An alternative to the callous way we die today is an elective death. Contrary to what most people believe, the way we die is not natural. It is a direct result of the law. The law in the ACT forces us to die of disease and if we wish to die some other way we must hang, gas, shoot ourselves or find some other unpleasant means. Dying with Dignity ACT Inc. proposes that an alternative to this dictatorial and callous law can be found in the idea of an elective death.
DWDACT Inc. has submitted this model to the ACT Government as a new way of thinking about how to provide ACT citizens with a good death. We believe that it would provide ACT citizens with the right to decide when and where they want to die with the support of professionally trained staff. They would not have to go to Switzerland or anywhere else to take advantage of a high quality mode of death.
AN ELECTIVE DEATH
An Elective Death is based on the following principles
- It is the responsibility of government to ensure that everyone dies with dignity.
- A good health system should be able to guarantee a good death.
- An elective death will be a peaceful, pain free and quick death.
- A civilized society respects the rights of its citizens to die at the time of their choice.
- To elect death is a legitimate goal that some people have for themselves. Like birth, death is a matter of individual choice and in the same way it should be supported by the state.
- Elective death is defined as a voluntary decision to shorten one’s own life.
AN ELECTIVE DEATH UNIT
- An Elective Death unit would be well-publicized in or linked to a local hospital. The most effective medication would be purchased by the hospital and managed safely like all other medications in hospitals. It would be made available to the EDU staff as required.
- The Elective Death Unit would have a) a 24 hour a day service with the resources to make professional personal, financial, and relationship counselling available to clients as well as immediate access to police, the coroner, organ donation and funeral services; b) an education facility designed for all members of the community and targeted for specific age groups and their particular stage of life needs to educate and inform people about death; to assist people to let go of life, to understand what death is and to prepare themselves for death; c) rooms with the facilities to assist those wanting an elective death to die comfortably in the presence of people they select; d) provision of the facilities to enable a peaceful, pain free and quick death to be undertaken in most cases independently without the help of other people.
- The Elective Death Unit would provide any adult ACT citizen with an elective death following a) provision of a reason for the wish for death, b) offers of help through counselling or other assistance as needed, c) a cooling off period negotiated with the person wanting to die. The decision to die would be respected as would the decision to live.
- On diagnosis of a terminal illness or a protracted chronic disease that brought unbearable suffering, those people diagnosed may request a referral from their doctors to the Elective Death unit for an elective death at the time of their choice. Accessing the counselling services of the Elective Death Unit would be a matter for them.
- The Elective Death unit would be required to maintain records of the reasons for people requesting an elective death and report regularly to the Assembly on their findings.
- The ACT Government would co-ordinate public and private health systems to link into the Elective Death unit so that they can refer clients to it.
A BRIEF COMPARISON OF DEATH BY DISEASE AND AN ELECTIVE DEATH