My father was an active man for all but the last few months of his 96-year life.
In his last months he went into "high care".
We all knew that there was no coming out of this. He couldn't walk or even stand any more. His food had to be mashed and when it was offered he refused to eat it. When he cried out for water, he was offered what I can only describe as slime. We were told he couldn't be given anything else because he might choke.
Having seen what happens, the vast majority of us want an alternative to the long drawn-out treatment from the palliative care industry.
But politicians have been slow to act on the community's wishes and some have actively worked to block progress.
In 1995, the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly passed the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act but federal Liberal Kevin Andrews and Labor's Tony Burke (at that time the director of the Euthanasia No! group) worked together on a private members bill that invalidated the NT's euthanasia law.
With the Howard government in power, the bill which blocks both the ACT and NT from making laws to permit assisted dying, was passed after a conscience vote in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
But the new Federal Parliament to be formed after the election is likely to have a significantly different view.
Asked where the Coalition stood, a spokesperson provided a statement that gave much weight to palliative care but also said: "Most people want to die in their own homes, surrounded by the things and people they love. Only a small proportion actually achieve that which is why a re-elected Turnbull Government will open a discussion with the States and Territories about how the available resources can be utilised to give more people their wish of dying at home."
Tony Burke, one of the key players who stood in the way of the community's wishes, is now a Labor frontbencher. Asked where he now stood, he referred my questions to ALP campaign headquarters. They had not responded by the time of writing.
A joint parliamentary committee – The Legal and Social Issues Committee – handed down its report into End of Life Choices earlier this month.
The committee recommends permitting assisted dying where an individual is facing a certain and painful death. The person must be a competent adult of sound mind; be at the end of life, with only weeks or months to live; be suffering from a serious and incurable medical condition which is causing enduring and unbearable suffering; and be assessed by two doctors independent of each other, after receiving three separate requests, one of which must be in writing.
If the decision-making capacity is in question, the person must be referred to a psychiatrist for assessment. No one could be assessed for assisted dying as a result of a mental illness only. In all but exceptional circumstances, the patients would be required to take the prescribed drug themselves, providing an additional protection against coercion.
I don't want to push my wishes on any one else. Everyone should be free to make their own choice. But I don't want to be tortured by palliative care workers for the last few months of my life.
In my view, the Victorian committee's recommendations are a start but they do not offer sufficient freedom of choice.
I want the right to say: give me a pill or a needle and put me down.
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