Dying With The Assistance Of Another Person
Assisted Suicide or euthanasia is defined as dying with the assistance of another person. It is currently illegal in Australia, and the person assisting can face serious jail time. However, it is legal in Canada, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and in the United States, but only in the states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Montana, Washington DC, and California that may sound like a lot but need I say the United States has 50 states. In 2017, 3128 people died from suicide in Australia. The real issue at hand is, people are dying every day, quietly and violently throughout all of Australia by their own hands. They are vanishing in lonely, desperate, and unspeakable ways. Assisted suicide is an option for terminally ill people, yet everyone just assumes they will opt for palliative care, yet, palliative care exists to alleviate suffering, but not all suffering can be alleviated. It shouldn’t have to be the only option. If a person’s quality of life is so severely affected, they shouldn’t be kept alive against their will, because most likely they will end up committing suicide in a harmful and painful way. So why not allow assisted suicide, which allows other people to engage with the person, to help them die peacefully and painlessly.
The state of Victoria has legislation that will come into effect from June 2019, allowing Voluntary assisted dying, if they meet the criteria. While this is a step forward, in allowing assisted dying, it’s not enough. The criteria state, the person in the late stages of advanced disease for example will die within 6 months can take a medication prescribed by a doctor that causes them to die. But I believe if a person has a disease or disability, that may not be life-threatening, however greatly impacts their quality of life, should be allowed to voluntarily die. Yet the Australian government believes having a mental illness or disability is not a sufficient reason in itself for a person to access voluntary dying. The Australian government is failing its country. It’s preventing its citizens from having a right to die in an assisted manner.
“To live with dignity, to die with dignity”
These are the words of Switzerland’s assisted dying clinic ‘Dignitas’. A society that provides assisted or accompanied suicide to its members, providing their wishes is signed off by independent doctors. They help members with severe physical or mental illnesses, as well as the terminally ill, to end their own lives, on three terms, the person must be mentally functional, capable of making a sound decision, and be on terms with dying. The person must submit a formal request, including s letter explaining why they want to die and be approved by doctors who aren’t a part of the organization. Dignitas also works throughout the world to lobby governments on right-to-die laws. Dignitas has performed about 6000 assisted suicides in its entirety.
Troy Thornton, a 54-year-old Victorian firefighter, died in February 2019 by lethal injection in a Swiss euthanasia clinic. He died with his wife by his side, but without his two teenage children. Before he died, he urged the nation to think deeply about the concept of dying well and to challenge the notion that choosing death is wrong. Despite living in Victoria, the first state to legalize voluntary assisted dying, he did not qualify, to end his life at home, surrounded by those he loved around him. His disease, multiple system atrophy, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, there are no treatments, no prospects of recovery, nevertheless death can take years. This is where Victorian law fails. He could not find two doctors, willing to say with absolute certainty he would die in the next 12 months, if they did, he would have been eligible to assisted death in Victoria. He resorted to having to die in Switzerland as a solution to end his prolonged suffering, despite being without his children, extended family, and circle of friends. He stated “Doctors have always told me that you don’t die of it, you die with it. You can live for quite a few years, but you end up being a vegetable.”