Greens push for federal euthanasia laws

Australian Greens Senate candidate Cate Faehrmann has announced the party’s commitment to put voluntary assisted suicide on the political agenda in Canberra. National Seniors Australia, PCA, Alzheimer’s Australia and the ANMF also launch their campaigns.

By Linda Belardi and Natasha Egan.

The Australian Greens have today vowed to introduce the country’s first federal laws to legalise voluntary euthanasia in the next federal parliament.

Following a failed bid by the former NSW Greens MP and now federal Senate candidate Cate Faehrmann to pass a bill in NSW in May, the Greens have pledged to take the issue to Canberra.

Greens health spokesperson Senator Richard Di Natale told a Sydney press conference the party would move a senate inquiry “early” in the next parliament with a view to introducing a ‘dying with dignity’ bill soon after.

The Senate inquiry would aim to examine the domestic and international legislation in preparation for developing Australia’s first national laws.

Under the Greens’ proposal, a terminally ill person would have to be examined by two independent medical practitioners as well as a psychiatrist before being assisted to die.

The patient would have to be of “sound mind” and all physician-assisted deaths would be subject to review.

No health care provider such as a doctor, nurse, palliative care centre or hospital would be compelled to participate.

According to the Greens, the laws would seek to regulate and establish safeguards around a practice that is already happening behind “closed doors”.

“Physicians and families are already taking actions to ease the suffering of their patients and loved ones. Many are acting beyond the law and most support reform,” the Greens’ policy document says.

Dr Di Natale cited a 2011 survey conducted by The Australia Institute that showed that more than 75 per cent of Australians supported voluntary euthanasia as evidence that legal reform was not keeping pace with community attitudes.

Ms Faehrmann said she had spent two years researching voluntary euthanasia laws and listening to the views of families and those suffering in pain from a terminal illness.

In February, the Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings and Greens leader Nick McKim introduced a joint private members bill to legalise voluntary assisted suicide in that state, which will be debated later this year. The bill has been strongly opposed by the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Medical Association.

Federal election 2013 – election platforms

While the Greens were touting support for euthanasia as a “vote changer”, elsewhere other health lobbies and peak bodies including National Seniors Australia, Palliative Care Australia, Alzheimer’s Australia and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation have announced their election priorties.

National Seniors Australia launched its election campaign in Brisbane on Thursday seeking fairer treatment for people aged over 50.

National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill told seniors and political representatives that as older people make up 47 per cent of voters, it is likely they will determine the result of the upcoming election.

Parties which ignore seniors’ issues and concerns will pay the price at the ballot box, he said.

National Seniors has called on whichever party gets elected to provide more certainty in the economy, living costs and health care and bring an end to stereotyping of older Australians and age-based exclusion.

Their demands include no further superannuation rule changes, support for mature age employment, Medicare to include oral health, support for initiatives to stamp out ageism, and the removal of the age limit to access DisabilityCare.

For a full copy of the National Seniors’ election demands document go to: National Seniors 2013 election demands

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) is calling on all political parties and 2013 election candidates to commit to making quality care at the end of life a reality for all Australians as part of its election platform Make palliative care your business.

PCA’s election statement sets out what needs to be done to ensure that any person who needs it receives care which enhances their quality of life until death in the place of their choosing.

PCA president Professor Patsy Yates said only 30 to 50 per cent of people who would benefit from palliative care services receive them.

“Each year this leaves at least 75,000 Australians and their families without adequate support at the end of life, which is unacceptable,” she said.

Priority areas outlined in the statement include measures to ensure all Australian have awareness about, and equitable access to quality services where and when they need them, education provisions for health professionals, nationally consistent advance care planning legislation, funding to support the development of innovative service models, support for carers and a national strategy for training and coordinating volunteers.

Read the Palliative Care Australia 2013 Election Platform: Make palliative care your business

Alzheimer’s Australia president Ita Buttrose has called on all 2013 federal election candidates to publicly commit to fighting dementia by becoming a dementia champion.

