RELIGIOUS leaders, politicians and doctors have rallied for a last-ditch campaign against Victoria’s proposed voluntary assisted dying bill expected to be introduced into parliament.
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, along with fellow Victorian Church leaders Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird, Sale Bishop Patrick O’Regan and Sandhurst Bishop Leslie Tomlinson, sent a pastoral letter to the Catholics of Victoria warning that voluntary assisted suicide would never be considered safe.
“No ‘safeguards’ can ever guarantee that all deaths provided for under the proposed laws will be completely voluntary,” the pastoral letter said.
“Whether because of carelessness, error, fraud, coercion or even self-perceived pressure, there will always be a risk.”
Australian Medical Association president Dr Michael Gannon warned the passage of the bill “would be a victory for fear over hope”.
“The way we look after our elderly is simply not good enough,” Dr Gannon said.
“It is a stain on our society that we do not invest in aged care like we invest in, and celebrate, technological advances in medical procedures and new pharmaceuticals.”
Victorian Deputy Premier James Merlino warned his parliamentary colleagues they did not have a mandate to make such a drastic societal change.
Mr Merlino stood on the steps of Victoria’s parliament last week with faith leaders to voice their united opposition to euthanasia.
“We are of different faiths but, in our diverse communities, we believe in compassion,” Kawalpreet Singh, from the Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria, said.
“Compassion is best addressed to the alleviation of suffering and the care for life, which our traditions deem precious.
“We are concerned that deliberate interventions to end life tear at the fabric of our society.
“We urge, for the good of the entire community, that the Government extend access to palliative care to all Victorians who need it.”
A multifaith statement expressing opposition to assisted suicide was signed by Board of Imams Victoria president Sheikh Isse Abdo Musse, Melbourne Thai Buddhist Temple abbot Phra Khru Kampee-panya-withet, Hindu Council of Australia Victorian director Makarand Bhagwat, Rabbinical Council of Victoria president Rabbi Daniel Rabin, Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria chairman Jasbir Singh Suropada and Victorian Council of Churches president Bishop Peter Danaher
“For the different faith communities to come together in such a strong way is unprecedented,” Mr Merlino said.
“I will make sure that all my colleagues in Parliament are aware.”
The Victorian bishops’ letter to Catholics also said assisted suicide would send the wrong message to the young.
“Suicide is a tragedy for the person who takes their own life, but it also seriously affects their family and community,” the bishops said.
“It would be plain wrong to legally endorse any form of suicide when governments and community groups are working so hard to persuade others that there are always better options available than taking their own life.”