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Forum discusses right to die

OFFERING A CHOICE: (Left to right) Greens MP Cate Faehrmann with Professor Colleen Cartwright and Dr Philip Nitschke at the Dying With Dignity: Your Right to Choose? forum at Ballina RSL on Wednesday night.
OFFERING A CHOICE: (Left to right) Greens MP Cate Faehrmann with Professor Colleen Cartwright and Dr Philip Nitschke at the Dying With Dignity: Your Right to Choose? forum at Ballina RSL on Wednesday night. Marnie Johnston

ABOUT 60 people turned out to hear Greens MP Cate Faehrmann discuss her Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill which aims to assist people with a terminal illness to end their pain and choose their own time of dying.

Ms Faehrmann was joined at the Ballina RSL Club last week for a panel discussion on the topic with leading euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke and Foundation Professor of Aged Services Colleen Cartwright, who has written extensively on the subject.

With the exception of one lone voice who argued that all life was sacred, the crowd was attentive and supportive.

"It's about someone making a conscious decision and bringing the control back," Ms Faerhmann said.

"In spite of the availability of the best palliative care, some terminally ill people endure intolerable pain, suffering and loss of dignity at the end of their lives. That's why greater choice for patients at the end of life is so important.

"In some of these cases patients indicate to their loved ones and their doctors that they would like to receive assistance to die.

"But at the moment in NSW, such assistance is illegal. My bill would give terminally ill people, under certain circumstances, the right to die a dignified death at a time and place of their own choosing if that is their wish. Subject to strict legal safeguards, mentally competent, terminally ill adults should have the right to die with assistance," she said.

Professor Cartwright agreed there was a need for a new piece of legislation surrounding euthanasia.

"Leaving someone in pain is abuse. There is no excuse to leave a terminally ill person in pain."

Dr Nitschke spoke of the 1996 Northern Territory legislation he helped put in place, which allowed him to be the first person in the world to aid four people in dying, before the legislation was repealed in 1997.

"If you are sick and you take your own life, that's okay," Dr Nitschke said.

"But if you are so sick that you can't end your own life, and someone, triggered by compassion, was to help you, they will spend 10 years rotting in Long Bay Jail thanks to the NSW Criminal Code."

He said voluntary euthanasia laws were in place in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland and three states in the USA.


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