Questions & Answers

Question:- Would legalising Voluntary Assisted Dying for the terminally ill provide a “slippery slope” to extend to the disabled, to persons in a vegetative state, to people who are intellectually disabled and so on?

AnswerThe legislation in Victoria, which we in Queensland expect to largely follow, is extremely conservative. Any future relaxation of eligibility criteria would only happen after very careful consideration by our government and law makers and in response to public demand.

Question:- How can we be sure that the person wants to die.

Answer: Following repeated requests for voluntary assisted dying, the doctor would follow prescribed guidelines which would include being satisfied that the strength and persistence of the requests left no reasonable doubt as to the patient’s firm and rational intention, and that there is no duress from other parties.

Question:- Can we be sure that there is no possibility of cure or return to an acceptable quality of life:- .

Answer: Cures take years to discover, test, and then become available. The doctor would discuss the person’s prognosis so that the person could make an informed decision as to whether a cure or remission was worth
waiting for.

Question:- Doesn’t palliative care manage all pain?

AnswerPalliative Care Australia acknowledges that not all pain can be controlled.  Of greater concern for many people are the loss of faculties and the descent into total dependence on others over a lengthy period as a miserable prelude to death. In extreme cases “terminal sedation” may be used. This renders the patient unconscious until death from dehydration supervenes. This is simply “slow euthanasia” and for many, it is not a reasonable alternative to a quick and peaceful death.

Question:- Would efforts to find cures and to improve palliative care will be discouraged?

AnswerThe will to live is so strong that no-one wishes to die while they still have a reasonable quality of life.

There will always be pressure to find cures and improve treatment. Voluntary Assisted Dying would only be an option for those whom current medical knowledge cannot not help. The incentive to perfect cures would remain.

Question:- Would people want to know about other options?

Answer: VAD would require that people are fully informed of all the other options that are available to them in terms of medical and palliative care.

Question:- Is it wrong to shorten life deliberately?

Answer: Those who have this conviction would be free to abstain, either as doctor or patient, but they should not deny the option to those who do not share their belief. While most people hold that life should not be taken unlawfully, they accept that there are circumstances in which the taking of a human life may be justified and that the law should provide for these.

Question:- "Most religious traditions regard life as a gift from God and the deliberate taking of one’s own life as a rejection of God’s will."

Answer: We acknowledge and respect that this is some people’s beliefs.  However, we believe that people who do not subscribe to this belief should not be required to live by it.  We allow and encourage compassion and humane treatment of animals, why not for ourselves?

VAD allows for choice, so that those who believe that God has set the term of each life will be unaffected by the law, but there are many committed Christians and followers of other faiths who do not share that image of God. They believe that we have been given responsibility for our own lives and that a God of love and compassion would not wish any of us to end our days in needless, unwanted suffering.

Question:- Will VAD make suicide acceptable?

Answer: Dying with Dignity comes from a place of empowerment, while suicide comes from a place of powerlessness. As the Law now stands, some people are opting to suicide “while they still can”. If they knew if they had a better option, they may choose to live longer and may not need assisted dying.

Question:- Would legalised Voluntary Assisted Dying make it impossible to secure the criminal conviction of a health professional who causes the death of a patient by the administration of an overdose of a pain-relieving drug?

AnswerUnder present law, a health professional who unintentionally causes the death of a patient by a drug overdose is free of criminal liability if he/she has acted with the intention of relieving pain or other symptoms and not to cause death.

Under a voluntary assisted dying law, two independent doctors would have to follow detailed procedures and report comprehensively to the coroner.

Over-dosing with pain-relieving drugs, would not be condoned by the new law.

Question:- Would legalising VAD to cover a few heart rending cases inevitably lead to wider use of physician-assisted suicide?

AnswerA survey in Holland in 1995-96 showed that 2.4% of total deaths each year resulted from (legally sanctioned) voluntary euthanasia and 0.7% from (illegal) non-voluntary euthanasia.

A similar study in 1995-96 in Australia showed 1.8% of total deaths to be due to (illegal) voluntary euthanasia and 3.5% to (illegal) non-voluntary euthanasia. 

Doctors in Australia are responding to a pressing need, but in the absence of an appropriate law they are doing so in an unregulated and arbitrary manner, with far less consultation with their patients, under the threat of criminal sanction.

Question:- Would social acceptance of physician-assisted suicide tell the elderly, disabled and other dependent citizens that their lives are not valuable. Older, disabled or depressed family members could be pressured or coerced into ending their lives?

AnswerVoluntary assisted dying tells everyone that their lives are their own and are too valuable to be squandered at the end in irremediable suffering. The measure is not directed to “dependent people” but is an option for independently minded mentally competent adults. 

Doctors would be required to be satisfied that the patient is incurably ill and suffering intolerably, that there is no other relief acceptable to the patient, and that the requests are freely made. 

 VAD legislation requires a person to expressly state that this is their own choice, not someone else’s.

Address

Dying With Dignity Queensland
PO Box 432
Sherwood QLD 4075
Phone: 1300 733 818
enquiries@dwdq.org.au

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