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President - Lesley Vick
Both professionally and as an activist I have had a longstanding commitment to law reforms which protect civil liberties, personal autonomy and self-determination. As a legal academic my area of research and teaching focussed on the intersection of law, medicine and ethics, including end-of-life decisions. As an activist in the NGO sector over several decades I have served (and continue to serve) on a range of committees concerned with civil liberties, rationalism/humanism, women's equality and reproductive health rights. I believe that individuals are entitled to make decisions about their life and death in accordance with their own beliefs and values and that the law should reinforce that position. DWDV is working to achieve legislative reform to ensure end-of-life choice for individuals — an objective supported by the overwhelming majority of Australians — and I am pleased to be part of that effort.
Vice President - Dr Rodney Syme
In 1972, I treated a woman with incurable cancer in the spine. Her nerve and bone pain was persistent and unbearable. At that time there was no effective way to relieve her pain. I was left in no doubt that I, had I been in her position, would have ended my own life. As a doctor, I had the knowledge and access to the means to achieve this in a dignified way, but I could not help her.From that time, I began to think carefully about intolerable suffering and dying with dignity. I found myself inevitably drawn into helping others in a range of circumstances. My conscience and my respect for other human beings would not allow otherwise.I soon realised that law reform was essential, as the law was opaque and led to extremely arbitrary and often cruel end of life experiences. I joined VESV, now Dying with Dignity Victoria in 1991, and served 12 years as president.In 2008, my book A Good Death was published by Melbourne University Press, describing some of my experiences with terminally ill and suffering people. I continue to provide counselling to such people.
Secretary - Mark Newstead
I joined the DWDV committee to help organise the 2010 World Federation of Right to Die Societies biennial global conference as I had had many years of experience assisting with the National Conference of Australia’s Market and Social Research Society. In my full-time working life, I operate a media consultancy, MediaMARK, covering the intersection of market research and the marketing of media. My career has covered many facets of the media, from starting with 3AK and GTV 9, to being with 101.9 FOX FM at its birth, to working in radio in Europe and for a decade with the official TV and Radio ratings company AGB McNair. I'm also involved in the internet to bring Global AM/FM radio stations to mobile devices. I am delighted to work with my passionate colleagues on the Board of DWDV, and I pledge to work diligently to help achieve the change in legislation required to set right a serious flaw in the way the law fails to acknowledge our last right.
Dr Meredith Doig
My father, a gentle and caring physician, died from painful pancreatic cancer in 2006. His anguish, physical and psychological, prompted me to join DWDV and to become a Life Member in 2010. Most of my career was spent in the corporate world, as a senior executive with Ford, Rio Tinto and ANZ. For the last 15 years I have been an independent consultant and director on boards of statutory authorities, university councils, private sector companies and not-for-profits. I teach governance at the Australian Institute of Company Directors. In my spare time I am President of the Rationalist Society of Australia, which promotes a 10 Point Plan for a Secular Australia, one of which is “Guaranteed control over one’s own body, free from religious interference, when facing end of life”. I bring to the DWDV Board expertise in governance, submission and letter writing skills, and my own networks.
Several close family members diagnosed with advanced cancer, facing the possibility of an agonising death, prompted me to join DWDV in the mid-1990s. We all strongly believed that prolonging life in the face of incurable, unbearable suffering was pointless at best, torture at worst. I firmly believe in personal autonomy and self-determination of the individual. The values and beliefs of others should not be allowed to impact on the choices an individual might make about his/her own life matters. I am giving my support to have that view codified into law, particularly as it relates to people affected by intolerable, incurable suffering. In addition, I am also interested in communicating to the wider community the provisions of the current law and other measures dealing with end-of-life matters, which are generally poorly known and poorly understood. Having trained as a professional electrical engineer, most of my career has been in the telecommunications industry, originally in research and development, and later in industry analysis and marketing in my own consultancy practice. I bring to the committee of DWDV a strong goal-oriented approach to project management.
After many years of membership, it is an honour to be a member of the Board of DWDV — an organisation that reflects my deeply held belief that an individual has the right to die with dignity and in circumstances consistent with their own beliefs about life and death. End-of-life decisions, like similar decisions about life's major transitions and developments, such as partnering, parenting and work choices, are in essence personal and individual. To be able to request and receive the support of the health system and medical assistance to end what is, for the individual, intolerable pain and suffering seems to me to be a fundamental right, one which must be supported by legislation in a just and humane society. I bring to DWDV the experiences of nearly 40 years of working in public health, promoting community education in areas such as sexuality, blood-borne viruses including HIV and hepatitis C, and disabilities. Communication is the key to effective education, and I see our main task as that of presenting to our law-makers the reality that legislative reform, enabling end-of-life choice for the individual, reflects the beliefs of the majority of Australians.
The past five or so years have introduced me to the way our ‘health’ system deals with very elderly people as they approach the end of their life. Almost everyone wants to die at home, peacefully, in their sleep, just not waking up one morning. But the reality is that most people move in and out of hospital being treated as if a cure were possible for the issues of old age, often increasing their pain and discomfort in the process. We need to be able to allow people to say they’ve had enough but under current laws this is not possible. Even their wishes to have no further treatment are seldom respected. Working in the development and delivery of cancer information and prevention programs, I have been privileged to be part of a creative, committed and rigorous team that developed Victoria’s important legislative reforms on tobacco, and registration of cancer tests. DWDV’s aim to achieve legislative reform that enables people to make informed choice about when they accept or refuse treatment and when they die is an area I hope to be able to assist with.
Whilst only recently a member of DWDV, I have been working with the organisation for about six months, assisting with the creation of the new member database. I have worked with both John Hont and Elizabeth Sampson during this time, and am confident I can work constructively with the Board and other DWDV staff. I have qualifications in mathematics, statistics, and computing, and have spent 40 years in working in the actuarial field in both public and private employment. My experience as a company director and consulting actuary may be of use to the Board beyond just the technical services provided to date and I welcome the opportunity to work with the Board to bring about the outcomes we seek.
Emeritus Professor Carmel McNaught
I have had a long career in university education, working mostly in Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, southern Africa, the UAE and the UK. Now, like a homing pigeon, I am home again in Melbourne.
Watching my own mother die recently enabled a crystallization of my own views about death and I turned to Dying With Dignity Victoria as a strategy to support the enactment of my own beliefs and those of many friends. We all must die and being able to exercise choice about how best to leave this life with dignity is, in my view, a clear right in a secular, democratic state such as Australia. We are a complex, pluralist society with respect to beliefs about life, its origins, its value and its purpose.
We as a nation hold this freedom of belief as a right and a strength of our national identity. We also pride ourselves in having a humane and caring society, which means that the rights of those who are fragile as a result of serious ill health must be acknowledged. Let’s be open in our discussions about end-of-life choices, respect that there is a multiplicity of views, and legislate so that individual rights and beliefs are treated with integrity and fairness.
No-one need die alone!