SA euthanasia bill due for amendment, Australian Medical Association concerned

Published 02 August 2011
The Medical Defences – End of Life Arrangements private member's bill by SA Labor MP Steph Key passed the second reading in the House of Assembly July 27.

"We are disturbed that this vote occurred without apparent dissent," said Ros Phillips, FamilyVoice Australia national research officer. "However we welcome the acknowledgement by the bill's sponsor, Labor MP Steph Key, that the bill needs amendments.

Ms Key told the parliament that she would introduce several amendments recommended by the Australian Medical Association, which has expressed deep concerns about the bill. In its current form the legislation would allow a single doctor, with no witnesses, to give a lethal dose to a patient who requested to be killed because the patient's life appeared intolerable.

There is no requirement for the patient's request to be witnessed, written or signed. There is no requirement for the patient to receive counselling or a second opinion on his or her condition.

SA Law Society President Ralph Bonig has said the bill would decriminalise euthanasia in certain circumstances, but without "the ordinary safeguards that typical voluntary euthanasia legislation should have". (Letters, The Advertiser, 6/4/11).

Despite this and other authoritative legal opinions (eg. by Dr Margaret Somerville, Samuel Gale professor of law at Canada's McGill University), Ms Key has continued to insist that her bill is "not about euthanasia".

Yet Dr Somerville has said "…the bill would legalise euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide…that this is done by way of providing a defence for doctors who participate in these actions does not alter that fact."

Ros Phillips said the bill will continue to be debated in the committee stage on September 29.

"Ms Key has said she does not agree with all the amendments requested by the AMA, so it is highly likely that the bill would remain seriously flawed even after her changes," Mrs Phillips said.

"We plan to send a legal opinion to all SA MPs, pointing out the fundamental problems in this legislation, which puts the lives of the frail and vulnerable members of our society, including depressed teenagers, at serious risk. We hope the bill will be defeated at the third reading later this year."

Reprints

More News in Society