And the Roman Catholic bishops in Victoria wrote a similar pastoral letter Oct. 9, noting that Victoria has "abolished the death penalty because we learnt that in spite of our best efforts, our justice system could never guarantee that an innocent person would not be killed by mistake or by false evidence. Our health system, like our justice system, is not perfect. Mistakes happen. To introduce this law presuming everyone will be safe is naïve. We need to consider the safety of those whose ability to speak for themselves is limited by fear, disability, illness or old age."
In July Catholics, including Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, and leaders from several Christian denominations joined together to sign a letter protesting the proposal, charging that euthanasia and assisted suicide "represent the abandonment of those who are in greatest need of our care and support."
In April, the local Catholic bishops said the proposal was based on "misplaced compassion."
"Euthanasia and assisted suicide are the opposite of care and represent the abandonment of the sick and the suffering, of older and dying persons," they said in a pastoral letter. They also invoked the commandment "You Shall Not Kill" and cited the situation in countries like Holland where there are pressures on the elderly to commit suicide.
The effort to legalize assisted suicide in Victoria has been debated for more than a year. In June 2016, a parliamentary committee recommended legalizing voluntary euthanasia.
At the time, some physicians criticized the move. They charged that some lawmakers had naïve expectations and overestimated the speed and painlessness of a euthanasia death.
They warned that the legalization risked diminishing palliative care, which they said was already underused and underfunded.
A proposal similar to the Victorian bill will be debated in New South Wales in November. Last year, the national parliament defeated a euthanasia bill, as did the parliament of Tasmania in 2013.
Australia's Northern Territory legalized assisted suicide in 1995, but the national parliament overturned the law two years later.