I have the right to die in the manner I choose. I’m not talking about suicide but rather if I have a terminal disease or if I suffer an illness that leaves me in a vegetative state.
Frankly I have seen far too many people suffering from a terminal illness and the look in their eyes says it all – get me out of here.
At the moment in Australia I have to travel overseas if I am terminally ill and wish to no longer be a part of this earth that I have inhabited for many long years. That frankly is ridiculous and boils down to several factors. Politicians who don’t have the guts to make that final decision, religious zealots who influence the politicians and threaten them with block votes at election time (voting is compulsory in Australia) and people who feel that life and death is not in their hands but some other being in the ether, or sad world in which they live.
And frankly many doctors are too frightened to take on these lobby groups. On the other hand I have seen a medico quietly help a very sick and dying person go to another life and there has been no pain.
But we have to understand that although 99% of doctors are highly intelligent sometimes they are extremely stupid prolonging the life of a person who is in intense pain.
One doctor told me once that he would not increase the morphine dose for a dying, elderly woman because she might become addicted. She died two days later in agony.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy living in this world and hope to live for many years longer and although my body is telling me it is getting old I’m still happy to enjoy the company of others, walk with my dog, enjoy a good meal, listen to good music, read books and carry on living. At the same time I live in fear of having an illness such as a severe stroke where I am unable to look after myself and will simply lay there wishing to die as soon as possible – is that too much to ask?
If you have ever seen a person who has had a severe stroke then you will understand what I am saying.
I have lost count of the amount of times the various legislators in this nation have considered euthanasia, or the more politically correct term assisted dying.
Currently euthanasia is illegal in Australia but Australian states can legislate on the issue. It was legal for a period in the Northern Territory and in November 2017 legislation to allow assisted suicide passed the Parliament of Victoria but will not come into effect until mid-2019. A patient can elect not to receive any treatment for a terminal illness and can also elect to have their life support turned off. And other states are now considering it – but I’m not hopeful.
The Australian Think Tank Australia 21 recently stated: The issue of how we, as a society, regulate VE and AS arises in a particular social, demographic and medical context. For example, Australia has an ageing population and the baby boomer generation is now (and will increasingly be) involved in medical decisions as they come to the end of their lives. This generation will not be passive recipients of paternalistic medical practices, and will insist on greater input in and control over their dying process. At the same time, VE and AS are issues that are of significant interest to the public and are issues about which there is majority public support for reform.
Further, this debate occurs in the context of ongoing advances in medicine. Lives can be sustained in circumstances that have never previously been contemplated, and decisions need to be made about whether to give life-sustaining medical treatment, or allow the individual to die. There have also been significant improvements in palliative care which have enabled pain in dying patients to be managed to the extent that has not been possible in the past.
An omission to provide life-sustaining medical treatment is lawful in Australia, unless the patient is deemed mentally incapable of consent.
According to Wikipedia: In 2011 the Supreme Court of New South Wales gave a two-year suspended sentence to a 66-year-old man who had facilitated the death of his long-term 78-year-old partner by helping her overdose on drugs and suffocating her. The deceased suffered from severe pain arising from a spinal condition. Furthermore, the deceased had expressed a wish to die in a suicide note written prior to her death. The court convicted the man of manslaughter. The court accounted for the accuser’s substantial impairment at the time the act was committed as well the fact that he voluntarily revealed his involvement in the commission of the offence.
Exit International made TV ads arguing for voluntary euthanasia, which were banned just before they were scheduled to broadcast in September 2010.
In 2018 Liberal Democrats legislator David Leyonhjelm introduced a bill into the Senate to remove the federal ban on the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory legislating for euthanasia. The bill was given priority in the Senate and was subject to a conscience vote for both the Coalition Government and opposition Labor Party, though it was defeated at the second reading stage by 36 votes to 34.
Just two votes or three if it were to pass was all it would have taken. Surely that tells our politicians something?
In the meantime I have to hope that I’ll die quietly in my sleep and be no burden to any person and that includes my family, my doctor, nursing staff and carers.
Just a small addendum. If you have concerns about dying go and see a lawyer and make a Living Will. It will relieve your family of the burden of having to make a decision they don’t really want to make but know they probably should. And tell your doctor if you are having surgery that you have a written Do Not Resuscitate order in place should something go wrong and you end up on the vegetable table.
Written with references from: Wikipedia; Think Tank 21.