Voluntary Assisted Dying: The Current Hot Topic In Public Debate
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
Discussion on euthanasia has flared up recently, with the spark appearing from multiple sources.
There are the media opinion pieces examining the progress of voluntary assisted dying laws in Australia's States and the figures released on the number of Victorians who have used that State's newly enacted laws.
Voluntary assisted dying laws have been in effect in Victoria since June 2019. Similar laws will take effect in Western Australia in July 2021 and Tasmania in July 2022.
A final vote on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2020 (SA) is expected to take place in the South Australia's Lower House shortly. Proposed laws are expected to be debated in Queensland Parliament and New South Wales in September 2021.
Then there is the ongoing debate in Federal Parliament on whether the Commonwealth should overturn those State laws and whether it retain its ban on such laws in the Territories. Since 1997, ACT and NT have been prohibited by the Commonwealth from passing euthanasia laws.
The Victorian laws are described by Premier Daniel Andrews as "the safest and most conservative model in the world". The core requirement is a mandatory prognosis of less than six months to live and 12 months for neuro-degenerative diseases.
The discussion enters every Australian's lounge room in an uninhibited way in the documentary, Laura's Choice, currently showing on ABC iview.
The film documents the lead up to 90-year-old Ballina resident Laura Henkel's decision to end her life by going to Switzerland where assisted suicide for non-selfish motives is legal. The documentary chronicles the decision, the lead up to the day, and the actual day of death in December 2019.
What makes the documentary stand out is that it is filmed over a couple of years right up to the day of death and covers the death itself, and it is filmed by Laura's daughter and grand-daughter, both of whom are accomplished film makers.
In the film Laura lobbies her manifesto for voluntary assisted dying laws in Australia. In her words,
"Every Australian should have the right to die of their own choice in their own country with their family around them."
The same manifesto was put forward a year earlier by 104-year-old Perth resident Dr David Goodall AM. A respected academic, father, grandfather and great grandfather, Dr Goodall boarded a flight to Switzerland in September 2018 to do the same.
Neither Laura nor David suffered terminal illnesses. They had simply had enough of life.
Public reaction to their manifesto, and the progress of voluntary assistance dying laws in our States and Territories sees many Australians holding polar opposite positions.
I will keep you informed of the progress on those positions.
In the meantime, it remains important that quality palliative care and end of life care is made available to every Australian. It is a subject I have covered in prior blogs and case study blogs and one that I will continue to champion.
If you need support for a loved one, call on our experience in providing palliative care and end of life support in the home.
Please reach out to me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.
 As of 31 December 2020, 224 terminally ill Victorians have chosen a voluntary assisted death since the new Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) came into effect in June 2019