LIFE ISSUES: by Paul RussellNews Weekly
AMA Tasmania resists Labor/Greens euthanasia push
, April 13, 2013
Following the South Australian branch of the Australian Medical Association’s recent rejection of the Hon. Dr Bob Such MP’s Ending Life with Dignity Bill in SA, the Tasmanian AMA last month rejected the Voluntary Assisted Dying proposal of Tasmanian Labor Premier Lara Giddings and Greens leader Nick McKim MP.
The Hobart Mercury (March 16) cast doubt on the likely success of the proposed legislation by suggesting that the bill will fail to pass the island-state’s lower house.
Shortly afterwards, the Mercury (March 18) reported that Tasmanian budget cuts to elective surgery were leaving “patients in pain”. An investigation by an independent health policy analyst, Martyn Goddard, found that the state government’s budget cuts to the health sector had made an already bad situation into one that he described as “plainly unacceptable”.
He found there were people whose GPs knew they needed an operation, but who had not been referred to a public hospital because there was “no point in doing so”.
“By putting the whole picture together it is probable that the people who are unlikely to ever get clinically necessary operations are in the thousands, rather than the hundreds,” said Mr Goddard.
“This new data gives us the most complete picture yet.”
In a dire situation in which patients can find no relief from pain, it is not hard to envisage that, for some of them, an “early exit” might be seen as the only option.
In South Australia, the AMA’s vocal opposition seems to have fallen on deaf ears as Dr Such’s bill continues to be debated.
The AMA Tasmania’s submission stresses that its branch’s position remains unchanged and is entirely consistent with submissions it has made over many years on other similar proposals. It also cites the World Medical Association’s position, which further emphasises the point that medical bodies across the globe shun the notion of euthanasia and assisted suicide laws.
The WMA has declared: “When addressing the ethical issues associated with end-of-life care, questions regarding euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide inevitably arise. The World Medical Association condemns as unethical both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.”
Moreover, in what can be seen as a direct dismissal of the arguments behind the Giddings/McKim Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) proposal, AMA Tasmania has also confirmed that the 1998 Tasmanian parliamentary inquiry still holds the force of relevance — a view that the VAD paper rejects out-of-hand.
AMA Tasmania says: “The Committee (1998 Inquiry) received 1,162 submissions and its comprehensive and thoughtful report, some 60 pages in length, is essential reading for anyone seriously contemplating a change in the current Tasmanian legislation.
“AMA Tasmania would submit that the only change of any note since the report was released is that palliative measures to support end-of-life care have continued to improve.”
The Mercury estimates that, in the event of a vote, Tasmania’s lower house would be split 12 votes to 12, which, by convention, would see the initiative fail. In fact, at this stage the vote is too close to call.
Its March 16 report quotes an AMA spokesman, Dr John Davis, as saying that the proposal was “completely unacceptable” and opposed by the organisation he represents.
“What euthanasia does is fundamentally change the relationship between the doctor and the patient. Doctors care for patients; doctors do not kill patients,” Dr Davis said.
Following the form of a number of recent overseas studies regarding euthanasia, from places such as Canada and the United Kingdom, the Tasmanian VAD paper has relied heavily upon a small and unrepresentative sample of earlier studies which have effectively denied that legalising euthanasia poses any risk to vulnerable people.
The risk to vulnerable people, however, has long been identified as a major concern in the earlier inquiries, such as the year-long study by a 25-member New York State Task Force on Life and Law in 1994, the House of Lords committee report of the same year, and the 1998 Tasmanian parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia, not to mention a recent Irish Court case and the debates on every rejected euthanasia bill.
It is clearer now than at any time in recent memory that legalising euthanasia poses an acute risk to vulnerable people, and that this risk is inherent in all legislative models.
These risks are identified in an indispensable book recently published in Australia and available from News Weekly. Called Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, it is written by the Alex Schadenberg, chairman of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) International.
Paul Russell is founder and director of the Australian network, HOPE: Preventing Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide www.noeuthanasia.org.au, and vice-chairman of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) International. He blogs at http://blog.noeuthanasia.org.au