The Australian state of New South Wales passed legislation on May 19 to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia. With its passage, voluntary assisted dying is now legal throughout the entire country.
According to The Guardian, the new law allows assisted death for a person with a terminal illness who has been given six months to live. It will also be allowed for a person who has been given 12 months to live if they have a neurodegenerative condition and experience suffering. The person must make the decision to die voluntarily, without duress, and they must get clearance from two medical professionals. The bill passed with a final vote of 23 to 15 in the New South Wales Parliament’s Upper House.
One of the bill’s most troubling components is that it does not have any conscience protections that would allow healthcare organizations to decline to offer assisted death on their premises.
“Catholic health and aged care providers are disappointed and saddened by the passing of a law that violates their ethic of care,” said Brigid Meney of Catholic Health Australia.
READ: Man charged with wife’s murder, claims it was assisted suicide
“This law will force organizations that do not agree with assisted suicide to allow doctors onto their premises to prescribe and even administer restricted drugs with the intention of terminating a resident’s life – without even informing the facility,” she went on. “These laws ignore the rights of staff and residents who may choose to work and live in a particular residential facility because of their opposition to assisted suicide.”
Damien Tudehope, the Leader of the government in the Legislative Council, also spoke against the legislation. “Some will say this is a great moment for NSW,” he said during the debate. “I will leave here today thinking this is a dark day for our state.”
Opponents of the legislation have argued that better palliative care is necessary for those who are suffering, not easier access to suicide. Indeed, while advocates of the bill say that it will allow those who are suffering to experience “control” and a “peaceful death,” the evidence shows that often, death by assisted suicide is painful and patients may effectively drown. The wish to die is a cry for help — and it should be treated as such.
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