ACT teen euthanasia

ACT Teen Euthanasia Plan Triggers Warning from Sydney Catholic Archbishop

30 August 2023

2.3 MINS

One of Australia’s most senior Catholics has warned that a proposal being considered by the ACT Labor-Greens government to allow teenagers as young as 14 to access voluntary assisted dying could see assisted suicide become available to “anyone that wants it”.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said that every jurisdiction that had introduced assisted suicide had relaxed restrictions over time, cautioning that by setting such a low bar, the ACT would see standards “end up in the gutter with no protections at all”.

ACT Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne said that the government was considering allowing children as young as 14 to access voluntary assisted dying, unveiling a community consultation report to help shape legislation to be introduced by the end of the year.

Negligible Safeguards

“The fact is, every jurisdiction in the world that has gone down the euthanasia path has then gradually stripped away its protections,” Archbishop Fisher said.

“So, if we start as the ACT’s proposing to start, with the bar already very low, well, they’re just going to end up in the gutter with no protections at all.”

Archbishop Fisher branded the ACT government led by Chief Minister Andrew Barr a “radical government”, which he didn’t trust to enforce safeguards around assisted suicide. He also questioned why 14-year-olds were considered too young to drive and vote but mature enough to “make a life-and-death decision”.

“Victoria has only had euthanasia for a year or two, and they’re already talking about removing most of the protections,” he said.

“Well, if the ACT starts with almost none, where are they going to be two or three years on?

“My guess is it will be euthanasia on demand for anyone that wants it, and that’s exactly, for some of the proponents of this, their ultimate goal.”

Ms Cheyne rejected as arbitrary the requirement in other Australian jurisdictions for assisted suicide to be accessed only by people with a life expectancy of between six and 12 months, and left the door open for dementia patients to access the scheme.

Sufficient Capacity?

New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania have legalised assisted suicide for people over 18 years old who have a terminal illness and are given less than six to 12 months to live.

Health Minister Mark Butler and opposition health spokeswoman Anne Ruston said they would not comment on territory issues. Five MPs representing the ACT, independent senator David Pocock, Finance Minister Katy Gallagher, and Labor members Andrew Leigh Alicia Payne and David Smith also declined to comment.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce questioned the suggestion that 14-year-olds were mature enough to make an “informed cogent decision about the most precious thing they have, which is their life”.

“It’s what happens when you have a Greens left-wing Labor government and the idea the state reigns supreme over the individual; it’s the removal of all forms of religion to be replaced with the ethos of the state,” he said.

The architect of the world’s first right-to-die laws and former Northern Territory chief minister Marshall Perron said it was “very hard to put a finger” on when a teenager developed the decision-making capacity to be eligible for assisted suicide.

“You’ll get a different opinion from different people… 16 and 17 would be an easier step to go,” he said.

“However, there is an argument to go beyond that. If we’re talking about terminally ill individuals who are going to die and are suffering horrifically, I mean, anyone who’s a parent would have to have some sympathy for the child.”


Originally published by the Australian Prayer Network. Photo by cottonbro studio.

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