Assisted dying (AD)

Physician use of misinformation to speculate 'assisted dying suicide contagion' in Oregon


Author(s)

Neil Francis

Journal

Journal of Assisted Dying, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1–6.

Abstract

Background: Several physicians have speculated that Oregon’s general suicide rate is evidence of suicide contagion as a result of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act (‘the Act’).
Methods: Search and analysis of physician and related online sources of Oregon suicide contagion speculation; retrieval and analysis of cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other publications relied upon; analysis of authoritative, public Government mortality data for Oregon and other USA states.
Results: Several physicians have speculated about Oregon suicide statistics in a manner that is not supported by the cited publications, or by public CDC mortality database data. The claims variously (a) misrepresent key data in the publications, (b) omit information in the publications that is at variance with suicide contagion speculation, and (c) overlook other significant information at variance with speculation. The physicians have previously acknowledged inability to prove perceived “slippery slope” effects of the Act. Other opponents of the Act have republished the physicians’ erroneous information.
Conclusions: Evidence advanced by several physicians to speculate that Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act causes suicide contagion in Oregon is variously false, misleading or highly selective—omitting key facts—and has arisen even though the physicians acknowledge they have no proof of ‘slippery slope’ effects.

Article keywords

suicide contagion, copycat suicide, Werther effect, slippery slope, misinformation, Oregon, Dr William Toffler, Dr Kenneth Stevens, Physicians for Compassionate Care

Full PDF

Download the full PDF: Download the full article (390Kb)

Citation

Francis, N 2016, 'Physician use of misinformation to speculate 'assisted dying suicide contagion' in Oregon', Journal of Assisted Dying, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-6.

Download the citation in RIS format: RIS.gif


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Andrew Denton has appeared in an ABC Radio National broadcast, presented by David Rutledge, about assisted dying.

He talks about Liz, a woman in her forties who has a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

The ABC page for the broadcast, including the audio file, is here.


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The Parliament of Victoria is conducting an inquiry into end-of-life decision making.

The standing Legal and Social Issues Comittee of the Parliament of Victoria, Australia, is currently conducting an inquiry into end-of-life decision making, to inform any legislative changes required in order to reflect contemprary views and best practice.

The inquiry has certainly engaged the community: it has received a record number of submissions. The Legal and Social Issues Committee typically receives a couple of dozen submissions to any of its inquiries, occasionally even sixty or eighty. In contrast, the inquiry on end-of-life decision making has received more than one thousand (1,017) submissions.

vicparlsubmissions2015.jpg

Most of the submissions (98%), including DyingForChoice.com's, are published on the Committee's website, with the tiny remainder kept confidential at the request of the submitter.

The terms of reference for the inquiry are completely silent on the matter of assisted dying. The Terms talk about "making informed decisions", "exercising preferences" and "the role of palliative care" in the context of current legislation and any required changes.

So, given that assisted dying is not mentioned in the Terms of Reference, you'd expect a modest number of submissions to address the issue, right? Wrong.

Of the submissions that are published on the Committee's website (and which I could therefore read), a staggering 95.4% of them make specific and deliberate points about assisted dying law reform, and 60.2% of the published submissions make points in favour of law reform to permit assisted dying in one form or another.

vicparlsubstances2015.jpg

There is no clearer indication than this of how deeply engaged the Victorian public is with end-of-life decision making, and how important assisted dying law reform is to the options they might consider.

The Leglislative Council and this Committee are to be highly commended for establishing and conducting the inquiry. Public hearings with witness appearances have further helped inform the Committee and its Secretariat. The transcript of my appearance can be read here.

We the people of Victoria look forward with anticipation to the final report of the Committee, and the recommendations it makes. The Committee must report back to the Legislative Council no later than 31st May 2016. But, given the tsunami of submissions and the continuing public hearings, we won't be surprised if the Committee is granted an extension to complete its work.


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On 16th September 2015, the Victorian Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), Dan Flynn, appeared as a witness to the Victorian Parliament’s end of life choices inquiry being conducted by the Legal and Social Issues Committee. He made a number of mistaken statements, but what was most worrisome was the revelation of the ACL’s real agenda: to wind back patient rights more than a quarter century.

