Vale Peter Short
Peter Short, a highly energetic and effective campaigner for Dying With Dignity, died on Monday 29 December. See news report here.
Dr Rodney Syme, Vice-President of Dying With Dignity Victoria, gave the following address at Peter's funeral:
Shakespeare had Mark Anthony say “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”. Well, I come to praise Peter Short, and to assert that no one will bury Peter Short. His name will live forever. Peter did not beat death, no one can when their time comes. Yet Peter conquered death – Caesar would have approved. At a time when death is enveloped with dogma, and myth, taboo and gloom, when people retreat and hide, and become depressed, Peter tossed it aside, and lived every day as fulsomely and as beautifully as he could. He had faced death 5 years before, after his major surgery, and seen it off.
When Peter was told in February, 2014, that his cancer had recurred and that he had six months to live, he rapidly developed an understanding of his clinical circumstances and the law, and confirmed his medical enduring power of attorney and advance directive preparations. He commenced a process of deep communication with his wife Elizabeth and son Mitchell, and his medical advisors, so that there were no uncertainties about his values and wishes. He brought everyone on board, discussion was frank, open, serious yet often humourous. There was no gloom around Peter. In short, he accepted the reality of his situation, and set about making every day important. I have no doubt that his family’s grief is greatly diminished because of this process. They shared his dying to the full. It was a warm, inclusive process.
He determined that he would do everything in his power to change the law in Australia, to give everybody the choice that he held so important – to choose when, where and how he died. He wrote, spoke, blogged and tweeted every single day. He became a household name. He has participated in a documentary film of his last months which will be a remarkable document. He developed a petition to the Prime Minister, and he must have been over the moon when Mr Abbott rang him 10 days before he died to talk with him, and assure him that Federal Liberals would have a conscience vote on dying with dignity legislation. No one, to my mind, has ever done as much for this cause, in the 8 months available to him, as Peter.
Peter outlived his prognosis by four months because of two phenomena. He had an important purpose that engaged him fully, and gave him a profound reason for living; and he had control over the end of his life which provided valuable palliation. I was privileged to advise Peter during the last 8 months of his life, and to work with him and Dying With Dignity Victoria on many of his projects. I counselled him about his dying, gave him advice on medication, and eventually gave him medication which would give him control over the end of his life. He attested to the benefit this gave him in conquering death. Having Nembutal didn’t shorten his life. In the end he chose not to use it. Ultimately Peter died in palliative care. This might seem a paradox, given his energy for the right to die at home at his own time. Dying, however, can be complex, not so easy to control. What Peter was arguing for was choice, and in the end he exercised choice; the actual choice he made is not important, the fact that he had a choice is what matters.
The last time I saw my father as he was dying of pancreatic cancer, I said to him, “thank you for showing me how to live a life”. I visited Peter on Boxing Day to say goodbye – he was smiling, as usual, between his struggles for breath. I want to thank him for reminding me ‘how to live a life’. Peter was a great humanitarian – he dedicated the end of his life to the benefit of others. Lest we forget.
Victorian election 2014: Electorate overwhelmingly back voluntary euthanasia, Vote Compass reveals
Victorians overwhelmingly support voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill patients, putting them at odds with the Coalition and Labor parties on the issue, according to Vote Compass results. See story and video here.
See also the latest Vote Compass results from the 2015 Queensland state election.
Politicians For and Against Law Reform
Many of our members have visited or contacted their local politicians to discuss with them support for law reform regarding Voluntary Assisted Dying. DWDV seeks referral of the issue, including review of the Medical Treatment Act 1988, to the Victorian Law Reform Commission.
See if your State politicians support us in this endeavour here.
New website launched: MyValues - Your voice when you can't speak for yourself
Barwon Health has launched a new website funded by the Victorian Government. Its purpose is to assist Victorians provide a "clear and authoritative communication of values as they pertain to end-of-life management" (Dr Charlie Corke). It is free to use.
MyValues is a set of specially constructed statements designed to help you identify, consider and communicate your wishes about the medical treatment you would want in the later stages of life.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury backs assisted suicide.
78 year old George Carey now sits in the House of Lords. He resigned as leader of the world's Anglicans in 2002. He said he had dropped his long-standing opposition and he further said he would support the bill, brought by Lord Charles Falconer (see full article and directly below).
Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill debated in the UK House of Lords
According to the British Medical Journal, the bill would allow adults who are expected to live six months or less to be provided with assistance to end their lives.
The BMJ summarises the proposed safeguards:
Two doctors must be satisfied that the person is terminally ill, has the capacity to make the decision to end his or her life, and has a clear and settled intention to do so. This decision must have been reached voluntarily, on an informed basis, and without coercion or duress. Both doctors must be satisfied that the person has been fully informed of the palliative, hospice, and other available care options.
Once both doctors have countersigned the declaration that the person wants to end his or her life, the attending doctor can prescribe the life ending medication, which would be dispensed only after a “cooling off” period of 14 days (or six days if prognosis is less than a month). The person would administer the medication themselves. This is what differentiates “assisted dying” from “voluntary euthanasia,” where the doctor administers the lethal drug(s).
DWDV supports the excellent safeguards expressed above as necessary and sufficient for the safe introduction of Voluntary Assisted Dying.
Desmond Tutu: a dignified death is our right – I am in favour of assisted dying
Doctor admits giving dying man the drugs to end his life
Quebec passes landmark end-of-life-care bill
Terminally ill patients in Quebec now have the right to choose to die.
The non-partisan Bill 52, also known as an act respecting end-of-life care, passed Thursday afternoon in a free vote at the National Assembly in Quebec City. The bill passed 94-22. There were no abstentions. Read more here.
Dying with dignity is vital.