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NSW claims “death capital” status

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euthanasia in NSW - The Catholic Weekly

New South Wales will soon be the “death capital” of Australia’s new euthanasia reality, with statistics showing the state has the highest rate of “voluntary assisted dying” deaths in the country. 

One hundred and thirty-one people died through the administration of a lethal substance between 28 November 2023 and 29 February 2024, equating to about 10 deaths each week. 

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An additional 105 people were approved for a lethal substance over the same period, but had not used it to die by the end of February. 

When approvals and deaths are taken together, a shocking 18 people have been authorised to receive a lethal substance each week, since NSW’s “voluntary assisted dying” regime came into effect in November of last year. 

The interim report on Voluntary Assisted Dying from the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Board was released on Saturday, covering the first three months of legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide in NSW. 

NSW’s 131 deaths in three months is more than 129 deaths Victoria saw in its entire first year, the 25 deaths Tasmania saw in its first 8 months and the 110 deaths South Australia saw in its first 12 months. 

NSW will also soon outstrip the 191 deaths recorded in Western Australia in the first 12 months of its euthanasia regime, as well as the to-now record of 245 deaths in six months reported in Queensland. 

“During the parliamentary debate on euthanasia, any amendment that was proposed to make the law even a little safer, or its reach even slightly more limited, was rejected by the MPs who wanted the law passed,” Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said.  

“Advocates promised us that they were already modest, and their eligibility requirements narrow, but our euthanasia death toll in NSW demonstrates this to be sadly untrue.”  

Those in regional NSW are also significantly overrepresented in the numbers. Sixty-five per cent of euthanasia and assisted deaths occurred in regional NSW, despite the regions being home to only 35 per cent of the state’s population. 

“The number of deaths in regional NSW is particularly concerning because it points to a chasm of care between those in the city and those in the country,” Archbishop Fisher said. 

“My hope is that this first report will prompt our parliamentarians, including those who advocated for euthanasia, to commit to ensuring those living in our regions have equal access to diagnosis, treatment and palliative care as those in our cities.  

“To do otherwise is to pay no more than lip service to the idea of end-of-life choice.”  

Notwithstanding the disproportionate number of regional deaths, chair of the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Board, Professor Jenni Millbank, argued in the report that a ban on conducting euthanasia and assisted suicide via telehealth “significantly restricts voluntary assisted dying service in NSW” and used the report to call for a change to federal law. 

“In conjunction with other Voluntary Assisted Dying Boards (or equivalent) around Australia, we will continue to advocate for federal legislative change to remove or amend the carriage service provisions to enable state and territory voluntary assisted dying laws to operate as they were designed to do,” she wrote. 

While the report noted that a patient should be informed about palliative care options available to them, there was no data on how many patients who requested euthanasia or assisted suicide were also able to access palliative care. 

Concerns about palliative care access have been raised in recent weeks, with Susan Carter MLC tabling an e-petition from more than 11,000 people in the Legislative Council, calling for the restoring of $150 million in cuts to the palliative care budget. 

The next report from the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Board will cover until 30 June 2024 and will be released in coming months. 

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