03 March 2003
From: The West Australian
By Julie Butler
LEGISLATION allowing voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill may be debated this year in State Parliament.
Legislative Council leader Kim Chance said he hoped a reform of Upper House sitting hours would soon see time set aside each week to debate non-Government Bills.
Assuming it did, voluntary euthanasia legislation introduced by Greens (WA) MLC Robin Chapple would probably be among the private member's Bills debated. Mr Chance said his personal view was that euthanasia was an issue society needed to understand.
"It is obviously a difficult question for many members and people in the community, but I think it's one we have got to try to come to terms with," he said.
But given the long list of Government legislation waiting to be debated in the House, the Bill was not a Government priority.
Premier Geoff Gallop has said the Labor Party would allow a debate and conscience vote on euthanasia if one of the other parties put a Bill before Parliament.
Mr Chapple said there was broad community support for voluntary euthanasia and people wanted a debate. It was clear that suicides were occurring, particularly among the aged, which caused a great deal of trauma for surviving family members and potential legal risk for medical professionals.
Instead of being forced into bizarre means of taking their lives there should be a dignified process for those who, because of a clinical condition, were at the end of their tether and felt enough was enough.
Euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke said he had also found strong support in WA.
He was next due in Perth in May and about 60 people had already booked to do his workshops, which were usually attended by people who were not sick but wanted information. Six people who were quite ill and wanted to discuss their options had booked in as clinic patients.
WA Voluntary Euthanasia Society president Ralph White said his group had been pressing for a debate on the subject for 23 years. But Parliament should pass laws wider than Mr Chapple proposed.
There were many people not terminally ill but suffered with conditions from which they were not expected to recover. They also should have the option of euthanasia.
A Westpoll last year found 74 per cent of the people surveyed supported voluntary euthanasia.
Mr Chapple's Bill would allow terminally ill people to make legally binding plans for their deaths. They would be allowed to choose how they died and arrange it six months in advance.
They would have to be mentally competent, there would be steps to ensure their consent was authentic and a cooling-off period would apply. Anyone witnessing or assisting a death would be protected from prosecution.