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Nov 172014
 

During a week of articles and editorials supporting voluntary assisted dying in The Age there have been a number of relevant Letters to The Editor published. Following is a selection of them:

Published in The Age November 14, 2014

With respect, Dr John Buchanan, (Letters, 13/11), palliative care is very far from perfect and is not better than the alternative. The pro-lifers trumpet the same tired mantra – “what if someone abuses voluntary euthanasia?”, “thin edge of the wedge”, etc. I side with the many terminally ill patients each year who would rather choose a planned, dignified exit than a slow, painful slide into morphine oblivion before an undignified death while their horrified, helpless family look on. Let people choose for themselves.

John Strahan, Bentleigh

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/the-urgent-battle-to-convince-the-blinkered-20141114-11mrnc.html#ixzz3J8pfxHGt


Published in The Age November 14, 2014

I was moved by Ray Godbold’s story (Focus, 14/11) – a life well-lived and a death being approached with grace and dignity.  The challenge is to allow those who are willing and able to witness and support others in the dying process to do so in the best way possible. As someone who follows primarily a Buddhist philosophy of life, I have not been able to make up my mind about assisted death, as it is so contextual. I would like more robust debate. There is something wrong if doctors are doing their best and “breaking the law” in the process. We have an obligation to determine our moral compass so that good people are acknowledged, not outlawed. Euthanasia is one of the great moral questions of our time.

Jan Taylor, Hurstbridge

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/the-urgent-battle-to-convince-the-blinkered-20141114-11mrnc.html#ixzz3J8pyTuTk


Published in The Age November 13, 2014

My husband, Robert, advocated physician-assisted dying.  He suffered bulbar-onset motor neuron disease and likened its symptoms to the tortures experienced at Guantanamo Bay: stress positions, sleep deprivation, waterboarding (choking), personal humiliations and, worst of all, the existential suffering of an indeterminate sentence. He faced a death of asphyxiation through choking or lung paralysis. Palliative care is excellent but cannot  relieve all suffering of the terminally ill.  The choice of the time to die belongs to the sufferer alone.  Feeling a burden to others is often just an additional torment for someone already suffering multiple afflictions.  Robert had  professional support, loving family and palliative aids. He also had the respect of those who accepted his  need for dignity in dying.

Robert took his own life in 2009. Countless others have since experienced a horrific dying process or taken their lives through violent means,  their only solution.  Meanwhile, our politicians prevaricate, refusing to recognise that legislation with rigorous safeguards can be enacted. Legislation offers release from suffering, not continuation of torture; it offers not only dignity but compassion.

Nica Cordover, Allens Rivulet, Tas

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/legislation-offers-a-way-to-end-the-torture-20141112-11l6ow.html#ixzz3J8odW2xp


Published in The Age November 13, 2014

I respect people’s right to believe in any religion they choose.  In return I expect the religious to refrain from foisting their beliefs on me; but this is repeatedly shown to be a forlorn hope.   Few, if any, arguments against end-of-life decisions are not primarily based upon religious beliefs. If the religious want to prove their worth by suffering unspeakable pain and indignity at the end of their lives, go ahead; but please do not  demand that I suffer to make you feel better.

Ian Smith, Whittlesea

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/legislation-offers-a-way-to-end-the-torture-20141112-11l6ow.html#ixzz3J8olbqG4


Published in The Age November 12, 2014

My great-grandfather Alexander Syme and his brothers Ebenezer and David, who established The Age in the 1850s and 1860s, would be proud of the modern Age in carrying on their tradition of challenging parliament to represent the wishes of the majority of citizens.  The right of citizens to have a choice as to how, when and where they die has long been a wish of the vast majority of citizens.  The law affecting how doctors engage with their patients at the end of life is vague.  Doctors do help their patients to die in arbitrary and clandestine circumstances – the authorities know this, but do nothing about it, unless someone complains.   “The rule of law” is lauded as a jewel of our  culture, yet it means that some suffer grievously while others escape, based on whom they know, their disease, their social circumstances and their knowledge, courage and energy.  Change this law, for all our sakes.

