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Before his death, Bob wrote an open letter:
“The Church and state must remain separate.
What right has anyone, because of their own
religious faith (to which I don’t subscribe), to
demand that I behave according to their rules
until some omniscient doctor decides that I must
have had enough and goes ahead and increases
my morphine until I die? If you disagree with
voluntary euthanasia, don’t use it, but don’t deny
me the right to use it if and when I want to.”
Polls consistently show around 70-80 per cent
of Australians, and up to 90 per cent of West
Australians, believe a doctor should be able to
provide a dying person with a lethal drug to end
unrelievable suffering at the end of their life.
“I think it’s puzzling for the community that
not withstanding what the public feels about
this issue, politicians at some level don’t support
those views,” says Robin Chapple. “You’d think
the public is electing, on average, people who
represent community views.
“People who don’t support it generally fall
into two categories. There are those who base
their view on religion, saying supporters of
voluntary euthanasia should not impose their
will on God or society. And there are those who
are afraid of some form of political backlash.
“As supporters, we do not wish to impose our
will on others – it merely allows people to follow
a personal preference. Whereas I believe the
churches and their minions in Parliament tend
to want to impose their will on others.”
Robin says voluntary euthanasia legislation
is a way of legalising what is already practised
by many doctors. “There have been a number
of reports from people within the medical
profession who have provided the dose of
double effect – prescribing morphine or opiates
to relieve suffering at such a level that the
outcome is most probably death,” says Robin.
In April this year, Melbourne doctor and vice-
president of Dying with Dignity Victoria, Rodney
Syme, publically admitted giving Nembutal to
terminally ill man Steve Guest two weeks before
he used it to die in his home nine years ago. It has
long been known Rodney helped the oesophageal
cancer sufferer and many other patients to
die, but it was the first time Rodney admitted
providing Nembutal to anyone.
After becoming increasingly frustrated by the
failed attempts by state politicians to introduce
“Max died over a period of three days...
he died precisely in the way he most
dreaded, slowly and with the process
out of his control.”
Pro-euthanasia campaigners take to the streets in Canberra.
voluntary euthanasia law, Rodney says he’s ready
to be charged because a court case could set
a legal precedent for doctors who are too scared
to help terminally ill people end their own lives.
Robin Chapple is likely to re-introduce
another voluntary euthanasia bill to WA
Parliament in the next year, to expose the issue to
the new members of the Upper House. “We are
reviewing the Bill at the moment,” says Robin.
“There is quite a lot of pressure on me to allow
for self-administration, but at this stage I have not
seen anything that would lead me to do that.”
While the WA Voluntary Euthanasia Society
(WAVES) is supportive of the Bill, vice president
Ranjan Ray says it doesn’t go far enough. “It’s
a step towards a full independence of choice for
anyone who wants to decide it’s time to go,” he
says. “But under this Bill, if you’re not within
two years of dying, you have to go on living no
matter how miserable your life is.
“From our point of view, the ideal legislation
would be for anyone who suffers (mentally or
physically) more than one wishes to bear, to be
able to ask for help from a physician to die.”
Ranjan points to the Advance Health
Directive (AHD) as another step in the right
direction. Also referred to as a living will, an
AHD is a legal document that enables a person
to make decisions now about the treatment they
would want – or not want – to receive if they
ever become sick or injured and are incapable
of communicating their wishes. In such
circumstances, the AHD effectively becomes
their voice. The term ‘treatment’ includes
medical, surgical and dental, including palliative
care and life-sustaining measures.
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