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Perth archdiocese reaffirms its commitment to life in wake of Western Australia euthanasia law

Life and death: Western Australia has become the next state legislature to adopt assisted dying and euthanasia, with the Lower House set to vote on the final amendments of the bill on December 10. 

WESTERN Australia has become the next state legislature to adopt assisted dying and euthanasia as the Lower House passed the final amendments of the bill on December 10.

The bill, which is more liberal than Victoria’s legislation, passed the Upper House 24-11 and will make euthanasia available from as early as 2021. 

Perth Archdiocese released a statement on December 11, which acknowledged the legislation and the clear decision of the parliament, but said the Church in WA was and always had been committed to the “sacredness and dignity” of life.

“The Catholic Church’s teachings on Voluntary Assisted Dying are well known and have not changed,” the statement said.

“The Church believes in and promotes both the highest quality and most medically advanced palliative care available for those who are dying.

“This includes the use of all available medication to alleviate pain and suffering.

“The Church does not accept that this should include the deliberate ending of a person’s life.”

The archdiocese assured in the wake of the legislation, the Church would remain committed to deliver the same quality and standard of medical and pastoral care.

“At the heart of this care are our foundational convictions regarding the sacredness and dignity of every human life,” the statement said.

“The contribution of the Catholic Church to the provision of health, aged-care and disability agencies is significant.

“Given the recent decision of the parliament, the Church looks forward to collaborating proactively with the Western Australian Government to ensure that our longstanding contribution to the people of this state can continue without compromising the fundamental precepts which underpin all that Catholic agencies offer the people of Western Australia.”

The Australian Medical Association has continued to voice its opposition to the introduction of euthanasia legislation. 

More than 800 doctors and health professionals signed on to an open letter about concerns about late amendments moved by the government, which the letter said opened the door to “unethical behaviour”.

Palliative care specialists opposed the bill and were outraged when Upper House MPs voted in favour of an entitlement for those in regional areas to have the same access to euthanasia as those in metropolitan areas; the same MPs voted against an amendment that would give equal access to palliative care.

Others opponents of the bill have slammed it for its lack of safeguards against abuse and coercion.

A key issue was whether doctors should be allowed to initiate conversations about euthanasia with their patients – the Western Australian law says doctors could.

Doctors could even recommend euthanasia as an option to patients; this was not allowed under the Victorian legislation.

This could lead to doctors – in a position of power – coercing elderly Australians towards euthanasia and then profiting off the procedures because there was also no safeguard against that.

Others observed many Indigenous groups or immigrant populations or patients with disabilities could misunderstand those recommendations.

Doctors could also be exposed to coercion by families who wanted them to recommend euthanasia for their sick family member. 

The bill attracted warnings from former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who urged the Labor states to “hasten very slowly” on euthanasia.

Mr Rudd was concerned about the bioethics of the legislation.

“If it takes a much longer period of time than some of the legislative proponents would want to achieve a reasonable consensus on these questions through parliamentary deliberation, then let’s take the time,” Mr Rudd said.

“These are complex bioethical questions. Nothing is more fundamental than life.”

Cherish Life Queensland warned state MPs that if they supported introducing a bill in Queensland, there would be repercussions.

 “Support of what is in fact legalised assisted suicide will negate any goodwill earned by MPs who voted against Labor’s Termination of Pregnancy Bill last year,” Cherish Life president Dr Donna Purcell said.

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