Different pathways on euthanasia
I thank Georgia Blain for describing her confusion and deliberations about the choice of voluntary euthanasia (not legalised euthanasia) for her own and her mother’s predicament (“Support acts”, March 26-April 1). Blain describes accurately the soul-searching for those considering VE in relation to their own health as well as those of others in their care. I would emphasise, however, that Ms Blain has every right to choose not to have VE, but that right should not be denied to others who will have a different point of view. I work in this area – in counselling people about both advance (not advanced) care directives and inevitably what is happening with voluntary euthanasia in South Australia. Often, people who are contemplating advance care directives discuss wanting to have the option of VE if they become a burden or are in too much pain. It is not up to me to determine whether they are a burden or have too much pain nor do I have access to resources that will alleviate either of these. Nor does the Australian healthcare system. Nor do many families. So, Ms Blain rightly acknowledges that the rich, those who are highly educated, who have supportive families and excellent medical care, may feel VE is not a good choice. I work with people who are not rich, have ordinary levels of education, do not have supportive families and disparage the healthcare system after having been let down one too many times. When someone says to me they want to die, all I can offer them is an advance care directive.
– Sandra L. Bradley, Panorama, SA
A courageous examination
Since my mother’s death at the age of 97 after a prolonged stay in a nursing home, I have been an advocate of euthanasia for myself. Georgia Blain’s moving depiction of the complexities of this issue in the face of her own illness, and her mother’s Alzheimer’s, is confronting. The depth of her struggle to balance the pros and cons of the debate makes challenging and compelling reading. One can only feel impressed by her courage and thank her for her honesty.
– Vicky Marquis, Glebe, NSW
Rules ensure agreement without coercion
Georgia Blain’s article on the issues around voluntary euthanasia is both complex and affecting. It is certainly true that it is not easy to sort out the morality of acting on an advance request for physician-assisted death (PAD) in the case of people with severe dementia. However, Blain moves from that undoubted dilemma to propose that legalising voluntary euthanasia is not a good idea in general, because in her experience, some days she feels like dying and other days she doesn’t, and if PAD were legal she might make the wrong decision on one of her bad days. However, all the regimes around the world that offer legal PAD require the patient to exhibit a persistent desire to be assisted to die. The process of assessment goes on for many days or weeks and a person who had changes of mind over such a period would not be deemed eligible. Blain’s other objection to PAD is the fear that it is a system designed more to ease the suffering of the family or to decrease the imposts on the health budget than to help the patient. This objection – also part of Karen Hitchcock’s criticism – ignores the fact that, once again, the eligibility criteria for any regulated system of PAD require the decision to be made by the patient entirely free from coercion. Having a well-regulated system of PAD does not mean it is compulsory. Experience in other countries shows only a tiny proportion of people use it. But please, don’t deny it as a merciful option for the few who do want it.
– Liz Jacka, Marrickville, NSW
Windsor’s appeal for electorate
Thanks for providing Tony Windsor with a platform (“Why I am running”, March 19-25). Best wishes of course to him in New England, but his appeal is obviously not limited to his local electorate. Somebody should form some kind of progressive alliance of independents, maybe even a party. Given a leader of substance, of integrity and an outstanding communicator at all levels, we could rise above the ego-dominated, fear-mongering, dog-whistling, slogan-level struggle we are currently suffering. Tony Windsor!
– Don Macrae, Warrandyte, Vic
PM under the influence
In an Australian society where basic Christian-style values prevailed, we might need a Safe Schools program to, among other things, explore how sad, minority misfits such as Cory Bernardi and George Christensen developed their antisocial views (Karen Middleton, “What happened to Safe Schools”, March 26-April 1). Sadly, for the time being, these bigoted troglodytes, with a rump of Tony Abbott fellow travellers, seem to have more influence on the prime minister than his conscience and supposed principles.
– Norman Huon, Port Melbourne, Vic
Middle ground on refugees
I was deeply disappointed with Rosemary Sankey’s letter “Ways to hold shame at arm’s length” (March 26-April 1). She missed my point. I disagree with the implication that compassion and scepticism are mutually exclusive. I also reject the notion that we are meant to simply bear mute witness to the sufferings of others. My use of the word “alleged” was because we have only Ali’s word on the majority of his claims. This is the problem with the refugee debate: the far left see refugees as saints, the far right as sinners. Those of us with some common sense realise they’re just as flawed as the rest of us. If we are going to have a grown-up conversation about refugees, it starts by accepting that the truth is not necessarily the government’s rhetoric nor the claims of advocates. Both have an agenda.
– Liam Nilon, Mascot, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 2, 2016. Subscribe here.