A doctor who reckons contraception is 'against god' could impact voluntary assisted dying law in Australia.

Later this year, Victorian MPs have a life and death decision to make.

They will decide, via a conscience vote, whether their terminally ill constituents deserve the right to chose a medically assisted death.

The legislation hasn’t been finalised yet because the vote isn’t expected until August, but the vocal elements of the ‘no’ camp are shouting at wavering lawmakers, doing their darnedest to drown out surveys that indicate 75 per cent of Australian voters are in favour of such a law.

Joining their chorus next week – by invitation – will be an American professor by the name of William Toffler.

A medical doctor and founder of an anti-assisted dying group called Physicians for Compassionate Care Foundation, Prof. Toffler is one of the United States’ most outspoken voices on the topic.

He’s also a medical professional who argues that abortion is linked to breast cancer and that contraception is “against God’s plan” for married couples.

On Thursday this week, this man will have a private audience with Victorian MPs .

Yes, you read that correctly.

Prof. Toffler will be in the country on a speaking tour sponsored by Right to Life Australia, a group that advocates against abortion, IVF, euthanasia, infanticide and embryo stem cell research. But the doctor’s address to parliament is courtesy of Upper House Liberal MP Inga Peulich.

In an email obtained by Mamamia, the member for the South Eastern Metropolitan Region invites fellow MPs to Parliament to hear a cost-free “chilling presentation” by the Oregon-based MD, who has “seen the dire effects of assisted suicide laws on patients and his profession”.

While physician-assisted dying advocate and MLC for the Northern Metropolitan region, Fiona Patten, is planning to attend, she is wary of Toffler’s perspective and thinks her colleagues ought to be too.

“I’m a free speech advocate so I’m happy for him to come along. However, I’m not happy if he’s just here to provide misinformation, which he is renowned for doing,” she told Mamamia.

william toffler presentation victorian parliament
Prof. William Toffler will present to parliamentarians at the invitation of MLC Inga Peulich. Images: Facebook.

Prof. Toffler is from Oregon, a state that pioneered 'Death with Dignity' laws two decades ago. These laws have remained unchanged in that time and have inspired similar legislation across the US to the extent that one in six Americans now live in states where voluntary assisted death is legal.

Yet according to Prof. Toffler, the legislation has created a "disaster" and left patients in fear "that they are being steered toward assisted suicide" by their doctors.

"There has been a profound shift in attitude toward medical care," he wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2015, "new fear and secrecy, and a fixation on death."

Patten says that aside from the fact that there has been no evidence of abuse or coercion in 20 years of the law, the statistics show that Prof. Toffler's assertion simply isn't true.

According to government figures, 133 Oregonians died in 2016 from ingesting medications prescribed under the Act, which equated to 37.2 per 10,000 total deaths across the state. Most patients were aged 65 years or older (80.5%), had cancer (78.9%) and nine out of 10 were enrolled in hospice care.

"We also know that 30 per cent of people who are prescribed [end of life] medication don't use it," Patten said. "So what doctors have said is that, far from a culture of death, this [law] enables them to have those conversations."

Critics of Prof. Toffler, including Patten, also note that his views on medical issues aren't entirely scientific, aren't secular, that he openly lets his religious beliefs inform the way he practises.

According to Prof. Toffler's Catholic Medical Association bio, he speaks to topics including 'Counselling the abortion-minded', 'Natural Family Planning' (he refuses to prescribe contraception) and 'Emerging from the darkness: one physician’s journey to a fully Catholic practice'.

He is also a director of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute that upholds a widely debunked a link between abortion and breast cancer.

Patten hopes her colleagues are aware of "the position he is coming from" prior to Thurday's presentation.

"He’s presenting a view that reflects a very small minority of people," she said. "And that view should not be the reason that we don’t go down the path of allowing a tight, compassionate piece of legislation to allow physician assisted dying in Victoria."

Andrew Denton talks about voluntary euthanasia with Mia Freedman. (Post continues below.)

Patten was responsible for initiating the Inquiry into End of Life Choices, which was last year completed by the Legal and Social Issues Committee.


Over the course of 10 months, the group travelled to five countries - including the USA - where physician assisted dying laws are in place, consulted with medical and legal professionals, ethicists, religious leaders, patients and ordinary people around Victoria, and received more than 1000 submissions.

The ultimate recommendation was that the state government to introduce a legal framework that would "allow adults with decision making capacity, suffering from a serious and incurable condition who are at the end of life to be provided assistance to die in certain circumstances".

Of the eight Legislative Council MPs on the committee (three Labor, two Liberal, one Greens and one Australian Sex Party), there were only two dissenting votes: Labor's Daniel Mulino and Peulich.

As the author of the minority report, Peulich wrote, "a caring and compassionate society cannot support the taking of life when it is clearly impossible to have safeguards against errors of medical judgement, the accidental taking of human life, let alone the moral arguments which exist against state sanctioned death."

She hopes Prof. Toffler will hammer that home this week.

In a statement to Mamamia, Peulich said, "As Co-Chair of the Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Faith Communities and given the Labor Government’s work on developing a euthanasia bill which is to be introduced in the Victorian Parliament in August, representatives of faith communities and all MPs are being provided with an opportunity to listen to a speaker on this important topic before the bill is introduced."

If the bill passes, Victoria would be the first state or territory to have assisted death laws since the Northern Territory's were overturned in 1997.

Currently, terminally ill patients beyond medical relief who wish to end their life must refuse food, water and treatment, be terminally sedated (that is placed into a coma) or die by suicide.

For Patten, the most affecting part of the inquiry came via Victorian Coroner John Olle who gave evidence regarding the ways in which some Victorians - specifically the elderly of sound mind yet in "irreversible" physical decline - that had resorted to "desperate and violent" means of suicide.

He estimated the number of elderly Victorians dying in this way at one per week.

"We're forcing people to die in pain, we're forcing people to go to extraordinary lengths when they're at a point where they're ready to go and they don't want to suffer any further," Patten said.

"I'm quite proud that we are voting on this and that we are recognising that grown ups should be allowed some autonomy.

"You know, modern science allows us to keep people alive for so long, maybe it's time we allowed people some choices at the end of that life."