Dying debate

A PERTH forum on euthanasia laws will be hosted by John Carey, who lost his mum to brain cancer in 2007.

The Perth MP nursed his mother through her final days and says he decided to host the forum “because I know there are a lot of people who have strong views on it both ways. I do want to have a respectful, open conversation with the community”.

A bill to allow voluntary assisted dying will likely be put to state MPs for a conscience vote in the next year.

• John Carey and his mum Delys.

Starvation

Mr Carey says he will keep an open mind and won’t finalise his decision until he’s seen the laws and heard from constituents, but his personal experience has seen him leaning towards supporting voluntary assisted dying laws.

“I cared for my mother after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. I was with her every night. I used to massage her hands and feet every night, it provided her some relief.

“I watched my mother die in a terrible way—effectively starvation. She’d gone into palliative care, and was released because she hadn’t died.

“My mum was my best friend, I loved her dearly, and watching her go through such a terrible way to die… it has shaped my views.”

The bill will be based on 24 recommendations made by the “End of Life Choices” parliamentary committee, which recommended that to be eligible for voluntary assisted dying a person must be experiencing “grievous and irremediable suffering” from a terminal or chronic condition that can’t be acceptably alleviated, and where death is a reasonably foreseeable outcome.

Mr Carey says his experience also shows that “palliative care is very important, and the state government has announced a big boost in palliative care funding”.

Several of the committee’s recommendations focused on improving palliative care, calling for a specialist hospice in the northern suburbs and a review for how much unmet demand there was.

Dying With Dignity WA’s FAQ explains that under current law, people experiencing unbearable suffering have three legal options:

• They can commit suicide, “but this is a lonely, desperate and often violent option”

• They can end their own life by refusing all medical treatment, including food and water, and starve and dehydrate to death, “but this is a long and psychologically painful process for the patient and their family”

• If a dying patient has been suffering a long time, a doctor sometimes puts them into a coma in what is called “’terminal or palliative sedation’, but there is a lot of suffering that has to be experienced before this last resort option is taken and it can be distressing for all involved”.

The forum is open to Perth electorate residents on June 21 at East Perth’s Central Tafe from 6pm, RSVP via john.carey@mp.wa.gov.au or 9227 8040.

by DAVID BELL

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