A Victorian nurse dying from an aggressive form of brain cancer is calling on State MPs to heed the will of the electorate and vote for a voluntary assisted dying law.
Jen Barnes, from Inverloch in South Gippsland, has been a nurse for 40 years and received her diagnosis in May last year.
She is fronting a new campaign, “Stop Victorians Suffering”, backed by Andrew Denton’s Go Gentle Australia organisation.
Jen Barnes is being supported by her Melbourne-based oncologist, Dr Ross Jennens, who says ‘there is a small percentage of people whose suffering can't be controlled and currently the only other option available for those patients is suicide, which is not acceptable.’ Dr Jennens says the issue is one of ‘patient autonomy’.
Jen Barnes says she is campaigning for choice at the end of life.
“Palliative care in Victoria is very good but I’ve seen that for some it doesn’t work.
“It’s very important to me to have control of my destiny. Anybody that knows me knows that I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
“70-75% of us want this law and that’s what I want our politicians to focus on. It’s important for politicians to be there for their community because they’re not there just representing themselves.”
“I may be lucky and I may just drift into a slumber. But I may suffer with seizures. I could certainly potentially be confused or have my words so jumbled that I make no sense.
“I know that at some point in time they’re not going to be able to help me and they’ll say, ‘No, we can’t operate, we can’t give you treatments anymore, and this is the beginning of the end’.
“I don't want to die. No-one wants to die. Because we all want to see the next grandchild, the next birthday, the trees bloom or whatever – we all want that. I’d like to be there for the 40th wedding anniversary with my husband, Ken.
The campaign, being driven through social media, launched today via the Stop Victorians Suffering website, where you can sign the petition.
MORE ON THE LEGISLATION:
Voluntary assisted dying legislation is set to be introduced to the Victorian parliament later this year by Health Minister, Hon. Jill Hennessy MP. The issue is set to be decided by a conscience vote. If the law is passed, it will come into effect from 2019.
An expert panel headed by former AMA federal president, Prof Brian Owler, is advising the government on the detail of the legislation and is due to report by the end of July.
Last year a cross-party Upper House committee of the Victoria parliament recommended the government introduce voluntary assisted dying legislation as an option available to adult Victorians who have only weeks or months to live and suffer from a serious and incurable illness.
Independent opinion surveys consistently find around 75% support for a voluntary assisted dying law with strict eligibility criteria and strong checks and balances, to help the suffering and to protect the vulnerable.
The most important feature is that the law will be completely voluntary: for patients, doctors and also institutions. No-one is ever forced to take part and there are strong safeguards to ensure this.
For more information go to: http://www.StopVictoriansSuffering.org.au/the_law