Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sarah Edelman on the rights of the dying

Yesterday’s edition of The Sydney Morning Herald carried an opinion piece by Dr Sarah Edelman, clinical psychologist and vice-president of Dying with Dignity NSW.

After describing the sufferings endured by her father in the last weeks before he died from stomach cancer, despite receiving the best of palliative care, she notes that

Repeated opinion polls have found the overwhelming majority of Australians (more than 80 per cent) believe euthanasia should be legal under specific circumstances.

In spite of this, she says, most of the bills relating to voluntary euthanasia to be introduced in four states next year are unlikely to pass because of the strong religious views held by some members of the major parties:

The two main parties have strong religious advocates among their MPs who consistently oppose moves for reform on popular social issues such as gay marriage, stem cell research and euthanasia. Others who do not personally hold strong religious views are cowered by the powerful religious lobby.

Religious groups, including Right to Life Australia, argue all that is necessary is good palliative care. If only it were that simple. The sad reality is that not all suffering can be alleviated, even at the best facilities. Many complex medical conditions come with terrible symptoms, and the process of dying often involves suffering.

She concludes:

It is time for Australians to stand up for the rights of the dying. When suffering is intolerable and death is inevitable a peaceful death should be a basic human right.

Read Dr Edelman’s full piece here.

Australia21 will have something to say on this subject shortly; we are planning to release next month a discussion paper on the subject, addressing the question “How should Australia regulate voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide”, with a view to holding a roundtable on it early in the new year.

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