The news that South Australia is to house our first euthanasia clinic is welcome.
A Private member’s bill on ‘the right to die‘ has been introduced into the South Australian Parliament by Labor member Steph Key. The bill aims to give doctors a legal defence if they give medication to a terminally-ill patient which accelerates death. This does not make euthanasia legal but makes it less difficult for doctors who do want to help their patients and fear criminal charges . Dr Nitschke called the bill before the parliament ‘innovative’ and said “I think that it’s cautious, I think it’s prudent, it allows the state to get used to the idea.”
Nitschke is hopeful that the clinic to be run by Exit International, will open in Adelaide within a month, although it would not be fully operational until the legislation has successfully passed through both houses of State Parliament. The proposed clinic will be run from an existing medical clinic opening about once every two weeks and will only be available to South Australian residents.
The choice of South Australia as potentially the first state to embrace ‘the right to die’ for the terminally ill is interesting and not unexpected. The state has a strong history of progressive reform under the leadership of Premier Don Dunstan.
During the 1970s, his South Australian labor government introduced many reforms: Land rights for Aborigines and the end of discrimination against race and women. The areas of education, health, housing and transport were also reformed. Dunstan was particularly interested in the Arts and while he was premier, the state was a leader in political , artistic and intellectual life.
Labor’s Steph Key is to be congratulated on her determination to see laws pertaining to euthanasia reformed. We have a right to die with dignity and without horrific pain. Let’s hope that this legislation gets up and that other MPs will have the courage and follow the very decent step that South Australia appears set to take.