Indigenous Perspectives

An Aboriginal viewpoint on Euthanasia: Senator Pat Dodson

Labor Senator Pat Dodson is a Yawuru man from Broome WA. He recently opposed the re-introduction of euthanasia into the Northern Territory. “Where First Nations people are already over represented at every stage of our health system, it is irresponsible to vote in favour of another avenue to death” writes Senator Pat Dodson.


“The biggest worry …”: findings on pain management for Aboriginal peoples

Dr Pam McGrath reports from her research of 72 interviews that “participants expressed ‘horror’ about the Western notion of euthanasia. … when we had the euthanasia focus. I was at [name location] at the time and a lot of Elders come down and just want to sit and talk about it and say their feelings and see what our feelings are… because they had real horror at the belief that we would just euthanasia people because we didn’t want them to suffer.”


Euthanasia laws could threaten Indigenous health

Past President of the AMA Dr Rosanna Capolingua reports that “euthanasia legislation makes Indigenous people very wary from accessing services”, and that “[we] certainly don’t need any further barriers to Indigenous people’s access to health care.”


Euthanasia in the Northern Territory

In 1996 Chips Mackinolty was commissioned by the Northern Territory Government to find out the views of Aboriginal peoples’ views on voluntary euthanasia. Twenty one community meetings were conducted across the Territory with some 900 Aboriginal people from approximately 100 communities. Although pro-euthanasia, Mackinolty quickly discovered that 99.77% of Aboriginal peoples were strongly opposed to voluntary euthanasia. He concludes “I believe the very existence of the legislation poses an unacceptable risk to the health of Aboriginal Territorians who may delay or refuse to access health care because of fears they have of the legislation.”


Aboriginal peoples in WA have less palliative care services than everyone else

Shahid et al (2013) document that 15 palliative care providers admitted poor understanding of Aboriginal cultures and uncertainty around the needs and priorities of Aboriginal peoples during end-of-life care. The understandable and well documented mistrust Aboriginal peoples have western health care will surely worsen by legislating euthanasia or assisted suicide. It is manifestly unjust to consider offering this to Aboriginal peoples when basic care and compassion have not been extended in the first place.


What effect would euthanasia legislation have on Aboriginal peoples?

At the 2018 Ethics Colloqium, Darryl Mackie acknowledges how euthanasia legislation risks increasing Aboriginals’ mistrust of Western medicine, and concludes that “We have much
to learn from our Aboriginal people and those in end-of-life care, for they teach us how to care, they teach us how to let go, and they teach us how to live and how to die.”


Learning from Indigenous Wisdom in the Euthanasia debate

Prof Margaret Somerville writes “In using their imaginations to look forward seven generations in order to be warned of future harms and risks to their descendants, indigenous communities [seek]  to protect not only individuals, but also the community. How a person dies, when death is caused by euthanasia, affects not only that person, but also unavoidably affects others and the community, and not just in the present but also in the future.”