ASSISTED DYING LEGISLATION IS ABOUT END-OF-LIFE CHOICE

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.

* I have nothing against nursing homes.  The people working there do a heroic job in horrible circumstances and they are a needed facility in western societies.  But I never want to end up in one.
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2 thoughts on “ASSISTED DYING LEGISLATION IS ABOUT END-OF-LIFE CHOICE

  1. Graham, I share your views entirely. You have expressed them rationally and succinctly. It’s a pity so many people seem to want to dictate or legislate how OTHERS should live, or end, their lives.
    That said, the proposed Victorian legislation is a first step toward recognising the change in society’s views toward supporting assisted dying, but unfortunately it stops well short of offering what you (and I) would like to be able to choose. This legislation, if passed, will only provide for assisted dying in very limited medical/health circumstances, and will have (as stated by Daniel Andrews) the strictest controls in the world. We can only hope that one day we will have a free choice to end our own lives, should we wish to, at the time of our own choosing in a dignified way.
    I made a submission to the enquiry leading to development of the proposed legislation in the hope it would, at least, lead to what is now proposed, thus helping those suffering from life threatening, incurable diseases. If I ever fit that category I expect I will take up the option, but like you I also want the greater freedom of being able to choose the timing of my own death and have the legal means & support to achieve this regardless of my medical/health condition. If the legislation doesn’t exist by then I may have so resort to alternatives.

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    • Thanks for your thoughtful and personal response David. I’ve been interested that this blog has not attracted any comments back…which suggests readers don’t agree with my views…which is a pity. But I think framing it as a ‘choice’/pro-choice issue (which is how abortion and same-sex marriage can be framed, as they don’t have any harm elements for the general society, is the best way to view it. Fingers crossed this sensitive, well thought out piece of legislation goes through and creates a toehold in Australia.

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