Queensland Australia: Is voluntary assisted dying really going to remain voluntary or safe?

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Drs. John Buchanan, Odette Spruijt, and Haydn Walters wrote an excellent article published in the Spectator Australia on June 2. It addresses the Queensland Australia euthanasia bill, asking the question: Is voluntary assisted dying really going to remain voluntary or safe?

The authors begin their article by stating 

The Queensland Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021, and reports that the Queensland Government will include mental suffering as a criterion, are of great concern to future medical practice.

The authors are right. Mental suffering is based on personal not objective grounds. The authors state:

An ethical medical assumption in most Western democracies, and especially Australia, has been that the state does not take or collude in the taking of the lives of its citizens; what politicians are doing in Australia at the moment is therefore quite profound and socially dangerous.

Legislation of this sort assumes it can put subtle and complex medical and psychological matters into a black and white legal framework. This is very difficult if not impossible without opening the door to harm for present and future patients.
We have seen this very harm after Canada legalized euthanasia in 2016.

Buchanan, Spruijt, and Walters continue by uncovering further problems with the Queensland euthanasia bill. 

There is no obligation in this Bill for the doctor involved to confirm the pathology from which a person suffers, consult with their current treating doctor, refer for specialist palliative care consultation, or refer to a psychiatrist experienced in the field. And this is a situation where fear of the unknown and outright depression is rife, and the main drivers of suicidal thought. 

An assumption is made that a requesting patient is fully informed about all of these matters, is having fully adequate care, does not suffer from depression, and is not under coercion by anyone, especially relatives
.

The authors then focus on the long-term problems with legalizing euthanasia.

The outworking of this sort of legislation will create a major medical ethical problem in coming decades. A somewhat hidden concern also must be future bureaucratic proposals about the expense of care for ageing and dementing people. Government itself is crossing a huge ethical boundary in legitimising the killing of its citizens; where may that end?

Will doctor-assisted suicide, voluntary or involuntary, be considered as part of the “management of ageing”. Once the ethical line is crossed, there is no logical end-point to terminating of life as part of future ‘medical management’ or indeed governmental social policy.

As I stated in an article last week, Queensland’s euthanasia bill is deliberately deceptive while Liz Storer with Sky News called Queensland’s euthanasia bill disturbing.

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