I am a healthcare professional in Tasmania. I have been working in an atmosphere where I come across a lot of patients who are in chronic pain. Often, they are on pain medications for long term management of their condition which improves their quality of life. As the medical condition progresses, they might be transferred to a palliative care for better pain management. In my personal experience, the majority of the patients who come to me have a hope that their condition may improve with treatment. So that’s the trust people have upon the healthcare services.
Until now people’s notion about the healthcare sector is to have a positive health outcome, but if this Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2020 is passed, healthcare could be sought to either cure or kill. This will negatively affect the people’s perception about healthcare sector, with the result that there would be widespread loss of trust especially among the vulnerable and elderly. Moreover, many people are often not in a good mental state after taking standard pain medications for a long time as the medications tend to impair cognitive ability. So attempting to elicit informed consent from these patients for euthanasia, or voluntary assisted dying, would be impossible and the patients could be subject to moral or emotional duress.
If the VAD Bill is passed, aged care or palliative care facilities may take advantage or manipulate things for their own financial benefit. They may reduce staff numbers, hence reducing operational expenditure and increasing profits for their businesses. This would be an unacceptable position for our healthcare sector, especially in light of the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care.
From my experience, people do not want to die because of a disease they suffer from. Most people do not believe that killing is a solution to human suffering. Instead, everyone wants to overcome their illness. If any of my family members are in the same situation, I cannot see them being euthanised because of a terminal illness. I would prefer to spend time with my loved ones by giving them emotional and psychological support, thereby improving their confidence and well-being.
Many people are unaware of the physiology of the dying process and how the body’s systems slowly shut down. Sometimes a patient may not eat or drink, or pass a bowel motion for days. This can cause distress to family members, but the patient can be made comfortable with good pain management under the supervision of palliative care specialists.
My hope is that the Tasmanian Parliament will reject this End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020. I would prefer to see our MPs approve more funding for palliative care, and the training of healthcare professionals in pain management and the physiology of the natural dying process.
* This is not the person’s real name as they wish to remain anonymous