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Why do we need these laws?
Voluntary Assisted Dying laws give a choice to competent adults suffering from a terminal or advanced incurable illness that creates intolerable, unrelievable suffering. Currently there are no laws in Australia that allow a doctor to assist a patient to end their lives. Although palliative care provides a great deal of support and pain relief, in some cases it is simply not enough.
DWDV believes that voluntary assisted dying is a dignified and reasonable choice for people to make when their medical conditions result in untreatable and incurable suffering and pain. We also believe that simply having the choice of assisted dying can be of great psychological benefit to them.
Having a choice means having control. Many people dealing with traumatic illness and suffering may feel they are losing control of their situation and their own self. End-of-life choices, which include Voluntary Assisted Dying, can restore a sense of agency over their own lives.
Who would use assisted dying?
DWDV advocates for laws allowing a patient to ask for medical assistance to end their life in a safe environment if:
The number of people who would choose assisted dying and be eligible for it is a very small percentage of the population who die each year (159,052 total deaths in 2015). However, this small percentage amounts to several thousand people per year dying in severe distress. Assisted dying laws are important and relevant to the entire population, as they will ensure that all people who find themselves in that situation are given the correct information, choice and support about how they would like to be treated.
Isn’t palliative care enough?
DWDV fully supports the efforts of palliative care providers in Australia and will continue to support further funding for the palliative care industry.
However, there are instances where palliative care alone is insufficient in providing relief from intolerable suffering. For instance:
A motor neurone disease (MND) sufferer becomes progressively paralysed. Late in the disease, breathing can be seriously hindered. Many MND sufferers fear suffocating to death more than anything else and would prefer to go in a dignified manner whilst still being able to say goodbye to loved ones, rather than desperately gasping for breath.
Asbestosis sufferers not only gasp desperately for breath, but breathing is extremely painful.
A sufferer with cancer of the spine may have pain so severe that it can only be relieved by terminal sedation, whereby a patient is induced into a coma to relieve pain.
And for many patients, suffering is not just about pain. Suffering can include other factors such as loss of control of decision making, bowels or bladder, or such weakness that they are completely dependent on others for every intimate part of their daily care.
What would a voluntary assisted dying law look like?
In June of 2016, the Victorian Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into End of Life Choices produced its final report.
For full details of the Inquiry and the Report, click here
The report made 49 recommendations to the Victorian Parliament in three specific areas: Palliative Care, Advance Care Directives and Assisted Dying.
Recommendation 49, in respect of Assisted Dying, was:
That the Victorian Government introduce a legal framework providing for assisted dying, by enacting legislation based on the assisted dying framework outlined in this report.
DWDV believes the assisted dying framework presented in the report to be very satisfactory, except that it confines assistance to those with weeks or months to live. Intolerable suffering is not confined to those with weeks or months to live. DWDV is arguing for a broader framework which would include people with an advanced incurable illness. It would allow an assisted dying law in Victoria that is compassionate, comprehensive and safe.
A copy of the report summary, including the assisted dying framework, can be found here
What is the process for getting an assisted dying law legislated?
In Victoria, the Government has committed to developing legislation and tabling it in Parliament in the second half of 2017.
To assist them with this process they have set up a Ministerial Advisory Committee that will guide them towards the strongest possible piece of legislation, making for an easier process in Parliament. More info
What is Dying With Dignity Victoria doing during this time?
Right now, DWDV is hard at work, laying the foundations of a campaign to influence Victorian MPs to enable safe, comprehensive and compassionate laws that will mitigate the suffering that can be experienced by people as they approach the end of their lives.
For more about our campaign efforts, click here.
What other organisations are involved in the push for voluntary assisted dying laws?
A number of other organisations are currently advocating for assisted dying laws and DWDV is working right alongside them.
Here is a list. Click through to visit the websites of these organisations:
Additional Dying With Dignity organisations around Australia:
Do you have another question about Voluntary Assisted Dying? We’d be happy to help you. Visit our Contact page.