‘Our bodies, our choice’: members

Assisted dying legislation has been given a resounding tick by the overwhelming majority of YourLifeChoices members who voted in our weekly poll.

We asked you: Should all Australian states and territories legalise voluntary euthanasia?

Of the 1849 responses, 1576 or 85 per cent said yes, 217 or 12 per cent said no, while three per cent were undecided.

Victoria became the first Australian state to pass legislation allowing voluntary assisted dying in November 2017. The law gives anyone suffering a terminal illness, with less than six months to live, the right to end his or her life. It will come into effect in mid-2019.

In Western Australia, a cross-party committee in the parliament has recommended legalising voluntary euthanasia for patients suffering from a terminal illness. It could become law in WA as early as next year.

The Northern Territory became the first Australian jurisdiction to legalise voluntary assisted dying in 1996, but this was overturned by the Federal Government in 1997.

Last month, the Senate rejected a bill to restore the NT’s right to decide its own legislation on euthanasia and to enable the ACT to act independently.

There are forms of voluntary assisted dying in Switzerland, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia and some US states.

According to a peer-reviewed paper published in the respected Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016, between 0.3 per cent to 4.6 per cent of all deaths are reported as euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide in jurisdictions where they are legal. “The frequency of these deaths increased after legalisation … Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are increasingly being legalised, remain relatively rare, and primarily involve patients with cancer,” the paper said. “Existing data do not indicate widespread abuse of these practices.”

The paper noted that in the US, pain was not the main motivation for physician-assisted suicide, rather it was “loss of autonomy and dignity and being less able to enjoy life’s activities”.

Typical of your responses in favour of assisted dying were:

I should have the right to do with my body as I please, especially when I have made these decisions when fully compos and my family have been advised and agree. ­ Fair Dinkum

Dementia has been devastating in my family & I feel the need to have a choice rather than put my own kids thru what we’ve all been thru with my dad. Until there are answers/cures/medical breakthrus with this & other terminal conditions/diseases etc, there should be options with diagnosis of this kind! ­ Cheezil61

I’ve seen 4 family members die of  cancer. Mother & husband both had Dementia. None of their deaths were easy. That’s why I think we should B able 2 choose a quick drink. There is  this solution & I think we have 2 help ourselves in that direction. Palliative care is only a band-aid 2 make people feel  better. Doesn’t help A slow death with Morphine isn’t good either. – SKRAPL

Simple. My life, my choice. I do not have a problem with those who choose no. If they want to suffer to the very end then of course they will have that right. But do not allow those who choose to suffer to the end of a terminal illness decide what decision I should make. Jess M

Of the YourLifeChoices members who said no in our poll, the most cited reasons were, in order:

  • fear of abuse of the system
  • could lead to a legal slippery slope
  • fear of elder abuse.

Typical of the responses from those who opposed assisted dying were:

Nope. It would definitely be abused. I know my mother was “helped along”. – Anne

People might feel pressure to take their own lives because they are a burden on relatives or friends.

Related articles:
Dying at home alone
Dying on your terms
Police conduct euthanasia raids

Written by Janelle Ward

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