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WA neurologists implore MPs to pass VAD law

23 October, 2019

WA’s top neurologists have implored MPs to pass voluntary assisted dying laws, saying patients suffering from motor neurone disease are being forced to end their lives through starvation or suicide.

The plea comes as voluntary assisted dying laws approach a key vote in the Upper House, The West Australian reports.

In an open letter to MPs, motor neurone specialists say about five to ten per cent of their patients would like to have the choice of an assisted death.

The doctors, who care for about 90 per cent of patients suffering MND in WA, say most people wanting access to assisted dying are “competent, well informed and not depressed”.

"Our patients have convinced us that we should support a VAD option for the few who want to choose to end their suffering by being permitted, when eligible, to make the decision on where and when to die in a more peaceful way, allowing them time to plan to celebrate their life and to say their goodbyes as they would wish," the specialists write.

They despair about the loss of autonomy over their lives, with increasing dependence on others, especially family members, a loss of dignity, a fear of going into a nursing home and the fear of an increasing struggle with difficult to control symptoms over time."

Motor neurone disease is a condition that affects the brain and nerves. It causes weakness and other debilitating conditions that worsen over time. It is always fatal.

"Currently patients only have the options of suicide (which we counsel against) or voluntary starvation and dehydration, which can be an uncomfortable death over 14-21 days even with palliative care support.”

The letter is signed by Professor Merrilee Needham, Dr Lay Kho, Dr Rajini Rajanayagam and Dr Rob Edis.

The West Australian reports the MND specialists are also understood to harbour concerns about a proposed amendment to demand that a specialist be involved in the final sign off on a request to die. With so few MND specialists in WA, the amendment could mean people in the regions miss out, the newspaper says.

Read the full story here.

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