Wouldn't PAD be open to abuse?
No—because of strict and effective safeguards.
When PAD is legal, it is mandatory that there is a formal, safe and secure process in place to prevent its abuse. DWDV's legislative charter proposes highly effective safeguards, modelled on successful Oregon law. Formal annual reviews of the Oregon law as applied in practice over nine years have clearly demonstrated an absence of abuse.
With such safeguards, claiming that doctors or relatives will force the sufferer to choose to die, are spurious and without foundation.
Won't doctors be forced to participate against their own beliefs?
Definitely not. Under DWDV's legislative charter, a doctor has the right to decline to act on a sufferer's request for assistance to die if it is against the doctor's own beliefs.
The charter also specifies that private medical institutions may also make a ruling that such practices may not be carried out in or using their own services or premises. Ultimately, it's about choice for everyone.
A sufferer who has specifically made requests for PAD and passed the necessary due safeguard process sees the process as "relief and release," and not in any way "killing."
Wouldn't there be an avalanche of deaths?
The factual evidence shows this is not the case at all.
Formal annual reviews of the Oregon laws in practice show clearly that there has been no significant increase in physician assisted dying at all. These reviews have been conducted for nine years now. DWDV's legislative charter is modelled on Oregon law.
In fact, many patients (such as Steve Guest) report that a great weight is lifted off them when they have a real choice, and there is no necessity to "rush" into an early death by one means or another. So, choice often prolongs life rather than shortens it.
A real consequence of lack of choice to die in a dignified manner with medical assistance is that some sufferers attempt to take their own lives anyway while they believe they still can, often by violent and undignified means. And they don't always succeed, ending up in a worse state than ever before. This is a tragic but factual consequence of the lack of legal choice.
Wouldn't those with access act hastily?
This common objection mistakes access with use: that is, it is assumed anyone who is granted access then immediately goes on to use it. This perception is quite wrong. Formal statistics from nine years of operation in Oregon show that only a minority of sufferers actually go through the process to obtain permission for medical assistance to die. One third (34%) of those who receive the prescription actually never use it, showing restraint and careful thought.
The Actual Oregon PAD Statistics 1998-2006
What happens in practice is that people who obtain access feel a profound relief at having control back over their end of life, but do not feel compelled in any way to end it right now. It is this control that itself is very good palliative care, and helps relieve some of the very significant (existential) suffering.
Granting of permission to assist actually removes the necessity to act hastily, including taking one's life by violent means (e.g. jumping in front of a train) because one doesn't have to "take action" while one is still physically able to move about freely.
This means that objections that highlight Mr or Mrs So-and-so who was given three months to live and was alive and well five years later, are irrelevant. It is only when the patient's situation becomes truly hopeless and the suffering severe and unremitting that those with access finally decide to use medical assistance to die on their own terms.
Shouldn't we allow religious leaders or politicians to decide this moral issue for us?
If a terminally ill sufferer wishes to seek religious counsel to help make a difficult end of life decision for themselves, DWDV absolutely supports that.
Suffering at the end of life is a very personal experience. Individuals should be free to consult whoever they want to help them make their own choices. However, the view of religious leaders or politicians should not overrule the right of the individual to make their own informed decision.
In addition to this, the 2006 census shows that close to 1 in 5 Australians (19%) have "no religion", so it doesn't make sense for religious leaders to make decisions for everyone. (To put this in perspective, the number of "no religion" Australians now exceeds the number of Anglican Australians, though not the number of Catholic Australians.)
Don't you just use "horror stories" to shock people into agreeing with you?
This is an offensive claim by conservatives who oppose self-determination. It exposes ignorance at best and a profound lack of compassion at worst. It trivialises the suffering that such individuals have been forced to endure.
All our stories are real stories about real people. We present them as factual evidence as to what actually happens when people are not given a legal choice.
Isn't this just the start of a slippery slope?
The "slippery slope" argument is a scare tactic used by conservative opponents to shut down the dying with dignity debate so that the law continues to conform with their views.
An official review of nine years of Oregon (USA) PAD statistics shows a modest number of people--not an "avalanche" requesting PAD. Fully one third of those who receive a PAD prescription end up not using it. Clearly, restraint is exercised.
DWDV has published a legislative charter in plain English that spells out exact proposals for legislative reform. Nothing more. Nothing less. If it doesn't appear in the legislative charter, it's not proposed. And DWDV's Charter is based on the Oregon law.
Individuals and groups can easily determine the scope of the proposal and decide whether they wish to support it, debate it, or oppose it.
A number of politicians and respected organisations have already endorsed and shown support for DWDV's legislative charter.
You can support it too by signing DWDV's petition to State Parliament.
Won't the depressed and people with disabilities be next?
Absolutely not. This is an extension of the discredited "slippery slope" argument. DWDV believes firmly that those suffering depression in the absence of a terminal illness with intolerable suffering should be directed to proper psychological care. A choice to die because of intolerable and unrelievable suffering near the end of life can be rational, but a choice to die because of psychological illness alone is not.
Nor are people with disability per se ever intended to be covered by medically assisted dying laws. DWDV opposes that firmly, and its legislative charter specifically makes these points abundantly clear.
In any case, DWDV's recommended process stipulates that the decision and action to die with medical assistance is the patient's alone and not of any third party. This means that involuntary euthanasia is specifically excluded and forbidden.
Is it wise to legislate for "exceptions"?
The claim is that terminal suffering that cannot be adequately addressed by palliative care is very rare and therefore at best is not worthy of legislative effort and at worst exceptions are just too "tricky". This is another false argument.
Firstly, it is wrong in law. Much law attempts to legislate the exceptions. Speaking of dying, the average annual murder rate in Australia is approximately 0.002% (or 1 in 50,000). That's very much the exception to normal behaviour. Yet legislate against it we do, and rightly so.
Terminal illness suffering cannot be adequately palliated to the sufferer's satisfaction in around 5% of cases, yet we have not legislated for choice in more than 25 years of an overwhelming majority of Victorians wanting it. And because modern medicine is so effective at keeping people alive, around 85% of us will die in hospital of a terminal illness rather than "passing away quickly and peacefully in our sleep" at home. This means that the 5% is growing in absolute numbers of people.
Secondly, it shows a breathtaking lack of compassion for sufferers. The issue is not about the technics of palliation. It's about the experience and beliefs of the sufferer who, if mentally competent and with sound medical and other advice at hand, deserves the respect of self-determination.
What about "suicide tourism"?
"Suicide tourism" is a highly offensive expression. It completely trivialises the deep and unrelenting suffering experienced by many terminally ill people. To suggest that people go on a "happy holiday" to die, a long way from home, family and friends, lacks insight and compassion.
Nevertheless, DWDV believes that it would be inappropriate for the State of Victoria to support PAD for those whose only purpose in visiting is to die. PAD would be available only to residents of Victoria.
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