Dr Rodney Syme, Toorak

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/change-this-capricious-law-for-all-our-sakes-20141111-11kfe2.html#ixzz3J8qhcH9s


Published in The Age November 12, 2014

Three years ago my 76-year-old father died of cancer. He spent his last six weeks unable to move from the waist down but able to experience pain throughout his body. He screamed with pain; begged to die. Once, after awaking from a morphine-induced sleep he thought his granddaughter was an angel and asked her to swing his legs to the ground so he could walk away from his life and his pain. When he realised he wasn’t dead his anguish was heart-breaking. He shouldn’t have had to endure such agony.

Jennie Hartwell, Beaumaris
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/change-this-capricious-law-for-all-our-sakes-20141111-11kfe2.html#ixzz3J8qhcH9s


Published in The Age November 12, 2014

The term “conscience vote”   suggests that members of parliament should only consider their own beliefs when deciding how to vote on an issue (“Call for MPs’ euthanasia conscience vote”, 11/11). But as the representative of an electorate they should also consider the views of the voters in their electorate. With about 80 per cent of voters in favour of euthanasia in certain circumstances how can a MP justify ignoring their constituents? Party leaders can tell their MPs they may vote as they wish but they can not tell them to just ignore their electorate. We should just call it a free vote.

Peter Hogan, Clifton Hill

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/change-this-capricious-law-for-all-our-sakes-20141111-11kfe2.html#ixzz3J8qhcH9s


Published in The Age November 12, 2014

Phillip Turnbull (Letters, 11/11) intimates that life, death and dying (often with pain, indignity and suffering) are simply part of a bigger (presumably “God’s”) plan.  What a cop-out. We may well be born “without any efforts of [our] own” but part of the gift we are given is a trait called personal responsibility; it is that part of us that allows us to “own our own lives”. People who are suffering must not be arbitrarily inhibited from exercising their ultimate personal responsibility.  Let’s leave religion, spirituality or any quaint notions of wondrous mystery out of what is an essentially biological, physical and emotional problem.

George Petrides, Belgrave

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/change-this-capricious-law-for-all-our-sakes-20141111-11kfe2.html#ixzz3J8rFKfmX


Published in The Age November 11, 2014

My brother has been bedridden since March dying of brain cancer. My mother has dementia and is fearful every moment as everyone is a stranger. My brother is grateful for any time he has; and my mother had always indicated she did not agree with euthanasia. That is their choice and I respect it. However, watching them both dying has made me determined that if I end up in an agonising, drawn-out death, I want my choice for when and how I die respected, too. It frightens me that I will have no choice and may experience 10 years of dying hell. Everyone tells you how palliative care is so good these days. Nobody mentions the distasteful real difficulties, like bleeding bowels, repeated explosive diarrhoea and having to be dosed up on Valium so you don’t scream or abuse people. Opposers of euthanasia make dying sound so fun and cosy. I am discovering just how cosy it really isn’t.

Name and address withheld

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/frightened-by-prospect-of-a-drawnout-death-20141110-11jok2.html#ixzz3J8roZqir


 Published in The Age November 11, 2014
What becomes of me when I can no longer feed myself, toilet, clean and dress myself? I may be in my 90s, have lived a long and fulfilling life but can no longer do all of these basic things. I do not want my children to watch me become a shadow of my former self. I want to be able to choose. I want a compassionate GP who, knowing my expressed  wishes, is free from litigious risk. My GP can say “she has lived a good life, let’s not prolong it any further”. What are my chances?

Judy Tolson, Kew

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/frightened-by-prospect-of-a-drawnout-death-20141110-11jok2.html#ixzz3J8roZqir


Published in The Age November 11, 2014

As an atheist, I found myself in the interesting position of agreeing with Christian John McClean that “personal autonomy is not enough for a good society” (“The tragedy of physician-assisted suicide”, theage.com.au, 10/11). A good society needs a foundation of shared moral values, not just maximal freedom to do whatever an individual chooses. But dying with dignity is not just about individual choice. It’s about a society based on compassion and respect. That respect includes not imposing religious views on those who don’t believe in God.

