NRL News

South Australia – Medical Association and Law Society opposes euthanasia bill

by | Sep 21, 2011

By Alex Schadenberg

Dr. Peter Sharley

Last week, Dr. Peter Sharley, the President of the South Australian Medical Association and Ralph Bonig, the President of The Law Society of South Australia released a joint statement opposing the Steph Key euthanasia bill. 

On March 29 I wrote an analysis of the Steph Key euthanasia bill [].  The South Australian Medical Association stated:

The AMA(SA) supports appropriate palliative care treatment to prevent the pain and suffering of patients – even if this treatment may hasten death in an unintended way. ‘The Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act currently protects doctors doing this’ states Dr Sharley. This bill is really about doctors ending the lives of patients, in other words providing euthanasia. Not only that, it has a serious lack of protection for patients. There is no proper process, witness, second opinion or required documentation. A doctor could carry out ‘treatment’ which effectively kills the patient with only the word of the doctor as evidence.  It is disturbing that the Bill is being presented as a defence for doctors when we do not see the need for this approach. Doctors are also concerned the Bill if passed will undermine the focus on effective high quality palliative care whilst placing doctors at risk of criminal charges.

Dr Sharley, the President of the South Australian Medical Association continued by stating:

‘This legislation has been progressed by stealth and with no proper informed community debate. And, because of its vague and subjective language is open to abuse. It tells you something is wrong when a doctors’ organisation is saying that the doctor is being given too much power, and that the patient does not have enough protection’

Ralph Bonig, the President of the Law Society of South Australia concurred with the analysis of the Medical Association and added:

‘The effect of the Bill is to decriminalise murder, manslaughter, assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia in certain circumstances. The Bill is deficient in that it does not have the ordinary safeguards that typical voluntary euthanasia legislation should have.’

Mr Bonig also stated that:

concepts such as ‘reasonable grounds’ and ‘intolerability’ contained in the Bill are extremely vague and open to subjective interpretation.

The group HOPE is campaigning to defeat the Steph Key euthanasia bill in South Australia and other euthanasia bills throughout Australia.  Paul Russell the founder of HOPE stated:

“A number of MPs had been convinced by the Hill/Key argument that this bill did not create legalized euthanasia. Though obviously wrong to many observers (including Philip Nitschke who correctly identified the bill as a euthanasia ‘decriminalization’ bill), to the uninitiated and to those who were prepared to accept the Hill/Key advice at face value, this may either have been a plausible belief or a convenient screen to hide behind. At least some MPs were blissfully unaware that the state’s palliative care act already gave doctors the protection they needed.”

We hope that the comments by the South Australian Medical Association and The Law Society of South Australia will cause legislators to defeat the Steph Key euthanasia bill.

Editor’s note. This appeared on the blog of Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, at

Categories: Euthanasia