Australian MDs fight Euthanasia
An Australian court June 22 rejected a request by the country’s medical and church groups to prevent the world’s first law allowing assisted suicide from coming into force July1. Australia’s largest medical association headed the court challenge.
The Medical Association filed a challenge in the Northern Territories Supreme Court June17. The association claims that the law, which would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with the help of a physician, is unconstitutional and a violation of society’s values.
The measure was approved by the legislature of the Northern Territories and is scheduled to come into effect July 1. It will make the Northern Territories, a sparsely populated state in north-central Australia, the first government to legalize assisted suicide.
The law was introduced in May, 1995 and Australian medical authorities have since set up educational programs dealing with assisted suicide. The law requires patients to be examined by a psychiatrist to ensure they are not suffering from depression before undergoing assisted suicide. The requesting patient would then be put to death from a lethal dose of drugs.
The law prohibits foreigners from coming to Australia to end their lives, but permits Australian nationals from other states to go to the Northern Territory to obtain the service.
According to the Associated Press, Australia’s medical association has serious concerns about the Northern territories law.
“Voluntary euthanasia is simply legalized killing,” the association said in a statement. As well, the association’s president Dr. Chris Wake said the new law violates the country’s constitution because it allows death to be inflicted without judicial supervision and control.
He called the medical community challenge to the legislation a matter of restoring basic principles and values to society.
However Shane Stone, chief minister of the Northern Territories said the government will fight any move to oppose the assisted suicide law.
Although the Northern Territory Supreme Court refused to grant to grant a temporary injunction, it agreed to begin a full-bench hearing of the challenge before anyone could exercise their right to assisted suicide.
The situation in Northern Territories is especially troubling to pro-life activists who fear a growing climate of tolerance for assisted suicide measures. Their fears have been increased by the Netherlands situation, where euthanasia is routinely carried out despite an official prohibition of the practice.
A Dutch physician was recently charged with murder after the death if one of his patients. It is alleged the doctor did not fully follow the Netherlands’ clearly spelled out guidelines in dealing with terminally ill patients who request to end their lives.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are still considered illegal in the Netherlands, but it is extremely rare for physicians to face charges.
The Netherlands is not the only country dealing with the controversy. Court decisions in some U.S. states have brought assisted suicide closer to reality. The court decisions are no doubt influenced by the action of Jack Kevorkian of Detroit who recently attended his 31st assisted suicide case.
Kevorkian claimed his first Canadian in May with the death of Austin Bastable, 53, of Windsor, Ontario. Canadian pro-life organizations sympathized with Bastable’s situation, but criticized right-to-die advocates for exploiting Bastable to further political aims. His death was treated as a major news\propaganda event for the Right to Die society.