It's bewildering that Australian politicians can't see the widespread support for voluntary euthanasia, says former Northern Territory Chief Minister Marshall Perron.
It's bewildering that Australian politicians can't see the widespread support for voluntary euthanasia, says former Northern Territory Chief Minister Marshall Perron. Bev Lacey

OPINION: Why we must legalise voluntary euthanasia

IT IS almost bewildering why our Queensland politicians (with the sole exception of the soon-to-retire Peter Wellington) are terrified of embracing the subject of voluntary euthanasia.

Ever since the Brexit vote, the election of Donald Trump and the resurrection of Pauline Hanson, the commentary has been that citizens are fed up with politicians who do not listen.

The major political parties are embroiled in a continuous quest to destroy each other. Their backroom deals determine what is on the daily agenda and that it conforms to someone's view of what is politically correct.

Short of a terrorist attack, nothing will be allowed to divert their attention from the agenda set by the party hierarchy.

We know Members of Parliament read papers and watch the news. That's how they keep across what the opposition are up to so they can plan their strategy of disruption.

No one who is so informed could be unaware of the fact that the clear majority of Australians believe voluntary euthanasia should be an option for the terminally ill.

Professional surveys started in the 1960s and conducted regularly ever since show that the numbers who support the euthanasia option have grown from 47% to 85% today.

Analysis of those figures show majority support in every age group, both sexes, and in every Australian state. Even respondents who identify as Catholic or Protestant believe the law should be changed.

Given those figures, it is not surprising that rank-and-file members of the major political parties are supporters. A 2012 Newspoll showed 82% of Liberal and 84% of ALP members believed doctors should be allowed to assist a suffering, terminally ill person to die if that was their wish.

If our pollies know the public want the voluntary euthanasia option, why have we not seen more action?

After all, it is not as if they are being asked to step boldly into the unknown. Since Canada and California joined the ranks last year, there are now 10 jurisdictions in Europe and the USA with a total population of over 110 million where medical assistance to die is legal.

Do our well-read MPs know that? Probably not. They are focused on what they think is important.

Fortunately, how we die has been the focus of the Victorian Government over the past year and, following an inquiry, they intend to introduce a Bill to permit assisted dying later this year.

The inquiry heard alarming evidence from the Victorian Coroner who told of a particular group of people - older Victorians with no history of mental illness and from loving family relationships - who, in his words, were taking their own lives in "desperate and violent ways".

According to the Coroner, what these people had in common was that each was suffering an "irreversible decline", either from a terminal disease, multiple, chronic illnesses or permanent physical pain. He stressed that these were people of rational mind.

One of them was a 90-year-old man, also with a close and loving family. No history of mental illness but many debilitating conditions, including chronic pulmonary disease.

Shortly before his death he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Depressed and angry he told his family that he would rather end it straight away.

He shot himself repeatedly in the head and chest with a nail gun.

These and other horrific examples of what happens in the suburbs of our towns and cities is what moved the Victorians to decide to act.

The question we should be asking is, why are Queensland MPs so intransigent when it comes to discuss assisted dying?

This is the only state that has never had a voluntary euthanasia Bill introduced. In fact, the Queensland Parliament has never even debated the issue.

Last year, Speaker Peter Wellington asked the Health Services committee to initiate an inquiry on end of life issues drawing from the extensive work done on the subject by the Victorians. That committee has declined to do so, thereby reinforcing the stone wall long maintained by our so-called representatives.

No wonder the voting class are disillusioned.

Our politicians are supposed to monitor what is good and bad in our society. They are charged with identifying problems and working to find solutions. They should be responsive to community aspirations. That is what we pay them for.

Regarding voluntary euthanasia, every Queensland MP has failed. While Peter Wellington deserves credit for trying, nothing has been achieved.

Hopefully the next election will see a substantial turnover of members and among the new faces, a few who will show compassion and respond to the wishes of the people who put them there.

Marshall Perron was Chief Minister of the Northern Territory from 1988 to 1995 and was instrumental in having voluntary euthanasia legalised there in 1996. He is now retired and lives in Buderim.

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