This speech is to indicate that the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK will be supporting the Consent To Medical Treatment And Palliative Care (Voluntary Euthanasia) Amendment Bill.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (22:06): I last addressed the Legislative Council on this matter in November 2003 and, while I was supportive in principle at that stage of the framing of that particular bill, mainly based on my liberal view that people should be able to make the choices that they choose to make rather than being subject to the requirements of the state, my concerns related to elder abuse and coercion. Like the Hon. Gail Gago, I have worked in the hospital system and am aware of some of the pressures that family members can place on their loved ones.
Also, because when we are talking about a matter which is as serious as deliberately ending somebody's life, which under other circumstances is murder and prosecutable, we need to make sure that the legislation is very strictly framed. I would also like to thank all of those individuals who have written, phoned or emailed me in relation to providing their point of view. I think one of the jobs as a legislator is to use our judgment and to take into consideration the views of our constituents but, on this matter, I would have to say that people are either in favour or against and there is not much of a middle path. If one is trying to do a survey of whether or not people say 'I urge you to support this', it is academic really and ultimately we have to consider all of the different matters before us and apply that in the best way we are able.
I stated in my previous speech that the only circumstances under which I would support a bill in favour of voluntary euthanasia would be under fairly narrow circumstances—that is, for somebody who is terminally ill, who has no prospects of recovery and for whom their illness is keeping them in a state which is beyond bearing.
Palliative care has come a very long way and continues to make advances, but the reality is that it cannot help everybody. There are people who have illnesses and diseases that just cannot be assisted through palliative care means. I also appreciate the current legislation that we have which enables a person's death to be hastened through the double effect.
I was very happy to speak to one constituent in Dr Roger Hunt who is a specialist in palliative care of some 25 years. I have had a little bit to do with him because I worked at the Repat in Daw House, which is the palliative care unit at the Repatriation General Hospital. His particular experience I found very valuable, given that he has worked in this area for some time.
I think that we need to be realistic about what actually happens in hospitals and the pressure that health professionals are put under by people who ask, 'Can you help me?' If the doctor is to literally interpret what they understand, they are really being asked to hasten their end. The law as it stands is trying to interpret whether or not the doctor is to be prosecuted for a double effect. It is trying to interpret the intent of the doctor, which I think is really unfair; it leaves them quite vulnerable.
A lot of people who have contacted us have various concerns about this, which I can understand, but I think they have misunderstood the legislation before us. I think it is important for us to understand what this legislation is and what it is not. The withdrawal of treatment is not voluntary euthanasia. We are not seeking to use this device as a Darwinian economic measure to do away with people who are no longer useful to society. That is inhumane and monstrous, I think, to all of us. We are not seeking to assist people who may be depressed or suicidal to end their life early. This is definitely for people who do not have any prospects of recovery.
I, clearly, will be supporting this legislation. I would like to commend the honourable member for having structured the bill in what I think enables it in the most appropriate of circumstances. I do not have the concerns that I had previously, so I commend this bill to the council.