On 24 June 2014 the Senate referred the Medical Services (Dying with
Dignity) Exposure Draft Bill 2014 (the Bill), to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 27 October 2014.
In referring the exposure draft of the Bill, the Senate requested that the
committee have regard to the rights of terminally ill people to seek assistance
in ending their lives, and an appropriate framework and safeguards with which
to do so.
The Bill before the committee is a Private Senator's exposure draft
Bill. It has been prepared by Senator Richard Di Natale of the Australian
The Bill is comprised of five Parts:
Proposed Part 1 sets out clauses 1 to 9 which include the
objectives of the Bill, key definitions and the constitutional basis for the
Bill. The objectives of the Bill, as set out in clause 3, are:
(a) to recognise the right of a mentally competent adult who
is suffering intolerably from a terminal illness to request a medical
practitioner to provide medical services that allows the person to end his or
her life peacefully, humanely and with dignity; and
(b) to grant a medical practitioner who provides such
services immunity from liability in civil, criminal and disciplinary
Proposed Part 2 (Dying with dignity medical services) sets out
clauses 10 to 15 of the Bill. Clauses 10 to 15 of the Bill contain the key
provisions, including the ability to request dying with dignity medical
pre-conditions that must be met to access dying with dignity medical services,
as well as additional requirements and provisions concerning rescinding a
request. The pre-conditions set out in clause 12, as well as the proposed
provisions of clauses 13, 14 and 15 are intended to provide safeguards. These
provisions attracted considerable comment in both submissions and public
Proposed Part 3 (administrative arrangements) of the Bill
contains clauses 16 to 20. The clauses include provisions for payment of
the medical practitioner. They also set out the record-keeping obligations for
medical practitioners who provide dying with dignity medical services.
Proposed Part 4 (Offences) sets out clauses 21 to 23. Clauses 21
to 23 of the Bill contain offence provisions, including a provision which will
make it an offence for a person to influence a medical practitioner in relation
to dying with dignity services, and another which will create an offence if a
medical practitioner fails to keep records.
Proposed Part 5 (Other matters) contains clauses 24 to 27.
Clauses 24 and 25 exempt persons acting under the proposed Act from civil,
criminal and disciplinary actions and provide such persons with immunity from
Conduct of the inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry in The Australian newspaper on
2 July 2014. Details of the inquiry were published on the committee's website
at www.aph.gov.au/senate_legcon. The
committee also made a pro forma submission available on its
website. The questions set out in the pro forma submission are attached at
Appendix 1. The pro forma submission was completed by over 4,700 submitters.
Approximately 54 per cent of people who completed the pro forma submission
expressed support for the proposal set out in the Bill, 44.7 per cent opposed
the proposal and the remaining were undecided. In addition, the committee wrote
to over 150 organisations and individuals inviting submissions by 21 August 2014.
The committee received over 700 submissions. Owing to the large number
of submissions received, the committee decided not to publish all submissions
on its website. Instead, an equal number of randomly selected individual
submissions (both supporting and opposing the Bill) were published in addition
to all submissions received from organisations and academics. A list of the
submissions published is at Appendix 2.
Public hearings were held on Friday 3 October 2014 in Canberra and
Wednesday 15 October 2014 in Melbourne. A list of witnesses who appeared at the
public hearings is at Appendix 3. The Hansard transcripts of the
committee's hearings can be accessed on the committee's website.
The committee wishes to acknowledge that whilst the Bill exists within a
broader policy debate on voluntary euthanasia, it resolved early in the inquiry
that it would focus on the provisions of the exposure draft Bill rather than
this broader debate. The committee therefore did not seek to inquire into
voluntary euthanasia more generally and this report should be considered in
The committee acknowledges the large volume of evidence it received
throughout its inquiry and thanks submitters for their contributions to the
inquiry through submissions and the giving of evidence at public hearings. The
committee is especially grateful to those who courageously shared their very
As set out above, in paragraphs 1.4 to 1.6, the committee received a
broad cross section of views in relation to the Bill. Although it was not
possible to hear from all submitters at public hearings, the committee did hear
from stakeholders representative of the range of views held.
Note on references
References in the report to the committee Hansard are to the
proof committee Hansard. Page numbers between the proof committee Hansard
and the official Hansard may differ.
Structure of the report
The report is comprised of five chapters:
This chapter introduces the inquiry and explains the process
undertaken by the committee.
Chapter 2 provides an outline of the views raised by submitters
both supporting and opposing voluntary euthanasia.
Chapter 3 examines the questions raised in respect of the
constitutional validity of the Bill in terms of the authority of the
Commonwealth to legislate in respect of voluntary euthanasia.
Chapter 4 examines issues raised in respect of the key provisions
of the exposure draft bill.
Chapter 5 sets out the committee's comments and recommendations.
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