Euthanasia In Australia When we hear the phrase voluntary euthanasia people generally think of one of two things: the active termination of life at the patient’s or the Nazi extermination program of murder. Many people have beliefs about whether euthanasia is right or wrong, often without being able to define it clearly. Some people take an extreme view, while many fall somewhere between the two camps. The derivation means gentle and easy death coming from the Greek words, eu – thanatos. Euthanasia was formerly called mercy killing, euthanasia means intentionally making someone die, rather than allowing that person to die naturally.
Put bluntly, euthanasia means killing in the name of compassion. Euthanasia is often confused with physician-assisted suicide. Euthanasia is when one person does something that directly kills another. For example, a doctor gives a lethal injection to a patient. In assisted suicide, a non-suicidal person knowingly and intentionally provides the means or acts in some way to help a suicidal person kill himself or herself. For example, a doctor writes a prescription for poison, or someone hooks up a face mask and tubing to a canister of carbon monoxide and then instructs the suicidal person on how to push a lever so that she’ll be gassed to death.
For all practical purposes, any distinction between euthanasia and assisted suicide has been abandoned today. Euthanasia in Australia (pre-1995) In the last decade or so several Australian states and territories have taken action aimed at guaranteeing the right of adult patients of sound mind to direct that extraordinary measures to prolong life be stopped. South Australia passed the Natural Death Act in 1983, Victoria the Medical Treatment Act in 1988, the Northern Territory the Natural Death Act in 1988 and the Australian Capital Territory passed the Medical Treatment Act in 1994. NSW issued interim guidelines in 1993. The afore-mentioned legislation covers the following: 1) Refusal or withdrawal of current treatment. 2) Issuing a direction for refusal of certain treatment in the event that the patient becomes incompetent to make decisions.
3) Appointing an agent to make decisions on refusal of treatment in the event that the patient becomes incompetent to make decisions. Though these legislative guidelines deal with the rights of a patient to refuse current medical treatment, it is often doubted whether they make a considerable difference to medical practice. Even without the legislation, the right of patients to withhold consent to treatment was generally accepted. Suicide is legal in all Australian states and territories. If you want to kill yourself, you can do so.
No one has any right to stop you, unless they can show adequate proof of insanity. Various popular books are available which even give details of reliable methods in which to end ones life. If a person says he/she wishes to die, and is not immobilised by disease, yet continues to remain alive, he/she is clearly not serious about wishing to die, but has expressed a false wish. However, some people who wish to commit suicide are incapacitated to such an extent that they would be unable to commit suicide without assistance. Killing a person in these circumstances can be described as voluntary euthanasia.
Both mental and physical incapacity are relevant. Solutions, which have been proposed to address impediments preventing suicide, arising from various forms of incapacity, are listed below: 1) A person is mentally competent but physically incapacitated. Euthanasia laws would provide for the person to issue a formal request to be killed, and make it legal for some other person to do the killing. 2) Person is mentally incompetent to make decisions: Euthanasia laws would provide for a person who is mentally competent to issue a formal request stipulating that if he/she becomes incompetent and terminally ill, he/she is to have their life terminated. Or, alternatively, provide for a person who is mentally competent to sign legally binding power of attorney giving some nominated third party the authority to make decisions on the person’s behalf if the person becomes incompetent.
This would include the authority to make a formal request that the person be killed, if in the agent’s opinion the circumstances render killing appropriate. Proposals for voluntary euthanasia always contain the following elements: 1) A mechanism for ensuring that there is some good reason underlying a person’s wish to be killed. 2) A mechanism for ensuring that the person really does wish to be killed. 3) A mechanism for carrying out the killing. 4) Protection from criminal prosecution for the third party involved. Three Australian states and territories have seriously considered euthanasia, in each case as a result of a private member’s Bill.
Bills were introduced by Mr Moore in the ACT, Mr Perron in the NT, and Mr Quirke in SA. The legislative proposals all contained the following elements: 1) Means for a person to make a request that he/she be killed. 2) Matters relating to knowledge the patient needs (i.e. information about health status and likelihood of recovery, as well as information on how to kill oneself). 3) Means for a doctor to officially state matters relating to the patient’s health status (i.e.
that the patient is rational or of sound mind at the time of making the request for euthanasia, and that at the time the request is to be carried out the patient is suffering from an incurable disease causing great distress). 4) Details of the circumstances in which it shall be legal to comply with the person’s request, including how the killing shall be carried out and by whom. The 1995/96 NT Legislation and Consequent Repeal In March of 1995, the Northern Territory became the first place to legalize voluntary euthanasia. Although Australia does not hold the same notoriety as the Netherlands, the history of the bill has been very controversial. The Northern Territory Rights of the Terminally Ill was passed after a 14-hour debate.
The Commonwealth parliament however, was against this bill and formed a committee to investigate and subsequently advise the parliament on whether or not to repeal the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act. The Euthanasia Laws Bill (1996) removed the power of the Australian Capital Territory, Norfolk Island and the Northern Territory which have laws that permit euthanasia. In particular, the Bill superseded the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act (1995), which under certain conditions permits physician-assisted suicide and active voluntary euthanasia. Initially there was the question of whether the Commonwealth parliament had the constitutional power to override the NTs Act. However, under section 122 of the Constitution (which gives the Commonwealth vast power to legislate in respect to the Territories) the Commonwealth was found to have the power to enact the Euthanasia Laws Bill. Once the threshold question of Constitutional capacity had been affirmed, the Senate then needed to address the question of whether the power ought to be exercised in these circumstances (regarding euthanasia act). It was acknowledged that the Commonwealth Parliament should only withdraw legislative powers it has conferred on the Territories in exceptional circumstances.
However this particularly controversial legislation was considered and thus decided upon that in that instance it was proper for the Commonwealth to intervene. Several issues were raised in regards to the euthanasia act, concerning all member of both the NT and the rest of Australia. Both the pros and cons had to be considered within these issues. The issues were: 1) The Territory rights issue. 2) The claim that the Bill will lead to legal uncertainty.
3) The claim that the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act would have unacceptable impacts on the Aboriginal community. 4) The more general moral, philosophical, ethical and social arguments about euthanasia. 5) Individuals rights and choice. 6) The dignity of death. 7) Safe-guarding.
1) The Territory rights issue The Co …