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Euthanasia rejected in one Australian state, debate rages in another

Posted on: November 17, 2017 1:59 PM
Photo Credit: Darko Stojanovic / Pixabay

By a single vote, the state parliament of New South Wales has rejected a bill to legalise euthanasia; while a debate in Victoria was adjourned without a vote after 25 hours of debate. The political moves to legalise assisted dying had been opposed by Anglican churches.

In New South Wales, legislators in the upper house of the state parliament rejected a Bill introduced by MP Trevor Khan in a free vote: 19 MPs supported the Bill, while 20 voted against. In the Victorian state parliament, MPs began debating the 141 clauses of a Bill at 9.30am AEDT on Thursday (10.30pm on Wednesday GMT). Almost 25 hours of continuous debate later – just before 10.30am on Friday (11.30pm on Thursday GMT) – the sitting was suspended after an MP fell ill and was taken to hospital. The debate will resume on Tuesday.

“At this rate, it will take 37 days for the rest of the clauses to be considered”, Victoria’s health minister Jill Hennessy said as she criticised the Bill’s opponents for holding it up with a series of tabled amendments. “This has been a piece of reform that has been debated and considered for over two-and-a-half years,” she told ABC. “I think delay tactics and deferral tactics by those who oppose the reform will not be welcomed by the Victorian community.”

Last month, when the Bill was being considered in the lower house of the Victorian parliament, the Diocese of Melbourne meeting just metres away from the parliament, urged MPs to reject the Bill.

In April, the Diocese of Sydney, in New South Wales, held an event with Professor John Swinton, who holds the chair in Divinity and is Professor of Practical Theology and Pastoral Care at Scotland’s University of Aberdeen. He urged his audience to learn from the experiences of countries where assisted suicide has been introduced, saying: “They are starting to see the downside, particularly in something like dementia, because the way – as I understand – the legislation runs, basically as soon as you have a diagnosis of dementia you can, in principle, ask to be euthanised.

“This means people end up being euthanised at stages in their lives when actually they seem to be quite together. You could imagine your great-aunt Sophie, who suddenly disappears. The last thing you saw she had a diagnosis and then you don’t see her again. That’s very traumatic for families but it’s also very traumatic for doctors and medical staff who have to actually engage in these practices.”

He said that the debate about euthanasia was “not simply a matter of ethics, right and wrong. It is actually two completely different ways of looking at the world.”