Dying with dignity

It would appear that support for Labor MP Kyam Maher’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill has reached a point where SA is likely to join Victoria, WA and Tasmania in adopting similar end-of-life legislation.
This will be the 17th time in 26 years the SA Parliament has attempted to give people in the last throes of their life the option to end their suffering.
The proposed law was passed by the Legislative Council by an overwhelming majority last week and it now rests with members of the House of Assembly.
MPs are free to vote as dictated by either their conscience or their constituents, but indications point to a majority of politicians supporting the Bill.
The result appears inevitable and supporters say a society is best judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.
Few experiences can be more distasteful than a deeply undignified death – a fate sometimes experienced by the most dignified of humans.
Watching a loved one pass away in such circumstances is utterly heartbreaking.
However, it is important to remember this Bill is not designed to ease the pain of distraught relatives … it is the person at the end of their life who is the only consideration.
It is they who must drive it and, to access assisted dying, must pass numerous checks as outlined in the legislation.
And even at the final stage, the recipient is under no obligation to continue with the process … it is purely an option.
Opponents of the Bill believe in the sanctity of life and say improved palliative care is the answer. Others fear the criteria for accessing assisted dying could be relaxed over time, allowing it to be abused.
It is clear assisted dying is not for everyone but it is worth remembering those who are opposed are not affected by those who agree.
Dying is one thing we all ultimately do alone.
Some view it with trepidation, others with brazen positivity but whatever your position, it is likely that within 18 months people in SA who are about to die a slow death in prolonged pain will have a choice to achieve the inevitable a little earlier, surrounded by their families.
And that is a society which it appears the majority of South Australians want to inhabit.