In egalitarian societies, it is well-established that abortion is about the right of a woman to choose what to do with her body. Similarly, assisted dying legislation – being proposed now in Victoria, NSW, WA and SA – is about the right of a person to choose how they die. The proposed legislation won’t cover me, but I too want to be able to choose how I die, if possible.As I walk past ‘nursing homes’ full of people with incurable diseases, lying there, year after year, unable to die due to the constant medical care surrounding them, I shudder. That is not ‘life’ to me. That is just slow death. It’s horrible. I want to be able to choose to avoid this method of dying.
I had a friend who took his own life because he reached the point in his life that a nursing home loomed. One more fall. One broken hip or leg. He had always said he would. The pity was I couldn’t be there to help him, because he thought I’d be prosecuted. I never got to say goodbye. This legislation would have enabled him to have the death he deserved, not the one he had. But thankfully, not the one of slow death in a nursing home.* I had another friend who wanted to fly to Switzerland to end her life but was too infirm by the time she came to want to make that choice.
Based on statistics from countries where assisted dying is allowable – Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Canada and 7 US states – around 2% of people want to end their own life peacefully at their own time of choosing. For them, this legislation is critical. It legalises what is going on informally in some hospitals, with some doctors, through the efforts of Dying with Dignity and Exit International and brave individuals risking prosecution to help people end their own lives.
This legislation is about choice. The religious Christian minority are now out in force, running scare campaigns, using the term ‘killing’. This legislation is NOT about killing. It is about a person’s right to choose the timing and method of their own death, under very strictly limited circumstances. I have no problem with other people – the vast majority as it turns out – making their own choice to take their chances on how and when they die. Just let me make my own choice.
This legislation helps people – and particularly friends and relatives – to have the option of a peaceful death, not a painful death. A death at the time of their choosing, not someone else’s choosing. It helps doctors reduce their legal liability. It means less government money is spent in nursing homes paying for people who don’t want to be alive, and can be spent on those who do. It has no impact on the vast majority who are happy with their death options. Stop the religious zealots and the fear-mongerers. Support assisted dying legislation. Like abortion and same-sex marriage, this is a social change that makes for a more egalitarian, better society.