New South Wales becomes the 6th and final Australian state to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide | National Catholic Register
New South Wales has become the sixth and final Australian state to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. Its legislation requires healthcare and elder care organizations with religious objections to allow the practice on their premises.
“If a civilization is to be judged by how it treats its weakest members, the parliament of New South Wales has failed miserably and blazed a dark and dangerous path for all posterity, determining a new and disturbing definition of what it means to be human,” Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said May 19.
“Despite our disappointment, our fight for life does not end with this vote,” he added. He then invoked a phrase from Pope Francis: “We must redouble our efforts to care for those who fall victim to the ‘throwaway culture’ and instead rebuild a culture of life and love in this state. “.
The Upper House of Parliament in New South Wales voted to approve the Voluntary Medical Assistance in Dying Bill 2021 by a vote of 23 to 15 on Thursday. It will come into force in about 18 months, according to The Catholic weeklya publication of the Archdiocese of Sydney.
The bill authorizes euthanasia or assisted suicide for Australian citizens who are at least 18 years old. They must be terminally ill and expect to die within six months. Those who are expected to die in 12 months can request euthanasia or assisted suicide if they suffer from a neurodegenerative disease and experience unbearable suffering. Their request for euthanasia or assisted suicide must be assessed by two doctors, and it must be found that they make their decision voluntarily, without coercion, according to the British newspaper The Guardian reports.
“The disturbing nature of this legislation is compounded by the manner in which the debate over the amendments has been conducted,” Archbishop Fisher said. “All amendments proposed by those who would seek to make this murderous regime even a little safer have been rejected.”
“The fact that no meaningful amendments were accepted speaks to a ‘winner takes all’ approach of the supporters of this bill and reveals an ugliness that has pervaded our politics. This does not bode well for the protection of our most vulnerable citizens.
Opposing religious health care providers had called for the ability to ban euthanasia and assisted suicide on their premises, but relevant amendments were defeated.
“Catholic health and aged care providers in New South Wales have served their communities with compassion and professionalism for over a century and will continue to provide high quality hospital and end-of-life care. quality despite this ill-conceived law,” Brigid Meney, Catholic Health Australia’s director of strategy and mission, said on May 19.
“However, Catholic healthcare and elder care providers are disappointed and saddened by the passage of a law that violates their ethics of care,” she continued.
“This law will require organizations that do not agree with assisted suicide to allow physicians to enter their premises to prescribe and even administer restricted drugs with the intent of ending a resident’s life – without even let the establishment know,” Meney continued. “These laws ignore the rights of staff and residents who may choose to work and live in a particular residential facility because of their opposition to assisted suicide.”
Catholic Health Care Australia, Anglican healthcare provider Anglicare and Christian aged care provider HammondCare had all campaigned for their faith-based aged care facilities to be exempted from the law, citing freedom of conscience. Conscience wards, however, were defeated in the Upper House by a 23-13 vote.
Greg Donnelly, a Labor member of the Legislative Council, was among other pro-life lawmakers who had sought to limit NSW legislation through amendments, including conscience protections.
He said it was “totally repugnant and draconian” to require facilities with moral objections to assisted suicide or euthanasia to allow these practices. Such provisions are “essentially an authoritarian imposition on what are, in our civil society, associations of persons coming together for a purpose”.
Other rejected amendments sought to clarify whether a person requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide has decision-making capacity or is “significantly affected by mental impairment”. The rejected amendments sought to provide palliative care or prohibit healthcare workers or third parties from engaging in discussions about euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Alex Greenwich, an independent MP who introduced the bill, welcomed its passage and said “compassion won”. He called on euthanasia and assisted suicide advocates to focus on the federal parliament to pass legislation that would allow Australian territories to legislate on euthanasia and assisted suicide, ABC News Australia reports.
Australia has six states and 10 territories, although the legislative capacities of the latter depend on the federal parliament.
Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected any move to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide to be legalized in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory, by far the two most populous Australian territories, although the party Labor has pledged to make debate on the issue a priority if it wins control of the federal government in an election scheduled for Saturday.
Bishop Anthony Randazzo of Broken Bay has lamented the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in New South Wales, calling it “a totally unacceptable solution to the problem of suffering”.
“A truly humane society is not how we decide to weed out those who suffer, but how we take care of them,” he said. “We should consider and care for the rights of all citizens to be well, to have the care they need, and not to be lost in the margins.”
“Now more than ever, we need to make sure that our family members, our friends, those who are alone, the vulnerable people in our community know and understand that they are loved, that we will be with them on their journey and that ‘they are not a burden,’ Bishop Randazzo said.
Archbishop Fisher thanked parliamentarians who opposed the bill, “often in the face of disdain and disparagement from fellow parliamentarians, pro-euthanasia lobby groups and the media.”
When the New South Wales Bill was introduced in late 2021, Bishop Fisher strongly criticized it and called on Catholics to speak out. He warned of the prevalence of elder abuse and “alarming rates of suicide among vulnerable people”.
“As someone who has experienced the pain and humiliation of a serious illness, I need you to speak up for life,” he said. He recounted his severe case of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which paralyzed him from the neck down and left him in excruciating pain and total dependence on others for five months.
Australia’s Catholic bishops have repeatedly written in favor of palliative care as an alternative to assisted suicide and euthanasia.
September 2020 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Samaritan bonus reaffirmed the eternal teaching of the Church on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The congregation recalled the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence and the sacraments.
In February 2021, an Australian university found that the country had less than half the number of palliative care doctors needed to care for terminally ill patients.