Correction 5/29/13 at 6:09 pm EST – The numbers of the vote have been updated and corrected.

May 28, 2013 ( – Another euthanasia and assisted suicide bill was decisively defeated in Australia last week – this time in the Upper House of the New South Wales’ State Parliament.

The private members bill was introduced by Greens MLC, Cate Faehrmann, who adopted the title of the original Northern Territory Bill that passed back in 1995, and which was overturned by the Federal Parliament nine months later.  The “Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill 2013” was principally an assisted suicide bill with the ‘option’ of euthanasia if the patient was found to be unable to take the drugs for themselves.

A number of politicians had raised off-the-record concerns that Faehrmann’s bill was primarily a publicity stunt.  Faehrmann will resign from the State Parliament shortly to contest for a seat in the Senate in the September 2013 Federal Election for the Greens in New South Wales.

Legislators overwhelmingly rejected the bill, with 23 votes against the bill to 13 in favor. There were also five abstentions plus one non-vote due to a resignation.

An earlier motion to move the bill off to a committee of inquiry was rejected with similar numbers.  The motion was seen as a ploy to keep the bill alive for a while longer in the face of certain defeat.  In the words of Labor MP Greg Donnelly, “This was an arrogant and blatant attempt to keep the Bill alive.  No prior consultation was given to members of the House about this amendment, or whether or not they might be interested in such a move.”

While debating the bill in parliament prior to the vote, Mr Donnelly had urged legislators to read a book by a prominent Canadian anti-euthanasia activist. “In answer to people who wonder why I and others so strongly oppose the proposed legislation, in relation to what we see are fundamental flaws in euthanasia/assisted suicide legislation and our challenging of some of the things that proponents for the legislation claim are not true — such as the slippery slope arguments — I draw their attention to a book entitled Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, written by Alex Schadenberg,” he said. “The book has been provided to most members in this House, and probably in the other place as well, as part of the provision of information by the organisation Hope: Preventing Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and I thank that organisation for circulating the book.”

Legislators attack Cardinal Pell, anti-euthanasia activist Dr. Saunders

During debate over the bill there were veiled and not-so-veiled attacks on religion by supporters of legalizing assisted suicide.  However, it was still unusual that a member of parliament should accuse the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney, The Rev. George Pell of “misleading and downright mendacious tactics” in the bishop's letter to parliamentarians of the 8th of May.

The Hon. Dr John Kaye MLC went on to attempt to refute the cardinal’s four main objection to the legislation, before stating, “I suggest he (the cardinal) is lying to the people of New South Wales and he is lying to his flock. I remind Cardinal Pell of his obligations, particularly under James 1:26 not to tell a lie.”

The sponsor of the legislation, Cate Faehrmann also launched a personal attack on the director of the UK group CareNotKilling, Dr Peter Saunders.

Saunders’ replied in his blog, saying, “She (Faehrmann) quoted from my blog in order ‘to demonstrate to members the type of tactics used to discredit voluntary assisted dying schemes in operation overseas’ and said that it was ‘a great lesson in lies, damn lies, and statistics’ (I think she meant ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ just as she meant to say ‘Philip Nitschke’ and not ‘Philip Nietzsche’)”

Saunders asked for a retraction and apology: “Cate Faehrmann may be passionate about euthanasia but it is a very serious thing for an MP to mislead parliament, especially in introducing a bill.

“I am asking her to retract her accusation of ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’, to issue an apology and to correct the errors and omissions in her published speech.”

Another euthanasia/assisted suicide bill introduced in South Australia

At the time of writing yet another bill is under debate in the South Australian Parliament.  The “Ending Life with Dignity Bill 2013 is another in a long line of attempts by Independent MP, The Hon Bob Such, to give legal legitimacy to killing.

Anti-euthanasia campaigner and director of HOPE: Preventing euthanasia & assisted suicide, Paul Russell says that while the SA Parliament is a little more genteel than its NSW counterpart, there is still a great deal of ignorance amongst many MPs about the problems with euthanasia laws. 

“The South Australian Branch of the Australian Medical Association has now condemned this bill in the strongest terms in two letters to members of parliament and yet there are still those who flirt with the idea of state sanctioned killing,” he said.  Russell said remains confident that, like in NSW, the SA bill will also fail.