Its a matter of life and death

Benalla Ensign, Benalla VIC (General News) by Simon Ruppert Proposed laws divide public and politicians. Voluntary euthanasia could soon be legal in Victoria as Premier Daniel Andrews seems determined to address the issue with a conscious vote in the state parliament. Legislation that will move to legalise assisted suicide in cases where a patient is terminal and expresses a desire to end their life could be in place later this year. Mr Andrews has accepted all 66 recommendations put forward by a ministerial advisory panel consisting of legal, consumer, health and palliative care experts. The proposed laws have divided the public and politicians with some arguing that the desire to end life is a human right and others worried about the potential for the system to be abused. Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes was part of the ministerial committee tasked with drafting the legislation and says the recommendations were only made after extensive research and consultation with health and palliative care experts. We travelled to the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada and Oregon to discuss their assisted dying laws, Ms Symes said. The evidence was very compelling and Im very supportive of the legislation based on the evidence that was before me. The current system is not set up to help every person that is in incredible pain and suffering towards the end of their life. Ms Symes also expressed concern that some terminal patients were taking matters into their own hands. Right now there are cases in Victoria of people who have been forced to end their suffering in the most violent, lonely and dangerous ways, she said. The legislation includes several safeguards to ensure it is not abused and can be implemented in a safe, compassionate way. A patient wishing to end their life must be of sound mind, has to seek the advice of two medical professionals trained in this area at least 10 days apart and the drug must be self administered. In spite of these parts of the legislation some are concerned that it will take much needed funding from palliative care programs, and could be open to abuse. Xavier OKane of Benallas Coster Street Medical Practice feels that this is bad policy and that funding palliative care will bring more to the community. I believe that our elderly citizens deserve better and should not have to feel like they are a burden, Dr OKane said. (Continued Page 3)If this passes funds will be directed towards (assisted suicide) and not palliative care. We feel that palliative care is better as it reaches more members of the community. I am pleased that the proposed legislation has strict safeguards, however, I am still worried that it is a threat to the disabled and those with mental health issues. I would say that there are no possible safeguards that could be adequate. This is an opinion echoed by Minister Stephen McDonald of Benallas Presbyterian Church. The proposed safeguards seem pretty reasonable, the issue is that those can be changed at any time at the will of the government, Mr McDonald said. So if there is a majority in the lower or upper house that want to change them and allow for people who are not able to express their wishes, that safeguard could be taken away very easily. Despite being such a polarising topic, not everyone is taking a position either way. Member for Euroa and deputy leader of the Nationals Steph Ryan has not, at this stage, committed to voting one way or another. Ms Ryan was unavailable for comment, but her office released a statement confirming her stance. The issue was raised at the Nationals state conference in May, Ms Ryan said. The party chose not to choose a position for or against the bill, but rather endorse a free vote for MPs. At this stage Steph cannot commit to voting one way or another, as she believes it would be irresponsible to do so without having had the opportunity to read the legislation and understand her constituents views on the matter. The proposed safeguards seem pretty reasonable, the issue is that those can be changed at any time at the will of the government.