VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA BILL

Thursday 14 April, 2016

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (11:09): I rise to speak on the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill of 2016, and do so as respectfully as possible. Like many members, I have put this bill to the electorate to gauge their views on the bill itself. In short, what I will say is that, on the whole, my electorate did not support this bill, and my own conscience does not support this bill. I thank all who have made submissions. I respect and acknowledge the arguments on both sides, and I have weighed up these arguments carefully. Many more have been against the bill in my electorate than have been for it.

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (11:09): I rise to speak on the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill of 2016, and do so as respectfully as possible. Like many members, I have put this bill to the electorate to gauge their views on the bill itself. In short, what I will say is that, on the whole, my electorate did not support this bill, and my own conscience does not support this bill. I thank all who have made submissions. I respect and acknowledge the arguments on both sides, and I have weighed up these arguments carefully. Many more have been against the bill in my electorate than have been for it.

I believe that life is a precious thing and I think we should aim to preserve life wherever we can. Are there extreme exceptions? Yes. Does this bill adequately address these exceptions? My answer to that is: no. I also have a personal experience where this topic was actually called into question, which I would like to share with the house briefly.

Not so long ago, I was called into the Royal Adelaide Hospital when my grandfather was dying. I got to the emergency room and stood by his side while his hand was warm, and by the end of that visit his hand was cold. I actually experienced that recently. For me, it was a very sad event, but it really enabled me to understand what death is like for the family of the victim involved. Whilst there are ample arguments to suggest that everyone has a choice on how they should go, the fact is that it is more than just the person involved who is affected, because it also affects the family of those involved.

We have seen in some instances that euthanasia laws overseas have gotten completely out of control. Some countries in Europe are actually referring to euthanasia as assisted murder. I cannot stand with this bill on assisted suicide. I cannot stand for what people are calling assisted murder. Often family members will have the final say on when a person's life is to end. As we have heard, there can be many ulterior motives that can come into play. I believe strongly that this bill in its current form has the ability to diminish the role of good palliative care and good palliative care tools that are available in this state.

We have all heard about domestic disputes. My fear is that, due to the thirst of some for money or power, especially in some of these domestic dispute situations, no matter how many safeguards we put in place, these safeguards and hurdles can still be evaded. I do not want my community to be a place where people feel that they should not be allowed to live. The sick, elderly and those with disabilities should not be made to feel like they are a burden on society. I cannot stand for a bill which, if successful, may allow our community to be a community where some are made to feel like they, by living, are becoming a burden on society. That is wrong at law, that is wrong morally—it is just wrong.

On the front page of the bill we see that it states: 'A bill for an act to provide for choices at the end of life,' but we know that the person affected does not always have a choice. I cannot stand for what some call assisted state-sanctioned murder. I cannot vote for this as a member of parliament. I was a legal practitioner before I was a member of parliament and I cannot condone this change to the law.

I believe that the right to life is fundamental. I understand those in the community who would like to see euthanasia introduced to reduce suffering for some people at the end of life. However, as I have said, I have canvassed my electorate as well and my feedback has been in stark contrast to some of that that has been put forward this morning.

I believe that if voluntary euthanasia is introduced it is likely to be open to abuse from patients, family members and doctors. I believe that this legislation is not tight enough in its current form and it also allows for doctor shopping. I do not want to be involved in a community where life is commoditised; that is absolutely wrong.

If voluntary euthanasia is introduced it can be open to abuse. We will actually see more legal disputes regarding consent to die, whether the patient has mental capacity, where there has been undue influence by family members or third parties, and the more extreme, potential (who knows) charges for manslaughter if things are wrong.

The bill in its current form has the ability to weaken society's respect for the sanctity of life and I believe that by accepting this bill in its current format some may take the view that some lives are worth less than others. I believe that this does have the capacity, if the bill is passed in its current form, to be the beginning of a slippery slope and I do not want voluntary euthanasia and the killing of people who are thought to be undesirable by some.

Euthanasia may not be in the person's best interests. Euthanasia, as I have pointed out, affects other people's rights, not just those of the patient. Let me just say that all of the people who have come to see me in my office, because I have always extended an invitation to whoever wants to come to see me on this or any other issue, those people who have come into my office are those who are potentially looking to be, or their family members are looking to be, possibly, euthanased one day.

What about the families of those people? I think you will find that the families of those people have a different view. While I understand that it is the individual who will usually make the choice, this does have an impact on their extended family. This will have an impact on our community. I cannot be involved in a bill which, if successful, may allow for our community to be a community where some are made to feel like they, by living, are becoming a burden on society.

In the current format of the bill, I would like to talk about a couple of sections that speak to my argument: sections 4, 10 and 28. Section 4—Unbearable and hopeless suffering, is very subjective and can be open to abuse. Section 10—Who may make a request for voluntary euthanasia, again, is open to abuse. Section 28, I think, is the most damning. When you go to section 28—Insurance, it states:

(1) An insurer is not entitled to refuse to make a payment that is payable under a life insurance policy on the death of the insured on the ground that the death resulted from the administration of voluntary euthanasia.

(2) A person is not obliged to disclose a request for voluntary euthanasia to an insurer.

(3) An insurer must not ask a person to disclose whether the person has made a request for voluntary euthanasia…

(4) This section applies despite an agreement between a person and an insurer to the contrary.

I cannot stand for a bill that may allow ulterior motives to win, for ulterior motives to come into play. As I said, the thirst of some for money or for power, especially in domestic circles, no matter how many safeguards we put in place, these safeguards and hurdles can be evaded.

So, with respect, I speak against the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016. I have endeavoured to be as respectful as possible for all arguments. I have canvassed the electorate and the electorate has spoken and so have I.