The ACT government has knocked back a bid for an inquiry into whether legal prohibitions on assisted suicide contradict the Territory’s Human Rights Act.
Lobby group Dying with Dignity ACT was officially registered in July and supports the concept of ”elective death”, where adults could seek assistance to die at a time and place of their choice with the degree of assistance they believed was appropriate.
The group wants a ”peaceful death unit” established in, or linked to, a Canberra hospital which would offer counselling services, education and facilities where people could end their lives.
The group recently requested Attorney-General Simon Corbell to ask the Law Reform Advisory Council whether provisions of the Crimes Act which prevent people from helping others to die were incompatible with human rights.
But Mr Corbell refused because of the federal ban on the ACT Assembly legalising euthanasia or the assisting of a person to terminate his or her life.
Dying with Dignity ACT president Jeanne Arthur said many people wanted to be able to decide the timing and method of their own deaths.
”A lot of people want to have control over their deaths. They don’t want to be in a situation where they are increasingly frail and fragile and are subject to others and subject to their doctors,” she said.
Ms Arthur said staff of the unit would be able to help people in mental distress find options other than ending their own lives.
”If you have a peaceful death unit they would go straight to the peaceful death unit to talk to the psychiatrist. They would get the counselling, they would get the options of support and they would get a peaceful death, if the worst came to the worst,” she said.
Mr Corbell said it wold be a futile exercise for the government to consider changes to the law on assisted suicide because of the changes to the Self Government Act passed by the Federal Parliament in 2007.
The Labor Party has a conscience vote on euthanasia and Mr Corbell said he personally supported the right of people in the terminal stage of a illness to ”die with dignity”.
But he did not support Dying with Dignity’s push for ”elective death” to be made available to people without terminal illnesses.
”That’s not an issue that has my support,” Mr Corbell said.
Right to Life Australia president John James said euthanasia advocates often spoke about ending the suffering of people with terminal illnesses but many supported assisted suicide for anybody who wished to end their life.
Dr James, a Sydney medical practitioner, said the legalisation of assisted suicide would place many vulnerable people at risk and eventually lead to ”involuntary euthanasia”.
”Once you accept the proposition that there is a right to die, we would contend that it very quickly becomes a duty to die in certain circumstances,” he said.
”There is great pressure already – economic pressure within the health system.
”I hear reports regularly from older members of our population who have been given to understand that often times that money spent on [them] is in certain quarters regarded as wasted money; that it would be better directed to the younger members of our society.”
■ Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling SANE Helpline 1800 18 7263; Lifeline 131 114; Salvo Crisis Line – 9331 2000; beyondblue 1300 22 46 36.
An article from the Canberra Times: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/corbell-rejects-assisted-death-move-20120902-258ry.html#ixzz2DVuAFJub