SYDNEY — Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott urged Catholics to write to their local state legislators because proposed euthanasia laws in New South Wales would fundamentally undermine the relationship between doctors and patients by legitimizing doctor-assisted suicide in the state.
“It would turn doctors from healers into killers, and that would be a tragedy for the medical profession and a diminution of our society,” he said.
Alex Greenwich, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, plans to introduce a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, which would allow for two doctors to approve a euthanasia procedure with no mandatory psychological assessment.
Under the proposed bill, the two doctors do not need to be independent of each other, and they do not need to meet and examine the patient in person.
Speaking to an online forum of more than 100 mainly university students Aug. 20, Abbott said the bill is fundamentally flawed and directly contradicts sound ethical principles in health care.
“It legitimizes suicide. We should remember that state and federal governments spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on mental health programs, essentially to stop us from getting to the point where we feel our lives are worthless and pointless,” he said.
Bernadette Tobin, director of the Plunkett Centre for Bioethics at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, and reader in philosophy at Australian Catholic University, told the forum: “This debate is not about assisting people to die in comfort and with dignity. That’s what a good doctor does at the end of anyone’s life. That’s what we’re doing when we’re providing palliative care as I see every day at St. Vincent’s Hospital.”
She said the legislation’s proponents “know that euphemistic language has great persuasive value. But society has a duty to protect vulnerable people, and bad consequences will follow from the widespread acceptance of medical killing, which fundamentally violates the special relationship between the doctor and the patient.
The New South Wales parliament is currently in recess and is unlikely to meet in September due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
However, Abbott said he believes it is critical for all of the state’s citizens concerned about the proposed laws to make their views known very strongly to their local representatives to minimize any chance of the laws being passed by parliament.