The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 currently before the Victorian Parliament is a "step too far", according to a Herald Sun editorial published on Saturday.
In the editorial, the Herald Sun urges parliamentarians to vote against the voluntary euthanasia legislation, which it calls "the most important and controversial law to be voted on in this state in recent decades".
"Government-granted authority to prematurely end a life stands as the most serious action our elected parliamentarians could consider. The issue of assisted dying for terminally ill patients transcends both partisan politics and individual religious faith," the editorial states.
It says the proposed assisted-dying laws include "68 safeguards to protect against the abuse or misuse of assisted dying provisions".
"Premier Daniel Andrews says the safeguards make Victoria’s assisted-dying model 'the safest, and most conservative, in the world'. But the very need for those safeguards confirms reason for concern," the editorial states.
"Family duress, real or imagined; a sense by the elderly or ill of being a burden; depression resulting from terminal illness; could lead to wrong, premature and irreversible decisions.
"Australia has a rapidly ageing population and the number of people aged over 65 will double by 2057. For advocates to argue the laws would only be subject to a small number of terminally ill people is misleading."
The editorial notes that the medical fraternity is also divided on the issue, stating "St Vincent’s director of palliative medicine associate professor Mark Boughey and deputy Dr Jenny Weil said the laws could add subtle pressure on patients and there were huge concerns about accurately measuring life expectancy.
"Indeed, doctors will rarely offer definitive life expectancy forecasts in cases of cancer or terminal illness. It is not uncommon for patients to be told they may have just 18 months to live, yet remain alive and with some degree of comfort, or in limited cases in remission, years later," the editorial states.
"Of course, there are also many who die before reaching even a conservative estimate. But the point shows accuracy on life expectancy is highly problematic."
The editorial concludes by calling for greater resources in palliative care and urging politicians to vote against the bill.
"Both sides of politics face a conscience vote on this important bill. The Herald Sun believes greater resourcing and support for an expanded palliative care sector must be Victoria’s priority. The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 is a step too far. We believe parliamentarians should vote no."
Life-and-death decision (Herald Sun)
Bill to Kill Terminally Ill Patients (Sydney Archdiocese)