Dr Owler, past president of AMA, advocates for voluntary assisted dying law to National Press Club

Dr Owler, past president of AMA, advocates for voluntary assisted dying law to National Press Club

Profesor Brian Owler, Neurosurgeon and the immediate past federal president of the Australian Medical Association, gave the address to the National Press Club on 12 October 2017. He spoke about voluntary assisted dying and, more specifically, the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill (2017). 

Amongst other things, Profesor Owler said:

“Voluntary assisted dying is not about a choice between life and death. No. Rather, it is about respect for a dying person’s choice, about the timing and manner of their death.”

“The need for this legislation is plainly evident. Many of those most determined to see this law pass have personal anecdotes of loved ones whose death has been terrible. Not only was the person’s suffering prolonged and unbearable but it left deep lingering wounds in the hearts of their family and friends. The impact and depth of those wounds should never be discounted.”

“I am a passionate supporter of palliative care. ….Palliative care is the main game when it comes to what most people want and need at the end of life. The Panel fully support more resourcing for palliative care. But palliative care is not the answer for everyone. Palliative Care Victoria and Palliative Care Australia both agree that in about 5% of cases palliative care cannot relieve a person’s suffering. This is acknowledged within the palliative care community. It is for these people this legislation provides a choice.”

“A personal religious opposition is to be respected. But respect for that view is not enough for opponents who want to deny others access to voluntary assisted dying, even though they do not share their religious faith or views.”

“In 2016 the Federal AMA surveyed its membership. What doctors acknowledged was that there was pain and suffering could not be relieved in all patients. In fact, almost 70% of members held this view.”

In closing, Professor Owler said “I know that all of you went into Parliament to make a difference. As a doctor I understand this desire. It’s what motivates doctors as well. For some of you, this may be one of the hardest decisions you make in your political career. But to be able to make a decision, the result of which is to ease the suffering of a person who is dying, and those who love that person, to provide them with the comfort of a choice, not just for one day but for days into the future, that is a unique opportunity for our parliamentarians to exercise. This is an opportunity not to be wasted.

Professor Owler chaired the Victorian government’s ministerial advisory panel tasked with examining all of the available evidence on voluntary assisted dying from around the world. The final report of the panel was the basis of the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill (2017), a government-drafted bill which is listed for debate in the Victorian Lower House when parliament resumes on Tuesday 17 October 2017. At the time of his appointment, Professor Owler said “My knowledge of the AMA, of how medicine works, can be an advantage in making sure the legislation can be as good as it can be, in terms of not only supporting patients but also supporting medical practitioners as well.”

Click here to watch the full video of Dr Owler’s National Press Club address on 12 October 2017 (1 hour)

Click to read the article in The Guardian 12 October 2017 ‘Assisted dying laws: former AMA head says ‘life is not defined by a heartbeat’

Click to read News.com article 12 October 2017 ‘Don’t waste euthanasia chance, MPs told

Click for Final Report defines bill for Victorian Parliament 21 July 2017

Click for article in The Guardian 28 June 2017  ‘Former AMA head says father’s ‘terrible death’ led him to support assisted dying’  

Click to learn how you can support the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill (2017).