Private Thoughts of Public Representatives: Assisted Death, Voluntary Euthanasia and Politicians
Journal of Law and Medicine, 11(1), pp. 77-92, 2003
Posted: 10 Jul 2016
Date Written: 2003
Assisted death and voluntary euthanasia have received significant and sustained media attention in recent years. High-profile cases of people seeking assistance to end their lives have raised, at least in the popular press, debate about whether individuals should be able to seek such assistance at a time when they consider their suffering to be unbearable or their quality of life unsatisfactory. Other recent developments include a number of attempts to legislate on the issue by the minor parties in Australia and the successful enactment of legislation in a few overseas jurisdictions. However, despite all of the recent attention that has focused on assisted death and voluntary euthanasia, a discussion of the adequacy of existing laws has not made it onto the political agenda of any of the Australian State or Territory governments. This is in spite of the fact that the private views of the majority of our elected Members of Parliament may be supportive of reform. This article explores the role of politicians’ views and, as a case study, considers the opinions expressed by a number of Queensland Members of Parliament. In light of the views of these politicians and those of members of the public, as well as considerations arising from current medical practice, the article argues that there is a need for open political debate on assisted death and voluntary euthanasia. The article also suggests ways that such a debate may be achieved while minimising any political impact on governments that are prepared at least to consider this issue.
Keywords: Euthanasia, End of life decision-making, Conscience vote, Law reform
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