Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

Is that really the case? An analysis of ‘fact-based’ arguments of Victorian politicians during the 2017 voluntary assisted dying debate. (1050)

Rebecca Meehan 1 , Lindy Willmott 1 , Ben White 1 , Katrine Del Villar 1
  1. Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Qld, Australia

Australian parliamentarians have been debating law reform on voluntary assisted dying (VAD) for decades with more than 50 bills tabled since 1993. While these reform attempts have almost universally failed, we are now faced with a different reform environment. Victoria passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act in November 2017, legislation will be tabled in Western Australia later this year, and Parliamentary Committee reviews are under way (or completed) in Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

Individual views on VAD are typically informed by a person’s moral stance on the topic (based on their personal values), and their understanding of the practical implications of allowing VAD (based on evidence). This is also the case for our politicians. Politicians can legitimately have different moral stances on the topic of VAD. However, if politicians are deciding whether or not to support reform based on their perceptions of how VAD regimes actually operate, and associated effects of introducing legislation, it is critical for the evidence that they are relying on to be accurate.

This presentation reports on whether the assertions of fact made by politicians during the Victorian debates can be supported by evidence. The authors have analysed Hansard of the second reading debate for the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 in the Victorian Legislative Assembly to identify the ‘fact-based’ claims, and have examined the evidence to determine whether those claims can be supported. We hope this analysis will inform further parliamentary debates, and encourage politicians to pursue evidence-based reform.