Wednesday, November 15, 2017

HOPE: Bill in New South Wales Provides For Assisted Suicide and Direct Killing

Dear Friend

The Legislative Council debate on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 will begin today. (11/16/17)

The long title of the Bill states that Bill is about assistance to persons to “end their own lives”.

However, Clause 5 also provides for a medical practitioner or a nurse to directly kill a person by administering a lethal substance to the person.

Any pretence that the Bill is not about suicide or euthanasia cannot withstand a reading of the actual provisions of the Bill.

The key question then to be considered is, if the Bill passes, which people in New South Wales will have their deaths caused under its provisions?

Supporters of the Bill maintain that only those who are certainly dying soon anyway and who freely choose to use the provisions in the Bill will be given the deadly poison either for self-administration (assisted suicide) or administration by a medical practitioner or nurse (euthanasia).

However, serious questions remain about this claim.
If there is any error rate in the diagnosis of terminal illnesses such as cancer then some people misdiagnosed as terminally ill will die unnecessarily by poison. (Error rate in cancer diagnosis is 1.4%)
* If there is any error rate in a prognosis of 12 months to live then some people will die prematurely who could have lived much longer. Jeanette Hall was told she had six months to live and had decided on assisted suicide under Oregon’s law in 2000. Dr Stevens offered her treatment instead and she is still alive today, 17 years later. One study found that more than one in ten people given a prognosis of 12 months to live may live for 2 years or more.
* If there is any failure to identify depression or other mental illness that is affecting a request for assisted suicide then some people who could have had their depression successfully treated will unnecessarily die by poison. A study in Oregon found that one in six requesting assisted suicide were depressed but only one in 25 were referred to a psychiatrist
* If there is any discrimination or prejudice against people living with a disability in the community, including the health professions, then some people with a disability will be considered a burden and better off dead by those around them. They may ask for assisted suicide because of these discriminatory attitudes and a lack of equal access to health care.
* If there is any failure to identify coercion or undue influence then some elderly people may be coerced, bullied or subtly influenced to request assisted suicide or euthanasia. Elder abuse is a real issue and is not adequately addressed in the Bill.
* If there is such a thing as suicide contagion then some Victorians, including young people, may commit suicide because of the promotion of assisted suicide under this Bill. In those US States where assisted suicide is legal the overall suicide rate has increased by 6.3% more than other States and the suicide rate for over 65 year olds by 14.5%.
The last person to die with the formal approval of the State of New South Wales was John Trevor Kelly on 24 August 1939. In 1985 the Parliament of New South Wales abolished the death penalty for all offences.

The same public policy considerations — especially the danger of even a single wrongful death — should lead the Legislative Council to reject the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017, which has its purpose to end the lives of people in New South Wales by assisted suicide or euthanasia using a State approved lethal poison.

Kind regards,

Paul Russell
Founder & Director
HOPE: Preventing Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide

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