Conscientious objection in Australia: a comparison between voluntary assisted dying legislation and abortion legislation

Dr Ronli Sifris1

1Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Voluntary assisted dying legislation has been passed in Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania.  In addition, Bills to legalise voluntary assisted dying are currently before the South Australian and Queensland Parliaments.  In the case of the Victorian, Western Australian and Tasmanian laws, a medical practitioner with a conscientious objection may refuse to participate in the process.  As currently framed, the South Australian and Queensland Bills also provide for conscientious objection. Interestingly, unlike abortion legislation in most jurisdictions, only the Queensland Bill seeks to impose on a medical practitioner with a conscientious objection an obligation to refer to a practitioner without such a conscientious objection. The Western Australian Act does not impose an obligation to refer but requires the provision of an information sheet to patients. This presentation seeks to interrogate the difference in approach to conscientious objection between laws regulating abortion versus laws regulating voluntary assisted dying. It poses the question: how should conscientious objection be addressed in the context of abortion and voluntary assisted dying legislation and is a difference in approach justified?


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