 

Out of touch

In his opening address, Mr Flynn opined that assisted dying was 'not supported' by a 'broad base' of Victorian Christians (not just the ACL). This belief is diametrically at odds with clear and repeated evidence from multiple sources.

In 2012, I reported on a Newspoll study into Australian attitudes towards assisted dying. Not only did a whopping majority of citizens support assisted dying, but so did a great majority of Anglicans, Catholics and other Christians (Francis 2012).

 

Australian attitudes to assisted dying law reform in 2012

Newspoll 2012: Australian attitudes to assisted dying law reform by religion (green=support, red=oppose)

These national results are reflected by a sample of over 60,000 Victorians through the VoteCompass system during the 2014 Victorian election (Stayner 2014). It confirms a substantial majority of Catholics, Protestants, other religious and non-religious Victorians support assisted dying law reform.

 

votecompassvicvereligion2014.jpg

VoteCompass 2014: Victorian attitudes to assisted dying law reform by religion (grey=population average)

Out of date

Mr Flynn then referred to a Tasmanian Parliament’s inquiry into assisted dying which rejected law reform. However, the inquiry to which he refers was held in 1998, when Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act had barely been established, the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act had been extinguished within just eight months of coming into operation, and the Dutch, Belgian, Luxembourg, Washington and other legislation and judgements did not yet exist.

So, the Tasmanian Parliament’s rejection came from a position of a then general lack of information. The Oregon law has been in effect since 1997, the Netherlands and Belgium since 2002, Washington since 2008, Luxembourg since 2009, and so on. There is now plenty of evidence that assisted dying law reform doesn’t cause slippery slopes that opponents love to theorise about.

Wrong about ‘United Nations’

Mr Flynn then said that the United Nations had in 2012 expressed concern about a ‘lax attitude’ towards euthanasia in Europe, specifically mentioning the Netherlands and Belgium. This is completely untrue. Because it’s easy to make a simple blooper during a presentation, we’ll put aside the fact that he meant to refer to a completely different organisation: the Council of Europe.

We know this because he read directly from Council of Europe declaration 1859 (Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly 2012). His ACL submission (Australian Christian Lobby 2015) reports (as he read out) exactly one sentence of the declaration, with his added emphasis, as:

"Euthanasia, in the sense of the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit, must always be prohibited."

But presented in this manner the statement is quite misleading. As I explain in a forensic analysis of the misinformation campaign about this resolution (Francis 2015), the resolution was utterly clear about its intent: it was not about euthanasia (it explicitly said so), but rather about advance care planning. What the resolution spoke against (in the one sentence conveyed above) is non-voluntary euthanasia, not voluntary euthanasia. Both sides of the assisted dying debate agree that non-voluntary euthanasia (one person deciding for a hastened death on behalf of another) is not acceptable. It is not contentious.

In no way did the Council of Europe's resolution critique voluntary euthanasia or comment on any jurisdiction in which it is legal. And, the United Nations source to which the ACL submission refers was released in 2001, fourteen years ago and at the time of the Netherlands' Euthanasia Act was before the Dutch Parliament. With then limited information about how such laws work in practice, it expressed concern about the upcoming Act.

Wrong about Belgium’s law and practice

Mr Flynn referred vaguely to two cases of euthanasia in Belgium in which persons who requested and received euthanasia were not experiencing intolerable pain, which Mr Flynn asserted was a required safeguard in Belgium’s euthanasia Act. This was another supposed example of transgression of safeguards.  Wrong again.

While the Belgian Euthanasia Act is officially published only in Dutch and French, a robust English translation has been prepared under the supervision of Professor Herman Nys of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law at the Catholic University of Leuven (see Parliament of Belgium 2002). The word ‘pain’ does not appear in the Act… at all. What does the Act have to say about the legislature’s intent on who may qualify? The relevant clause in Section 1 says:

"the patient is in a medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that can not be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident."

It’s abundantly clear: mental suffering from an illness or accident qualifies as much as physical suffering, and the suffering does not need to be ‘pain’ as Mr Flynn mistakenly asserted to the Parliamentary Committee.

