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Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws - no one is ever satisfied

By Paul Russell - posted Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Valko then provides the list of the 'safeguards' that Tucker clearly rejected. Calling them a 'heavy governmental intrusion into the practice of medicine', Tucker's list is entirely about items that regularly appear in stock-standard bills of this type. As noted, these were clearly absent in the original draft - just as they were in South Australia. As in South Australia, the activists amended their own bill.

It is not difficult to imagine the kind of conversations that probably took place in DC and in the SA Parliament between activists and legislators. I don't think it at all cynical to observe, in summary, that the conversations would have been about what it would take to gain an MPs support. Compromise leaves all parties dissatisfied to some degree; for the activist, the salve is getting the bill - any bill - through.

It is ever thus.


In the last Western Australian debate in 2010 MP Robin Chapple said that he knew his restricted bill wouldn't please everyone but that it was a 'good start'. This makes clear the reality that someone else can come back and try to amend and expand the remit at some future moment. That same year in South Australia, MP Mark Parnell observed, in reflection upon the failure of his own bill, that too many safeguards would make any bill too restrictive and inaccessible; the corollary of this stark admission is that to make a bill work we must accept an increasing level of risk from abuse.

Victorian MPs should keep this all in mind in the coming months as preparations get underway for a bill to be tabled by the Andrews Government later this year. Once we move away from the extant prohibitions we begin to accept risks and, into the bargain, begin also to abandon the principle that the law and our society's primary task is the protection of all citizens equally.

The evidence from other countries shows that risks of abuse are all too real and cannot be dismissed as speculative or distant

The safeguards built into any liberalised system would, furthermore, be vulnerable to laxity and complacency and might well prove difficult or even impossible to police adequately. High Court of Ireland, Fleming v Ors 2013.

Parliamentarians will be told, as I expect they always are in this regard, that the proposal is 'only' about a limited cohort and 'only' in prescribed circumstances and 'only' after certain checks and balances are observed. As though this somehow makes state-sanctioned killing or approved assistance in suicide okay per se. It doesn't.

When we cross that clear bright line drawn and held in the one place for millenia, we do not simply crossover for the supposed few. If we cross for some, we cross for all. create an exception to the general prohibition of intentional killing would inevitably open the way to its further erosion whether by design, by inadvertence, or by the human tendency to test the limits of any regulation. House of Lords Select Committee 1998.


We will have enshrined in law the principle that it is okay to kill or to help people suicide - a 'right to be made dead'. If it is all about suffering, any restrictions invoking the 'only' gambit are really a house of cards.

There will always be Kathryn L Tucker's.

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This article was first published on Hope.

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About the Author

Paul Russell is the Director of HOPE: preventing euthanasia & assisted suicide

Paul is also Vice Chair of the International Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

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