Church and states braced for biggest battle on euthanasia

Source: The Guardian

by Gay Alcorn and Melissa Davey

The American state of Oregon has allowed doctors to prescribe lethal drugs for terminally ill patients for almost 20 years, and local doctor William Toffler is in Australia to tell Australians it has been a disaster. “It’s important that Australia does not make the same mistake,” he says in a phone interview. “It’s fundamentally incompatible with the role of physician as as healer to be involved in assisted suicide and it’s caused mistrust between patients and their physicians.”

Toffler’s Australian tour marks the start of serious resistance to a new wave of attempts to legalise assisted dying in Australia, particularly in the big states of Victoria and New South Wales. Toffler is a specialist in family medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University, a Catholic, and is the leading critic of assisted dying laws in a US state with a comparatively conservative and regulated regime to allow terminally ill people with less than six months to live the choice to end their life.

He’s in the country as the guest of Right to Life Australia and on Tuesday will speak at a forum in the Mulgrave electorate of Victorian premier Daniel Andrews. On Thursday he will be at a parliamentary briefing to try to influence politicians who will soon consider a bill to legalise assisted dying, a prospect that deeply worries opponents. If a state like Victoria legalises assisted dying for the terminally ill, would other states follow suit? Dr Michael Gannon, the national president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), which opposes doctor-assisted suicide, says there is a “widely held view” that if assisted-dying laws are passed in one jurisdiction, “they are more likely to come into place elsewhere”.

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