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‘Death with Dignity’ Bill defeated in South Australia

by Paul Russell, HOPE No Euthanasia, 17 November 2016

Mr Russell reflects on the vote overnight in the South Australian parliament that defeated a euthanasia bill. “The final vote was taken at 4:02 am. The house divided 23 votes to 23. The bill was defeated on the casting vote of the Speaker.”

He observes that what made “this result all the more remarkable is the intensity of the campaign in support of the bill, spearheaded by celebrity Andrew Denton and supported by a willing media.  The coverage and Denton’s ubiquitous presence made it seem at times, to the public at least, that there was no opposition; that Denton could ‘march on Rome’ without resistance. This ‘tsunami’ of support included the Premier and the Opposition Leader actively supporting the effort both in the chamber and in the media.”

The Death with Dignity Bill 2016 was the second bill debated this year. It came closely on the heels of an abandoned recent attempt in the same parliament to enact a ‘Belgium style’ bill. That bill was deemed to be a bridge too far for the parliament and the substitute new bill was seen by many to be more moderate – a ‘good-cop-bad-cop’ scenario. That kind of thinking clearly influenced a number of members of parliament.

For the first time in the history of the Lower House of the Parliament, the bill passed the first hurdle (second reading) by a margin of 27 votes to 19 in the early evening. 


The mover, Dr Duncan McFetridge, seemed unable at times to answer questions about his own bill. This is perhaps unsurprising considering that the bill was introduced in an unseemly hurry and was drafted by a third party on McFetridge’s behalf.

When pressed on the question of doctor shopping, for example, it took considerable time for McFetridge to acknowledge that a person could, indeed, shop around for the answer that they want.



We have been fortunate in South Australia to be served over many years now by a cluster of MPs who epitomise fortitude, tenacity and moral and ethical clarity. The result in the wee hours of the morning is a testament to their efforts. I know I’ll probably miss some names, but Tom Kenyon, Michael Atkinson (speaker), Sam Duluk and Jennifer Rankine come easily to mind. It is something of a metaphor for this experience, but if I were ever in a hostage situation I would want Tom Kenyon as the negotiator and Michael Atkinson as the chief prosecutor!

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