Monday, July 5, 2021

Euthanasia by telehealth is being pushed in Australia.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article by Charles Corke, Associate Professor of Medicine at Deakin University and the Deputy Chair of the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board, that was published in the Conversation states that (Assisted Dying) euthanasia has been legal in the Australian State of Victoria since June 2019 but the law does not permit euthanasia approvals by telehealth. Corke writes:
Unfortunately, while Victorians have the right to request voluntary assisted dying under Victorian law, a Commonwealth legal impediment makes it unduly difficult to access this service.

Commonwealth law makes it a crime to use a “carriage service” for the purposes of conveying “suicide related material”.
Corke explains that the law prohibiting the conveying of suicide related material via a carriage service was passed in 2005 to prevent things such as incitement to commit suicide by cyber bullies or the promotion of suicide methods to those who are vulnerable and depressed. 

Corke is not completely accurate. The 2005 law was also to prevent Dr Philip Nitschke from promoting assisted suicide via the internet. Nonetheless Corke states:
But in relation to voluntary assisted dying, the practical effect is that using modern communication to respond to a patient who requests voluntary assisted dying is a potential Commonwealth crime — even though it may be legal under state law. When laws conflict, federal legislation trumps state law.
Based on these issues Corke wants the Commonwealth law either overturned or ignored. He writes:
It seems clear the Commonwealth Criminal Code needs to be amended, but this will take time. In the interim the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions needs to issue a guideline that, where a person is acting in accordance with state voluntary assisted dying legislation, offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code will not be prosecuted. To date, requests by Victoria that this assurance be provided have proved unsuccessful.
The problem with approving euthanasia (assisted death) by telehealth is that the physician approves death by lethal drugs for a person the doctor has never examined and likely never met.
Considering the problem of medical misdiagnosis and the fact the some people experience suicidal ideation, the facts are that allowing euthanasia by telehealth undermines the supposed safeguards that claim to prevent abuse of the law.

Whether the law concerning the delivery of suicidal material is amended or not, euthanasia should never be approved via telehealth.

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