Thursday, August 15, 2013

You Wouldn't Let a Dog Suffer Like This: Voluntary Euthanasia in Australia.

“A girl calls and asks, "Does it hurt very much to die?"
"Well, sweetheart," I tell her, "yes, but it hurts a lot more to keep living.”
-  Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor.

One of the strangest paradoxes, no, let's call it what it really is - hypocrisy - is the political will to sentence young men (women on a lesser scale) in the prime of youth to an early death in foreign battlefields (including "oil wars"), yet at the same time refusing elderly people in unbearable suffering in the last stages of life the right to die peacefully at their request.  Seriously, can someone help me out here? While it is true that soldiers volunteer, today anyway, it still doesn't mitigate the fact that they choose to put their lives on the line, and risk death. This kind of death, the politicians are okay with. Death to relieve intolerable suffering, they are not okay with. Anyone see contradictions bulging out everywhere? "You can choose to die for your country, but you cannot choose to die for yourself. " The first is a "noble cause", the second is "selfishness".
The recent failure of yet another attempt to make voluntary euthanasia (hereafter VE) legal in Australia, or an Australian state or territory, completely highlights why our so-called "democracy" is nothing but a sham and a showcase. While about 80% of Australians are in favour of VE, and have been for as long as public polls have been done on this, it has fallen on the deaf ears of the political powers that be. One local Liberal parliamentarian (in my area), fully knowing what the polls say, shoved off the issue with this aside - "I'll give it some thought".  I'm sure. He might as well give democracy "some thought" too. "Bread and butter" issues always take precedence, and politicians know this, which is why for too long they have been able to let VE slip under the radar in the elective process. That has to change.
I don't intend to revisit the Northern Territory's Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. here, as this is now 17 years old (not that time has diminished its influence), though not without significance to the continuing political hegemony in the VE debate. I offer instead details of the most recent [failed] attempt to revive democracy and invigourate the public debate on VE, by Greens [now] Senate candidate Cate Faehrmann.
Cate presented to the NSW Parliament some of the most detailed and well-researched data in regard to VE, and summarised her case as follows:

Like the Northern Territory Act in 1995, Cate's The Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill  left little to the imagination.  Every conceivable check and balance was included, to ensure that abuse could not possibly occur, if followed to the letter.

The parliamentary debates were protracted and detailed, covering both pro and con views. Yet, while the Bill would easily have passed with electoral consent - it was defeated in the NSW Parliament. Essentially, a small group of politicians decided what was "best" for the State electorates of New South Wales.  The same ones who never hesitate to send young men to early deaths in foreign wars.

Note that palliative care is not always a viable solution. The patient is injected with increasing doses of morphine, very much like a "street addict", until eventually the quest for "normality" isn't achievable. Even after the strongest dose, the unbearable pain returns as the body accustomises to high doses as "normal".
The only real solution is to let each individual decide, and not force our wishes or beliefs upon them. When a person says that they've had enough, and can't take anymore, and wish to die, that alternative should be given to them.
Dogs can't talk and express such wishes - yet we treat them more "humanely" than we do our own species. We "intuitively" know when a dog (or horse) has "had enough", and end their misery. Compassion is reserved in spades for animals. Yet when it comes to humans, it's probably not far off the mark to describe some of our attitudes as "sadistic". With tubes inserted for breathing, in a body that has little or no movement or life left, and can be regarded as "lifeless", we count the fact that they can at least breathe as some kind of "heroism" to keep them "alive", when it is nothing but vanity foisted upon the most vulnerable in our society. In effect, they suffer for our ideals and beliefs.
In concluding, as I've always said, "have your beliefs - just don't expect ME to suffer for YOUR beliefs".
It's time for the law to change, and for commonsense and real compassion to prevail over this Middle Ages mentality. I hesitate to compare it to witch-dunking, but it doesn't seem very far off it as far as religious and other superstitions are concerned, where humanity and compassion give way to "beliefs".

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