ACL commends Albanese over ban on telehealth for euthanasia

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is resisting calls from labor states to allow telehealth consultations for voluntary assisted dying. The PM’s stance follows a Federal Court decision that found that euthansia telehealth comsulations violate federal laws. The case, brought by Nicholas Carr, one of the first GPs to provide voluntary assisted dying care, attempted to clarify the definition of suicide in the commonwealth criminal code, and whether it applies to state legislation, The Guardian reported.
Justice Wendy Abraham found the term “suicide” in the commonwealth legislation, applies voluntary assisted dying. An analysis published on Austlii is here.

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) responded to reports that PM Albanese said “My personal opinion is that these issues are serious and that telehealth should not be used.”

ACL’s National Director of Politics, Wendy Francis, said “The Prime Minister is wise to reject euthanasia consultations via telehealth. In such circumstances, there is obviously no ability to examine the patient, nor to detect any nonverbal cues, or to properly assess the mental state and capacity of the patient. It is not even possible to see who else may be in the room seeking to influence the outcome of the consultation.

“The argument put forward by Melbourne doctor Nick Carr that euthanasia should not be considered suicide is an insult to logic. Try telling that to the family of the man who took his wife’s euthanasia drugs after she died in hospital.

“The act of euthanasia and suicide involve the intent to die, a person seeking death as an end to life, and the act of deliberately gaining access to a means to end your life. Both lead to a deliberate death which impacts not only the person, but also their family and their carers.”

The PM’s quote comes from a long interview on Melbourne’s 3AW, with Neil Mitchell.

MITCHELL: Something else. This decision to define assisted dying as assisted suicide. The states are saying that you should legislate an exemption in the area of voluntary assisted dying. Will you?

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, no state government has raised that issue with me. I’m actually not sure.

MITCHELL: Well, would you look at it?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m not sure what you’re saying.

MITCHELL: Okay, well, we’ve got a decision saying that voluntary assisted dying is now defined as assisted suicide. That opens up all sorts of areas, such as doing any telephone consultation on the issue. Several states are quoted today as saying they want the Attorney-General to introduce new legislation to allow an exemption for assisted dying.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, if you’re asking me about the issue of support being through telehealth rather than a doctor being present, that is not something that I support.

MITCHELL. So, you wouldn’t change the law to make it possible?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I’m just saying what these things, as you know, have historically been the subject of a conscience vote. If you’re asking me for my opinion, something that has not been raised with me by any state government, my personal opinion is that these issues are serious and that telehealth should not be used because I’d be concerned about some of the implications there.

State ministers are lobbying for a change in the commonwealth criminal code. The ABC reported that  Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said her state’s decentralised nature caused concern with  Victoria’s Minister for Ageing Ingrid Stitt also argued regional people would be diadvantaged.