Right to Die – Voluntary Euthanasia

The “right to die” is a heated debate that’s raged on for many years. Despite huge developments in the medical field in terms of treatment and pain relief, there are still life-threatening conditions which cannot be cured and suffering that cannot be avoided.

Palliative Care Australia admits that even with optimal care, there is still 4% of accepted patients whom they cannot relieve of their suffering. Meet three people whose lives would potentially be altered if the laws were different.

Kylie’s Legacy

Earlier this week Kylie Monaghan passed away after a long battle with cancer. Kylie, 35, was most well known as a voluntary euthanasia advocate, being the face of the Be the Bill campaign launched last month.

The campaign “was established to help relieve the distress, helplessness and suffering experienced by Australians with incurable or terminal illnesses, their families and carers. We argue for the right of all Australians to have a choice about what happens to them at the end of their lives and not to be forced, when they are at their most vulnerable, into cruel and avoidable suffering”.

Diagnosed with breast cancer at 29, Kylie’s underwent various treatments including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a mastectomy. Despite this the cancer still spread to her liver, bones and brain. Eventually her body stopped responding to treatment.

A local of Port Pirie in South Australia, Kylie’s mission was to legalise the right to voluntarily die with dignity. She spent the last few years of her life urging South Australian MPs to vote in favour of the bill.

Even in her final days, she continued to campaign knowing full well that the laws would not assist her. But she held steadfast in her determination to help others who can benefit from the bill in the future.

The cross-party private members bill in support of voluntary euthanasia was tabled earlier this year. On October 20, South Australian MPs are expected to vote on whether to take the SA Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016 through to debate.

Kylie is survived by her husband Daryll.

Andrew Denton’s Better off Dead

“There is no stronger emotion than our primal fear of death” which is why Andrew Denton believe the the discussion of euthanasia is not discussed rationally.

This is an issue close to Andrew Denton’s heart having earlier this year created a 17 episode podcast titled Better off Dead about this exact topic – the right to die with dignity.

He saw his father, author and broadcaster Kit Denton, pass away after suffering for many years and eventually succumbing to complications from congestive heart failure. Denton describes his father’s last days as “days of great pain”.

“Every week in Australia, at least one elderly Australian will end their life violently and alone because they have no law to help them otherwise,” he told 60 Minutes.

Denton’s belief is that euthanasia for those who are suffering comes from a place of great love and compassion. This is seen in his podcast where he interviews a woman planning her own death, a nurse convicted of assisted suicide and a former Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions.

As a part of his research, Denton visited Belgium, the Netherlands and Oregon, USA to see how euthanasia laws were implemented there.

He hopes that his podcast will spark the debate, create change and in turn reduce the suffering of Australians in the future – not just for the ill, but also their families as well as the doctors, nurses involved.

The 145 year old man

Meet Indonesia’s Mbah Gotho, who was born 145 years ago. Though his age has not yet been independently verified, his identity card states that he was born on December 31, 1870.

He was born into a world that predates electricity, telephones and cars. He’s lived to see the beginning and end of both world wars, as well as the turn of two centuries. He’s lived a full life and seen many remarkable changes in the world.

However, today Mbah lives a very different present. He can no longer feed or bathe himself. He’s lost his eyesight too. His hearing remains as he spends his days listening to the radio, unable to do much else.

He has outlived all four wives, ten of his siblings and all of his children. His only remaining family are his grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

When talking with the local media, he explained that the secret to his long life was “patience”. However, he also made it clear that he hopes to see his end soon.

“What I want is to die. My grandchildren are all independent,” he said.

Mbah has even begun preparing for his death, starting 24 years ago. He purchased a plot near his children when he was 122 years old and even had a gravestone made.

Though Mbah lives in a different country with different laws, one thing is universally clear – everyone has their limit when it comes to patience.

Whichever way one looks at it, and regardless of what you decide for yourself, do we have the right to withhold another person’s right to die with dignity?

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