Few would question the need for accuracy and clear language in any public debate with such grave and possibly irreversible (for the individual) consequences as euthanasia and assisted suicide.
On occasions people will get it wrong. No-one should begrudge anyone any understandable mistake made with good intent. Nevertheless, those who venture into the public arena on these matters do hold themselves up to scrutiny and possible correction. Of course, I include myself in that cohort.
I find cause for such correction in the recent article in The Age newspaper by Member of the Victorian Upper House and Member of the Victorian Parliamentary Committee looking into end-of-life issues, Fiona Patten MLC.
Ms Patten may well celebrate the recommendations of the committee she was part of; after all, they align quite well with her position and that of her party. But while she may claim to have 'initiated a parliamentary inquiry into End of Life Choices' the record shows otherwise. It was, in fact, the Victorian Labor Government in the Upper House who did so via a motion tabled and passed on the 7th of May last year. Ms Patten and Ms Hartland both had motions on the Notice Paper seeking similar outcomes; Hartland withdrew her motion while Patten's was never debated.
Ms Patten claims that the committee 'travelled to five countries' where either euthanasia and/or assisted suicide was legal. Actually, it was four (see below). Strangely and without explanation, the committee chose not to visit Belgium.
In addition, the Committee travelled to the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Canadian Province of Québec, Canada and Oregon, United States to speak to stakeholders about their jurisdiction's assisted dying (sic) framework.
Ms Patten goes on to juxtapose matters supposedly raised in submissions to the Inquiry with what the travelling committee supposedly found that, she seems to suggest, speak to the contrary:
We had heard of mobile death vans in Amsterdam but what we found were compassionate doctors who had long-term relationships with their patients.
The network of travelling doctors willing to provide euthanasia does exist. No-one is denying that the Dutch pride themselves in their local GP networks that do provide the possibility of a life-long relationship with one doctor. Professor Theo Boer commented on these 'mobile death vans' as Patten describes them, in an article in March this year:
NVVE (the Dutch 'Right-to-die' Society) also initiated the End of Life Clinic, a network of traveling euthanasia doctors who provide assisted dying for patients whose own doctors will not agree to help them. On average, the traveling doctors see a patient three times before providing an assisted death. The clinic has neither the funding nor the license to provide any form of palliative care, so it offers death or nothing. Doctors at the End of Life Clinic report that they've handled about 500 cases since 2012.
We were told by people in Australia that overseas doctors were killing anyone who asked. They told us that doctors were killing people with mental health issues and they were killing babies. What we learned overseas was the accountability and transparency is extremely high and, no, they are not euthanizing babies and people suffering from depression.
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Paul is also Vice Chair of the International Euthanasia Prevention Coalition