Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Euthanasia 'off the table' in Victorian Australia Parliament - for now

Paul Russell
This article was originally published on the HOPE Australia website.

By Paul Russell - The Director of HOPE Australia

The Upper House of the Victorian Parliament debated a government motion introduced today in respect of end-of-life issues. This follows a lapsing of a debate yesterday by Colleen Hartland MLC to refer the matter of euthanasia to the Victorian Law Reform Committee and another pending motion by Fiona Patten MLC along similar lines.

The government motion, by contrast, is for a broad look at all end-of-life issues and does not even mention euthanasia. It passed today by a significant majority.

Not withstanding debate about whether or not the reference is to the appropriate committee (many MLCs preferred a committee of both chambers rather than simply the upper house), there was broad support for the principle behind the motion for a thorough review.

It has been many years since an inquiry of this nature - not relating to a specific euthanasia bill, but looking at associated issues generally - has been considered by any Australian Parliament. As the President of the chamber and other MLCs noted in contribution, this will be a very large inquiry requiring significant resources. The report date of the 31st of May 2016 would seem to be quite ambitious.

So, what are we to think about this motion? There is a degree of cynicism that would suggest that the government is perhaps wanting to be rid of a controversial issue from the chamber so as to get on with other matters. I make no judgement on that but simply observe that, even in that respect, the dismissal of the constant uncertainty about the various other motions and potential for euthanasia legislation at any time has now been put aside until mid-2016 at the earliest.

But more than that, such a broad reference enables a full consideration of end-of-life issues and how real dignity and choice is enabled by quality care available to all; not just an option to be made dead by euthanasia for an elitist few.

This is a great opportunity to promote good care instead of killing. We have always said that the longer and more detailed the inquiry, the better chance that the voices of reason prevail.

The motion:
That pursuant to Sessional Order 6 this House requires the Legal and Social Issues Committee to inquire into, consider and report, no later than 31 May 2016, on the need for laws in Victoria to allow citizens to make informed decisions regarding their own end of life choices and, in particular, the Committee should — 
(1) assess the practices currently being utilised within the medical community to assist a person to exercise their preferences for the way they want to manage their end of life, including the role of palliative care; 
(2) review the current framework of legislation, proposed legislation and other relevant reports and materials in other Australian states and territories and overseas jurisdictions; and 
(3) consider what type of legislative change may be required, including an examination of any federal laws that may impact such legislation
We will advise readers when the committee calls for submissions.

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