Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has warned NSW MPs that the rights of faith-based medical and aged care providers will be seriously threatened, unless amendments are made to euthanasia laws set to be passed by the State’s Upper House.
“Voluntary assisted dying” is one step closer to becoming law in New South Wales after a Second Reading vote in the Legislative Council on 11 May passed 20-17.
After the upper house debates amendments to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill next Wednesday, NSW will become the final state to fall to euthanasia in Australia.
Alex Greenwich MLA, who moved the legislation with 28 co-sponsors, said he wanted to see the end of what has been a “long and overdue journey”.
“It’s my call to the upper house to not create any barriers and let’s work to seek to achieve voluntary assisted dying in NSW by the end of next week,” he said.
But Archbishop Fisher said the matter was now a matter of religious freedom, insofar as forcing Catholic medical providers or aged care facilities to offer euthanasia would be a grave attack on their moral convictions.
“With amendments to this kill bill now due to be debated, I call upon our MPs, even those who are in favour of this bill, to agree to reasonable amendments to provide some limited protections for those most vulnerable and to ensure that faith-based providers of medical and aged care services can continue to offer a choice to residents who do not want to be associated with this lethal regime in any way,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“Forcing Catholic or other religious providers to have euthanasia on their premises amounts to a grave attack on freedom of religion”.
The Catholic Weekly has previously reported that forcing Catholic aged care providers to permit euthanasia on site may lead to questions about the ongoing viability of some services, especially for smaller providers run by religious orders or serving the needs of particular ethnic or cultural communities.
“FORCING CATHOLIC OR OTHER RELIGIOUS PROVIDERS TO HAVE EUTHANASIA ON THEIR PREMISES AMOUNTS TO A GRAVE ATTACK ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION” ARCHBISHOP ANTHONY FISHER OP
Catholic Health Australia, Anglicare and HammondCare, the largest-faith based healthcare providers who together provide live-in aged care to 16,500 people and support 35,000 in private homes, issued a joint statement in the wake of the vote.
They urged MLCs to “protect the choice of residents in aged care facilities who do not want anything to do with assisted dying”.
“If voluntary assisted dying is to be voluntary for the public, then any VAD scheme should be voluntary for clinical staff and medical officers and for the organisations that they work for,” the statement said.
“The Bill has the veneer of protecting aged care staff but in fact does the opposite as it forces them to choose between abandoning residents with whom they have a long-term, caring relationship or violating their conscience by being involved in assisting their death.”
After two years of COVID-19 lockdowns, in which life was put on hold to protect the vulnerable, Archbishop Fisher said it was “incredible” that parliament “has now passed a bill that sanctions their killing”.
“This “kill bill” divides us into two classes of people: those whose lives are protected by the state with the resources of healthcare, social services and law enforcement, and those whose deaths are facilitated because their lives are deemed to be ‘not worth living’,” he said.
“It is a dramatic departure from parliament’s solemn obligation to pass laws for the good of its citizens and to protect the weak.
“after two years of COVID-19 LOCKDOWNS IN WHICH LIFE WAS PUT ON HOLD TO PROTECT THE VULNERABLE, ARCHBISHOP FISHER SAID IT WAS ‘INCREDIBLE’ THAT PARLIAMENT HAS NOW PASSED A BILL THAT SANCTIONS THEIR KILLING”.
“As Pope Francis has said, euthanasia and assisted suicide are the marks of a ‘throwaway culture’ where the forgotten, the downtrodden, the poor and the elderly will ultimately suffer.”
Archbishop Fisher feared that the bill would “dehumanise the medical and nursing professions”, damage family life, and demoralise those with terminal illnesses by forcing natural dying to be “hurried up”.