Who should choose how you die?

Victoria’s legalisation of voluntary euthanasia should put pressure on other states to follow suit, if our polling of older Australians is anything to go by.

In the YourLifeChoices’ Friday Flash Poll: How do you feel about voluntary assisted dying?, 83 per cent of the 775 respondents said voluntary euthanasia should be legalised in all states and territories, with 14 per cent saying it should not and two per cent still unsure.

But as impressive as those numbers are, they represent a slight drop in favour of voluntary euthanasia from our last poll on the subject. In August last year, 85 per cent of our members were in favour of assisted dying, while 12 per cent were opposed and three per cent were unsure.

“I thought surely this was something that would have agreement by all. There are sufficient safeguards in place to guard against abuse. I watched a lovely aunt die the most painful, dreadful death imaginable. Her body was distorted by arthritis and it made you very sad to watch her suffer. It went on too long. I knew as soon as I saw this that I would agree wholeheartedly. No one should go through this. I believe if you were in the throes of this suffering you would beg for the relief that would relieve you of your agony. Thank you Victoria for having the intestinal fortitude to make this a reality,” wrote YourLifeChoices member Paddington.

Of those who think it shouldn’t be legalised, 26 per cent say they fear abuse of the system or their religious beliefs (24 per cent), 18 per cent fear elder abuse, 10 per cent believe it could lead to a slippery slope (10 per cent), 10 per cent are hopeful of future medical cures, six per cent have concerns about the medical profession and five per cent say we must endure life though all pain, suffering and misfortune.

“I find it highly offensive that someone’s religious belief can take away my right to die with dignity. After watching three family members in two years die (two with cancer, one from a stroke), I would not wish it on my worst enemy,” wrote Jaycee1.

More than half (56 per cent) would access voluntary euthanasia if it were made available in their state, 19 per cent would consider it and seven per cent say no now but may change their mind in future. More than one in 10 say they would absolutely not consider voluntary euthanasia and five per cent are unsure.

“I hope the rest of Australia brings in assisted euthanasia soon because no one should have to suffer a terrible death,” wrote Jackie.

Some members would prefer to see improvements in palliative care rather than legalise euthanasia.

“I would never be able to approve of legally sanctioned killing. All good intentions can be used perversely. Just give thanks you live in a country where palliative care is freely given,” wrote Oldie84.

“We don’t do palliative care well in many instances I agree, but that is not a reason to argue for euthanasia. It is an argument to improve palliative care,” wrote KSS.

A major factor when seeking euthanasia in Victoria is that the applicant must be of sound mind and have six months to live – or 12 months in the case of neurodegenerative disorders. But for those who have dementia and face a potentially drawn-out, undignified death, there is little recourse.

So, we asked whether someone who had been diagnosed with dementia, but was still of sound mind, should be able to appoint a power of attorney with specific instructions on assisted dying.

Almost seven in 10 poll respondents said yes, while 16 per cent said no, eight per cent said maybe, and six per cent were unsure.

“I believe that it is a person’s right to die when and how they want. My concern is that if a directive is put in place, will it be acted upon as the person has requested? I have heard of many instances where people already have a directive regarding being kept alive and these have been ignored by medical professionals and family members. I would hope this wouldn’t be the case with a VAD directive. I am appalled at the amount of people who are kept alive by – sometimes experimental – medications given by doctors or by the request of family members when clearly the person has nothing left. This is a far worse situation than assisting someone to die peacefully if they wish. And they are allowed to do this in the name of ‘medicine’ yet we aren’t allowed to die if we want,” wrote Chelle03.

Other members believe it should be their choice to die with dignity, regardless of their medical situation.

“Euthanasia should be available to all, and not just when pain is unbearable. I believe that we should be able to request euthanasia at any stage after we have been told by a specialist that time is limited – why wait for severe pain to set in, or have to be put into some kind of care where other people look after your daily needs? Not much of a life if you can’t look after yourself,” wrote Stoney.

“I believe in euthanasia and I think that it should be available to all who want to avail themselves of the right to end one’s suffering. I accept that there are some who oppose it on religious views, and I respect their choices. Obviously euthanasia won’t be legislated as compulsory so those who oppose it shouldn’t want to use it and shouldn’t stand in the way of those of us who wish to,” wrote Old Man.

“I also believe that any euthanasia laws should be made an election policy to enable the people to decide whether it should be allowed. I don’t know if euthanasia would be acceptable to the majority and I believe that it is for the people to decide, not politicians. As was seen in the recent election, people rejected the policies of one party even though all of the polls, betting agencies and media predicted a different result,” he added.

Do you think older Australians have the power to coerce state governments to introduce voluntary assisted dying?

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Related articles:
How will assisted dying work?
More boomers considering euthanasia
Time to endorse assisted dying?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.


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