Community floods Senate euthanasia inquiry

30 Apr 2008

By The Record

By Paul Gray
The Sydney Archdiocese’s Marriage and Family office has warned in a submission to federal parliament that legalising voluntary euthanasia would send the message that some patients’ lives have no value.

Nurses help make a patient comfortable at Mount Carmel House, a home for the dying, in New York, in this 2006 photo. the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Marriage and Family Office has warned against legalising euthanasia under a federal Bill put forward by Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown. Photo: Catholic Courier

Legal euthanasia would also have a corrupting effect on the medical profession, by involving doctors and nurses, who are traditionally oriented towards healing, in the deliberate killing of their patients, the submission says.
The Marriage and Family Office submission was one of more than 700 submissions received by a Senate committee inquiring into a euthanasia bill put forward by the Greens party.
The committee is examining the “Rights of the Terminally Ill (Euthanasia Laws Repeal) Bill 2008,” put forward by Greens Senator Bob Brown to overturn the Andrews law which in turn had torpedoed the Northern Territory’s legalization of euthanasia in 1997.
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee called for submissions as part of the inquiry into the bill, which was introduced by Senator Brown earlier this year.
The committee closed off public submissions in the middle last week. Pro-euthanasia groups such as the Northern Territory Voluntary Euthanasia Society were among the many interested parties who made submissions.
The chair of the committee, Northern Territory Senator Trish Crossin, was reported by the ABC as saying the bill is about territory rights, and not euthanasia.
“I have to stress this is not about whether or not people believe euthanasia should be allowed or not allowed. This is about whether or not the federal parliament should reconsider reinstating the Territory’s laws,” Senator Cross was reported as stating.
However this was not the view taken by many of the people who made submissions to the inquiry.
The first submission listed on the parliament’s website last week, for example, came from a member of the public and called for the parliament to overturn the Andrews euthanasia laws act. It mentioned death, death from cancer, disease and the problems of ageing but did not mention territory rights.
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee office told The Record last week that too many submissions had been received for them to be all published on the Senate website.
Instead a selection of submissions had been published, along with the names of many other people who made submissions which did not make it on to the web.
Even so, only 360 people and organisations — about half of the total number of submissions received by the inquiry – were entered on the parliamentary website early last week.
The committee had received “that number again,” The Record was told.
The full array of public passions brought to the fore by the intense debate over the Northern Territory’s euthanasia laws in 1997 seem set to be reignited if the Brown bill is eventually put to a parliamentary vote.
At this stage, the Senate committee intends to hold public hearings in Darwin and Sydney next week. After that, it has discretion to call for more submissions, hold more hearings or finalise its report.
The date currently set for the committee report is June 23.
The largest number of submissions appear to have come from private individuals.
Meanwhile more pro-euthanasia pressure was promised in Victoria last week with a pro-euthanasia group announcing a public rally outside the state’s parliament house on April 16.