November 16, 2016
The Hon. L.A. VLAHOS ( Taylor—Minister for Disabilities, Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse) (21:41):
I had not planned on speaking tonight. I heard many speeches while I have been sitting in my room upstairs after the break. When I came to this place in 2010, I came to this place being pro euthanasia. Over that time, I have changed my story. I remember listening to another member in the chamber yesterday talking about his journey in this space. I came from the nineties thinking that it was the right thing to do, having been a coder dealing with death certificates and cancer registration, living next to a morgue in a hospital, regularly going up and down with bodies in bags and knowing the smell of death in cancer wards.
I thought that it would be merciful to let people end their life simply and have a way out. However, as a legislator, the more I have dug into this topic the more I have grave concerns for the many frail and vulnerable people I have met in the course of my duties as a normal MP in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. Through oncologists, I have been spoken to about when families are affecting the decision-making of frail and vulnerable people. I listened to the guilt and turmoil the member for Elder spoke about before with the woman who was frail and ill.
Now I stand here as the Minister for Disabilities. Recently, I heard stories about women and men with disability and how they feel neglected and locked out by our society and about the degenerative nature of some of their conditions. I also work with people with mental health issues. When I have the privilege to go into the homes of people who are living in group homes, not one of them has spoken to me about the right to die with dignity. They talk about the right to live a life and to have hope.
Despite having grave illnesses, they all talk about the quality of life they want and aspire to. Today, we have the chance, as the Treasurer (the member for West Torrens) said, to stand the line and make a decision about what sort of society we wish for. Do we want to have a society where life is valued or do we start pulling back the tide and allowing, bite by bite, people to start disappearing from this place, this state, and not protecting them when they are frail and vulnerable? I, for one, cannot do that and I urge you to vote against this bill.