ACT News

Euthanasia: ACT should not be shackled, says Rattenbury

The ACT Greens have energised the euthanasia debate, with Minister for Ageing Shane Rattenbury describing Canberra's inability to make laws on euthanasia an affront to democracy.

''ACT residents want to be able to make choices about their own life and death,'' he told the Assembly, quoting a Newspoll finding in 2012 that 82.5 per cent of Australians believed a terminally ill person should be able to have access to doctor-assisted suicide.

Shane Rattenbury.
Shane Rattenbury. Photo: Melissa Adams

''Policy makers in Australia are lagging behind the community and we have to be brave enough to tackle this issue,'' he said. Mr Rattenbury, pictured, raised the issue unexpectedly during a debate brought on by the Liberals on unnecessary legislation and red tape.

The federal ''Andrews Bill'' that stopped the ACT making its own laws on euthanasia was just such an unnecessary piece of legislation.

Euthanasia was a sensitive issue that would need community debate before it went to the Assembly, but Canberra should have the right to legislate, he said.

The territory should be able to make its own laws about anything that did not conflict with the federal constitution - just as other states were able to do, he said.

Mr Rattenbury's intervention came after Labor backbencher Mary Porter put euthanasia back on the agenda this week by initiating a debate on end-of-life issues in the Assembly on Wednesday, and organising a forum on the subject next month.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said it was important to discuss end-of-life issues, given Canberra's ageing population.

''Because euthanasia always drowns out this debate and people have such strong views on either side of this debate we lose what we need to do around respect for patient choice, listening to people and making sure that the end-of-life care provided - and that may be not providing treatment - meets their needs,'' she said.