Mr Flynn also stated that there are mobile end-of-life units in Belgium. There aren’t. (But there are in the Netherlands, and they must follow precisely all the same requirements as anyone else. They operate to provide choice to patients whose regular or reachable doctors disagree with assisted dying and therefore decline to evaluate whether the patient may qualify under the Act.)

Confused about Advance Care Directives

In further testimony, Mr Flynn opined that the degree to which a doctor should be allowed to override a patient’s Advance Care Directive (ACD) is in part influenced by whether the doctor can speak with the patient.

But if the patient can currently speak and participate in decision-making, the advance care directive doesn’t apply: it is mute and of no effect. An ACD only applies when the patient cannot currently participate in their own decision making. That’s (only) what it’s for.

Winding rights back more than a quarter century

But the most worrying aspect Mr Flynn’s testimony was the revelation of ACL’s opposition to the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment.

The Medical Treatment Act 1998 (Vic) has enshrined for now more than twenty five years a patient’s right to refuse any unwanted medical treatments. In 2003 the Supreme Court of Victoria determined that artificial nutrition and hydration (i.e. via tubes) is medical treatment and can therefore be refused under the Act.

But Mr Flynn repeatedly argued that withholding or withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration, if the patient’s body could ‘absorb’ them, could amount to physician-assisted suicide, and that doctors must be allowed to override refusals. On the matter of patient autonomy, he said that some autonomy rests "with the patients, but a lot of the autonomy in fact is with the doctor”.

When asked if a Jehovah's Witness who refuses a life-saving and simple blood transfusion ought to be allowed to do so, he conceded that they should be entitled to, but that such a case was a “bit of an outlier”. He didn’t explain on what moral grounds one person could refuse a simple procedure to save their life, but another person mustn’t be allowed to even if the likelihood of saving life was doubtful.              

So, the ACL’s real agenda is revealed: it recommends winding back the legislative clock more than a quarter century so as to force patients to endure some medical interventions that they don’t want and firmly refuse, if the doctor wishes to proceed.

No wonder the Committee repeatedly questioned Mr Flynn to ensure they had heard and understood his testimony correctly. In conclusion, Committee Chair Edward O’Donohue observed that Mr Flynn’s evidence was “quite surprising” and “quite contrary” to wide evidence already given.

And it’s no wonder that Theo Mackaay, General Secretary of the Victorian Council of Churches—a group of 30 member churches representing mainstream Christianity—criticised the ACL as “fundamentally conservative” and expressed “deep concern that media portrayal of statements from an established and narrow focused lobby group is presented as being representative of the entire Christian community” (Uniting Church in Australia 2011).

-----

References

Australian Christian Lobby 2015, Submission to the Legal and Social Issues Committee on the Inquiry inito End of Life Choices, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne, pp. 1-17.

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly 2012, Resolution 1859 (2012): Protecting human rights and dignity by taking into account previously expressed wishes of patients, Europe, 25 Jan, pp. 2.

Francis, N 2012, Australian public desire for legalisation of assisted dying in restricted circumstances, YourLastRight.com, Melbourne, pp. 11.

Francis, N 2015, Conservatives fudge Council of Europe declaration 1859, DyingForChoice.com, viewed 2 Jun 2015, <http://www.dyingforchoice.com/f-files/conservatives-fudge-council-europe-declaration-1859>.

Parliament of Belgium 2002, 'The Belgian Act on Euthanasia of May 28th 2002 (unofficial English translation)', Ethical Perspectives, vol. 9, no. 2-3, pp. 182-188.

Stayner, G 2014, Victorian election 2014: Electorate overwhelmingly back voluntary euthanasia, Vote Compass reveals, ABC News, viewed 4 Dec 2014, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-23/victorians-back-voluntary-euthanasia-vote-compass/5910668>.

Uniting Church in Australia 2011, Australian Christian Lobby does not represent all Australian Christians, nor all Christian viewpoints, 8 Dec, Media Room, viewed 11 Dec 2011, <http://blogs.victas.uca.org.au/mediaroom/?p=971>.


