Why are people who are currently dying in Canberra hospitals being subjected to cruel and needless suffering as a result of the infamous “Andrews Bill”? What happened to democracy for the territories? Why should federal politicians use their power to deny Territorians their democratic rights?
As a society, we should have evolved enough to separate church and state. While politicians have every right to their own religious beliefs, they have no right to impose their beliefs on those of their beneficiaries against the democratic wishes of the electorate.
Let me explain my frustration. Following an extensive debate, The Euthanasia Laws Act 1996-1997 was passed by both houses on the 25 March 1997. It became the first and only legislative measure anywhere in the world to completely overturn existing euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation. It was almost certainly religion-based and was introduced by Labor’s, Tony Burke and Liberal’s, Kevin Andrews. The act has become known as the Andrews Bill and is a shameful example of anti democratic processes turned against the territories. Since that time, thousands of people have suffered needlessly in Canberra’s hospitals as evidenced by the great work of Andrew Denton in his publication “The Damage Done” 2016.
In August 2016, Andrew Denton published his book in which he chronicles the stories of many relatives and friends who, like myself, were forced to watch in utter horror, as their loved ones died in agony.
Let’s start by getting some terms straight. In his book, Andrew Denton includes the following definitions:
Assisted Suicide. (Not the same as assisted dying). “A competent person dies after being provided with the means or knowledge to kill themselves by a friend, relative or other person. It is a crime to aid or abet another person to commit or attempt to commit suicide.”
Medically assisted dying. (Used to help patients who are dying and wish for a less painful end of life). “A doctor provides a patient with a prescription to obtain a lethal dose of a drug. Assisted dying is illegal throughout Australia, but increasingly there are cases of doctors providing patients with drugs to end the patient’s life, upon their request. These doctors have not been prosecuted.”
Voluntary euthanasia. “A doctor injects a competent patient, at their request, with a lethal substance to relieve that person from unbearable physical pain and suffering. Voluntary euthanasia is not legal in Australia.”
Palliative care. (Paraphrased) A range of treatments intended to help alleviate the pain of dying. The on-line Etymology Dictionary describes the origin as from medieval Latin, meaning: ‘under clock, covert’. The 13th Century Priest St. Thomas Aquinas is credited with the credo of palliative care “we shall neither prolong nor hasten death.”
In my case, the doctors claimed they could “do no harm” and yet removed all nutrition and hydration so that my partner died of thirst; a terrible way to die. Various web sites discourage people from attempting suicide by lack of water since it takes several days or even a few weeks. I find this interesting given that the “no harm” doctrine is used to disallow a quick, painless death, but removing all hydration, which ensures a slow painful death, is considered to be OK.
Another important fact to note, is that according to a speech by Andrew Leigh to Parliament on August 17, 2015, “three out of four Catholics, four out of five Anglicans and over nine out of ten Australians with no religion say they, in principle, support voluntary euthanasia”.
So, given this enormous support at the territory level why was the Andrews bill introduced? If we are a secular nation, what possible reason can there be to go against the democratic wishes of the elected representatives of the people? According to the Canberra Times, the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury, and ACT Senator, Katy Gallagher have called for the undemocratic bill to be abolished. It’s about time that we return to democracy in the ACT.
Do you believe in the separation of church and state? Should religious teachings have any influence in our democracy?