We don’t want to tell you what to write, but below are a few key arguments that may be helpful when addressing your local MP.
1. Current laws don’t protect Western Australians against needless suffering
Today in Western Australia, if you are dying and suffering beyond medical help, it is legal for you to hasten your dying by: committing suicide; dehydrating and starving yourself; or having a doctor drug you into a coma while your family waits and watches until you to die. These are often traumatic and unnecessarily painful ways to end to a person’s life.
2. Palliative care can’t help everyone
Australia has one of the best palliative care systems in the world. However, even Palliative Care Australia admits that, for a small percentage of their patients, they cannot ease all pain and suffering. Voluntary Assisted Dying is not intended to replace palliative care. It is adding one more option alongside palliative care for doctors and patients to explore at the end stage of incurable physical illness.
3. A voluntary assisted dying law protects the vulnerable
Some people argue that assisted dying means that vulnerable people could be coerced to end their lives for others’ gain. But Western Australia’s proposed law will be designed only for those at the end stages of an incurable physical illness. Twenty years of peer-reviewed evidence from North America shows that this safeguard works. It works because it is hard to coerce a someone into an advanced incurable illness they don’t have. It’s even harder to coerce two doctors, whose work will be subject to review, to agree with them.
4. This is a law that respects doctors’ choices
A Voluntary Assisted Dying law is voluntary for everyone. It respects and protects the rights of those doctors who do not want to participate, just as it respects and protects the rights of those with a different ethical view.
5. It should not be a crime for doctors to help suffering patients die
The AMA’s code of ethics states that doctors are obliged to “Respect the right of a severely and terminally ill patient to receive treatment for pain and suffering, even when such treatment may shorten a patient’s life.” Currently, doctors face the choice of breaking the law and secretly helping a suffering patient to die or abiding by the law and leaving them to suffer. A law would provide protection and the opportunity for a doctor to consult with colleagues and the family of the dying person.
6. Assisted dying is not ‘patient killing’
This law is for people who are being killed by an incurable disease and in the final stages of life. It is entirely up to the patient whether or not they choose to end their suffering caused by this disease. If the patient meets the legal requirements for assistance to die, a doctor will write them a prescription for life-ending medication. After that, it is up to the person whether or not they use it.
7. Faith-based arguments are not being made in good faith
Opposing Voluntary Assisted Dying simply on religious grounds or by using emotive language like ‘patient killing’ is deceptive and unhelpful. We need a thoughtful and respectful debate. Evidence that elderly Australians are killing themselves violently at the rate of one a week, because there is no other way they can be legally helped to end their suffering, is not a religious issue. It’s a serious public health issue.