A euthanasia and assisted suicide bill introduced in the Parliament of Victoria, Australia, includes several provisions that pertain to legal protection of freedom of conscience. Concerning these:
- Freedom of conscience provisions concern only individual practitioners, not health care facilities. Freedom of conscience presumably includes acting upon moral or ethical beliefs grounded in religious teaching.
- Statements of principles that require encouragement and promotion of an individual “preferences and values,” that people should be “supported” in conversations about treatment and care and “shown respect” for their beliefs, etc. can be interpreted to require affirmation of moral or ethical choices.
- While the principles may have no direct legal effect, they could be cited by professional regulatory authorities against those who refuse to encourage, promote, or affirm the acceptability of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
- Registered medical practitioner is not defined, but all would be encompassed by the definition of health care practitioner.
- All health care practitioners are protected by Section 7.
- Section 7(b) allows for refusal to participate in the request and assessment process and Section 7(c) protects refusal to be present when lethal medication is administered, but Section 7
- does not include protection for refusal to participate in the administration of lethal medication, by, for example, inserting an IV line in advance, or by other means
- does not include protection for refusal to participate in dispensing lethal medication
- “Participate” in Section 7(b) is broad enough to encompass referral. However, the bill would be improved by providing protection against coerced indirect participation in administering or dispensing lethal medication.
- The bill does not require falsification of death certificates, but does require the falsification of the cause of death in the registration of deaths. The bill includes no protection for a registrar who, for reasons of conscience, is unwilling to falsify a registry entry.