Trigger warning: this post deals with death and suicide.
I need to talk about death. Well, assisted dying laws to be more specific (also known as euthanasia, voluntary euthanasia, doctor assisted suicide).
Following a recent announcement by the Victorian Government to legalise voluntary assisted dying for terminally ill people, I’ve read a spate of articles in the media which have included a range of misinformed comments.
- Assisted dying creates a path for people to suicide easily
- It makes suicide more accessible to people with mental illness
- People who are terminally ill might feel like a burden on their families and will take the drug
- An elderly person might be pressured into by their family so they can access their inheritance.
All research and fact is clearly overlooked in these statements. A spec of research into similar assisted dying laws in other progressive countries will show you that it’s not as simple as walking in off the street, popping into the chemist and picking up a ‘dying pill’.
There is also this assumption that the majority of people with a mental illness want to be dead which offends me. Not all of us do. Sometimes we do, but ultimately, we want to get better. We want to live. I know I do. But it’s a moot point anyways because suffering from mental illness alone will not satisfy eligibility.
And it’s worth pointing out that international research actually shows around 40 per cent of people who have access to euthanasia choose not to go ahead with it. The operative word being ‘choice’. Just having that control can allay fears associated with a painful and traumatic death.
Having a small bout of depression does not make you a candidate for this treatment. Being told by your family that your terminal illness is burdensome to them, or being told you should ‘die so I can get my inheritance’ are not valid reasons to access assisted dying.
In Victoria, people over the age of 65 who are terminally ill commit suicide at the rate one per week, as outlined in the final report from the Inquiry into End of Life Choices. These are horrible, violent and lonely deaths. This report includes case studies about elderly Australians who are starving and dehydrating themselves, hanging themselves and smuggling razor blades into aged care facilities in order to end their lives. The families left behind are devastated. Are we really ok with that? If assisted dying laws existed, these people could have ended their lives at home, surrounded by family. They would have the power to make that decision. Not have all the power taken away.
If you’re not one of the 75 per cent of Australians who want dying with dignity to be legalised, I urge you to read more about the topic. Go Gentle Australia is a great place to start.
This is an incredibly nuanced issue and it needs a resolution. No one deserves the horrific pain and uncertainty involved with terminal illness. They deserve respect. They deserve dignity. And they deserve it now.
For help – Lifeline 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467