I imagine that most of us have experienced the devastating loss of someone close to us. A parent or grandparent, a dear friend or even the dreadful loss of a child. We also know that with life comes death, and that death can often come with a very undignified and traumatic ending.
I'm very pleased to have co-drafted and co-sponsored the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill for the terminally ill with my independent colleague and Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich. It's not the first time I've supported attempts to have Parliament consider this issue, but this time we're introducing what I think is the best, the safest, the fairest and most important bill that we've seen.
We already know that offering the terminally ill a choice to die with dignity has enormous support within the broader community - more than 80 per cent in most quarters - but I also know there are those with differing convictions, and they include some health professionals and many with a religious faith.
It is not right, in my mind, that one's religious beliefs play such a defining role in the lives of others, but I would hasten to add that I've spoken to many people of various religious faiths who support this Bill and have opened their hearts to voluntary assisted dying for the terminally ill.
Most often, opponents say we already have appropriate ways of managing the pain and death of people with a terminal illness.
They also say we should be doing and investing more in palliative care. I'd agree on both counts, but we know that existing palliative care does not allow all the options for a terminally ill person in pain.
IN THE NEWS:
Voluntary assisted dying is not compulsory, it's a voluntary choice by a person of sound mind who is terminally ill. Our beliefs, religious or otherwise, should play no role in another person's right to self-determine their final days. These people deserve a choice to control the most important part of their life. They deserve a right to die with dignity on their own terms.
Our wonderful nurses, paramedics and health staff will tell you countless stories of people who have been denied that choice. They have seen the terminally ill people who simply want to go home to die. They have seen them check themselves out of hospital so they can take matters into their own hands, sometimes with tragic results.
Terminally ill people deserve better. We all do. We need to be the mature and educated society we think we are, and provide a dignified option for the terminally ill who can no longer tolerate the pain of their lives being artificially and painfully prolonged.
Greg Piper is the independent member for Lake Macquarie.
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