May 16, 2012

Australian Politicians Hiding Under Their Desks

As in Canada, about 3 out of 4 people in Australia are in favour of medically assisted dying and the politicians in Oz seem to be like ours....they are avoiding the issue.

 Professor Bob Douglas,  a former director of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University is suggesting that the Australian politicians are hiding under their desks to avoid dealing with a sensitive question that most people want answered. Here is an article by Lisa Cox that appeared in  the Canberra Times yesterday. It sounds much like the situation in Canada where the Royal Society and the Province of Quebec have both recommended medically assisted dying but our "leaders" are ignoring both the recommendations of experts and the public opinion polls.

When he talks about euthanasia, Professor Bob Douglas borrows a line from a former health minister by saying it's an issue that has politicians ''hiding under their desks''.

Studies have shown that the number of Australians who support voluntary euthanasia is greater than the number that oppose it. A poll published last year by the Australia Institute put the figure in favour at three in four. Other surveys have had the percentage as high as 85 per cent.

But despite the apparent endorsement, there has been no policy change around assisted dying and attempts to have legislation passed have failed.

It's a situation that has troubled Professor Douglas, a former director of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University and a founder of Australia21. The think tank, which in April issued its widely publicised report on Australia's illicit drugs policy, has just begun a new project on ''dying with dignity''.

The organisation has commissioned a paper on the issue and will convene a round table discussion of high profile Australians in coming months. ''I can tell you what some of the people are hoping and that is that we will come to a better understanding of why apparently a large number of Australians would like to have legislation to assist them to die but the Australian government have not been looking to do it,'' Professor Douglas said.

''There's a complex set of policy questions there that our politicians are simply not willing to address.''

Professor Douglas, who addressed his former ANU colleagues yesterday about drugs policy and the right to die, said he believed part of the problem was that the debate about euthanasia was ''superficial'' and focused too heavily on politicians that portrayed themselves as ''soft or hard'' on the issue.

He said Australia21's goal was not to steer Australians toward a particular view, but to develop new understanding of an issue that would matter into the future. ''I think this is one issue that's important to the humanity of Australia and has huge implications for health policy,'' he said.

''There are a lot of people that believe there is a need for legislation on assisted dying and for people to make clear their wishes before they become chronically ill.''


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