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Liberal Catherine Cusack defects to support ‘voluntary assisted dying’

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nurse adjust patient's IV needle.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 returned to NSW Parliament on 23 March.

A NSW Liberal MLC who has pledged to resign from Parliament before the next state election has renounced her opposition to euthanasia, in the first day of debates on the issue since Parliament returned this week.

Catherine Cusack MLC said on Wednesday in her second reading speech on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 that she was singled out after voting against a prior euthanasia bill.

“Reference is often made to the fact that the last time this matter was before the House it was defeated by one vote, and members all look at me,” she said.

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“I struggled with this issue when it was last considered and voted against it. I have changed my position and will be supporting the bill before the House.”

Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack. Photo: Liberal Party of NSW.

Ms Cusack spoke to explain her change of position, saying that she no longer considered palliative care to be “a condition in relation to the principles in this bill”.

“Just because we have a big job to do on palliative care does not mean we should be robbing people of their rights,” she said.

The pressure on patients “from within themselves” to prematurely end their lives to avoid becoming a burden or eating up their children’s inheritance with had been a “big issue” in previous votes, Ms Cusack said.

She now considers this a private matter for individuals, saying “I have changed my position and I accept that it is up to them to make that decision”.

“It is not a decision I would like to think anybody would make or feel obliged to make, but ultimately this is their decision if that is how they feel.

“The safeguards in the bill relating to other external pressures satisfy me.”

Constituents who travelled interstate for euthanasia because they could not receive it in NSW also influenced Ms Cusack’s change of position.

“The difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives are absolutely certain about absolutely everything and a liberal is always uncertain about almost everything,” Ms Cusack said in defence of her change of mind.

“I am in the latter category of being a liberal, and I am simply trying to do my best in the public interest.”

Ms Cusack has pledged to resign before the next NSW State election due to what she views as her government’s mishandling of the NSW flood response.

Opponents of the bill continued to speak out against the legislation, with Labor MLC Greg Donnelly giving an extensive account of the key evidence submitted to Parliament on the risks of euthanasia.

“Honourable members, it seems to me that for those who at this stage have formed the opinion that this bill is worthy of support, or for those who are considering supporting it, a most crucial question to be answered is this: Are you satisfied that the actual content of the bill will ensure that death comes only to those who freely choose it?” he asked.

Liberal MLC Lou Amato quoted Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae, in which the sainted pope described euthanasia as “false mercy”.

“If this bill becomes law and the dangers that have been forewarned become reality—and, honourable members, they will become reality—who will say to themselves, ‘Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa?’” Mr Amato concluded.

Debate on the bill has been restricted to Wednesdays, when private members’ business is normally discussed.

The Catholic Weekly understands that the issue may come to a head next Wednesday, in response to complaints that opponents of the bill are trying to drag out the debate as a delaying tactic.

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