“vulnerable people—the elderly, lonely, sick or distressed—would feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to request early death” House of Lords.
By Paul Russell
The Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Victorian Parliament handed down its Report into End-of-Life choices in Victoria today.
The extensive report makes some valuable comments and recommendations in respect to improvement in palliative care.
It acknowledges that access to palliative care is patchy, is overburdened and needs improvement. In a country rated recently as second in an international table for end-of-life care, it still remains that the availability of such care is more closely related to postcode than it is to need.
The committee heard from many individuals whose family members had passed away in circumstances that were clearly far from what all Victorians would want and certainly far from best practice. The committee seems to take it as read that such cases are compelling proof that Victoria needs a regimen of ‘assisted dying’ – euthanasia or assisted suicide. Few, I contend, are that clear.
While family members submitting their stories to the committee often (but note: not always) called for legislative change, the submissions and stories may well have been evidence of poor care, lack of care options or, indeed, refusal of good care options; we simply do not know. For the committee to seem so easily to have accepted that poor deaths require the State of Victoria to help people to suicide is a travesty as much as it is the potential abandonment of people in great need.
Certainly, the admission that palliative care is still not able to meet the needs of Victorians is an important one and we welcome all policy and planning decisions that bridge the gap between need and availability. Sadly, however, the committee seems intent that, for those who cannot access such care, being made dead is an option. This is a failure of the committee’s stated aims to improve choice; suicide in such circumstances is no choice at all.