Judy Bailey on euthanasia


I’ve had too many close encounters with death and dying lately. I guess it comes with the territory as you hit the slide side of 60. Too many funerals.

There have been the inevitable losses of parents, something for which, despite the inevitability, you’re never quite prepared. And the sudden passing of those mates you thought you’d grow old with. Each of those deaths has been unique.

Some have been swift and merciful, others harrowing and haunting. There has been beauty and compassion to be found in all of them.

They have all brought something special to those intimately involved in the caring process.

I have come to realise it’s not death I fear but the suffering that comes with it for so many.

For there has been suffering, suffering no amount of palliative care can allay.

In just under two months we will be asked, in a public referendum, to choose whether or not to support the End of Life Choice Act.

The Act will open the door to Euthanasia or medically assisted dying, for people in the final stages of a terminal illness.

If more than 50 per cent of us vote ‘Yes’, then the Act will become law.

It’s one of the most important and far-reaching legal decisions we will make in our lifetime.

Caralise Trayes’s book, The Final Choice: Is assisted dying the answer? comes along at an opportune time.

Trayes is a journalist of 10 years experience, formerly at Fairfax Media.

Her style is chatty and generally straightforward. Her book consists of a brief history and summary of the Act and a series of interviews with those whose views cover both ends of the spectrum, with lawyers, advocates, palliative care specialists, those who have actively considered taking their own lives, and those who will be at the sharp end of implementing the law if and when it passes.

The right to end suffering is what David Seymour says his bill is all about.

Trayes’s book voices concerns over whether the bill has been clearly thought through.

  • Are there enough safeguards against coercion?
  • Will euthanasia become normalised?
  • Could it become economically expedient?
  • What becomes of the mental health of those required to administer the fatal dose?

A number of overseas jurisdictions where euthanasia is legal – Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands among them – have reported an increase in requests for euthanasia as time goes on.

The Belgians and the Dutch have now extended their law to cover children and people with dementia and mental illness.

Before Covid, the Netherlands parliament was about to consider draft legislation that proposed anyone over 70 could have assisted dying irrespective of any medical necessity.

The proposed law is targeted towards people who are lonely, bereaved or “disattached.”

What of the elderly and chronically disabled who may be feeling they are a burden to their families? Does the Act protect the vulnerable, the weak, the lonely? Will the “right” to die ultimately become “the duty” to die?

At the heart of the book is the question: why is it that people want to die? Continue reading

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