He said it was “utterly repugnant and draconian” to force facilities with moral objections to assisted suicide or euthanasia to allow the practices. Such provisions are “essentially an authoritarian imposition on what are, in our civil society, associations of people coming together for a purpose.”
Other defeated amendments sought to clarify whether a person seeking euthanasia or assisted suicide has decision-making capacity or is “significantly impacted by a mental health impairment.” Failed amendments aimed to provide palliative care or to bar healthcare workers or third parties from initiating discussions about euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Alex Greenwich, an independent MP who had introduced the bill, praised its passage and said “compassion has won.” He called for euthanasia and assisted suicide advocates to focus on the federal parliament to pass laws that would allow Australia’s territories to legislate for euthanasia and assisted suicide, Australia’s ABC News reports.
Australia has six states and ten territories, though the lawmaking abilities of the latter are dependent upon the federal parliament.
Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected any move to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide legalization in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, by far the two most populated Australian territories, though the Labor party has pledged to make debate on the issue a priority if it wins control of the federal government in the elections set for Saturday.
Bishop Anthony Randazzo of Broken Bay lamented the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in New South Wales, calling it “a completely unacceptable solution to the problem of suffering.”
“A genuinely human society is not how we decide to eliminate those who suffer, but how we care for them,” he said. “We should be considering and caring for the rights of all citizens to be well, to have the care they need, and not lost to the margins.”
“Now more than ever we must ensure members of our family, friends, those who are alone, the vulnerable in our community know and understand that they are loved, that we will be with them in their journey, and that they are not a burden,” said Randazzo.
Archbishop Fisher thanked members of parliament who opposed the bill, “often in the face of disdain and disparagement from their parliamentary colleagues, from pro-euthanasia lobby groups and from the media.”
When the New South Wales bill was introduced in late 2021, Fisher vocally criticized it and asked Catholics to speak out. He warned of the prevalence of elder abuse and the “alarming rates of suicide among the vulnerable.”
“As someone who has experienced the pain and humiliation of serious illness, I need you to speak up for life,” he had said. He recounted his severe case of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which paralyzed him from the neck down and put him in terrible pain and total dependency on others for five months.
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Catholic bishops in Australia have repeatedly written in support of palliative care as an alternative to assisted suicide and euthanasia.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s September 2020 letter Samaritanus bonus reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The congregation recalled the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments.
In February 2021, an Australian university found that the country has less than half the number of palliative care physicians needed to care for terminally-ill patients.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.