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Wollongong forum will discuss the right to die

A COMMUNITY information evening about Greens MP Cate Faehrmann’s ‘Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill’ will be held tomorrow (Wednesday) in Wollongong.

The forum will be held at the Wollongong Master Builders Club from 6.30pm until 8pm.

The forum will provide interested people to get their questions answered about the complex issue of voluntary euthanasia. Special guests will include Gideon Cordover, whose father took his own life during the late stages of motor neurone disease in 2009, and Dr Sarah Edelman, the Vice-President of Dying with Dignity.

“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,” Ms Faehrmann said.

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

“I encourage anyone who is interested in the issue of end of life care and choices to come along. It promises to be a most informative evening.

“I know this is a sensitive and sometimes controversial issue but it has overwhelming public support and I know people want to know more. That’s why I’m touring the state to explain my bill,” she said.

Ms Faehrmann’s proposed legislation would ensure that a patient who has a terminal illness and who is experiencing unacceptable pain or suffering can receive assistance to end their life if that is their wish.

This assistance would take the form of the provision of a substance that the patient would themselves administer, or, in the case of severe physical disability, be provided assistance to administer.

To receive assistance, patients must meet strict criteria. The patient would need to:

• be at least 18 years old;

• be suffering from a terminal illness that is causing severe pain or distress unacceptable to the patient;

• be fully mentally capable and able to make informed decisions;

• be a resident of NSW;

• have been fully informed of the diagnosis and prognosis of their disease and other options, including palliative care.

The process would involve a number of stringent safeguards including:

• The patient would have to be examined by two medical practitioners who would certify that the patient met the eligibility criteria.

• A psychiatrist would have to certify the patient was able to make an informed decision, and was not under any duress to make the request for assisted dying. A qualified social worker may also be consulted during this assessment.

• It would be a requirement that none of the health professionals involved (or their close associates) stood to receive any financial benefit from the patient’s death.

• There would be severe criminal penalties for coercion of the patient or any of the doctors by another party.

• The patient can change their mind at any stage of the process.

• No health professionals would be compelled to participate in an assisted dying process.

• A review process would be established to oversee the process and to ensure compliance. This body will provide an annual report to parliament.

• The drugs used in the assisted dying process will be subject to strict storage and supply rules.

About Mick Roberts

A newspaper journalist, writer and local historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in the Sydney and Illawarra regions of NSW for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides authoring a number of history books, Mick has owned and operated several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limted), Sydney based, City News, and is now with Torch Publications.

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