AMA: Criminal Law Consolidation (Medical Defences – End of Life Arrangements) Amendment Bill 2011

AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (SA) INC
First Floor, 80 Brougham Place, North Adelaide SA 5006

Dear Politician

Re: Criminal Law Consolidation (Medical Defences – End of Life Arrangements) Amendment Bill 2011

The AMA(SA) remains concerned in regard to the latest amendments by Gardner to the Criminal Law Consolidation (Medical Defences – End of Life Arrangements) Amendment Bill 2011 (proposed by Hon Stephanie Key MP).

The amendments propose that prior to patients receiving ‘end of life’ treatment that may hasten death; they are to be reviewed by two independent specialists, one of whom needs to be a psychiatrist.  This is in order to increase the legal defence for a doctor should they face a criminal action.  

The reason this is seen as necessary of course is that the true underlying purpose of the Bill is the loosening of the present access criteria to effective palliative care to allow patients who do not have a terminal illness to receive treatment that may hasten death.

This is seen by the AMA(SA) to amount, on any reasonable objective view, to euthanasia.

The proposal also ironically creates additional barriers to the provision of palliative treatment than presently exists under the current Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act.

The only logical reason for this increased ‘defence’ is that the actions and intent of the doctor will become more blurred in the eyes of the public and the legal community, again due to the underlying purpose of the Bill.

The proposed amendments not only present a significant additional burden on patients and the doctors providing care in this area, they are logistically unworkable due to the psychiatric resources in this state.  The psychiatric community would also be loath to be involved in such activity given the obvious difficulties of assessment of patients, many who would present with confusion related symptoms.  The legal risk upon the psychiatrists as a critical part of the decision making clinical team would also be a deterrent.

The AMA(SA) has previously stated the Bill needs to be debated under its true purpose of allowing euthanasia and clearly differentiated from palliative care. The amendments if accepted will be a deterrent to many doctors being involved in palliative care.

The AMA(SA) supports the principles of patients having access to high quality palliative care.

We support the autonomy of doctors to provide this treatment free from the risk of being accused of aiding and assisting suicide, conducting manslaughter, or partaking in any other form of criminal activity where death is hastened as a result of quality palliative treatment.  We support the privacy of the patient – doctor relationship and engagement with their families at the time of discussing treatment.  We support legislation that supports these principles in the domain of palliative care.

In summary, this remains a Euthanasia Bill that will damage palliative care in South Australia and the AMA(SA) opposes it.

Yours sincerely

Peter Sharley
President

 

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