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The Victorian Premier doesn't support assisted dying law reform - at this stage.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews reports that he doesn’t support voluntary euthanasia “at this stage” (The Age, 21 Jun 2015), and that his objections are not based on his Catholic faith. I think it is fair to take him at his word given his historical record in facilitating conversation and reform around values-based issues such as abortion. But his current thinking on assisted dying is indefensible as I explain.

We know from repeated Newspoll Australia studies that amongst the millions of Victorians who want the State to respect their wish to make their own choices at the end of life, three out of four Australian Catholics are in favour of legalised assisted dying—at odds with the ‘traditional’ Catholic stance. Mr Andrews, like a majority of Catholic Australians, may simply not agree with the Vatican line on assisted dying choice, as they don't on a range of matters.

Mr Andrews says that his current objections instead revolve around ‘safeguard’ and ‘balance’ issues in a context of finite healthcare resources.

Let’s examine that stance in the light of the Legislative Council committee inquiry recently launched into end-of-life decision making.

The Medical Treatment Act 1988 confers the right to Victorian patients to refuse any medical treatment. The right applies even if the treatment is life-saving, for example a simple blood transfusion. The Act contains no ‘safeguards’, as the Premier refers to them:

  • The patient is not required to give any reason;
  • The doctor is not required to inform the patient of their condition or likely consequences of any treatment or its refusal;
  • The doctor is not required to consider or assess the patient’s mental capacity to decide including depression;
  • The doctor is not required to recommend a palliative consult (if relevant);
  • The doctor is not required to consult any colleagues for a further opinion about the patient’s illness or mental capacity;
  • There is no obligation on the patient to consider their decision again after a short time;
  • While there is a standard form 'Refusal of Medical Treatment' document that can be signed to provide documentary evidence of the refusal, it is not mandatory;
  • There is no mandated path of reporting or review.

 
Indeed, a doctor who goes on to administer medical interventions to the patient who has refused them is guilty of the offence of ‘medical trespass’ and can be prosecuted.

Further, it is quite legal for a patient to decide to die by voluntary refusal of food and fluids, an option suggested as appropriate by Dr Bill Sylvester in an IQ2 debate at Melbourne Town Hall in November 2012, to a hostile reaction from the audience. Some doctors provide respite care to patients choosing this path. however, like refusal of medical treatment, there are no legislated safeguards.

On the basis of these two kinds of end-of-life decision making that have been lawful for at least a quarter century in Victoria, and which have no legislated safeguards, what evidence do we have of the so-called ‘slippery slope’ of resource-strapped healthcare providers or greedy relatives persuading the sick to choose a path to die earlier rather than later?

Both Victoria Police and the former Minister for Health, the Hon. David Davis, have advised that there are no known prosecutions under the provisions of the Medical Treatment Act 1988 for such inappropriate persuasion.

So, in Victoria we have the experience of two forms of decision-making whose direct and foreseeable consequence is death, with no mandated safeguards and within 'finite healthcare resources' (which Mr Andrews refers to as his reason), not resulting in prosecutions for persuasion to 'choose' death.

If Mr Andrews’ argument is that terminally ill Victorians ought to be denied the right to choose assisted dying because of supposed slippery slopes of persuasion, that argument would exactly and equally apply to the refusal of life-saving medical treatment and to the refusal of food and fluids.

Surely his Government is not suggesting that the existing rights be rescinded: that patients be forced to receive any and all life-saving and life-prolonging treatment in order to avoid a 'persuasion' bogeyman who doesn’t exist?

The Premier's stance is even less defensible in the light of proposed assisted dying legislation which includes a suite of checks and balances that are absent from existing rights.

Some dying individuals, reflecting upon their circumstances and deeply-held values and beliefs, determine that alighting from the train of terminal illness one or two stops before the terminus is a vastly better option than being forced to endure the train ride until the very end. We compound their indignities by saying it’s OK to decide to starve yourself to death (and we might even provide support along the way), but not OK to decide to die peacefully surrounded by loved ones at a predetermined time.

It is commendable that the Legislative Council has resolved to investigate the issue of end-of-life decisions, and whose final report will better inform the Premier and all Parliamentarians. Submissions to the Committee are open until Monday 31st August.


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The opinion piece in The Age.

