Push for legal euthanasia grows

The push for legalising voluntary euthanasia gained a major supportor yesterday, with Labor’s Anthony Albanese adding his voice to the discussion.

Speaking to Sky News, the Labor frontbencher said he first made his support known during a parliamentary debate, some 20 years ago, into a bill that sought to ban the ACT and Northern Territory from legalising voluntary euthanasia.

He believes that when someone is on the brink of death and they have been prepared to make the decision to end their life, then the law should “respect their personal wishes”.

While noting that he was “ a supporter of voluntary euthanasia”, Mr Albanese is clear that a change to the law must be the subject of a conscience vote and safeguards would need to be put in place to protect the interests of those dying.

Mr Albanese isn’t the only high-profile individual to speak out in support of the issue. Media broadcaster and producer, Andrew Denton, is a powerful advocate for voluntary euthanasia, having watched his once strong, proud father die an agonising death. Denton will today speak at the National Press Club on the subject of assisted dying.

Late last year, Mr Denton gave a speech at the Wheeler Centre in which he touched on the issues of assisted dying already happening in Australia, although the extent is unknown. “Whether it’s being done well, or for the right reasons, or with the consent of patients – as they do overseas – because the absence of a law here means we have no guidelines, no reporting mechanisms and no system of review.

“All we have is doctors doing what they believe is best, depending on their moral view of the universe,” said Denton.

And it appears the sentiment is gaining support among other parliamentary parties. Earlier this year, a federal cross-party parliamentary working group signalled its intention to expedite a bill that would overturn the ban on legalising euthanasia, legislated by then Prime Minister John Howard. Co-sponsored by Labor senator Katy Gallagher and Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, the bill was introduced in March but has since lapsed due to parliament being suspended for the Federal Election.

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Opinion: Time to treat us like adults

‘Life is for the living’ – never a truer word was said and with most Australians knowing exactly how they feel about dying, it’s time for the powers that be to finally take notice of their wishes.

Voluntary euthanasia is an emotive issue, with as many people willing to speak out against as there are in favour. But let us not forget that death is a very personal issue, and one for which, given the chance, we should have the final say.

The legalising of voluntary euthanasia should not be a decision taken lightly, but rather than focusing on whether it should happen, the discussion should be shifted to the when and how. It really doesn’t matter whether you are for or against, you legally should have the right to make the decision either way.

In a survey run by YourLifeChoices last November, 92 per cent of the 3290 respondents had thought about their own death and 75 per cent of those were not afraid of dying.

When faced with the possibility of ending their days as a result of a tragic incident or prolonged illness, many were clear about what they wanted. In fact, 67 per cent responded that they knew exactly how they wanted to end their days, yet only 40 per cent have recorded such wishes.

The overwhelming response was that people don’t want to end their days on life support, with a significantly reduced quality of life or in constant, unbearable pain. Of course, it’s fine to hold that view when you know there is no legal way you can actually act on your wishes. Perhaps if voluntary euthanasia were a legal option, more would be inclined to legally state their preference on how they wish to die.

Dying with dignity is the last gift we can give someone, so surely it’s time to end the debate and start on the legal framework?

What do you think? Should voluntary euthanasia, if properly legislated, be legalised? Would legalising it make you change your point of view? Have you recorded your wishes regarding your death?

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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