By Michael Cook
The first legal euthanasia in the Australian state of Victoria took place on July 15, 2019. Almost four years later, supporters are calling for some of the 68 safeguards in the legislation to be relaxed.
In June the state is supposed to conduct a review of the legislation. It is unlikely to find that it should be stricter. An editorial in the state’s most influential newspaper, The Age, has complained that “there are many hurdles that have made access challenging.”
It recommends three measures in particular. First, doctors should be allowed “to use electronic devices when communicating with those seeking to gain access to euthanasia”. This restriction was introduced by the Federal government to protect vulnerable people from being talked into suicide. But supporters of assisted dying say that phone calls or Zoom will make it easier for people in outlying regions to consult doctors.
Second, now that neighbouring states have all legalised euthanasia, the one-year residency requirement should be dropped.
And third, “At a state level, most other jurisdictions do not restrict medical practitioners from initiating conversations provided they give information about all options, including palliative care. That is a sensible change that should be adopted in Victoria.”
The editorial neglects to mention that such conversations may have led to the scandal of Canadian veterans being offered euthanasia as an appropriate option for their disabilities. As critics of Canada’s assisted dying law have pointed out: “no one should suggest to another person – especially someone living with a disability – that their life is not worth living.”
The editorial concludes: “For all the fear and loathing that was generated when the euthanasia laws were going through parliament, they have proven to be remarkably uncontroversial in practice. These are good laws that, with some pragmatic and reasonable reforms, could be improved.”
Editor’s note. This appeared at Bioedge and is reposted with permission.