the basis of the report and the Medical Treatment Bill itself.

Mr Speaker, I have spoken a number of times in this house on health promotion and the need for empowerment of individuals. My understanding is that almost all members in this Assembly seek, where possible and where appropriate, to provide as much power as we can to individuals when it does not affect others. This Bill continues that process of providing individuals with more power, but it is not a black-and-white situation. We are not taking the power to make such a decision away from the doctor and giving it to the patient. It simply does not work that way. Whenever decisions of this nature are made, they are made in consultation through a negotiation process.

The second part of the Bill, which has not yet received any publicity, has to do with advance directives, sometimes referred to as living wills. In our legislation, we narrowed the scope of a living will by providing that somebody had to have a specified condition. You could write a living will stating what you wanted done only if you already had a particular illness. For example, if someone was terminally ill with cancer, they could write a living will which referred just to how they would like to be treated for cancer, in terms of the removal of life support systems. If someone had AIDS, they could write a living will only with respect to the fact that they had AIDS. The 1994 South Australian legislation had no such restriction. It allowed people to give a general description of what they wanted to happen if, for example, they were left in a coma. Under such circumstances they could request the removal of life support systems. When I say "in a coma", I am talking about no prospect of recovery. Mr Speaker, it seemed logical to broaden the scope of this legislation in the same way. I have introduced an amendment to remove the restriction. My Bill is consistent with the South Australian legislation passed in 1994.

The issue here is not, as some people have claimed, whether or not it is active euthanasia. I do not believe that that is the case. I have said publicly, and I reiterate it in this house, that I believe in carefully constructed legislation to provide for active euthanasia with a series of particular protections in place. I believe that that would give us much more protection than we have in the current circumstances. Mr Speaker, I foreshadow

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