It seems appropriate that given the death and mayhem consuming the planet this year we may as well go the extra yard in Tasmania and decide on euthanasia, or voluntary assisted dying.
The State Parliament will soon have a fourth crack at this reform, and I say a fourth because it’s a winner-take-all debate.
There are no half-full or half-empty glasses in voluntary assisted dying. The participant seeks to either live or die.
I’m sure I’m like many of those touched by this debate; we wish it would just go away or happen while we’re not looking, or we’ve got a moral stake in the outcome, or, our loved one is about to die and is in a world of pain.
I get it that it’s difficult to find a default position.
Gay marriage? Instant view.
Abortion? Yep, step right up for a debate.
Immigration? Where do I start?
Euthanasia? Hmm. Give me time to think about it.
The stories about those with terminal illness, suffering with chronic pain and depression will make you cry.
The stories, urban myth or otherwise, about the possibility for elder abuse, will make you wary.
I’ll be straight up and say my religious incline makes it problematic.
Just as I am dead against capital punishment, I find it hard to avoid the inconsistency with supporting euthanasia.
Okay, it’s a messy conundrum. Instinctively I want to see paedophiles dead but I can’t support even the most humane form of capital punishment.
Similarly, I want to ease the suffering of those in chronic pain but I can’t support even the most humane self-inflicted death.
The debate will emotionally rip you apart even after a cursory look, but this is a heart-head battle.
Your heart says let them die voluntarily but your head hesitates and ponders the chances of abuse.
I have a few issues with the proposed legislation.
To achieve the right to die you must be at least 18. So, this is not just restricted to the typically elderly person with terminal illness.
The legislation also includes the “anticipation” of suffering or the “anticipation” of treatment that may arise.
So, you can access the lethal option based on what might lay ahead?
I’m not indifferent towards why people embrace voluntary assisted dying.
In her final year with terminal cancer my mum sobbed over the pain.
Aged care nurses pumped morphine into my stage 4 cancer-ridden sister so that she died just three days after we shared a laugh on the phone and she seemed buoyant and upbeat.
Strong doses of morphine ended the life of my terminally ill dad.
Morphine, the boot-legging version of euthanasia.
The final solution (sic) when participants enter the final waiting room.
The community will entertain this reform, once strict, world’s-best practice guidelines are in place.
I have issues with abuse and coercion but it is reassuring to note that participants face a lot of hoops to jump through and that such fears can be allayed.
It seems a little odd though, that Parliament will decide on the End of Life (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020 without Tasmanians having a direct say.
Over the years we’ve had a referendum on our energy options, various constitutional reforms and we had a national plebiscite on gay marriage, but a life and death reform leap frogs all this grass roots democracy stuff and goes straight to the Parliament.
Now that proponents have honed their model into another attempt, why are we not entitled to a plebiscite or referendum, in spite of the cost?
As well, I trust there will be a conscience vote in both chambers of Parliament.
This is not a partisan issue. There are unlikely followers on both sides of the debate.
The legislation is complex. A ready-made lawyer’s dream statute. It will resolve one family’s agony and prolong the agony of others. It will divide families in some cases, or provide peace.
There are so many ifs and buts and so many heartstrings susceptible to a tug of war, because we are dealing with a life.
It’s going to make our Parliament war weary, at a time when the world pandemic is the mammoth-sized creature in the room.
Proponents have been waiting years for their best chance of success so let’s have this perennial debate again, and move on.
If the legislation fails next month, I can’t foresee another credible attempt for years. People just won’t entertain it.
You may think it extremely provocative, mischievous or ignorant of me to include euthanasia and capital punishment in the one paragraph.
One is based on an involuntary law and order penalty and the other on a legislated and voluntary suicide option for the terminally ill.
But, both result in a pre-meditated, legalised, premature death at the hands of the one fallible constant – other people.
- Barry Prismall is a former The Examiner deputy editor and Liberal adviser