Prime Minister Julia Gillard is right to be conflicted about changing the law so that killing a patient becomes an alternative to palliative care.
"Intellectually, you would say, people should be able to make their own decisions," she said this week.
"But I find it very hard to conceptualise the sort of safeguards that we would need if we did say that euthanasia was legal. So I am conflicted on it in that sense."
The last time there was a public discussion about what "safeguards" might be embedded in a euthanasia bill was last August when Australia's leading euthanasia activist, Dr Phillip Nitschke, fronted a parliamentary inquiry in Tasmania where, you guessed it, the Greens were pushing euthanasia.
Nitschke's testimony ( pages 100-115) should be required reading for every politician considering their vote in the upcoming Federal Parliamentary debate on Greens Leader Bob Brown's euthanasia bill.
Quizzed on long-standing concerns over whether he broke the law in the mid 1990s by euthanising patients who were not terminally ill, fudging a required psychiatric assessment and failing to have a specialist with the required qualifications assess a patient, Nitschke was breathtakingly brazen.
He freely admitted under oath that he probably breached the law by failing to have a proper psychiatric examination conducted on an unnamed socially isolated man whom he euthanised in his musty Darwin house.
"So maybe it was a breach but it was a breach that was motivated, I would say, by compassion," Nitschke told the Tasmanian Parliament.
The arrogance in this statement resonates strongly with that of other madmen in history who have presumed to play God with other people's lives.
In regard to the other allegations, he denies breaching the short-lived Northern Territory Rights of the Terminally Ill (ROTI) Act, but does not dispute that patients he euthanised were not terminally ill. There are also concerns that the Act was not followed when an orthopaedic surgeon assessed a patient for euthanasia who was suffering from a skin disease.
With no sense of irony, Nitschke tells Tasmanian politicians that he does not agree with the safeguard of having psychiatric assessments (p.112) and that doctors should not be the ones to give final sign off on whether someone should be euthanised (p.108).
From Nitschke's testimony it is clear he wants to make euthanasia the choice of the individual and no one else despite the consequences that such a radical change to our society's compact on the worth of human life might have on others.
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