Finally it has come to pass that our elected representatives in state parliament will be considering the draft Voluntary Assisted Dying bill within the next 14 sitting days, for which they are allowed a “conscience” vote.
Those of us who have been advocating for such a Bill to bring Queensland in line with Victoria and our sister states (the latter currently working on their own VAD legislation) can only hope that MP’s of whatever persuasion will recognise that their duty is to represent the majority view of their constituents and not be influenced by religious beliefs or peer group pressure.
Implementation of this VAD Bill will give terminally ill patients a choice in the manner and timing of making an exit from suffering, in the presence of those closest to them, without fear of being charged with aiding and abetting a suicide with all the associated drama of legal prosecution under our “justice” system.
Palliative care has its place for those who are comfortable with spending their last days in a semi-coma/heavily medicated, etc. but this is not the path taken by sufferers of a degenerative disease who prefer to make a quick and dignified exit under their own terms, while in a state of consciousness. As the former Chapter Leader of Exit International on the Sunshine Coast, a voluntary position I held for ten years, I remember and can count on both hands the members of my group who took matters into their own hands and this situation will continue regardless of the passing of VAD legislation. However, it will certainly be preferable for those wishing to make their exit, to have the company of their “nearest and dearest” at the moment of departure, should this be mutually desired by all parties.
And in the spirit of humanity, surely a less stressful situation to die on home territory, spared the expense and necessary paperwork required for those taking the Swiss option…as was the case of David Goodall, the Perth centurian who in 2018 flew to Switzerland because he had “had enough”.
I have been informed that Dan Purdie MP is to survey his constituents aged 50 years plus, and I encourage recipients of this important document to give their opinion, whether for or against VAD, in order that our elected representative can truly represent us.
In a society where common courtesy is a dying art and people are short-tempered to the point of rudeness, it is refreshing to have a stranger ask how we are.
Many lonely people look forward to interaction with anyone they meet in their daily schedule. A kind word from a stranger, whether sincere or just good mannerly, is often the only contact for those living alone or having a difficult time.
It costs nothing to be kind and understanding. There is too little concern and interest in others in today’s busy life. Even if someone makes an automatic, friendly comment to customers at the point of contact, be grateful and return the courtesy or compliment. Lead by example. Treat others as you want to be treated.
Pride and self-centredness are isolating. It is small courtesies and consideration, which connect us with others. “No man is an island, entire unto himself; we are all part of the continent.” (John Donne)
So is technology building a gas fired power station financed by Good Guv’mint’s donation of $600 million, all thanks to taxes paid by Quiet Hard Working Australians? How good’s taxes?
I have no doubt that this proposal will produce howls from the vocal minority who seem to think only they are right. It is inhuman, and inhumane to condemn a person to end their days in unbearable pain. Neither should anyone be forced to ‘live’ without dignity. If anyone believes that the drugs available to palliative care patients can stop extreme traumatic pain they are wrong. I suffered severe spinal trauma and was given those same drugs. Those meds do NOT stop the pain. They may dull the agony but that is all, and then wear off before more can be safely given.
Before anybody seeks to stop this act of mercy becoming law, find someone who has had to live watching a loved one’s humanity and dignity stripped away by terminal illness. Don’t allow your attitude to condemn others to an end of life that we would not permit an animal to have to endure!
The key word in all of this is ‘voluntary’.
Dying with dignity
In coming months our 93 state MPs will vote on a proposed law to introduce voluntary assisted dying (VAD).
The state government asked the independent and expert Queensland Law Reform Commission to draft a VAD Bill, which has now been released and will soon be the subject of scrutiny and feedback by the parliamentary Health Committee before being debated by MPs in September.
The QLRC’s report and draft Bill mark a milestone in the long and hard battle to secure VAD laws for Queenslanders.
Many people involved with Dying With Dignity Queensland have waged this fight for more than 30 years.
Many of them could have benefited from a VAD law but have died long before seeing the latest positive developments in the law reform process.
As we continue to push for VAD laws we should remember them.
VAD laws have been passed in Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania, and already operate in many places overseas. But there is no guarantee the Queensland Bill will succeed.
So all Queenslanders wanting a better choice at the end of life must let their local MP know that they are expecting them to vote for VAD.
While MPs will have a conscience vote on the VAD Bill, they should remember that the Bill is not about them.
It is about giving terminally ill people or those dying from a neurological condition a voluntary choice to end their intolerable suffering.
Voluntary assisted dying will not result in a single extra death but it will mean a lot less suffering.
Dying With Dignity Queensland.
RED SHIELD APPEAL
One of the things that COVID taught us in 2020 was that anyone, regardless of their financial or employment status, is only one or two major life events away from disaster. This unprecedented global pandemic changed the way life was lived for much of last year, and into 2021.
While you would expect that the majority of those reaching out to the Salvos would be the most vulnerable and marginalised in society, in fact there were more and more people knocking on the Salvo’s door for the first time. Some had even donated to us in the past, but now found themselves on the receiving end of a food hamper or assistance to pay their rent.
COVID-19 has highlighted, and allowed us to reflect on, just how many people live on the brink of a personal disaster, or indeed may be currently experiencing one. It is often the most hidden forms of poverty and suffering that are the most damaging. People asking for help often think no one understands what they’re going through. Feelings of shame and embarrassment are common when people first begin to consider reaching out for support.
One thing that we can do as an Australian society is remove the stigma of reaching out for help. At the Salvos there is absolutely no need to feel ashamed in asking for a hand when you are doing it tough. If you or someone you know is struggling and in need of support, please reach out to the Salvos at www.salvationarmy.org.au or call 13 SALVOS. We are here for everyone in Australia, and we are here to help.
The Salvos need to continue this vital work into the future, and each year we are astounded by the generosity of the Australian public. One of the greatest attributes of Australians is the ability to come together in times of hardship to support our fellow Aussies in need. If you are able, please consider donating to The Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal throughout May and June, which is so important in enabling over 2000 services across the country to continue this work for people doing it tough.
If COVID-19 has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that we need to look out for our mates in their time of need. On behalf of The Salvos, look out for each other, be united in times of hardship, and don’t be ashamed to reach out for help.
To receive help from or donate to the Salvos visit www.salvationarmy.org.au or call 13 SALVOS (13 72 58).
Major Bruce Harmer,
The Salvation Army Australia National Public Relations Secretary.