Open letter to Parliamentarians: Dying without pain and with dignity

| June 13, 2014

Voluntary assisted dying is a sensitive topic that affects the whole of society. Hani Montan asks all members of states and federal Parliaments to reveal how they stand on this issue.

On behalf of all individuals who are incurably ill and experiencing unrelievable suffering, I am writing to appeal to you on the issue of legalising voluntary assisted dying. These individuals should have the right to receive assistance to end their life peacefully, at a time of their choosing.

Voluntary assisted dying is an issue that affects the whole of society and has a significant impact on family relationships. We understand that in the past, the Liberal and National Parties may have pretended to offer their members a conscious vote; but in fear of a backlash from the vocal minority of fundamentalists, religious lobby groups, they have consistently voted as a block against the legislation of voluntary assisted dying. This time, it is our intention to ensure our vote goes to politicians who are committed to human rights and freedom of choice. Politicians, who place the survival of their party ahead of suffering people desperately needing compassion, don’t deserve to be elected to any Parliament—state or federal.

We are sure you understand that the current legal system is entrenching the traditional focus of medicine on fighting death to the end and at all cost, which is not balanced in favour of the patients’ comfort care or their families or the community. Doctors are trained not to fail, no matter what and at all cost. They are using extraordinary means to prolong the lives of the terminally ill and victims of major traumas. Their action doesn’t offer these patients the chance to control their destiny and spend the remaining time without pain and with peace of mind as well as to die with dignity. Voluntary assisted dying is not only about the intolerance of pain or being a burden on loved ones or a fear of dying without dignity; it is also about the loss of autonomy, the loss of the ability to engage in activities that make life enjoyable, and the loss of the control of bodily functions. Suffering patients should have the privileges to choose either to continue living till their last breaths or to end their lives peacefully and humanely. For the majority, life doesn’t mean simply to exist without meaning. This doesn’t mean the patient’s right to life is prevented. Right to life and freedom of choice are not meant to be trampled on by any consideration.

The discussion about voluntary assisted dying should consider people in the final phase of their incurable terminal illness, or people whose condition or illness is so bad that they are permanently unconscious or their quality of life is so irreversibly impaired that they just can’t go on any longer. Many of us have had personal experiences with parents, relatives, friends, and loved ones suffering unbearable physical pain. The majority believe the constant requests of those persons to be released from their pain should have been honoured and respected. They should have had the option available to them as it is elsewhere, in more humane jurisdictions.

Ultimately, if the humane termination of life works in the best interests of all concerned and violates nobody else’s rights, then it must be morally acceptable. In specific cases voluntary assisted dying promote the best interests of everyone involved and violate no one’s rights. Therefore, it must be legalised.

We would be very grateful if all members of states and federal Parliaments and the aspiring ones, let us know how they stand on this issue. Specifically, if a bill aiming to legalise voluntary assisted dying is brought before their Parliament, are they likely to support it?