Religious Freedom amendments introduced in NSW

Today the Rev the Hon Fred Nile, for the Christian Democrat Party, introduced a Bill to add “religious beliefs or religious activities” into NSW legislation as a prohibited ground of discrimination. The proposed Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms) Bill 2018 will add new Parts 3B and 5A into the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) (“ADA”), making it unlawful in various areas to discriminate on the grounds of religion, or to subject religious bodies to a detriment. The proposals will also make it unlawful to penalise someone for holding views on marriage as the union of a man or a woman, or for holding the view that there are only two genders.

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Face-coverings and testimony in court

Should a Muslim woman who wears a face covering for religious reasons, be entitled to give evidence in court with her face covered? This important issue, which has been discussed in other common law jurisdictions, has now been considered in the NSW Court of Appeal, in Elzahed v State of New South Wales [2018] NSWCA 103 (18 May 2018). The Court concluded that no error had been shown in a ruling by a trial judge, that Ms Elzahad was not entitled to keep her face covered while testifying.

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Euthanasia and Assisted Dying- the law and why it should not change

This is a paper I presented recently at an evening considering issues around euthanasia and assisted dying: Euthanasia Paper May 2018. It presents reasons why changing the law in these areas is not a good idea in the interests of society at large and the vulnerable sick and elderly in particular.

For further material on this issue, see the excellent site “Health Professionals Say No“, which as well as providing a long list of health professionals who oppose euthanasia, also links to a set of resources for further study. And for a recent UK paper exploring the meaning of “dignity” in this context, see the report Dignity at the End of Life: What’s Beneath the Assisted Dying Debate? from the Theos Institute. (Thanks to Dr Megan Best for these extra resources.)

There is also an excellent recent piece here, “Physician-Assisted Suicide: Why Neutrality by Organized Medicine Is Neither Neutral Nor Appropriate” (2 May 2018, Journal of General Internal Medicine) arguing for health professionals to continue to actively oppose  Physician Assisted Suicide.

These comments from the front page of the first website noted above summarise the issues very well:

We believe that crossing the line to intentionally assist a person to suicide would fundamentally weaken the doctor-patient relationship, which is based on trust and respect. The power of the clinician/patient relationship cannot be over-estimated. It is proven the desire to die diminishes dramatically when appropriate care and support is provided.

We are especially concerned with protecting vulnerable people who can feel they have become a burden to others, and are committed to supporting those who find their own life situations a heavy burden. We believe such laws would undermine the public perception of the dignity and value of human life in all its different stages and conditions. There is strong evidence to the inherent lack of safety and proven abuses where physician assisted suicide and euthanasia laws exist.

Government focus should be on the compassionate and equitable provision of Social Services, Health Care and Palliative Care toward maintaining and protecting the dignity and lives of those with illness, age or disablement. There is still much to be done to address social, medical and mental health inequity and in our society.

Doctors and Healthcare Professionals are not necessary for the legalisation or practice of assisted suicide. Their involvement is being sought only to provide a cloak of medical legitimacy. Doctors, nurses and allied health professionals focus should be on saving lives and providing real care and support for those who are suffering.