Dementia patients won’t be able to choose euthanasia under assisted suicide legislation expected to be introduced to Western Australia Parliament later this year. Source: Perth Now.
Former WA governor Malcolm McCusker, who is heading up an expert panel to provide advice for drafting assisted suicide legislation, conceded it was “near impossible” for people with dementia to meet strict criteria that was likely to be part of the new death laws.
The 13-member panel is due to release a consultation paper in early April that will raise key issues as part of a broad-ranging community debate.
Members of the panel, which includes health care and law experts, will meet with interest groups and stakeholders statewide over two months.
The panel will then provide final recommendations to Health Minister Roger Cook, who released the terms of reference for the ministerial expert panel on the weekend.
Mr McCusker, a renowned barrister and QC, said helping the WA Government develop the draft legislation would be a “minefield”.
He rejected any concerns that legislating death was destined for the “too-hard basket” although he admitted grappling with the “big questions” was likely to keep him awake at night.
Mr McCusker said big-ticket issues up for debate would include whether assisted suicide could be provided for dementia patients, safeguards against coercion, and whether doctors and healthcare facilities could “opt out” of providing assisted dying services.
St John of God’s Midland Public Hospital and other facilities that received government funding but didn’t support assisted suicide were likely to come under scrutiny.
Mr McCusker said he expected lively debate over whether to define a timeframe for the likelihood of death from a terminal illness.
WA’s Joint Select Committee last year recommended that assisted suicide should be offered when death from a terminal illness was “reasonably foreseeable” and the person was experiencing “grievous suffering”.
Australian Medical Association’s WA president Dr Omar Khorshid said the debate should focus on palliative and end-of-life care, “rather than the narrow issue of assisted dying”.