In today’s Fairfax press, Sydney woman Mary Ticinovic advances a number of reasons as to why she believes that assisted dying is not merciful. The by-line identifies her as a “clinical psychologist”. But her arguments are not founded on the basic tenets of psychology. How so?

Read Mary’s opinion piece in The Age

All life is precious

Mary argues that to support assisted dying is to go “against the principle that all life is precious.” She offers no substantive explanation, invoking the notion of ‘human worth’, stating that it exists regardless of the health state or suffering of the person, and complaining that assisted dying promotes the idea that “your life is no longer worth living”.

These are not psychological arguments. We can agree that life is precious. But reluctantly deciding to hasten one’s death in the face of intolerable and unrelievable terminal suffering doesn’t negate that preciousness. Indeed, to some people, choosing assisted dying can evidence the preciousness of one’s very capacities and values as a human.

Whose standards?

Mary further muses over “by whose standards would we judge if life is not worthwhile any more”, as though this is only some vague theoretical argument amongst philosophers or doctors. This is not a psychological argument, either. Under assisted dying law reform, it is only the dying individual’s world-view and circumstances that determine whether he or she feels life is worth living: not anyone else. General philosophical theory doesn’t come into it.

She further argues that assisted dying “promotes a utilitarian view of humanity”. This is not a psychological argument, either. Nor is it valid. Indeed, legalised assisted dying respects the very nature of the diversity of humanity by enabling the world-views many people hold most dear: that of making rational choices consistent with their own beliefs, values and circumstances. Some patients, for example in Oregon, are deeply religious and believe that their God is compassionate and understands and respects their choice to avoid intolerable suffering. That’s not utilitarian at all.

Harm and the Hippocratic Oath

Mary invokes the Hippocratic Oath said by her medical friends to oblige doctors to “do no harm” and that the medical role is “in healing and helping the patient to be restored to health.” This is simplistic nonsense, not a psychological argument.

Firstly, doctors do harm all the time: think of surgical procedures or chemotherapy. Many medical interventions do harm, but we accept the harm because we expect there to be a commensurately greater good as a result.

Secondly, medical practice cannot always “restore the patient to health” as Mary exclusively puts it. What then? The dying patient may judge that the unrelievable suffering they will experience along the path to death is a greater harm than dying a little earlier. And, doctors also have a primary duty to relieve suffering, which Mary doesn’t mention. What is under review is whether a doctor may participate in the relief of intolerable and unrelievable suffering— by hastening death—if the patient believes this is the lesser harm.

Thirdly, the Hippocratic Oath is around 2,300 years old. It requires doctors to swear allegiance to ancient Greek gods. It forbids women from becoming doctors. It requires current doctors to train the next generation free of charge, and it forbids surgery. Contemporary doctors don’t take it, and it’s certainly not “part of training” as Mary mistakenly states.

None of these are psychology arguments.

'Sucker’s choice'

Mary then argues that requiring dying patients to endure until the end promotes—and that assisted dying prevents—“fostering gratitude”, “reconciling hurts or differences with family members or friends” and “showing them strategies or different ways to approach their pain and suffering”.

But, in jurisdictions where assisted dying is legal, for example in Oregon in the USA, these are precisely things that are encouraged under assisted dying. Doctors are required to inform applicants of available medical and palliative interventions. Family gathers on notice of an anticipated death, music and poetry is shared, and expressions of love, devotion and gratitude are exchanged.

If a dying patient has no intention of reconciling with family or reflecting on approaches to dealing with their pain and suffering under an assisted dying law, precisely the same intention applies to the current regime that requires the patient to endure until the end. To assume a difference is a false dichotomy.

Obligatory compassion

Mary also argues that assisted dying ought to remain outlawed because “nursing a sick loved one is a way to give back”. This is yet another specious non-psychology argument. It promotes the ‘right’ of the ‘nurse’ to express love and devotion through ‘caring interventions’ at the expense of the dying patient’s own world view and deeply-held wish for a hastened death. Now who’s being utilitarian?

The upshot

I ran Mary’s opinion piece past an experienced psychologist, who described it as little to do with psychology. Note that neither of us has experience of or is commenting on Mary’s expertise as a clinical psychologist: she may indeed be a very good one.

