Assisted dying: WYZA readers have their say!

We had such a massive and diverse range of response from WYZA readers about our recent articles on assisted dying we wanted to share a selection of thoughts and also give you the opportunity to have your say.

Prue MacSween always has an unique opinion on controversial topics so we asked this breast cancer survivor about her thoughts on assisted dying.

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(Photo: Facebook/Prue MacSween)

“I salute and totally support Andrew’s views and comments. While we must respect those who are against assisted death because of their religious beliefs and understand that faith helps them through this difficult time, there are others of us who don’t share those religious values, who believe that they should have the right to determine when they die if they have a terminal illness.

Recently, dear friends of mine saw their daughter die after weeks of the most terrible pain and agony. These friends are deeply religious, but were left wondering why their Maker could inflict so much suffering on their beloved child as she moved towards an inevitable death. She pleaded for mercy from the doctors and nurses as her parents, who have nurtured and cared for her throughout their lives watched in despair, feeling helpless because they were unable to ease her pain and torment. To watch this tragedy unfold filled me with sadness and frustration. We wouldn’t let a pet dog suffer in this way. What gives others the right to impose their beliefs, prejudices, fears and superstitions on others?

Provided the proper safeguards are in place, assisted death should be legalised in Australia. Those who choose to do this, should be allowed to do so. Those who don’t can have our respect, but their will should not be imposed on others. I salute Andrew Denton for his diligence, dedication and bravery in articulating this important issue and hopefully, encouraging informed debate.”

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The below are edited selections of comments from passionate WYZA readers. Don't forget to tell us what you think!

“If you asked me this question ten years ago I would have said 'No way' but having worked a decade in Aged Care I most certainly have changed my mind. It’s very cruel what the elderly experience at the end unless their lucky enough to die in their sleep. Anyone who has any doubt - go and work in an aged care facility for twelve months.

I am totally against the above. There are excellent advances made in palliative care for people who are nearing the end of life. This enables the sick to be kept as comfortable as possible, until death occurs. I have seen palliative care exercised in nursing homes & hospitals which has proved a success controlling pain and other discomforts.”

- Paula

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“This is a topic the medical profession and the politicians should be addressing instead of keeping their heads in the sand. Well done Andrew.”

- Gill

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“I am absolutely against assisted death, especially by medical professionals. Anyone can choose to commit suicide for whatever reason, but to ask others to do it for you is a cop out. There is no reason why a terminal person cannot choose to die when they are capable of deciding and doing it.

To leave that decision to others is pathetic and cowardly. On this criteria the person would only be a short time from a natural death anyway. I have worked as a nurse with dying people and I don't see any indignity in the natural process of death. I don't and never will see murder as dignified.

My whole family struggled when we (the vet) euthanised our dog in the family car and we realised she was only a few hours from death anyway, and we felt she would have preferred to die at home with us naturally."

- Andrea

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“My impression is that people are wary of giving the 'white coats' the power to help those in agony end their days. Perhaps it is because we expect the 'white coats' only to extend life, not to be complicit in helping someone end it, & thereby disturb our trust in them. So, would it be possible to give this duty to a learned professional (not a doctor), someone who enjoyed legal immunity, someone skilled in looking for signs of potential abuse of the system? A 'blue coat', if you like.”

- Dennis

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“Assisted dying will indeed end physical pain and suffering, once and for all. It will also be a blessed relief if such is beyond any effort known to man, even the medical profession. Both to the one suffering, and to those who are close, and will help support the grief and loss.

It needs to be pointed out, there is a basic difference suicide, and euthanasia. While in some cases suicide may escape pain, it has no respect for life, let alone the judgement that awaits. But assisted dying recognises the quality of life, that no longer exists, and cannot be revived. Suicide is an unnecessary resort, but assisted death is a final resort – after many others. My own father, who was just a few days short of 98, refused all medication, in spite of pleas that it might help. He knew what the end result would be, and it was his choice that needed to be respected. It would be very different if he was a young man still in his prime.”

- Max

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“A very emotive and serious topic.  Of course nobody wants a loved one to suffer, no matter what age they are.”

- Doris

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“I am highly impressed that you chose to "air" Denton's paper on this very important issue for reflection, discussion and comment! I couldn't agree more with what he is saying. Quality of life far out ways quantity of life.

Furthermore, all people deserve the right to die with dignity and in a peaceful and painless way. Having watched two family members die very painful and drawn out deaths, where they just wanted it all to end, I would have given everything and  anything to spare them from that horror.

As a community we need not only to be working to further quality in life, but also quality in death. Unwell individuals, who are compos mentis, should be able to choose a painless death, rather than suffer to the last breath.

I would be very interested to see WYZA follow up on this topic with an article/information about what an advance health care directive is, and how important it is to have one, particularly as we enter our retirement years. Also worth mentioning, is how important it is to discuss this issue with family members who often can't "let go" of elderly/dying hospitalised relatives and put them through unnecessary treatments and associated pain, when death is inevitable.”

- Jan

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“I have long believed we are kinder to animals than our own species. In fact if we prolonged the lives of animals to the extent we do humans we would be hauled into court and prosecuted. Anyone who has ever been to an assisted care facility could not help but be struck by the uselessness and pathos of it all.

I do believe, however, that the solution lies in encouraging our culture to think of dying as a natural part of living. Perhaps if the subject was not so taboo and discussed more openly it would encourage us to contemplate our beliefs and come to terms with them, however they may differ from one another, so that we can approach death with serenity and acceptance.

