Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill
20th April 2017
Ca“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die” Dame Cicely Saunders
On 10 April 2017, Calvary provided a submission to the Victorian Ministerial Advisory Panel, chaired by Dr Brian Owler, which is tasked to advise the Victorian Government on the proposed Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 (Victoria).
Calvary’s submission makes several points. Two of the more important points include:
- The frequent co-existence of terminal illness and depression and the role that such depression plays in expressed desires to end life. Referral to a consultant psychiatrist for an opinion is likely to be a weak control at best.
- This debate is taking place in an environment where universal access to high quality best practice palliative care is not available. The discussion has been driven by a number of passionate advocates whose relatives experienced in their view a death which was painful, uncomfortable, and lacking in dignity. There is no doubt that this does happen, which adds passion to the advocacy. That we are proceeding with a Voluntary Assisted Dying “solution ” in the absence of such universally available care should be seen as an approach which is morally and ethically fraught, irrespective of personal views.
In the words of Professor Douglas Bridge, an Emeritus consultant at Royal Perth Hospital, clinical professor in the University of Western Australia’s School of Medicine and Pharmacology, a consultant physician with WA Country Health Service, and past president of the Chapter of Palliative Medicine, Royal Australasian College of Physicians:
Good palliative care helps patients and families avoid both overtreatment and neglect of treatment. It enhances patient autonomy and decision-making capacity by improving symptom control and empowering patients to participate in their care. We affirm the patient’s right to choose their therapy; decline futile therapy; choose the place of dying; choose who should be present; receive the best possible relief of symptoms, even, on rare occasions, deliberate palliative sedation (not terminal sedation); and refuse to prolong the dying process. Ideally, this should be readily available for all those with life-limiting illness.
Autonomy does not include the right to demand that a clinician kills the person. . . . Appropriate end of life prescribing of analgesia is simply good clinical practice when the patient is actively dying.
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