How to legally murder a person in Australia, legal suicide

How to legally murder a person in Victoria

Action films take murder lightly. With the use of a gun or a knife; a person’s life can end. Life goes on. In the real world, this is not the case. The right to die requires you tick many boxes. You need lawyers and doctors to help you on the journey to legally end your life. It is an expensive and time-consuming process. You must be fighting fit to take on the process – which is kind of not the point.

Euthanasia is where you intentionally end your life. Often with the help of others. To qualify you argue an incurable condition. And that you want to kill yourself to end pain and suffering.

Victoria was the first State to legalise euthanasia. (The previous attempt in the Northern Territory was euthanised by Canberra.) Since the terms ‘murder’ and ‘suicide’ didn’t seem popular the process is called ‘voluntary assisted dying’.

According to Victorian legislation:

‘every patient approaching their end of life has a right to minimise suffering and maximise their quality of life’

While God may not be happy, the government allows you to end your pain.

Many tests before someone can help you kill yourself

How do you qualify for voluntary assisted dying in Victoria?

1. You are 18 or older

2. You have an advanced disease that is likely to cause your death within a period of 6 months or 12 months for neurodegenerative disease

3. living in Victoria for at least 12 months

4. Australian citizen or permanent resident

5. Have decision-making capacity. Be of sound mind. Be rational.

6. Diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that is incurable, advanced, progressive and causes death, with intolerable suffering. (It is not enough to merely sport a disability or a mental illness.)

If you can get through the above bureaucracy then you are allowed to ‘self-administer’ lethal drugs. If after dealing with months of lawyers and doctors you have no energy left then a friendly doctor can give you the lethal drugs. The legislation uses the rather delightful expression ‘practitioner administration’.

Formal application

So, what does the formal application process entail? The legislation is a disgusting mess. Few can understand the complex wording. The first step is a request made directly by the patient to a medical practitioner. This request is followed by an initial assessment to determine the patient’s suitability, and it is presided over by a ‘coordinating medical practitioner’. Another doctor, defined as a ‘consulting medical practitioner’, will conduct a second assessment of the patient’s admissibility. A second request, in the form of a written declaration signed in the presence of two witnesses and the coordinating medical practitioner, will need to be made by the patient at this stage. Then, as part of a third application stage, the patient will need to make a third and final request to the coordinating medical practitioner at least nine days after the first request was made, unless death is likely to occur before. The coordinating medical practitioner will then conduct a final review to certify the request and assessment process. They will then apply for a permit, either for ‘self-administration’, or ‘practitioner administration’. This entire process is monitored by the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board to ensure compliance and safety. Naturally, a patient is entitled to change their mind at any stage and opt out of the process.

Is euthanasia suicide?

Is euthanasia suicide? If so, should it be discouraged?  The occurrence of suicide tends to shock people. People can be shocked at the thought of someone ending their own life and leaving their loved ones behind. In some situations, it is thought of as selfish or even cowardly.

Another pressing issue is the irony of the involvement of medical practitioners in Voluntary Assisted Dying. The philosophy of ‘do no harm’ as stated in the Hypocritic Oath is an important concept in medicine. Ending a person’s life in any stage of illness does not necessarily comply with the philosophy underlining the Oath.

“The argument is, what is the greater harm? Is the greater harm continuing on with treatments? Is the greater harm watching someone suffer? Or is the greater harm killing them?”  – Dr. Michael Gold

With medical practitioner’s engaging in the training necessary to conduct assessments on patients who wish to undergo Voluntary Assisted Dying, it doesn’t seem like medical practitioners are overly concerned about the implications their involvement has on the aforementioned oath. In the eyes of a traditionalist, this may seem concerning, but with a new belief that ‘a person’s quality of death is part of their quality of life’, it may be time to modernise the oath to involve the pursuit of ending suffering and improving quality of life.

Most religions disapprove of Euthanasia and suicide. The main reason is that God forbids it and human life is considered special and sacred.  In the Pope’s view, euthanasia is always wrong. Purposely killing a person by ‘humanely’ poisoning them with a large dose of drugs goes against the value of the commandment ‘you shall not kill’. The Roman Catholic Church is one such organisation that opposes Euthanasia.

“From an ethical standpoint, withholding or withdrawing excessive treatment is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death.” – The Pope

Muslims are also against Voluntary Assisted Dying. Muslims believe that all human life is sacred because it is given by Allah, and Allah chooses how long each person lives.

“Do not take life, which Allah made sacred, other than in the course of justice.”

  • Qur’an 17:33

“Destroy not yourselves. Surely Allah is ever merciful to you.”

  • Qur’an 4:29

People in the later stages of a disease with no cure are provided palliative care. This involves care that helps a person living with a disease that severely impacts on their wellbeing, thus reducing the suffering a patient endures. But what happens if palliative care is not enough? What happens if no form of assistance enables a person to live a reasonable quality of life before an impending death? If palliative care does not improve a patient’s quality of life it may be time to facilitate Voluntary Assisted Dying.

Despite recognition that there are different views on the subject within the medical profession, the AMA (Australian Medical Association), which describe the process as ‘physician assisted suicide, believes that doctors should not be involved in ending a person’s life. Although the AMA does not support these new laws, they do not believe that medical practitioners who support or participate in Voluntary Assisted Dying are unethical.

With Victoria being the first state to legalise euthanasia, there is a growing demand to legalise the practice in other states. Hence, the Victorian laws have sparked a ‘national domino effect’ to legalise euthanasia. This is beginning to take effect in Western Australia, which is currently in the process of drafting its own legislation to have it brought before Parliament later in the year.

The McCusker Panel/Committee has recently presented its recommendations on how possible voluntary assisted dying legislation could work.

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