VICTORY: Australian Senate rejects the legalization of assisted suicide

By Jonathon Van Maren

Wonderful news this week out of Australia: The Senate has rejected the legalization of assisted suicide by the razor-thin margin of only two votes. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

A private member’s bill that would have cleared the way for assisted suicide to be legalised across Australia has been defeated.

The bill, introduced by Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm, was defeated by 36 to 34 votes after two days of impassioned debate in the Senate.

It was knocked down after Liberal senator Anne Ruston and Nationals senator Steve Martin were persuaded to vote against the bill, after initially leaning in favour of it.

“I cannot in good conscience offer my support to this bill which will provide the territories the ability to legislate in the area of voluntary euthanasia, certainly without ensuring that appropriate safeguards were in place,” Senator Martin told the Senate on Wednesday.

Politicians from both sides of politics rose to share divergent views, with many in support of the bill emphasising the rights of Australians who live in the territories to make their own laws.

The bill proposed to overturn a federal law that removed the rights of the ACT and Northern Territory to legislate on euthanasia, enacted in 1997 after the NT government briefly legalised assisted dying.

Labor senator Pat Dodson, opposing the bill, argued that “paving the way for euthanasia and assisted suicide” would leave Indigenous Australians “even more vulnerable, when our focus should be on working collectively to create laws that help prolong life and restore their right to enjoy a healthy life”.

Australian suicide activists have been using all the of arguments we heard here in Canada prior to the legalization of assisted suicide in 2015 about a “right to die” accompanied with heartbreaking stories of people in tremendous suffering—while the consequences of assisted suicide were ignored or dismissed. In Belgium, children have been euthanized. In the Netherlands, they are contemplating legalizing euthanasia for anyone above a certain age that feels they are simply finished with life. And here in Canada, a lawsuit has been launched by a man who says he wants palliative care, but is instead consistently offered assisted suicide by healthcare practitioners.

Suicide activists in Australia are vowing to try again, and with the margin of victory being so narrow, Australian pro-lifers don’t have much of a reprieve. But for the moment, at least, celebration is in order.

For those of you who are interested, my colleague Blaise Alleyne and I wrote A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide last year, detailing street-tested ways of defending the pro-life position on this issue. It has been highly recommended by many medical professionals.

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