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Tuesday, 19 February 1980
Page: 72


Mr MARTYR (Swan) -Last year and again this morning I drew the attention of the House to the death of two-year-old Christopher Derkacz at Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth. I am sorry to do this to the House again this evening, but it is the only forum I have. I am continuing to do this because I think something very fundamentally wrong has been done, and there appears to be no redress whatsoever for the foster parents. Christopher died after being denied resuscitation on the unilateral decision of doctors in charge of his treatment, apparently because he was a Down's syndrome child. Neither his natural parent nor his foster parents were consulted. Evidence was given that some such children at the hospital are described as social problems and allowed to pass away. There is evidence that Christopher's case is not an isolated one. In spite of the coroner's misgivings about the death, and despite repeated reasonable requests, the Western Australian Government continues to deny an open inquiry into Christopher's death. The doctors and nurses involved continue to maintain the silence behind which they sheltered in the coroner's court. The hospital continues to assert that all patients are given the same treatment. Yet Christopher was denied treatment that would have been given to him gladly had he not been a Down's syndrome child.

I am not going to mourn for Christopher. He is in God's hands. But I do mourn for what this case has revealed about the state of the medical profession in this country. On evidence sworn in a court of law, doctors are now making unilateral decisions to allow handicapped people to die. There is apparently no legal means by which this can be prevented as long as the doctors remain silent in any resulting inquest. There seems to be no insistence that there must be an inquest in such cases. Handicapped people and their parents have had their confidence in hospitals and doctors shattered. To try to mend some of the tragic damage I will ask again and again, if necessary, that the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) give the most stringent instructions that no doctor in any hospital supported by this Government should ever make a deliberate unilateral decision to allow any patient to die.

Mr FitzPATRICK(Riverina) (10.42) -Today, in front of this House, representatives of the transport industry gathered together in a protest rally. Some of them expressed disappointment at the number of Federal members who took the opportunity to discuss their problems with them. That can be understood because members were concerned with international problems. However, I remind the House that it does not matter how expert we are at solving international problems. We still have some national problems which are just as big a threat to our way of life as some of the problems outside this country. The representatives of the transport industry asked to speak to me, not because I am an expert in this field but because I am concerned about the effect of the oil parity price on the various industries in the country areas, particularly in my electorate. It must be remembered that the price of distillate, petrol and other petroleum products has more than doubled in 18 months, and of course many people living in metropolitan areas know the effect that it is having on them.

It has been said that the inflationary spiral will increase by 3 per cent or 4 per cent, and I want to remind the House that these people have alternative means of transport for both personal use and for goods. It seems to me that this Government is not concerned enough for the way the oil parity prices are affecting people in country areas. The increased fuel prices not only are having a crippling effect on the private transport industry but are also sending to the wall many farming industries and business establishments in the country. The transport industry is caught up in a kind of pincer movement. Many of the non-perishable goods it used to cart are now being transferred to the subsidised rail services. They are still able to transport perishable goods because of the delays involved if there is no direct rail link, which is the situation in my electorate from the Riverina-Leeton area to parts of Queensland. Such perishable goods are still carried by road transport. Unfortunately, the transport people have had to increase their prices for carrying goods and they are meeting buyer resistance and are losing markets.

This is not only making things very difficult for the road hauliers but is also making it very awkward for the farming industry and business people in country areas. I remind the House that already many of the farming industries have suffered greatly increased penalties through extra fuel prices. In addition, they are losing their markets. That is serious because if they cannot supply those markets in out-of-the-way places they will have to find new markets, and that is adding to their problems. Of course, the road hauliers have their own problems. One chap was telling me that he had been carting steel from Adelaide to Sydney to Melbourne to Brisbane for 16 years. Last week he lost the contract. He has about half a dozen vehicles which were used to do this work and he has had to put people out of work.

Getting back to my own electorate, I am worried about the number of school leavers who are unable to find employment. This is adding to the problem. It has a snowballing effect. I ask the Government to give some consideration to the problems within Australia. We know that we have to spend some time considering international problems, but do not let us forget the problems within Australia. I believe that oil parity pricing is one of our greatest problems at present.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (MrMillarOrder! The honourable member's time has expired.







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