Dr Meredith Doig, St Kilda East

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/frightened-by-prospect-of-a-drawnout-death-20141110-11jok2.html#ixzz3J8roZqir


Published in The Age November 11, 2014

Congratulations on your campaign for federal law reform to support all Australians who want voluntary assisted dying to be available to themselves and loved ones . . . and for emphasising that such a measure will certainly not support Philip Nitschke’s “come one, come all” approach to assisting suicides.  Many ill and elderly people belong to his Exit International simply because it offers the only prospect of avoiding prolonged pain and indignity before death.  If they knew they could rely on being helped to die in certain defined circumstances (which they would have documented ahead of time), then they would not be thinking of a DIY method.  If medically assisted dying in tightly controlled circumstances becomes lawful then the demand for personal supplies of Nembutal and other means of suicide advocated by Dr Nitschke is likely to substantially lessen.  However, until then, it’s understandably a growing market.

Anne Riddell, Mount Martha

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/frightened-by-prospect-of-a-drawnout-death-20141110-11jok2.html#ixzz3J8sIbSQI


Published in The SMH November 11, 2014

John McClean argues that “life is a gift” (“Maynard’s ‘choice’ to end her own life denied help at hand“, November 10). I agree with him, although we disagree on the source of that gift. I would also argue that death is a gift and that the right to choose to die is a responsibility we owe to humanity. As part of the gift of life we have the ability to employ logical and rational thought and decision-making processes. Most of us use these processes in every aspect of our lives. Why not in death also?

Those who argue against euthanasia generally apply the argument that palliative care is now able to manage the privations of terminal illness. For some this is true. But not for all. When life becomes, or promises to become, unendurable due to intractable pain, or pain that is managed at the cost of awareness and consciousness; when one’s ability to perform even the most basic acts of daily living such as eating and urinating become near impossible, then a rational and logical argument may well lead one to choose death over existence. In such situations death can be viewed as a gift, a release from an unendurable life. It must be an individual’s choice and it can be achieved with legislation that protects those who choose not to die by assisted euthanasia.

Jane Marsden Enmore

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/smh-letters/booing-at-whitlams-memorial-a-final-salute-20141110-11jpm1.html#ixzz3J8u0e7bv


Published in The SMH November 11, 2014

John McClean suggests Brittany Maynard’s medical attendants influenced her choice to end her life. Every day, as I have done over a specialist career of 30 years, doctors walk with their patients on a path through illness. Information is shared openly. Opinions given. Evidence collectively appraised. Some patients warm to this approach, some wish only for “their doctor” to decide. It would be hard to imagine that a woman of Brittany Maynard’s intelligence and eloquence would not have actively sought information about her condition, treatment options and possible outcomes. That doctors might deliberately have derailed this to satisfy their own agendas is a long bow to draw and unfairly maligns the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship.

Dr Ian McPhee Bilambil Heights

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/smh-letters/booing-at-whitlams-memorial-a-final-salute-20141110-11jpm1.html#ixzz3J8u0e7bv


Sent to The SMH November 10, 2014

Doctor John McClean, who teaches theology and ethics, argues as a Christian that a young woman dying of a particularly vicious form of cancer should not “presume” to control her own death by choosing medical help to end her life (SMH, 10 November). Interestingly, between 70% and 80% of his fellow Christians do not share his view (Newspoll, Dec 2012).  Nor do 82% of his fellow Australians. Doctor McLean speculates, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, that the young woman may have been badly advised. However, her two physicians were required by section seven of the assisted dying law in Oregon to ensure she made a fully informed decision.  This meant not only an appreciation of her medical diagnosis and prognosis, but also of “the feasible alternatives, including, but not limited to, comfort care, hospice care and pain control.”

Doctor McClean also wonders if her medical advice was “skewed” in favour of physician-assisted suicide, and if the medical profession is “losing a commitment to life and starting to advocate death”. Doctors who agree to participate in the implementation of voluntary assisted dying laws are just as committed to healing and life as any other doctor.  But they recognise that when a person is dying, her suffering may be so great that it is simple compassion to help her end her life.Doctor McClean is of course quite entitled to his belief that God should be in control, but he has no right to foist this belief on the overwhelming majority of others, whether they share his faith or not.

Richard Mills, Leura

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