Voluntary Euthanasia and the NSW election

Dying with Dignity NSW – Pollies Register: A searchable survey on the position of sitting members and candidates for the forthcoming NSW election on voluntary euthanasia/assisted dying.

DWD Right to Choose

The NSW state election is to be held on 28 March 2015.

There are many issues which impact on a voter’s decision to back one political candidate over another. But, at the heart of any decision we need to ask, “Will this candidate accurately represent the needs and wants of their electorate?”

Being a political representative is not about getting into parliament to advance your own particular interests and ideology. It is about being a voice for the people you represent.

No! That doesn’t mean politicians have to ‘give in’ to populism.  It’s give and take. If a politician sees that his or her constituents have based their opinions on misinformation or are lacking vital information there is certainly a need  to exercise leadership skills by informing and persuading  them towards an alternative viewpoint.   But, to do this, a politician should act honestly in presenting well-researched data and evidence from mainstream, credible sources – even if that evidence does not support their own prejudices and preconceptions.

This is the mark of that rare beast, an honest politician.

One way in which a politician’s commitment to honest and fair representation can be measured is by their answer to the question, “Should terminally ill patients be able to end their lives with medical assistance?”

A recent survey of NSW residents by the ABC’s Vote Compass found a total of 72 per cent agreed (either ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly’) with this proposition, compared with only 16 per cent who did not.

Substantially more than 50 per cent of Greens, Labor and LNP voters supported legalising voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill. And yet, when the issue was last put to the NSW Parliament, not one LNP candidate voted in favour. Not one. How representative is that?

Further, Vote Compass found that 68 per cent of NSW Catholics (somewhat or strongly) support voluntary euthanasia. That’s right! The Catholic Church does not even represent its own constituency on this issue.

The figures are nearly identical for those who identify as Protestants.

The voters of NSW want voluntary euthanasia legislation and there is no good reason they should not have it.

Ideological objections aside, there is simply no reason for this legislation not to be introduced. VE or assisted dying are already legal in 13 countries and jurisdictions around the world. The practices are well-tested, incredibly well researched and scrupulously monitored. Not only is it proven safe, but credible research shows that where VE is legal, the rate of euthanasia performed without the specific consent of the patient tends to fall (not rise, as is often claimed by its critics).

DWD Graph

Source: YourLastRight based on official Dutch and Belgian statistics.

In Australia, voluntary euthanasia is already practiced routinely in hospitals and nursing homes throughout the country, despite it being, technically, illegal.

Here, having your end-of-life wishes respected is a matter of happening upon a sympathetic medical practitioner who is willing to negotiate the loopholes in the law which allow them to end your life without spending the rest of theirs in prison.  It’s a crap shoot. That’s not how our health care system should operate!

Legalising euthanasia in NSW (or elsewhere) won’t make it any more or less prevalent. It will, however, bring it under the control of the government, make it transparent, introduce rigorous monitoring systems and ensure those patients who wish to avail themselves of it can, and those who do not have that clearly documented. It is about choice not imposition or coercion.

There is no evidence, anywhere in the world, that legalising voluntary euthanasia results in anyone being euthanized without their prior consent or for very, very good reason.  While it is true that consent may not always be possible at the point at which the medication is administered, the consent of the family (in consultation with a medical team) is obtained in a vast majority of cases. Those few cases where consent has not been obtained are properly documented and explained to the satisfaction of the relevant authorities. Legalising the practice makes it transparent.

When Cate Faehrmann MLC presented her Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill to the NSW Parliament in May 2013, it was defeated after an outrageous but determined campaign of propaganda and misinformation by the religious right and operatives representing the Catholic Church’s shadowy Opus Dei.

I contend that, ultimately, the bill was defeated by cowardice and laziness:  NSW politicians were either too scared to represent the views of their constituents on this issue for fear of losing ‘the religious vote’ or they were too lazy to seek out accurate, credible, mainstream research and evidence on legalised voluntary euthanasia.

The people of NSW do not deserve a Parliament which does not represent their wishes. They do not deserve politicians who won’t do independent research. They don’t deserve politicians who are in politics to advance their own religious and ideological views. Nor do the people of NSW deserve politicians who are too frightened to stand up against churches, their party or other vested interests to deliver legislation which the vast majority of the electorate (Protestant, Christian and ‘nones’) support.

But, how do you know which politician you can rely on?

Dying with Dignity NSW has put a huge amount of time and effort into making the task easy. Over the last eight months, members of DWD NSW have been writing to sitting MPs, asking for their view on legalising voluntary assisted dying. Since the candidates contesting the forthcoming NSW election were announced, they have also been approached and asked to share their views.

As a result of this work, DWD NSW has compiled a Polies Register, which sets out the responses of Lower House candidates for the 28 March NSW election.

Here, you can easily check to see the views of your local member and candidates and factor this in to your voting decision.

If you are a supporter of voluntary euthanasia, may I suggest you contact your local member and candidates, let them know you have viewed the DWD NSW register and tell them that, while it may not be the only issue influencing your vote, it is an important indicator of how well they will represent the views of your electorate. You might also point them towards the Vote Compass research.

If you’re a NSW voter, please share the link to the Pollies Register with your own networks through Facebook, Twitter, etc. or on your own blog.

If you are in contact with people who are centres of influence in the NSW community, please let them know about the register and ask them to share it too.

Voluntary euthanasia needs to become a ‘hot topic’ in future elections. We are all going to die and it is in everyone’s interest to have the best death possible – for them.

For some, this means eking life out to the very end. For others (like me) it means being able to choose when to make a graceful exit.

If your political representative will not support your right to die with dignity – for you to make your own end-of-life decisions rather than have them imposed upon you by someone else’s religious views or ideology – how will they represent you fairly on other issues?

Their stance on this issue is a good indication of what kind of representative they will make in general, I think.

Dying with Dignity NSW – PolliesRegister: A searchable survey on the position of sitting members and candidates for the forthcoming NSW election on voluntary euthanasia/assisted dying.

Chrys Stevenson

Related Content:

Dr Catherine Lennon – Any Means to a Moral End?

Dr Catherine Lennon, Doctors for the Family – NSW Hansard

Related Links:

Dying with Dignity NSW

Voluntary Euthanasia Party




3 thoughts on “Voluntary Euthanasia and the NSW election

  1. yolanda

    As always, great post Chrys. I totally support the legalisation of voluntary euthansia. “My life. My choice”.

  2. abbienoiraude

    I still hold a little hope that I will have the choice when the time comes. I felt it was inevitable when I was 50. Now at 61 I doubt the progressive ability of my fellow Aust and our Reps. to properly be voice of reason and compassion.


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