Committee comment and recommendation
The committee acknowledges and thanks the many thousands of people who,
either through a representative organisation or as individuals, contributed to
its inquiry. The level of engagement suggested to the committee that, although
it was examining an exposure draft Bill rather than the broader policy issue of
voluntary euthanasia, it is important that this very complex and emotive issue
may be considered by the Parliament at some time in the future. Any debate
needs to be undertaken in a sensitive, respectful and constructive manner and
the committee is pleased to note that all who gave evidence to the committee
did so in this mature way.
As mentioned, the Bill referred to the committee is an exposure draft prepared
by an individual Senator. Therefore, as the Bill is not yet before the Senate,
the committee is limited in the recommendations it can make.
Although the evidence received enabled the committee to consider some of
the provisions of the Bill in detail, there remain some technical issues with a
number of the provisions of the Bill. These include clarification of the
definition of a dying with dignity service, clarification around the definition
of a terminal illness, the number of medical practitioners required to consider
the request, consistency of definition around decision-making capacity, and the
serious consequences for medical practitioners who relied upon the immunities
in the Bill if such immunities were later found to be unconstitutional.
The committee notes conflicting evidence it received in relation to the
primary constitutional basis for the Bill under paragraph 51(xxiiiA). The
committee was told that there could be very serious consequences for medical
practitioners who relied upon the immunities in the Bill, if such immunities
were later found to be unconstitutional. This concern is enlivened by the virtual
certainty that any federal legislation dealing with voluntary euthanasia will
face constitutional challenge.
The committee suggests that the proponent of the Exposure Draft of the Medical
Services (Dying with Dignity) Bill 2014 might address the technical and other issues
raised in evidence to the committee and seek the advice of relevant experts
before the Bill is taken further.
The committee recommends that, if a Bill dealing with this broad policy
issue is introduced in the Senate, Party Leaders should allow Senators a
Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
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