Richard Willingham’s article on voluntary euthanasia (”Greens set to rejoin battle for voluntary euthanasia”, November 19, p1) raises many personal, ethical, legal and political questions. While possibly the majority of the population is in favour, legislation has hitherto been blocked by religious, legal and medical objections, although many doctors follow the dictum ”thou shall not kill, but neither strive officiously to keep alive”. Two developments in recent years have lessened the call for voluntary euthanasia. First is the home-based/hospice palliative care program, where the focus is on the physical and emotional needs of the patient rather than on their disease. Secondly is the Respecting Patient Choices consultant (phone 6244 3244 or visit www.respectingpatientchoices.org.au), where patients can indicate their wishes regarding medical intervention in the case of severe illness.
Medical technology now enables life’s quantity to be extended without benefiting its quality or prognosis. As a retired physician, my view is that voluntary euthanasia is a personal human rights issue which, provided legal protection against abuse is assured, should not be over-ruled by religious dogma, family pressures or political power.
The legal right to die humanely rather than through the consequences of an insufferable disease should be subject to a democratic conscience vote in Parliament. Experience overseas has shown that many patients, having been given that right, fail to use it, but appreciate the liberty if they eventually decide to do so.
Bryan Furnass, Hughes