Deadly serious

IN the upcoming weeks state parliamentarians will debate a bill legalising voluntary assisted dying in WA. Maylands Labor MP LISA BAKER says she has been inundated with calls to her office asking for her opinion on the divisive and emotive topic.

I AM about to take part in a difficult and confronting debate in the WA Parliament.

Over the next few weeks, my colleagues and I will share our views on life and death as we have a very personal conversation about voluntary assisted dying legislation.

I have read the emails and messages that have come to me about this complex issue.

I have talked to many constituents, friends and family about their views.

I was not surprised that many have their own personal experience to share. I have mine too.

• Maylands MP Lisa Baker

Starvation

My family and I watched as my father died a slow and excruciatingly painful death from cancer. No amount of palliative care or pain relief helped him.

My good friend was diagnosed with an incurable illness and died six months after his diagnosis.

My best friend cared for our mutual friend for two years while she battled with her long and agonising journey to death from leukaemia. Unbearable suffering has bound my family and friends together as we watch our loved ones suffer and die.

Right now, if I am dying and suffering beyond medical help, it is legal for me to end my suffering by suicide. I’m terrified by this.

I found that many suicides in WA are by people with terminal illnesses and many of these people have resorted to violent means often in the loneliest of circumstances.

If I have a terminal illness it is legal for me to refuse all medical treatment, food and water, and to die slowly of starvation and dehydration. Death can take weeks.

It is also legal for my doctor to slowly drug me into a coma with my family waiting for my suffering to end.

It is illegal for me to ask for help from my doctor if I am dying and suffering beyond medical help.

I do not have any legal right to insist that a doctor gives me more, or faster, pain relief.

The aim of the McGowan government’s voluntary assisted dying legislation is to provide people suffering from a terminal illness and approaching the end of their lives a choice about how to manage their journey to death.

This is not a euthanasia bill where someone else makes the decision about death. It is an option that would only be available to a person who is over 18 years old and is facing the end of their life within six months, or less than 12 in the case of neurological diseases like motor neurone disease.

There are more than 100 ‘checks’ that ensure that the person seeking to end their life is not coerced, that everyone involved in the decision is safe, including doctors, nurses, relatives and friends.

There is an allowance for ‘conscientious objectors’ to remove themselves from being involved the process.

Palliative Care Australia estimates the number of people truly beyond help to ease pain and suffering is about four per cent.

Eminent palliative care specialist Professor Ian Maddocks said: “if compassionate and loving care towards patients and families is what palliative care is all about then assisted dying is part of that.”

I cannot find independent evidence anywhere in the world to tell me that where voluntary assisted dying laws exist that sick people have been coerced into taking their own lives.

I want to be protected from unnecessary, unmanageable suffering at the end of life – and I want doctors to have a legal right to help me.

I think that we should all be allowed to have access to more compassionate choices rather than starving ourselves to death, being slowly drugged into a coma, or taking our own lives.

I understand that others will have a very different world view.

I am convinced that having a choice about how to live and if need be–how to die–should be central to my existence in WA.

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