Date of Award

1-1-1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Harry Phillips

Abstract

When the Australian Labor Party member for Kalgoorlie, Ian Taylor, presented his Private Member's Bill - the Medical Care of the Dying Bill (1995), he laid the foundation for this thesis. Mr Taylor introduced his Bill to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly on 28 March 1995. The Bill codified the terminally ill patient's right to refuse medical treatment, which clarified common law. This thesis attempts to overcome the dearth of literature in Western Australian lobbying concerning conscience-vote issues. It also identifies the key issues in understanding political lobbying, the form of pressure group activity that takes place and why certain groups respond in different ways. The pressure groups selected for this case study are examined, classified and evaluated resulting in a prescription for lobby group activity for similar conscience-vote issues. According to the Bill's sponsor, Ian Taylor, the legislation was needed to deal with the inconsistencies in common law of the medical treatment of terminally ill people. The Law Reform Commission in its 1991 Report on Medical Treatment for the dying, stated that there was a need to deal with the issue in Western Australia. Due to the advances in medical treatment practices in the past 50 years, doctors can prolong the life of patients for whom there is no cure. The major problem, however, is the Criminal Code: doctors and care providers can be at risk of prosecution and conviction if the patient's wishes are respected and medical treatment is withdrawn, leading to the patient's death. At present there is a general common law right to refuse medical treatment. According to Mr Taylor, the difficulty lies in the fact that in Western Australia, the common law is overridden by the Criminal Code. The Bill also highlighted the role of palliative care and the treatment of the dying. The opinion of most pressure groups was that the rights of terminally ill patients should be protected and enhanced. Of the groups selected for this case study, only the Coalition for the Defence of Human Life objected to the Bill. Other groups supported the principles of the Bill, while some hoped for voluntary euthanasia legislation and others gave tacit approval. Of all the groups the L. J. Goody Bioethics Centre distinguished itself as a key organisation which tended to monopolise political influence. Media exposure of the issue was high, particularly in The West Australian. The "right to die" issue was canvassed and often was reported with references to euthanasia. At the same time the Northern Territory legislation, the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill (1995), was receiving much media attention. The issue of euthanasia was necessarily discussed in the context of national and international arenas. The political masters of thought on citizen participation and group theory were introduced early in the thesis. John Locke, Jean -Jacques Rousseau, James Madison, Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Paine and John Stuart Mill provided valuable insight into the nature of modern political thought on this interesting aspect of political activity. Contemporary political writers such as Trevor Matthews. Dean Jaensch and Graham Maddox were also consulted. The eight pressure groups selected for the study were the: • West Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Society Inc. • Coalition for the Defence of Human life • Australian Medical Association (WA Branch) • Australian Nursing Federation (WA Branch) • L. J. Goody Bioethics Centre • Silver Chain Nursing Association Inc. • Uniting Church of Australia • Anglican Church of Australia Information from the groups formed a significant part of this thesis. An attempt was made in the conclusion to ascertain the effectiveness of the various strategies utilised by the pressure groups and provide an insight into lobbying practices. Ultimately, though, the contentious Bill was not given a third reading. Nor was it debated in the Legislative Council. At one stage it was considered likely that the Bill would be recommitted to parliament. The monitoring of the Medical Care of the Dying Bill (1995) undertaken in this thesis, indicates that this would have been a lengthy and divisive process.

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