Yesterday, 15 October, saw the second day of public hearings for the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry into the Exposure Draft Medical Treatment (Dying with Dignity) Bill moved by Senator Richard Di Natale. Those who presented evidence in favour of legislation were extremely impressive, including Tasmanian Professor Margaret Otlowski, DwDVic President, Lesley Vick, and Professor Willoughby and Dr Robert Marr representing the group, Doctors for Voluntary Euthanasia Choice.
But the most outstanding witness was Peter Short, a terminally ill man, whose presentation was brave, moving, intelligent, insightful and the most graphic illustration of the need for a legal voluntary assisted dying choice. You can read about yesterday and much more on his blog at http://petershort.com.au/ . It also includes links to today’s newspaper articles and last night’s Channel 7 News (with – regrettably – Philip Nitschke and his machine in the middle of it!).
Tasmania’s Senator Lisa Singh also played a very positive role on the Committee yesterday, asking pertinent and challenging questions, especially of those who regurgitated the same old inaccurate, poorly informed, skewed and irrational claims. Yesterday, and on 3 October,the first day of hearings there were claims made that were demonstrably inaccurate. For example, the Australian Christian Lobby representative, Lyle Shelton, Managing Director, said of the legislation in the Netherlands and Belgium: “I know that terminal illness is a requirement , and intractable pain” (from Hansard for the hearing, page 59). The fact is “terminal illness” is not, and has never been, a requirement in the Netherlands and Belgium, as Mr Shelton ought reasonably to have known given how easy it is to access that information. The Netherlands and Belgian laws also use the term “suffering”, which is broader and more relevant than “pain”.
Senator Singh has taken the time and effort to become well-informed and will be able to provide the Committee with a great deal of information to inform its final report and on amendments to the Bill to improve it. In the DwDTas submission to the inquiry we recommended that substantial amendments be made. It looks as if we can expect a positive report from the Senate Committee, and yet another step towards badly needed voluntary assisted dying legislation.