I appreciate some may believe it is wrong, but no-one is asking them to participate. Why on earth we can legalise abortion but not euthanasia is totally beyond comprehension. It's our life; it should be our choice. I just hope that the law changes in the next twenty years so that I have the choice to die with dignity should the need arise. Otherwise, guess I'm going to have to settle for too much wine and those illegal drugs from Mexico!”

- Fran

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“I would like to think if I was terminal and suffering greatly, I could just nod and some good samaritan could push a button and I could be freed of such suffering very quickly.”

- Tony

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“Andrew Denton has really put his argument in a great and gentle manner. His research appears to be both prolonged and thorough. I wholeheartedly support his views. It is after all, my life, my body, and ultimately should be my decision to either relieve pain for myself and loved ones or not. I certainly agree that it is past time when we should address this concern, one that affects all of us, not just the AMA.”

- Euan  


Statistics on Australian suicides and euthanasia

“As far as dying through euthanasia being legalised as proposed, I do not support that path. Despite what Andrew Denton alleges is false that has been alleged as happening in Holland, there are in fact many examples in the Dutch system of lives being taken by euthanasia, without the persons express permission and by relatives who basically want the life of their family member, usually an aged or disabled person to be terminated and just because those examples don't show up in Government health records Andrew.

They hardly would now would they! That doesn't mean it does not happen!  Also the very law itself is a slippery slope putting a lot of pressure on the elderly to take that path so they won't be a burden to their families either emotionally or financially! Its a pressure they don't need and neither does society need.

If people who are dying can die comfortably and mainly pain free then Euthanasia is not needed. Lets Ramp up our Palliative Care Program and properly Fund that so Palliative Care can continue and become even more effective.”

- Maurpd

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“I totally agree with euthanasia being made legal in all of Australia. I nursed my husband at home for two years watching him slowing growing weaker and losing the use of his leg, and bodily functions from the waist down. You see I'm a nurse, so I've dealt with countless terminal patience over the years. These poor patients begged to be put out of pain in the last few days they had left.

My husband who had a rare spinal cancer. He was a very healthy, happy, family man. He loved his football and his children. He never even got a cold he was so healthy. Then he developed a lump in his lower back, which after a year was diagnosed as this rare cancer. He put up a good fight. He fought for three and a half years. But when the specialist told him there was nothing more they could do for him, it was the first time I saw him break down and cry. Then he went down hill very fast. He lost the use of everything from the waist down. He was in so much pain that he couldn't stay in one spot of more than an hour. So, during the night I would have to roll him every hour to two hours. I could see the pained look in his eyes, and I knew he loathed being the way he was. So my answer is YES, bring it in!”

- Cathy

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“I don't know what the fuss is about. If they still have their mental faculties and they can decide that is it.”

- Rex

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“I do not have a death wish. However, I do not accept that anyone else, least of all on religious grounds, has the right to decide when I've had enough, should pain and suffering be making my life unbearable. I want the right to have the medication on hand, or via prescription, to be used by myself, for myself to end my life when I choose to. 

I would also like to give my permission to perhaps three people - a lawyer, a doctor and chosen other - so that someone else could administer this medication if I am unable to physically do so myself.  Either at my request, or with doctor's advice and agreement of the other two.” 

- Janice

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“I am for this when the quality of life has gone. I know this personally as my Mum is blind, has dementia can't eat anything but liquid and can't speak. This is not the woman she was. She worked for 40 years. She was  a beautiful person, and I remember when the dementia was in its early stages and she wanted us to take her up the mountain near us and let her jump off because she didn't want to be like she is today. It's heart breaking. She's had a beautiful life and at 93 she just wants to sleep and should be allowed to rest in peace.”

- Ann

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“I totally agree with Andrew Denton on the issue of euthanasia. We are all individuals and our life experiences are different, but our human rights are the same. When life reaches a stage when we have had enough, whether through illness or ongoing grief brought on by devastating personal losses, we should be able to decide when we have had enough. We deserve the right the end our lives in a dignified, comfortable manner. No one should have the right to make a decision of such importance for us, to prolong our lives when we do not wish to continue living.  Naturally, euthanasia should not be available willy nilly, but should only be permitted when the individual circumstances are serious enough to qualify for it, in accordance with predetermined criteria established in the legislation for euthanasia.

- Bronwyn

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“You ask me what I think about euthanasia? Well, I’m 71 years old and when the times come I don’t want to go what my mother and I went through. I wouldn’t put my children through it.”

- Michelle

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“Who says who lives and who dies? I have been an aged carer for eight and a half years. I have seen people suffering and in more pain than you can imagine. They are not allowed the right to die a dignified and peaceful death.

Their only option is to refuse all care. Refuse medication. Refuse food. Refuse to drink. This is a horrible way to die. They literally die of dehydration. Why can't we respect our older generation by giving them the choice if we can't mend them?

Assisted dying is the only thing that will allow people to have a choice. Give them the opportunity to leave this life as they choose with who they choose to be with. Unfortunately the pharmaceutical companies will fight this.”

- Vicki

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Michael Caton's latest film delves deep with the topic of euthanasia. Watch the trailer here.

When we spoke to Michael Caton, 72, about this latest movie Last Cab to Darwin, which questions the euthanasia topic he said, “I think voluntary euthanasia should be everyones right supervised. I also think the life force in people is very strong and whether you would take advantage of that is another thing."

Let us know why you voted the way you did. Join the conversation!