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Protection of Conscience Project

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Service, not Servitude
Proposed Protection of Conscience Laws
Australia
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Senate

Medical Services (Dying with Dignity) Exposure Draft Bill 2014

What follows are the parts of a euthanasia and assisted suicide bill which pertain to protection of freedom of conscience.

Note:

  • The objects of the Act set out in Section 3 do not include the protection of conscientious objectors;
  • The definition of "dying with dignity medical service" in Section 5 includes
    • euthanasia
    •  assisted suicide
    • providing information
  • Since Section 5 is broadly written, it appears that the attending medical practitioner can delegate the act of euthanasia to someone else.
  • Section 11(2)a states that a medical practitioner may refuse to provide euthanasia or assisted suicide "for any reason," which would include reasons of conscience or religion, but
    • the section pertains only to medical practitioners
      • so it does not protect objecting pharmacists or other health care workers
    • Section 11(2)a does not state that medical practitioners may refuse to facilitate euthanasia or assisted suicide throught referral
  • Section 21 precludes coercion of objecting medical practitioners, but
    • does not preclude coercion of other objecting health care workers, and
    • can be understood to prevent hospices or denominational hospitals from enacting policies against euthanasia and assisted suicide
  • Section 24 provides protection from civil and criminal liability and disciplinary proceedings for medical practitioners who refuse to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide, but
    •  does not clearly offer similar protection to objecting practitioners, since refusing to provide euthanasia or assisted suicide cannot be said to be an omission "for the purposes of the Act," which are specified in Section 3, and
    • offers no protection at all for other objecting health care workers.
  • There is no provision to protect persons who object to euthanasia for reasons of conscience from discrimination in education or employment.

The bill was reviewed by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee and a report concerning it published in November, 2014.

3.  Objects of this Act

The objects of this Act are:

(a) to recognise the right of a mentally competent adult who is 6 suffering intolerably from a terminal illness to request a medical practitioner to provide medical services that allows the person to end his or her life peacefully, humanely and with dignity; and

(b) to grant a medical practitioner who provides such services immunity from liability in civil, criminal and disciplinary proceedings.

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5.  Meaning of dying with dignity medical service

(1) A dying with dignity medical service means a medical service provided by a medical practitioner to a person to enable the person to end his or her life in a humane manner.

(2) Without limiting subsection (1), such services include:

(a) the giving of information to the person; and

(b) the prescribing of a substance to the person; and

(c) the preparation of a substance for the person; and

(d) the giving of a substance to the person for 16 self-administration; and

(e) the administration of a substance to the person at the person’s request.

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11.  Provision of dying with dignity medical services

(1) This section applies if a person has made a request under section 10 to a medical practitioner.

(2) The medical practitioner may:

(a) refuse to provide dying with dignity medical services to the person for any reason and at any time; or

(b) if satisfied that all of the conditions set out in section 12 are 15 met—provide dying with dignity medical services to the person. 

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21.  Intending to influence a medical practitioner in relation to 6 dying with dignity medical services

(1) A person commits an offence if:

(a) the person gives or promises any benefit (other than a payment of the kind covered by section 17) to a medical practitioner; and

(b) the person does so with the intention of influencing the medical practitioner to provide, or not provide, a dying with 13 dignity medical service.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 5 years.

(2) A person commits an offence if:

(a) the person causes, or threatens to cause, any disadvantage to a medical practitioner; and

(b) the person does so with the intention of influencing the medical practitioner to provide, or not provide, a dying with dignity medical service.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 5 years.

***

24.  Immunity from civil, criminal and disciplinary actions

 No civil, criminal or disciplinary action lies, and proceedings must not be brought, against a person in relation to an act done, or omitted to be done, if the act is done, or omitted to be done, by the person:

(a) in good faith; and

(b) for the purposes of this Act; and

(c) in accordance with this Act.

25.  Certain acts and omissions are not offences

An act done, or omitted to be done, does not constitute an offence against a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory if the act is done, or omitted to be done:

(a) in good faith; and

(b) for the purposes of this Act; and

(c) in accordance with this Act.

 

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