My name is Rachel Bradley and I have lived in Margate, Tasmania for the last 15 years. I am a GP working in a skin cancer clinic and have worked in general practice and palliative care medicine in the past.
I am strongly opposed to the End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020 that is being proposed. As a doctor, I have witnessed many people’s final illnesses and death and this time can be very precious for individuals and their families, allowing time to process the fact that this is the end and in which families can make peace with each other and start grieving in a natural way.
The main concern of people who would like to legalise euthanasia seems to be worry about unbearable suffering. When I worked in a palliative care hospice, we had patients who had difficulty controlling symptoms, but with specialist palliative care input almost all of these people could be helped. I remember only one lady, with metastatic breast cancer, who had pain that was unresponsive to medication in the whole six months that I worked there and she herself didn’t feel that this made her life unbearable. I think that many people have little experience of death and dying, especially in today’s society and consequently have an exaggerated fear of what is likely to occur.
My other main concern is that the elderly, disabled and chronically ill are very vulnerable to feeling as if they are a burden and even though proponents of the bill insist that it would only be an option for someone if it was their decision, it is impossible to avoid these subtle pressures on people and the idea that you would be able to somehow legislate against coercion is laughable. People with life threatening or shortening illnesses should know that their doctors are their advocates and will call for proper investment into palliative care for their patients, as there might also be the temptation for governments and health services to push for VAD for elderly and “resource-hungry” patients for financial reasons. Once you allow euthanasia in principle, who is to define what counts as legitimate grounds for ending one’s life? Inevitably there will be expansion of the criteria as we have seen in all the other countries where euthanasia has been introduced, e.g. mental illness, disability, and in some cases ‘being tired of life’ is enough.
My own mother died at home of a fast-growing brain tumour and I was privileged to be able to help nurse her in her last few weeks of life which is a time I remember with huge gratitude and tenderness. This was made possible by the wonderful palliative care service that helped during this intense time and that is where we need to concentrate our efforts for the good of all Tasmanians.