Euthanasia in Tasmania - Assisted suicide in Tasmania - Dying with Dignity in Tasmania

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Legal viewpoints

Tasmanian legal practitioners and academics explore the issue of patient rights and the threat to the community in removing long standing legal protections

Written article
William Cox

Legal safeguards - the ever present risk of abuse

Hon. William Cox

Former Governor of Tasmania and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

In a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Community Development on the Dying with Dignity Bill in 2009, the Hon. William Cox succinctly expressed his opposition to euthanasia on the basis of the ever present risks to the frail and the elderly and that the legalisation of what has for centuries been regarded as Murder can never be justified...

From: the Honourable William Cox AC, RFD, ED,QC


27 July 2009


The Secretary,
Joint Standing Committee on
Community Development
Parliament House


Dear Sir or Madam,

I write to express my opposition to the Dying with Dignity Euthanasia Bill.

The very title proceeds from a false premise namely that one who dies at his own hand or enlists the aid of another for that purpose dies with dignity. On the contrary, it is my submission that one who accepts the disabilities, mental or physical, which may precede death and who resists the temptation to avoid them by this drastic course dies with true dignity. His or her dignity is never diminished by even the most intolerable pain, the feeling of helplessness arising from not being able to control one's bodily functions or the inability to recognise loved ones and the other afflictions of mental deterioration.

The advances in medical science have reduced the incidence of very severe physical pain while those who have the misfortune to suffer dementia are incapable of giving the informed consent which is touted as a safeguard by virtue of its being expressly required by the Bill.

Notwithstanding the safeguards said to be enshrined in the Bill, the risk of abuse is ever present. The pressure on the frail and elderly to avoid becoming a burden to their loved ones can be very real and could easily lead to use of the mechanisms authorised by the Bill in circumstances not really in keeping with its spirit.


While I have the deepest sympathy for those to whom the Bill professes to offer comfort and a solution to their problem, the legalization of what has for centuries been regarded (properly in my view) as Murder can never be justified.

Yours sincerely

William Cox



Author bios
Hon. William Cox

The Honourable William Cox was born in Hobart, was educated at Xavier College, Melbourne, and the University of Tasmania where he graduated in Arts & Law, and was admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor in 1960.


After 16 years in private practice and a year as a Magistrate he was appointed Crown Advocate (DPP) for Tasmania in 1977 and a Judge of the Supreme Court in 1982. In 1995 he was appointed Chief Justice and the following year Lieutenant Governor. In 2004 he became the 26th Governor of Tasmania and served in that capacity until April 2008.


In 2005 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by the University of Tasmania.


Viewpoints on euthanasia and assisted suicide from eminent Tasmanians