West Australia parliament debates assisted suicide

The West Australian parliament is currently mulling over legislation that would permit assisted suicide for terminally-ill adult patients. Such a law is being promoted by Premier Mark McGowan, who stated that he views the proposal “through a lens of logic and freedom.”

9News reports that “Under the proposal, terminally-ill adults residing in WA who are in pain and likely have less than six months to live – or one year if they have a neurodegenerative condition – will be allowed to take a drug to end their own lives or ask a doctor to do it.”

The legislation comes with dozens of clauses attached to ensure that such a policy, should it become law, is not abused. For example, it considers soundness of mind, protects against coercion requires that at least two independent medical assessments support the decision to end a patient’s life.

McGowen, while conceding that the issue was a difficult one to consider and debate, nevertheless expressed the view that it was critical to do so. He made the obvious point (contested, I think, only by religious fanatics) that a terminally ill patient who is enduring a tremendous degree of suffering ought to have the right to bring that suffering to an end on his or her own terms. The alternative, he added, is unassisted suicide, which is far more painful for both the patient and his or her friends and family.

Ultimately, McGowen framed the issue as one having to do with personal liberty and freedom of choice.

“This is the ultimate act of personal choice, of freedom, of individual rights,” he said, adding a rhetorical question: “Doesn’t it strike people as strange that it is accepted that a family member can make a decision for you to die but when you are in pain and terminal, the law blocks you?”

Assisted suicide of this sort has been legal for varying periods of time in Belgium, Holland, Canada, Luxembourg, Colombia and Switzerland. Certain states in the US also allow it.