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South Australian deaths rise to 12 in first 3 months of Euthanasia laws

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woman with elderly man in wheelchair.
Writing in online journal ARTSforum, professor of bioethics Margaret Somerville warned that experience overseas shows that once legalised, euthanasia quickly becomes normalised.

Almost 30 South Australians secured a voluntary assisted dying permit and 12 have died in the first three months of the scheme according to the state’s first report.

The snapshot of the first three months of legal assisted suicide was published on the South Australia Health website, along with a call for more doctors to join the program and increase access to regional South Australians.

Twenty eight people received a dying permit between 31 January, when the dying laws took effect, and 30 April.

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Of these, 12 died, including eight who self-administered the substance, three who were administered the substance by a doctor and one who died without using the drug.

Writing in online journal ARTSforum, professor of bioethics Margaret Somerville warned that experience overseas shows that once legalised, euthanasia quickly becomes normalised.

While it was too early to assess the phenomenon in Australia, she said it had taken less than four years for Canada to move from relatively restrictive limits on its Medical Assistance in Dying program (MAiD) to calls for right to euthanasia on demand.

Between 2020 to 2021 at least 1740 euthanasia deaths in Canada gave loneliness and isolation as reasons for wanting euthanasia, she wrote.

“Euthanasia cannot be contained once it is legalised, because once we step over the clear line that we must not intentionally kill another human being, there is no logical stopping point.”

All of the South Australian patients found eligible for legal assisted suicide were suffering from cancer or a neurodegenerative disease.

It took an average of 25 days from a person’s first request to receive a permit decision, and all permits were issued within three business days of an application being lodged.

The state passed its assisted suicide laws in June 2021 for Australian or permanent residents aged 18 or older with an incurable, progressive and advanced condition with suffering “that cannot be relieved in a manner the person considers tolerable.”

At the time Adelaide Archbishop Patrick O’Regan and other faith leaders wrote to members of parliament outlining their opposition to assisted dying and urging them to invest in palliative care.

“No-one wants to see people suffer unnecessarily at any time, especially at the end of life, but the compassionate way to achieve this is through high quality, well-resourced palliative care,” Archbishop O’Regan wrote in a separate pastoral letter in March 2021.

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