“Help us beat dementia and make a difference to the lives of many of your fellow Citizens,” she said in Alzheimer’s Australia’s Fight Dementia Campaign election document.

Ms Buttrose said bipartisan support over the last 10 years had achieved better outcomes for people with dementia and their carers.

At this election Alzheimer’s Australia is seeking a commitment from the next federal government to continue to implement the LLLB reforms and to build on these reforms in six key areas.

Those areas target choice and flexibility in community care; dementia-specific respite; quality in residential care for those with behavioural and psychological symptoms;  a national network of dementia key workers; $200 million in dementia research funding; and a National Action Framework on dementia to better equip the health system.

Read about its election campaign here: Fight Dementia Campaign election 2013

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has called for major political parties and key independents to make aged care an election issue.

Following the latest allegations of mistreatment of nursing home residents shown on ABC Lateline this week, Federal Secretary Lee Thomas reiterated the ANMF’s zero tolerance to any form of mental or physical abuse of people in aged care facilities.

It is time for bipartisan action to ensure older Australians receive high quality care from a well-educated and prepared workforce, Ms Thomas said.

The ANMF is seeking commitment from the ALP, Coalition, Greens and independents, on identified solutions, including a registered nurse on site 24 hours a day at all stand-alone aged care facilities; minimum staffing levels and skill mix; an annual review of aged care funding to ensure staff are paid the same as those in the public health system; a national registration scheme for all care workers; and enhanced transparency and accountability in funding to ensure it is focused on the quality of care.



Tags: australian-greens, cate-faehrmann, doctors, euthanasia, richard-di-natale,

5 thoughts on “Greens push for federal euthanasia laws

  1. There are some really worthwhile proposals afoot. But first I would like our politicians to show they understand and will promote the overall importance of increasing longevity awareness in individuals, organisations and the wider community.

    We rightly negotiate and promote the many sub-issues arising from the longevity revolution. However we are neglecting the vital foundation work needed to inform and enlist the whole community in preparing for the massive implications of increasing longevity.

    I would like to see our potential leaders commit to increasing longevity awareness in the community. This would be an inexpensive but vital precursor to securing the opportunities in having a massive and well informed senior resource, as well as highlighting the challenges we will all face.

    Individual issues are important but encourage fragmented political thinking and action.
    By committing to increasing longevity awareness, candidates would show they are listening and thinking about it as a strategic issue – which is not much in evidence to date.

  2. I’m 73 and during my lifetime I have endured the loss of many many friends and relatives to horrible illnesses and dreadful conditions and I am one of the 75% of Australian citizens who want the legal right to choose a Physician Assisted Dying when or if my life due to pain and suffering no longer has any quality.It Is Time that our elected representatives listened to and responded to the majority will of the people who elect them. A conscience vote if allowed to Politicians has no validity if their vote/choice denies the electors their right to freedom of choice.

  3. I am a dutch australian female of 81 years old and I come from a country where I would be able to decide that I want to die, to ask for an assisted death, and to be ensured I get medical help to do so, when I detect mental deterioration. This is, from my experience and from talking to others my age, the most important reason for which we want to have the right to an assisted death: the fear of dementia or Alzheimers. Of course I would support the terminally ills rights to die, but I am afraid that as always those of us who are aged do not have a voice. In the Netherlands a current survey has found that 91% of people over 80 years of age want to die at the moment they are tired of living and see no future mentally and physically.
    I do not ask others to die when they do not want to, but we should have the right to decide for ourselves. Furthermore, the medical and the nursinghome lobbies are not going to support this desire,because caring for the aged is big business, but it is extremely important to realise how much caring for the aged costs the community and this will only increase when the population ages.

  4. I agree with Pamela’s comments above about a CONSCIENCE vote.
    Why should a politician be allowed to CHOOSE how s/he votes if it means denying choice to his/her constituents?
    Assisted Dying must be part of the spectrum of Palliative Care.

  5. Full supports to your legislative right to self euthanasia laws in Australia- I feel we need this right

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