Australia Blocks Euthanasia in Its Territories

The Australian Senate came within two votes last week of allowing its territories to legalize euthanasia, but multiple lawmakers changed their minds at the last minute.

The bill would have erased a 1997 law prohibiting Australia’s territories from allowing euthanasia. Sen. Steve Martin, one of at least three Liberal Party senators to swing the vote 36-34 against the bill, said his conscience would not allow him to support the bill “without ensuring that appropriate safeguards were in place,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Last year, Victoria became the first Australian state to legalize euthanasia, shortly after New South Wales narrowly avoided it. But the 10 territories, over which the federal government has more oversight and control, have been barred from legalizing euthanasia since Parliament reversed the Northern Territory’s 1995 law allowing it.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told me that a vote in favor of the bill would have made the legalization of euthanasia “almost automatic” in the Northern Territory.

“I think in the end, they had to make a decision, if we do this, if we vote this way, it essentially meant that the Northern Territory would once again allow euthanasia,” he said.

The Australian Capital Territory could also have legalized it. Catholic Health Australia CEO Suzanne Greenwood told Sight news this month that the dearth of palliative care specialists in the country made the bill dangerous. She cited recent data that showed only four specialists serve the 244,500 people in the vast Northern Territory, and six serve the Australian Capital Territory’s 401,737 people.

“We are gravely concerned about the potentially dangerous impact this legislation would have, undermining the medical profession, devaluing palliative care, and desensitizing public attitudes to suicide,” Greenwood said.

Schadenberg agreed, and pointed to the “lighting fast” expansion of assisted suicide in Canada shortly after legalization, the Netherlands’ euthanizing hundreds without their request, and doctors in Belgium euthanizing a 29-year-old woman who had depression.

Euthanasia often gets legalized because people think, “We can control it; it will only be for the few,” Schadenberg said. “Once you open up the door that it’s OK to kill, the only question left is, whom do we kill?”

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Source: World Magazine