Assisted Death: The Right to Choose?
Emeritus Professor The Hon Peter Baume AC launched Australia21's latest report "The right to choose an assisted death: Time for legislation?" at Parliament House in Canberra today.
The report follows a high-level roundtable held in Brisbane in January on the question “How should Australia regulate voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide?” The roundtable brought together a group of former politicians, doctors, lawyers, palliative care workers, students and opponents and supporters of assisted dying.
A Newspoll commissioned last year by YourLastRight, and quoted in the report, confirmed ongoing very high levels of support for legal access to physician-assisted dying in the face of intolerable end- of-life suffering that cannot be relieved. Respondents were strongly in favour of this development across age groups, religious affiliation and political affiliation. Also, 29% of respondents said they would change their vote if their otherwise most likely candidate or party stance on assisted dying law reform is opposed to their own stance.
Most (but not all) roundtable participants considered that the current legal situation is unsatisfactory for many patients and/or their professional carers. Australia21 and the authors of this report agree that legislative change is now needed.
The lead author of the report and convenor of the roundtable, Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas AO said:“World views on assisted dying are changing rapidly. In recent years a number of jurisdictions around the world have decriminalized assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia with generally satisfactory outcomes. National polls make it clear that Australians want to have this possibility available to them as they approach the end of their lives. The issue has been extensively debated in the past in both state and federal parliaments, but has been heavily opposed by a small but highly influential segment of the Australian population Our report presents both sides of the argument and concludes in favour of legislative action to protect doctors and patients alike who wish to choose assisted dying."
Co-author of the report, legal academic Professor Ben White said: “The current law on voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide is flawed. The law lacks coherence and there is a body of evidence that shows it is not being followed. Reform is needed.”
The report is available for download here
. The background paper which set the scene for the roundtable is available here