My associate wondered out loud if Mary’s arguments were based more on underlying religious views than anything else. I agreed: they seemed to me remarkably consistent with the arguments advanced by religious opponents, even though they avoided directly religious words. So I did a little research.

It turns out that Mary is a committed and active Sydney Catholic.* Evidence abounds of her devotion to the Catholic tradition, and I commend her for her conscientious reflective practice and participation in it.

However, I argue that neither the stated psychological qualification nor the unstated religious affiliation make the offered arguments valid.

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* By way of fairness, I place on the record that I am agnostic.


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Neil Francis announces the official launch of DyingForChoice.com, the world's premier source of reliable, evidence-based information about assisted dying, and responsible law reform to permit it in restricted circumstances.

Hi, and thanks for dropping by.

I'm delighted to announce the official launch of DyingForChoice.com. The mission is to help society work towards responsible assisted dying law reform, a reform wanted by the great majority of citizens in many countries. Yet assisted dying (in one form or another) is still illegal in many jurisdictions.

DyingForChoice.com will lay out the case for restricted assisted dying including world-view arguments, but also importantly provide rigorous factual evidence and analysis. This approach is a deliberate counter-measure to mistaken information — 'misinformation', more colloquially known as 'bull' — that is available so widely and repeated so often.

Misinformation can take the form of flapdoodle, filibuster, flip-flop, fudge or outright fiction. Ultimately it's fear-mongering via the promotion of bull. Legislative reform — so that all citizens are afforded the right to enact their own deeply-held world views and cherished values at the end of life, whatever those may be — deserves to be informed by quality information.

Exposing misinformation works. Already, my exposure of the 'suicide contagion' myth has resulted in selected website 'information' being withdrawn. It's up to all of us to hold a bright spotlight up to misinformation and to ask people not to spread bull.

So subscribe to our monthly newsletter to keep abreast of developments. You can also create your own login which will allow you to comment on posts, subject of course to our terms of use. Just use the Register link in the header bar.

You can also subscribe to our Twitter feed, catch up with our Facebook page, and watch any of our videos on our YouTube channel: just click the relevant button in the header bar.

So, keep in touch, stay up to date, and if you have a burning issue you would particularly like us to report on, just send a message using our Contact form.

Cheers for now

Neil Francis


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The lower house of the Parliament of Victoria has passed the VAD Bill.

Update 20th October 2017

Victorians are a step closer to having the choice of assisted dying in the face of a terminal illness. After a marathon all-nighter sitting, the Legislative Assembly (lower house) this morning passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017. The Bill will now be sent to the Legislative Council (upper house).

The vote was won convincingly at 47:37, despite heroic efforts of opponents to create FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) through extensive misinformation, and filibustering the Bill's progress by putting up amendements to numerous clauses.

The Legislative Council is expected to debate the Bill next month.


 

Update 21st September 2017

In great news for Victorians, yesterday (20th September 2017), the Government tabled its Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill into the lower house of the legislature. The Bill is comprehensive, offering Victorians a further end-of-life choice, with numerous safeguards, and the stiffest pentalties worldwide for breaking the rules.

  • Read the Bill's explanatory memorandum (PDF, 273Kb).
  • Read the whole Bill (PDF, 945Kb).
     

Parliamentary debate on the Bill is likely to commence mid October, so now is the time to contact your own members of the Victorian parliament and let them know you support the Bill. If you don't know which electorate you live in or who your members are, or don't have their contact details, then:

  • Visit the Victorian Electoral Commission website and enter your home address, at the top of the page, to find out. It will show you your upper and lower house electorates. Make a note of the lower house electorate (District, in purple).
  • Then go to the Victorian Parliament website and enter your lower house electorate name in the Electorate field (the last one) and click Search, to find your lower house member. Note down your Member's contact details.
  • Then, also click the [Electorate] button on the Member's page (on the right) and then click the Region link on the target page. This also gives you the names and details of your five upper house parliamentarians.
  • Take down their contact details and let them all know you're asking them to support the Bill.

The Standing Committee on Legal and Social Issues (Legislation and References) of the Parliament of Victoria, Australia, has recommended that the Government introduce leglislation to allow assisted dying in restricted circumstances.

