Freedom and Rights

1. Assisted Dying

Aim: Give people facing a painful death the right to legally choose an assisted and more peaceful death, while ensuring these provisions are not abused.

1.1. Policy: Introduce legislation to make physician-assisted dying available to people who:

  • have a terminal illness as confirmed by two qualified medical practitioners;
  • are over 18 years of age;
  • are not experiencing a mental health episode that may prevent them from making consensual health decisions; and
  • are not in a state that prevents the making of consensual health conditions (such as severe mental disability, brain damage or coma);

With the following safeguards:

  • the procedure must be reviewed by a court in each instance;
  • the patient must first receive appropriate psychological or psychiatric counselling for underlying mental health conditions;
  • and the patient must be made aware of all available treatments, expected duration of remaining life and expected pain levels;

And the provision that physician-assisted dying may only be conducted in:

  • dedicated and registered hospices or clinics; or
  • the homes of those who intend to end their life.

1.2. Discussion: The Science Party is committed to life-exending and life-improving medical advances. We also recognise that some people currently face painful end-of-life scenarios and that cures for their conditions are unlikely in the time that those people are expected to live.

If a person has freely decided to end their own life to avoid a painful death, the actions of medical professionals who choose to assist that person should not be criminalised. Carefully-crafted legislation should address the risks of coercion by the state, doctors and family of someone who may be considering physician-assisted dying.

Physician-assisted dying for the terminally ill, on the consultation of two doctors, has been legal in Oregon, USA, and the Netherlands for many years. Evidence from these jurisdictions suggests that the law has been used as intended and not abused.

We also believe it is important to not conduct physician-assisted dying in regular hospitals, to avoid adding to the anxieties that people may have about going to hospital to address a medical issue.

 

1.3. Policy: Create a new offence that criminalises coercing individuals into using physician-assisted dying services.

1.4. Discussion: This law would be similar to existing laws that make it an offence to encourage someone to commit suicide. This law needs to be carefully constructed to allow people to provide information to people who are in end of life situations, but strong enough such that badgering a person into death is an offence with a proportional sentence attached to it. 

 

1.5. Policy: Legalise the sale of publications related to physician-assisted dying.

1.6. Discussion: We believe in a strong debate surrounding the issue of physician-assisted dying. Books by Philip Nitschke which describe processes by which someone may die a less painful medically-assisted death are currently banned in Australia. If the aim of banning these books is to prevent self harm, the ban is unlikely to achieve that aim. Banning these books silences debate on the issue, so we therefore oppose banning books on the baiss that they discuss physician-assisted dying options.

 

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