‘Press Pause Button’ on Government Euthanasia Law, Opponents Urge in Western Australia

September 13, 2019 Updated: September 13, 2019

The controversial Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill was passed 44-15 in Western Australia’s Legislative Assembly on Sept. 3. The bill, which is the most liberal to be presented in Australia, is under scrutiny for technical amendments and it is not clear when it will be voted on in the Legislative Council.

Canadian filmmaker Kevin Dunn, the keynote speaker for the rally, urged Western Australia’s Labor government to “press the pause button” on the legislation.

Dunn has travelled the world discussing with both advocates and opponents of physician-assisted euthanasia, and has produced two documentaries: ‘Fatal Flaws’ and ‘The Euthanasia Deception.’

“The answer shouldn’t be death, the answer should be a better system—compassion. The answer should be care and never killing.” Dunn said at the rally.

Former state legislative assembly member Peter Abetz, who organised the rally and once worked in cancer palliative care, told The Epoch Times that palliative care can significantly reduce physical pain of terminally ill patients, but Western Australia has only one-quarter of the palliative care specialists it needs.

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Peter Abetz addresses hundreds of Western Australians in front of Parliament House gathered in opposition to the state government’s proposed euthanasia legislation on Sept. 4, 2019. (Wade Zhou/The Epoch Times)

Dunn called for an increase in palliative care specialists in Western Australia.

“Fix what we have, fix the medical system,” he said, “Why are we offering the majority of people who don’t have access to quality palliative care, and here I’m talking palliative care specialists, why are we offering them the worst?”

Other speakers included former Federal Court judge John Gilmour QC, who said, “The promotion of this bill by the minister and other members of this house amounts to a tacit admission that this government either will not or thinks it cannot provide palliative care.”

Gilmour said the euthanasia legislation would change our culture if it is passed.

“It changes the way we think about suffering and our approach to suffering.” he said, “This is not the mark of a civilised society.”

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Hundreds of Western Australians rally in front of Parliament House to voice their opposition to the state government’s proposed euthanasia legislation on Sept. 4, 2019. (Wade Zhou/The Epoch Times)

Abetz told The Epoch Times that in jurisdictions where Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) is available, “it is rare for a person to access VAD for reasons of physical pain. A more common reason is that the person feels they are a burden to their family.”

“The availability of VAD will generate its own subtle pressure to make use of it.” Abetz said, “Indeed, to not use it, can be seen to unnecessarily burden one’s family.”

Dunn told The Epoch Times that euthanasia legislation is a Pandora’s box: “We should never open the door in the first place.”

“I always ask the question in my international tour: Should we be giving doctors’ right in law to end the life of a patient? What does the law do to the society over time?

“It starts for terminal illness and then moves to chronic illness, to mental illness,” he said.

Dunn speculated that the legal protections for life will continue to be squashed with incremental expansion of the law.

“A lot of people think this issue is about my right, my autonomy,” Dunn said, “but autonomy stops when you bring somebody else in this situation.

“You have to bring a doctor in the situation. You have to bring a nurse and a pharmacist. All these people now become part of your decision.” Dunn continued, “It (the decision) is about life, it is about ending a life. There is a moral and ethical line that many people don’t want to cross.”

“Bring better care … look for better doctors. These are government things [to do],” Dunn concluded.

Advocates for Australians living with disabilities, who are also critical of the government’s bill, told WA Today, “It’s appalling that in a state where we have huge delays for disability carer support.

“There are people who are living in hospitals and nursing homes in Western Australia and those people don’t have the support that they need to live a good life,’ disability rights advocate Samantha Connor said. “We can’t support people to die before we support them to live.”

Critics of the bill have slammed the government for not including more safeguards in the draft legislation, as has been done it other states. WA Today reported that lawmakers on Sept. 13 had raised concerns that TV personality Andrew Denton and his pro-euthanasia lobby group ‘Go Gentle’ had been telling MPs to block all amendments to the bill last week.

A spokesperson for the group denied the allegation.