The Victorian Government is proposing a bill to legalise assisted suicide/euthanasia to be moved in parliament in August.
Euthanasia is about actively killing someone and assisted suicide is about actively assisting a person to kill him/herself. Surely our society does not put killing before caring? How can legalising assisted suicide/euthanasia even be considered before all Victorians have equal access to quality palliative care?
No matter how carefully drafted such a law cannot have foolproof safeguards. You cannot eliminate the risk of a vulnerable and socially isolated person being coerced, however subtly, to request assisted suicide/euthanasia. We no longer have the death penalty because as a society we decided the risk of even one innocent person being put to death is too great a risk to take so surely we do not want to risk even one vulnerable person being made to feel he/she should request to die.
Elder abuse is a grave concern with reports quoting up to 10 percent of people over 65 being affected. How can such a law ensure that it would not allow elderly people to be coerced into requesting assisted suicide/euthanasia just as now they are being coerced into signing over their assets and savings?
Legalising assisted suicide/euthanasia would also send a mixed and dangerous message to people suffering with suicidal thoughts and depressed. Isn’t it a contradiction to offer some people support to commit suicide while many services strive to improve the wellbeing of others and prevent suicide?
What message would legalising assisted suicide/euthanasia send to those living with a disability? Instead of support to live as full a life as possible, we offer support to kill themselves – that they may be better off dead?
Every one of us will be affected if assisted suicide/euthanasia is legalised as it would be a cheaper option for government and health insurers than palliative care or treatment. In Oregon in the US, two cancer sufferers were told their health insurance would cover assisted suicide drugs 100 percent but that they would not be covered for the chemotherapy their doctors had recommended.
Are these the values we are choosing to endorse and celebrate in Victoria?
SUPPORT THOSE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
The statistics regarding mental health in Australia are both startling and unacceptable. One in three Australians will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. Suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians and accounts for the deaths of more young people than car accidents.
We need to acknowledge those who are doing ground-breaking work in this area.
The Australian Mental Health Prize seeks to recognise Australians who have made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health or the prevention and treatment of mental illness in areas such as advocacy, research or service.
I would like to encourage clinicians, health professionals and the public at large to nominate the people they feel should be recognised for their work.
More information and nomination forms can be obtained from www.australianmentalhealthprize.org.au
Entries close on August 31.
For those who are living with the burden of mental illness every day, thank you for your support.
Ita Buttrose AO OBE
Chair of the Australian Mental Health Prize Advisory Group