CANBERRA, Australia, April 30, 2013 ( – Progressive think-tank Australia21 has released a report that calls on Australia’s parliaments to embrace euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The report’s authors do not recommend any particular form of legislation, but seek to ‘broaden understanding of the difficulties which current Australian law causes for patients and carers alike, and to explain why the authors have concluded that legislative action is now needed.’

According to Paul Russell of the Australian anti-euthanasia group HOPE, the report is a virtual ‘euthanasia manifesto’.


Russell, who was invited by Australia21 to their ‘round table’ in January this year, was critical of the process from the outset. “Once I reviewed their background paper, which was to form the basis of their deliberations, it became clear that they would not accommodate my criticisms so I declined to attend.”

Russell noted that the background paper relied heavily upon the UK Commission on Assisted Dying (part funded by Sir Terry Pratchett), The Royal Society of Canada report and the Government of Quebec Select Committee on Dying with Dignity as the basis for its argument that “appropriate safeguards can be implemented to protect vulnerable people and prevent the abuse that opponents of assisted dying have feared.” None of these reports were created in any official capacity as inquiries arising from (and at the direction of) any parliament that has jurisdiction over such matters. Moreover, each report has been heavily criticised by academics and anti-euthanasia commentators.

“It’s a little like quoting Wikipedia as a primary source for a Phd doctorate,” says Russell, observing that each successive report has simply been quoting its antecedents in this small but growing group. “There’s a saying: if you’re going to tell a lie – tell a big one and tell it often. It’s a bit like that.”

Russell was not the only commentator to criticise the report. A Tasmanian group organised to oppose an expected euthanasia bill in the island state, REALDignityTas, has also weighed into the debate. Spokesman and former head of palliative care in Tasmania, Dr Paul Dunne was scathing in his criticism.

“This Australia21 report ignores significant studies undertaken in Belgium where euthanasia is legal,” said Dr Dunne. “The Belgium studies show that in 32% of cases the patient did not explicitly request to be killed. This group of patients had distinct characteristics: they were over 80, they were in hospital, and they were not dying from cancer. 70% were comatose and 21% suffered from dementia. This is extremely worrying – our most vulnerable members of society simply killed off at the convenience of others.

“How can the Australia21 report be taken seriously when it fails to address important evidence like this?” he asked.

Dunne also raised the issue of suicide, pointing clearly to concerns for vulnerable people. “Studies have shown that copycat suicides and assisted suicides occur following the reporting of such events. Depressed and vulnerable people are very open to suggestion. Rather than surround terminally ill people with systems to assist and normalise suicide, our community should consistently reaffirm the value of their life and take all steps to make that person comfortable and relieve their suffering. Killing people is not a compassionate response to their distress.”

Dunne also echoed Russell’s concerns that proponents of euthanasia seem bent on over-emphasising problems at the end-of-life. “The proponents of euthanasia are fostering a climate of fear and distress through the constant repetition that death is always painful and people must end their lives to avoid suffering,” said Dr. Dunne.

In anticipation of the Australia21 move, HOPE Australia republished Canadian Alex Schadenberg’s book Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. Schadenberg reports on studies, ignored by Australia21 and others, that confirm what legitimate government inquiries have always found: that vulnerable people are at risk from such legislation.