Update 9th June 2016

In excellent news for Victorians, the LSIC has recommended that the Government legislate to allow assisted dying in restricted circumstances.

 

"Recommendation 49: The Government should introduce legislation to allow adults with decision making capacity, suffering from a serious and incurable condition who are at the end of life to be provided assistance to die in certain circumstances."

The recommendations include:

  • Eligibility: A mentally competent adult experiencing intolerable and unrelievable suffering, with weeks or months to live. Must be ordinarily resident in Victoria and an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
  • A process by which requests may be made (and rescinded).
  • Checks and tests to ensure that relevant critieria have been met.
  • Establishment of an authority to receive reports of assisted dying and present reports to Parliament.
  • That conscientious objection (to not participate) is protected.
  • That in the case that a patient cannot self-administer lethal medication, a doctor may do so at the patient's request.

 
You can read the full report here.

 

Important!

The recommendation has yet to translate into a Bill and a majority vote of both Houses of the Victorian Parliament. Some parliamentarians are intractably opposed to this reform and it's important that policitians hear from you to know that you want them to support the reform.

Sign the petition to go to all Victorian parliamentarians now, and spread the word!

 


 

 

Submissions were invited from interested individuals and organisations into end-of-life decision-making in Victoria, including:

  • current practices including palliative care;
  • whether current legislation satisfactorily encompasses contemporary community standards, aspirations and views;
  • a review of legislation and practices in other jurisdictions, both within Australia and overseas; and
  • what types of legislative change may be required.

Submissions to the inquiry, which have not been requested to remain confidential, are published on the Parliamentary website here.

Despite the Terms of Reference for the inquiry  (below) do not mention assisted dying, almost all submissions to the inquiry have been made either to support or oppose the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted dying. Clearly, the community is strongly engaged with the issue.

More information is available on the Victorian Parliament Inquiry's website.

 

Submissions have now closed.

 

Terms of Reference   

 

STANDING COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND
SOCIAL ISSUES
(Legislation and References)

 

Terms of Reference

58th Parliament

 

Inquiry into End of Life Choices

 

On 7 May 2015 the Legislative Council agreed to the following motion:

That pursuant to Sessional Order 6 this House requires the Legal and Social Issues Committee to inquire into, consider and report, no later than 31 May 2016, on the need for laws in Victoria to allow citizens to make informed decisions regarding their own end of life choices and, in particular, the Committee should —

  1. assess the practices currently being utilised within the medical community to assist a person to exercise their preferences for the way they want to manage their end of life, including the role of palliative care;
  2. review the current framework of legislation, proposed legislation and other relevant reports and materials in other Australian states and territories and overseas jurisdictions; and
  3. consider what type of legislative change may be required, including an examination of any federal laws that may impact such legislation.

 

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The launch of DyingForChoice.com, a service dedicated to reasoned argument in supported of assisted dying law reform, and underpinned by sound evidence, has been announced.

Assisted dying law reform leader, Mr Neil Francis, today announced the launch of a new assisted dying service, DyingForChoice.com. Mr Francis said that in addition to solid and reliable evidence about assisted dying practice, a key goal of the new service is to highlight false and misleading arguments used by opponents of assisted dying law reform.

"We can respect deeply-held views in opposition to assisted dying law reform," said Mr Francis, "but it is not appropriate to advance misinformation, however unintentionally, in opposition to reform."

The great majority of citizens of many countries want the right, if faced with the unrelievable torture of a terminal illness, to choose a hastended death on their own terms. In Australia, opinion in favour of assisted dying choice has been in the majority for over four decades.

Initiatives are underway in numerous jurisdictions to bring statutory reform to permit assisted dying choice. Mr Francis said it was the goal of DyingForChoice.com to provide empirical support for reform initiatives. "It's critical that legislators are well-informed, and not swayed inappropriately by specious argument or misleading claims," said Mr Francis.

He stated that while the initial website was fairly simple, a range of services were in planning to deliver enhanced value to campaigners.


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Dying Victorian man Peter Short, and his wife Elizabeth talk about coping with Peter's terminal illness, and make a plea to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to meet with them to discuss responsible assisted dying law reform. Peter has since died.

Visit the YouTube page.

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