Australian Senator changed his mind and voted against euthanasia bill

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Sen. Brian Burston

Last week, the Australian Senate defeated a bill (36 to 34) that would have permitted the country’s two territories– the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory–to legalize euthanasia.

According to an article by Greg Brown in The Australian Senator Burston reversed his long-held support for the euthanasia bill after meeting with former Northern Territory chief minister Marshall Perron and former Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler.

Senator Burston claims that Perron admitted that there were problems with the Northern Territories euthanasia bill. The Australian reported:

Senator Burston, of the United Australia Party, said Mr Perron told him there were problems with the NT’s laws passed in 1995 — later overruled by the federal government — and revealed two of the people that used the procedure came from interstate.

Mr. Perron yesterday denied he told Senator Burston there were problems with the legislation, accusing the NSW senator of using him as an excuse for backflipping at the 11th hour.

Mr. Perron said Senator Burston became angry in the meeting when he was told it should not be up to the federal parliament to decide whether the Territory parliamentarians get a conscience vote on the issue. “I think he took exception to that,” Mr Perron said.

According to the The Australian Senator Burston insisted that Perron admitted that there were problems with the Northern Territories euthanasia law.

“He admitted they made mistakes in that legislation. I said, ‘Well what’s to say they won’t make mistakes again?’ ” Senator Burston said.

“He said: ‘No, no, no they won’t make mistakes again.’ So that put enough doubt in my mind that perhaps they weren’t coming up with appropriate legislation with the appropriate safeguards; it just made me feel uncomfortable.

“It was enough to convince me that perhaps it might not be appropriate at this stage.”

The Australian Senate defeated the euthanasia bill after several Senators changed their vote.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.