Life and death on your own terms

Pictured: Waverley Cemetery, Bronte. Photo: Sydney Living Museums.

As the NSW Parliament debates a Bill to allow voluntary assisted dying, Geoffrey R Usher opines that people should be able to live – and die – on their own terms.

At the age of 22 I twice came close to death. I am grateful that medical skill meant that I have had more than 50 subsequent years of happy, fulfilled life: marriage, family, career, friendships and a variety of extracurricular interests.

As a Unitarian minister, I believe in the right of every person not only to freedom of belief but also to freedom of choice in matters which affect their own lives and wellbeing – including end-of-life choices such as voluntary euthanasia or voluntary assisted dying.

It seems quite illogical that, although suicide is no longer a criminal offence, it is still against the law to assist someone to commit suicide.

If I am facing the prospect of a painful death from a terminal illness, I want to be able to end my life on my own terms.

“It seems quite illogical that, although suicide is no longer a criminal offence, it is still against the law to assist someone to commit suicide.”

– Geoffrey R Usher

I do not want to be subjected to protracted suffering simply because other people think that they know better than I do, and think that suffering is a good thing.

I am, of course, happy for them to suffer as much as they like, if that is their choice – a choice which I respect, although I find it odd.

And don’t try to bring God into the issue by claiming that doctors shouldn’t ‘play God’ by hastening death.

Since death is an inescapable part of life, doctors ‘play God’ every time they keep people alive who otherwise would die without medical intervention.

Yesterday, Queensland passed a historic bill to allow voluntary assisted dying; it will now become the fifth state to do so.

The NSW Parliament is currently debating a Bill to allow voluntary assisted dying under clearly defined conditions.

If, like more than 70 per cent of the population, you support the proposal, please contact your local Member of Parliament and encourage them to vote in favour of the Bill, to bring NSW up to date with the other states.

Geoffrey R Usher is a board member of Dying with Dignity NSW.