EUTHANASIA: It's a hot debate on what is for some a chilling issue.
EUTHANASIA: It's a hot debate on what is for some a chilling issue. ThinkStock

Euthanasia is a hot topic for more than politicians

THE debate about legalising euthanasia in Australia continues to boil as state governments consider and consult with various parties, trying to find a way forward through difficult emotional arguments and legal boundaries.

While on one side of the debate is the anti-euthanasia advocates and on the other end, the pro-euthanasia ones, sitting in the middle are people waiting for legislated decisions that may come just in time for them to have a legally acceptable assisted death. Then again, they may not.

The euthanasia debate is unavoidably emotionally charged. It goes to the core of a person's belief and challenges them to choose between life and death.

For one man - he wants to be called Marcus Welby - he wants assistance to end his life, and Marcus wants it now.

The 65-year-old has emphysema and sleep apnoea.

"Life is getting pretty miserable now, especially at night. I keep waking up suffocating," Marcus said.

His specialist told him in late April that, barring infection, Marcus has about two years to live.

"I don't think that's achievable as it only takes one infection," he said.

While euthanasia remains illegal, Marcus thinks he has only one option.

"At the end of the day, people like me are forced to go and buy three or four boxes of strong painkillers and do it that way, which is the prospect I have," Marcus said.

He is a firm believer in euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide being legalised.

"I don't want someone making a decision for me. I want to make my own decisions," he said.

"I think I should be able to consult with somebody that knows what they are doing before I do anything.

"But, if it's against the law, I am going to do it myself anyway."

Paul Russell, the founder and director of HOPE Preventing Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide supports the point Marcus is making that people should make their own decisions.

Mr Russell wants people to realise that they can consult with a broad range of professionals to seek advice that will assist them to make decisions about dying.

"I think there is a lot of room still to be developed within the medical fraternity and within our medical systems that enable people to feel that they have a sense of control over where their prognosis is going and what their options are," Mr Russell said.

"I don't think the general public have enough knowledge of it and I don't think we provide, in terms of medical support, enough counselling and support and real options for people so that they can actually have that sense of control without the necessity of doing down the euthanasia and assisted-suicide path."

Exit International's legal director, Tasha Russell, also argues that the debate is about choice, but for Exit is about whether you choose to access euthanasia, or not.

Its philosophy is rational suicide which Ms Russell said is a civil rights model where someone decides them self when they are ready to die and she pointed out Exit International's founder, Philip Nitschke, Facebook post of April 19 on the back of the ABC's Q&A program of April 10, where he stated, "Exit believes that all people over the age of 65 should be given access to reliable euthanasia drugs like Nembutal, and that possession of this drug by the elderly should not be a crime".

Ms Russell said that when people know they have choices and when their life is in their control, "…it actually makes them feel better.

"They feel like they are in control. They know they have the right to do what they want to do, when they want to do it and makes them feel better about their situation."

Ms Russell's organisation, going forward, believes that a person having access to the "peaceful pill" or Nembutal, should be part of the future choices of older Australians.

"Yes, that is precisely what we advocate for," Ms Russell said.

Dr Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, writing for the Medical Journal of Australia in April this year, puts forward that legal decisions on euthanasia should be based on scientific evidence and a person's choices made within the medical realm.

"We should end the focus on the media frenzy about euthanasia and PAS as if it were the panacea to improving end-of-life care," he wrote.

"Instead, we need to focus on improving the care of most of the patients who are dying and need optimal symptom management at home."

There are several other organisations involved in the euthanasia debate with their own particular advice on people's choices.

Still on the debate sideline is Marcus, hoping that if euthanasia is legalised soon  he would consider it a reasonable option.

"That would be the only way I would go. There is a point where life is worth living and there is a point where it's not," he said.

"I'm not scared of dying. I accept that I have had a good life and I have no one to blame for this, but myself."


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