November 16, 2016
Dr McFETRIDGE ( Morphett ) ( 22:09 ):
Let me first acknowledge the passion and caution with which members of parliament have approached this debate. During the lead-up today, some friendships have been severely strained; others have been cemented. I acknowledge the enormous work and help of the member for Ashford and the South Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Society. More recently, the Go Gentle group, headed by Andrew Denton and David Hardaker, has given this campaign a real boost to get this bill to this place today.
Today, we are able to choose, choose what happens to this bill. We can choose to give life to the legacy Kylie Monaghan wanted to see, we can choose to give South Australians who are dying of a terminal illness the right to choose, to choose the time of their death. They are going to die. They have no choice in that. Remember, we are debating the future of real people in real pain and real suffering. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. They are your family and they are my family. Let us choose to let them go gently.
We have seen and heard arguments from many members in this place, religious groups and some health professionals, frequently about perceived dangers in allowing this change to legislation. Some arguments are blatant scaremongering, some arguments are on issues of faith, not fact. Members are correctly using an abundance of caution when considering this legislation. In making their choice, in deciding how they will vote tonight, some MPs have said they are afraid of a slippery slope, that some future changes to this legislation will manifest to include children, the disabled, the old and the frail.
Here in South Australia we are a sovereign state. This legislation, once enacted, can only change, and will ever only change, if this South Australian parliament or future South Australian parliaments allow that to happen. There is no slippery slope. I remind all MPs of what this bill—with all the agreements that the member for Kaurna and I worked on with others, we have agreed on these amendments—is going to do. This bill is about an adult person with a terminal illness making a voluntary request to access voluntary euthanasia.
The bill will require assessment by two specialist doctors. The bill will require a mental health assessment by a mental health practitioner. With my amendment it requires a prognosis of less than 12 months to live. The bill will have two independent witnesses who cannot be a health practitioner, and only one can be related to the person. There will be ongoing monthly reassessments of the person's wishes. There will be no advertising of medical services for voluntary euthanasia. There is a ban on the sale of equipment to facilitate voluntary euthanasia. This bill will protect patients and health professionals. It will tighten up the reporting to the coroner and force annual reports to the parliament.
Let us remind ourselves of how this bill is going to work in practice. The typical person who will use the law is likely to be about 70 years of age and suffering from cancer. There will be no further treatment; they would usually only have days or weeks to live. They will be losing dignity. They will be in pain. They will have had enough. You can be sure the situation is dire, because any health professional will tell you that people will do anything to live.
We will find that not all of those who get permission to go through with voluntary euthanasia will go through with it. It is likely that a good third of those who are prescribed the medication will never use it. Instead, they have the comfort of knowing it is there if they want it. This is the experience of over 20 years in operations in places such as Oregon. Last week, Colorado voted to support the death with dignity legislation, joining Oregon, California and Canada, with a combined population of over 100 million people.
I remind everyone that this is the 15th bill over nearly 25 years to come to this parliament, and today we have the chance to show our trust in the years of debate, the years of analysis, to show our trust in the democratic process. Now is a chance to uphold the faith our constituents, our fellow South Australians, have placed in us by choosing us to be their representatives in this place. They chose us. Now we must give them the right to choose.
I will finish by saying to each and every person in this chamber that Kylie Monaghan is not really gone, just as my father, my granny, your friends and relatives whose mortal forms have stopped functioning are not really gone. We hear their voices, their laughter. We see their smiles. We have seen their suffering, we have seen their tears. They are gone but they do live on. They live on in each and every one of us here, now, today. What would you say to that person, that relation or that friend who had a terrible, painful death over weeks or months? How would you explain your vote today if you do not support this bill?
When you vote in a few moments for these amendments and going into the second reading, think of the Kylies of the state. Let this bill become Kylie's Law. Let the bill be the bill.