Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dying with Dignity

Last week I attended a presentation about end-of-life rights, delivered by Neil Francis, President and CEO of Dying with Dignity Victoria.  The session was held the Weston Club and was organised by Dying with Dignity in the ACT.
In the last two decades, surveys have consistently shown that the majority of Australians believe that terminally ill individuals should have a right to seek and obtain assistance to end their life with dignity.  Today that majority is around 85%.
Neil began by explaining the aims of the organisation.  These are: 
  • to promote legislation that gives freedom of choice to individuals and acknowledges the human right of terminally and incurably ill people with profound suffering to die with dignity; 
  • to carry out a continuing public education policy to achieve such legislation; and 
  • to educate the public in the need for Living Wills and Advance Directives and to provide counselling and other assistance to people about their end of life rights.
In short, their aim is to change the law so that medically assisted dying is permitted at the request of competent, incurably ill people who wish to avoid pointless suffering and degeneration, and to control their own dying.
Much of Neil’s presentation was based on the experiences of countries and states where voluntary euthanasia has been decriminalised for some years, including Oregon, Washington, The Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.  The legislation varies between these countries.  In Switzerland, passive assisted suicide has been legal since 1942, and it has the most open rules, which allow someone to give another person the means to kill themselves, provided the helper does not personally benefit from the death.  The overwhelming view from all these countries is that voluntary euthanasia works well for its citizens;  giving people the right to choose, and to talk openly about the option of voluntary euthanasia promoted peace, serenity and reassurance.
The Dying with Dignity website provides further information about voluntary euthanasia, including links to other Australian and international websites about the topic. 
Karen Jameson
HCCA Policy Officer

1 comment:

gmblog said...

I know this is a contentious issue and always will be, but I believe that even our current laws leave plenty of room for potential abuse. Honest and open discussion is needed, with compassionate examination of individual cases.