I am spending a lot of time drafting my submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Justice.
This Committee is dealing with the David Seymour Bill on End of Choice. It was well received by Parliament and sent to the Justice Select Committee to hear submissions, do necessary research, consider the issues and bring a report back to Parliament in due course.
My strategy is to first support the Bill in its basic purpose, to provide some opportunity for a very carefully assessed group of people to ask for assisted dying. The nonsense issues raised by some objectors are carefully addressed and it includes very precise conditions in which medical aid in dying can be achieved where it is found to be appropriate. That would be enough.
But there are three issues in which I am asking for some change or addition to the Bill.
One is about the informal suggestion that the whole debate be deferred until a general referendum is held on the matter. This seems totally unnecessary considering the huge support the general principle has received in so many professionally conducted polls over the last couple of decades. There is no evidence that the mood of society is turning away from its wholehearted support for the need of some kind of assisted death. Asking for a referendum is only a delaying tactic from the opposing minority. And from a purely personal point of view, the delay involved would be likely to mean that any change in the law would come too late to benefit me in a death that has some promise for considerable pain and loss of dignity.
I would like the Bill to be amended so that I could apply and be assessed for medical aid in dying before actually setting a date for my death. I think there should be a period in which I could have the permission approved - and the prescription in my hand -without the condition that I am going to use it in the next few days or return it to store. I would like to continue living as long as possible, even in considerable pain, but I would like to have the assurance that, should I need it, the medication is right to hand. The Bill does not provide such certainty. Other jurisdictions have done this well.
Thirdly, I am extremely disappointed that the Bill does not provide for any form of End of Life Directive. The application for doctor assisted death can only by made by a patient who is fully conscious and understands clearly what he or she is requesting. I believe that if a patient, in full knowledge of the issues and with a good grasp of reality, prepares and signs an End of Life Directive and has this formally registered then if the person falls into unconsciousness, the provisions of that Directive could be applied. Medical assistance in dying could then be provided. As it stands, this Bill is woefully inadequate in the omission of such provisions as were included in the Maryan Street Bill which received so much support a couple of years ago. I will press the Committee to try to improve this aspect.
But, at the end of day, the Bill is at least a firm step forward. Its prompt passage into law will be welcomed by the small number of us who might find ourselves seeking help to end an intolerable existence in the next two or three years. Let's get it into law...
Here's the link for making a submission. They're due at midnight on Tuesday 20 Feb.