Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 18 February 2016) . . Page.. 660 ..
importance of this inclusion and the point being made—but we could not conclude that a person consenting to health matters would automatically assume it was meant to include medical research. It would not automatically be assumed for those without impairment that express consent would be required. It should be assumed to be the case for the mentally impaired.
We have carefully considered those issues. We have concluded that it is only appropriate the same rights be retained.
I accept the further points made by Mr Corbell about the safeguards of ethics committee or recognition of any prior wishes of the person affected. We would welcome such involvement in any case. I also accept that no matter what we do in this chamber these are difficult decisions and in desperate circumstances. I believe that all parties want the best outcomes for all concerned. There is no doubt about that.
However, we believe the best way forward, the best balance, is to respect everyone’s right to choose for themselves, not have that taken away as this bill would do. And we state that as a legislature we should not impose that upon someone who has not made that decision, especially about their own medical treatment and especially relating to experimental programs. That right really belongs to an individual alone. As I have demonstrated, it is a right that all of us have and we would prefer a system where that right is retained for everyone.
I thank members in the chamber for their cooperation in responding to the letter. I am not sure what the Greens’ position is. I have not received a response to date. These are difficult decisions and we should proceed with caution. Legislating retrospectively—and, in essence, that means somebody, without ever expressing the desire to allow someone with a power of attorney to agree to medical experimentation, medical trials—goes beyond what we can agree to. I think that it is something that could be applied prospectively. For those with existing power of attorney, it could be amended but should not be applied retrospectively.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Capital Metro, Minister for Health, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for the Environment and Climate Change) (5.02): The government will be opposing Mr Hanson’s amendment. The amendment would have the effect of denying access to beneficial medical research to people who are unable to amend their enduring power of attorney after the bill commences. This undermines the bill’s primary purpose, providing equal access to medical treatment for all people in the ACT, including those who already suffer mental incapacity. The bill authorises attorneys appointed before the bill commences to make decisions about medical research—and I have to stress this—only if those attorneys are already authorised to make decisions about healthcare matters.
The fact is that healthcare matters include decisions about medical treatment and medical research and being part of medical treatment. The government’s decision to extend an enduring attorney’s authority for healthcare matters to include medical research matters is appropriate because it provides all people with impaired decision-making capacity equal access to the beneficial medical treatment associated