Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse has warned that the ACT’s proposed assisted suicide laws will not provide adequate protections to conscientious objectors, criticising the framework for undermining religious freedoms. Source: The Australian.
Archbishop Prowse has vowed that no Catholic healthcare facility will “allow or undertake any steps in the process of euthanasia”, raising concerns about the bill’s silence on the rights of faith-based facilities to opt out from facilitating access to voluntary assisted dying.
The legislation, which the Labor-Greens Government introduced to the ACT Parliament last month and is set to become the most liberal in the country, includes criminal offences for facilities that fail to provide access to information about VAD or transfer a patient to a facility to be assessed for the scheme.
Health practitioners who object to facilitating VAD on religious grounds will also face a criminal charge if they fail to provide a patient with contact details for an “approved care navigator service” within two days of being asked about the scheme by a patient.
In a submission to the ACT Government responding to the legislation, Archbishop Prowse said it was concerning that “simply exercising one’s conscience in full is sufficient to be considered and penalised as a criminal”.
“The rights of conscience and, in our case, freedom of religion, are severely constrained by the provisions of this bill as it stands,” he said.
The Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn has also raised concerns about the draft legislation’s eligibility criteria, including not requiring terminally ill patients to have a predicted six to 12 months to live, as is the case in other jurisdictions.
Conscientious objector: Faith leaders warning on ACT’s VAD legislation (By Rhiannon Down, The Australian)