Benjamin Franklin spoke of the inevitability of death with his famous words, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes." However unpalatable the prospect is, every one of us will die. The late Steve Jobs said, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.”
The traditional view of western civilisation upholds the belief that every human life has inherent dignity which does not depend on one’s circumstances. This inherent worth of a person’s existence does not cease because they do not have long to live, or are depressed, or in pain. In recognition of this, on 17 May, the Queensland Government Health and Community Services Committee, with members from both major parties and Independents, tabled a report “Palliative and community care in Qld: toward person-centred care” which recommends a shift to more person-centred care for people with a terminal condition. Other recommendations include a 24 hour state-wide palliative care telephone service; providing for a children’s hospice in Queensland; Medicare benefits for GP palliative care; a national public awareness campaign; promotion of advance care planning; the use of videoconferencing for care; supporting carers better; better use of volunteers; and improving service adequacy, effectiveness and efficiency that is needs-based and person-centred.
ACL applauds the Queensland LNP, ALP and Independent MPs who have put forward these recommendations and calls upon other states to follow its lead to fund and improve palliative care and put a stop to the endless calls for euthanasia from the Greens and Exit International founder, Phillip Nitschke.
On Thursday, 23rd May 2013 the ACL welcomed the defeat of the NSW Greens’ euthanasia bill in the New South Wales Legislative Council. This bill was defeated 23 votes to 13. The Tasmanian Government is also likely to be debating euthanasia this year. ACL urges them to follow the Queensland move and focus its efforts toward improving palliative care not legalising euthanasia.
State parliaments have repeatedly rejected legislating physician assisted euthanasia because of the inability to construct a law which prevents abuse and exploitation of the vulnerable. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said that it is probably not possible to design a law with adequate safeguards. Euthanasia is fundamentally unsafe. Where euthanasia has been legalised around the world, these laws have led to tragic abuses. Actually, euthanasia turns the law on its head as our laws are meant to protect and preserve life. Our Doctors, as healthcare providers, are expected to protect and promote life, not end life or encourage the ending of life.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion in the language around euthanasia. Take for instance the phrase “dying with dignity”. It contains the latent assumption that it is not possible to die with dignity unless euthanasia is on the table. It is no surprise that surveys which ask: Do you believe people in terrible pain should have access to euthanasia? achieve high levels of support in the community. But the active intervention of a doctor with a lethal substance is entirely different to the compassionate act of relieving a patient’s pain, even if the onset of death is hastened. Turning off a life support machine is not euthanasia nor is acceding to the wishes of a patient to refuse life-prolonging treatment.
The future funding of palliative care can have no relationship to euthanasia and assisted-suicide. Euthanasia is not an antidote or an appeasement to the reality of death. Palliative care and euthanasia are diametrically opposed. One is providing care for the living as they die and the other is making the living die.
The Queensland Government is required to give a response to the committee recommendations in three months. The report is available at: http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/documents/committees/HCSC/2012/PalCareHAAC/rpt-022-17May2013.pdf
Please take the time to email the committee firstname.lastname@example.org
and thank them for recognising the value and sanctity of every human life. Also contact your local MP and urge them to support the recommendations.