Go Gentle Australia has been established to help relieve the distress, helplessness and suffering experienced by Australians with untreatable or terminal illnesses, their families and carers.
In the face of evidence released in the Parliament of Victoria’s Inquiry into End of Life Choices (2016) which documents the suffering, trauma, and harm being inflicted on the community by our existing laws around voluntary euthanasia – evidence supported by hundreds of personal testimonials we have gathered from across Australia – our early focus is on bringing about change to these laws.
This is to:
- Palliate and empower those who are suffering with greater choices
- Reduce the suicide rate among elderly Australians faced with chronic and irreversible illnesses
- Provide options within palliative care when, despite their best efforts, it is no longer possible to relieve all suffering
- Remove the current legal uncertainty which has led to many documented cases of inadequate pain relief being delivered to patients as they suffer
- Create a law that protects – and gives clarity and guidance to – doctors and nurses faced with human suffering that is beyond meaningful medical treatment
- Relieve the suffering of families and carers forced to endure the traumatic and painful deaths of their loved ones.
Go Gentle Australia does not argue for a ‘right to die’.
We see death not as a right, but as a fact at the end of life.
What we do argue for is a right to have a choice about what happens to us at the end of our lives and not to be coerced, when we are at our most vulnerable, into cruel and avoidable suffering.
We argue for the right of all Australians not to have that choice dictated to them by of the ethics, morals, or religious beliefs of another.
We respect the beliefs of all those who find the idea of assisting a suffering person to die to be morally or ethically unacceptable. We also accept their right not to participate in, or support, voluntary euthanasia if it conflicts with those beliefs.
We ask, in return, that they accept the rights of other Australians, who may not share their beliefs, to seek a death that fully reflects the person they have been and the life they have lived – not just in their own eyes, but in the eyes of those who love and care for them.
Although we see voluntary euthanasia as being essential to our choices, Go Gentle Australia understands that it is just one on a spectrum Australians should be aware of. These include:
1. Palliative Care. We strongly support the need for good palliative care within the Australian community, both in hospitals and at home. In providing dying individuals and their families with holistic support, good nursing, and pain control, palliative care provides an essential service for many Australians at the end of life.
We do not argue that voluntary euthansia is a substitute for good palliative care. However, Palliative Care Australia acknowledges that they “cannot relieve all suffering at the end of life, even with optimal care”. This acknowledgement was supported by evidence presented to the Parliament of Victoria’s Inquiry into End of Life Choices. In light of this, we do argue that voluntary euthanasia should be available as a choice for those patients whose suffering they cannot relieve.
The aims of palliative care – to alleviate suffering and to make possible a ‘good death’, both for the dying and their families – are also the aims of Go Gentle Australia.
2. Advance Care Directives. Regardless of whether or not they may ultimately seek voluntary euthanasia, all Australians should be aware of what Advance Care Directives are and how they can work to support their wishes at the end of life. They are important, also, because in requiring the appointment of an enduring guardian or substitute decision maker, they begin a discussion within families about the often-avoided subject of dying.
3. Refusal and Withdrawal of Treatment. Even should they qualify under a law, not all Australians who are eligible will seek the option of voluntary euthanasia. It is important that people have a good understanding of their rights under the law, to either refuse, or request withdrawal of, medical treatment as a means of hastening their death. An important part of this is also understanding the obligations of medical professionals to respect, and support them in, their wishes.
Go Gentle Australia is also about a better conversation in Australia around dying. This includes among doctors and nurses as well as patients, their families and carers.
We are working with professionals across all sectors of our community – palliative care workers, nursing unions, individual doctors and their representative groups, cancer support organisations, representatives of the disability community, elderly support groups, Dying With Dignity organisations, political representatives from all parties, legal experts, as well as individuals who are suffering and their families – to shed more light on a subject that, even within the medical community, often remains taboo.
In encouraging all these groups to talk more, not just among themselves but also to each other, we aim to educate Australians about how to approach a ‘good death’ and, in so doing, reduce harm and suffering across our community.
Go Gentle Australia's work in this area will be supported, in coming months, by information on – and links to – good palliative care, appropriate advance care directives, and supportive organisations and resources. We will also be organising online forums and blogs, where people can share experiences and information, as well as providing an opt-in subscription e-newsletter with regular updates on developments.
Every single one of us faces eventual death.
We are all in this together.
We can help each other to go gently.
Roger Wilkins, AO
Roger is a former secretary of the Federal government’s Attorney-General’s department (2008 – 2014) and a former Director-General of the NSW Cabinet office (1992 – 2006).
Ron Heinrich, AM
Ron is Senior Consultant – General Counsel at TressCox Lawyers. He has over 40 years experience in Corporate and Commercial Law and is a Corporate Governance Specialist.
Dr John Collee
John practised medicine before becoming a full-time screenwriter. His scripts include Master and Commander, Happy Feet and Walking with Dinosaurs.
Peter has extensive experience in commercial and corporate law, specialising in the entertainment and media industries. He is one of TressCox Lawyers Executive Counsel.
Andrew is one of Australian media’s genuinely creative forces with a career covering radio, television and film. He is the creator of the podcast series Better Off Dead, investigating why good people die bad deaths in Australia.
Tanya is a strategic communications professional with over 20 years of experience running large corporate, brand and political advertising campaigns.
Go Gentle Australia was incorporated on 14 July 2016, with ABN 61 613 668 643.
Go Gentle Australia
PO Box 11