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This week, the role of doctors will fundamentally change

By Mark Yates, The Age, 17th June 2019

Mark Yates, geriatrician and associate professor at Deakin University, discusses how from June 19, “Victoria will become the only jurisdiction in Australia to legalise euthanasia by enacting the voluntary assisted dying legislation.”

The fact that this will be a rare occurrence is irrelevant to the majority of the medical profession. The issue is that the role of the doctor is fundamentally changed by this legislation, from treatment to protect life and relieve suffering to now include intentionally causing the death of a patient

For doctors there is plenty of room for challenge and risk of accusation of unprofessional behaviour or worse, whether a doctor declines or accepts to head down the voluntary assisted dying pathway. The blanket protection included for doctors once the person is dead does not protect them from accusations of errors in process. Predicting prognosis, assessing capacity and the self-definition of “expert in the field” are all open to interpretation and challengeable.

Read the full article here.
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Care Alliance Welcomes Health Select Committee Report

Media Release, 23 November 2017

The legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Victoria, by the narrowest of margins, introduces an unsafe and unnecessary practice into the heart of their healthcare practice, says Dr Peter Thirkell, Spokesperson for the Care Alliance. Australian medical organisations have stated on numerous occasions that such laws are inherently unsafe, and in the words of the Australian Medical Association mark “a significant shift in medical practice in Victoria.”

The result in Victoria is contrary to what happened in New South Wales just a week earlier where parliamentarians had the wisdom and courage to vote down a similar bill. As NSW Labour health spokesman Walt Secord notes, “It is not possible to put in place sufficient safeguards and protections to prevent abuses of these laws. And this is before we consider the invidious pressures of medical costs, financial burdens on families or the prospect of manipulation in regard to inheritances.”

The Victorian decision also flies in the face of advice from Palliative Care Victoria to their own parliamentary inquiry, opposing the legalisation of euthanasia or assisted suicide and saying that what it really needs is more money to be spent on palliative care. The Care Alliance is reassured by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s promise just yesterday to undertake work on finding a more sustainable model for funding palliative care in New Zealand. This echoes the conclusions of the recent New Zealand Health Select Committee report, which could not recommend any change in the law but rather urged the Government to better support the work and funding of palliative care providers.

Dr Thirkell concludes, “Victoria has ignored the weight of international evidence. It’s not where we start with euthanasia but where a law change would take us – that is the problem. The evidence is clear – where legislation has passed there are quickly pressures to extend it.” The Care Alliance calls on MPs to look carefully at the international evidence while also taking proper account of our own unique context. New Zealand medical, palliative, and hospice organisations all oppose such legislation, as well as 80% of more than 22,000 submissions to the Health Select Committee last year. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are both dangerous and unnecessary.

ENDS

Media contact

Peter Thirkell

027 563-5086

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Deputy Premier says Labor’s death Bill is risky and bad legislation

by James Dowling, Herald Sun, 11 October 2017

Mr Merlino said the issue was not part of an election campaign and the person “on the street” would be surprised to learn euthanasia laws will be introduced to parliament next week.

Mr Merlino said the “risky and bad legislation” amounted to a pro-suicide Bill and has lobbied his colleagues to vote against it.

“I think this has come along without a lot of public awareness.

“I think it needs a longer, deeper engagement with all areas of our society.”

Click here to read the full article.

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Doctors appeal to Vic MPs to vote down assisted dying bill

by Jane Lee, PM (ABC Radio), 16 October 2017

A number of doctors with patients nearing the end of their lives insist that an assisted dying scheme is dangerous and unnecessary, a day before the Victorian Parliament is set to debate a bill that could make it legal.

The geriatric medicine and palliative care specialists say they are concerned that the safeguards in the bill are not enough to prevent “wrongful” deaths, or to protect patients from being coerced into applying for lethal medication.

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101 oncologists oppose assisted suicide legislation

Letter sent to Parliament of Victoria, 19 September 2017

We collectively represent a significant proportion of the oncology workforce in the state of Victoria.
Physician assisted dying places people at risk of coercion that is both active and passive. As a consequence of assisted dying laws, society re-assesses the value of life; and the individual is taught to devalue their own life. Those with serious illness may perceive that they are a burden on society or their carers and come to feel that assisted dying is appropriate for them.
 
Assisted dying laws are easily challenged from a human rights and equality perspective. Indications over time will be extended beyond adults with terminal illness, to those with mental illness alone, dementia, disability, children and the healthy elderly who have “completed lives”.
Click here to read the full letter.