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Dying a good death: what we need from drugs that are meant to end life

Betty Chaar and Sami Isaac write in The Conversation (20.10.17) about the passage of euthanasia laws through Victoria’s lower house, pointing out that the drug which is known to induce the ‘best’ death for suffering patients is still illegal in Australia.

‘Generally speaking, health care is aimed at relieving pain and suffering. This is also the motivation behind euthanasia – the ending of one’s own life, usually in the case of terminal illness characterised by excruciating pain.

‘There has been debate in Victoria about the drugs that should be used to end life if euthanasia is legalised. So which medications can we ensure would facilitate the best, medically-supervised death?

‘When it comes to the question of which medicines can, or even are meant to, kill us, the most important thing to remember is the old adage: ‘The dose makes the poison’.

‘… It’s difficult at this early stage to predict how this concoction would work and whether it would be easier or safer to use than drugs already tried and tested. This proposed product would need to be tested and results compared, as all new drugs are.

‘What is needed is a drug or a mixture of drugs that produce a painless, relatively quick and peaceful passing. We do not wish to see further suffering in the form of seizures, prolonged distress and pain. If no solution is certain, it would be wise to fall back on simply legalising what is already tried and tested.’

The debate of Victoria’s assisted dying bill was not democracy’s finest hour

Gay Alcorn comments in The Guardian (20.1.17) on Victoria’s proposed euthanasia laws, which passed through the state’s lower house after a marathon session of emotional debate.

‘That was ridiculous. Victoria’s lower house parliamentarians may have given themselves a hearty clap at about 11.20am Friday, after sitting for 25 hours straight to pass what so many declared was one of the most significant – if not the most significant – pieces of legislation ever to come before the house.

‘But consideration of the voluntary assisted dying bill was hardly democracy at its finest.

‘This is a historic bill that would give terminally ill people in certain circumstances state sanction to end their lives, and assistance to do so. Victoria would become the first state to allow assisted dying, an issue that raises the deepest questions about the rights of the individual to autonomy and the obligation of the broader community to protect the vulnerable.

‘Whether you agree with former prime minister Paul Keating’s opposition to assisted dying laws or not, he is being truthful when he says consideration of this bill is a “threshold moment for the country”.’

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