Why Choice is an Illusion?

Monday, June 15, 2020

Australia: If Assisted Dying Is a Right, Must It Be Made Available to Everyone?

Queensland Parliament
By Margaret Dore, Esq.

A Queensland Australia Parliamentary Committee has made recommendations concerning voluntary assisted dying or VAD, meaning euthanasia and assisted suicide.[1]

Of special interest is the Committee's Recommendation 17, referring to "rights" of the patients to access VAD. The recommendation states:
The committee recommends that any voluntary assisted dying scheme in Queensland provides health practitioners who may have a conscientious objection to participating in voluntary assisted dying to opt not to participate, provided that the rights of the patients to access the scheme are also protected.  (Emphasis added).[2]
In the United States, the New Mexico Supreme Court addressed a similar issue, finding that to recognize a right to physician aid in dying (meaning physician-assisted suicide) would lead to voluntary or involuntary euthanasia. The 5-0 decision states in part:
[W]e agree with the legitimate concern that recognizing a right to physician aid in dying will lead to voluntary or involuntary euthanasia because if it is a right, it must be made available to everyone, even when a duly appointed surrogate makes the decision, and even when the patient is unable to self-administer the life-ending medication.  (Emphasis added).[3]

[1]  Report No. 34, 56th Parliament; Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee, March 2020, page 13 ("the committee has defined the term voluntary assisted dying (VAD) for the inquiry as: the administration [of a lethal dose] by a medical practitioner [which is euthanasia], or self-administration by the person, [which is assisted suicide] ....).
[2]  Id., page 144.
[3]  Morris v Brandenburg, 376 P.3d 836, 848 (2016).