A
number of senior doctors from around Australia severely criticised South
Australia’s proposed euthanasia legislation today, describing it as a dangerous
bill which will place vulnerable patients at risk. In a letter to SA’s
parliamentarians, Doctors Opposed to Euthanasia argue that elderly people would
be pressured into dying and that the bill would inevitably lead to involuntary
euthanasia.

“It is
particularly worrisome that the current bill would permit a medical
professional to defend themselves from prosecution by arguing that their
patient had merely implied they wanted assisted suicide…”

The
Criminal Law Consolidation
(Medical Defences – End of Life Arrangements) Amendment Bill 2011 has fewer
safeguards than previous bills, they argue.

“The Key’s Bill provides no protection
for patients who feel that life has become intolerable, even though that belief
may be fuelled by depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. Requests
for euthanasia or assisted suicide often cease when patients receive proper
care. However, this Bill undermines the delivery of such care by providing a less
demanding alternative.

“We note the well-recognised findings
that in The Netherlands and Belgium patients who have not requested euthanasia have
nevertheless received it. This Bill, by providing a defence for euthanasia and
assisted suicide under circumstances where the only witness is the medical
professional, leaves open the possibility for the same to occur.”

The
group sends a strong message that the bill gives doctors too much power over
vulnerable patients. Euthanasia and assisted suicide would take place “without
scrutiny and with no second opinion, psychiatric assessment, monitoring or
reporting mechanism”.

The letter was organised by Dr Daniel
Thomas, a stem cell scientist and haematologist, and Robert Britten-Jones, a surgeon, both from Adelaide.

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet.