Denial of choice a denial of basic human rights

Much of the debate about end-of-life decisions refers to the “victimisation” of the elderly. This unfortunately continues the theme that older people cannot make clear, balanced, intelligent decisions about when and how their lives can come to an inevitable end. Older people aren’t children who need to be protected from themselves by other, more-enlightened individuals . They are experienced, rational people who can make good decisions about their best interests. To act otherwise is to deny them their basic human rights. Of course support should be available to all people, but to force individuals to live a fullyor largely-supported life when they do not want that is unethical. We must acknowledge that death is inevitable. For those who wish to live on supported and those who don’t , there is only one person qualified to take that decision – the person whose life is at stake. No one else. Mary Edwards, Kilsyth

Prolonging the suffering

Thank you for your coverage about euthanasia. Dr Peter Evans explained beautifully the situation about dying being a lonely event (Letters, 13/5). My late husband spent his last few months in a constant struggle. He was a very proud man and to see him unable to talk, walk, eat, drink or look after his personal hygiene was heart-wrenching . Not only was this a struggle for him, therefore, but also for me as his wife. To prolong needless suffering is criminal. You tend to remember a person as you last saw them. I have enormous trouble trying to remember my husband as a healthy man, even though I have a huge collage of photos of better times hanging on the wall.

Paulien George, Berwick

Palliative funding falling short

Irrespective of whether euthanasia becomes legal in Australia, quality palliative care should always be an option, but I fear the sector is already under-resourced . In March, my mother was admitted for two weeks of respite care into a well-respected hospice. This was where her in-home nursing care team was based. While there, her condition declined markedly. She had difficulty swallowing and required assistance to change position in bed. We had numerous conversations with doctors, pleading that she be allowed to stay. They refused, stating that as my mother entered on respite she must leave on the agreed date.

My dying mother was moved twice in the last five days of her life; from the hospice to an aged-care facility where staff were wonderful but not equipped to cater for her needs, and then to a geriatric medical ward in a private hospital. There, for 48 hours, she finally benefited from true palliative care. It is not as easy to come by as people might think. Bring on changes to laws governing end-of-life choices, but at the same time insist on adequate funding of palliative care services.

Lynda Moore, South Melbourne

The last right over a dying body

Graeme Duke is a good doctor: he cares and he does his very best for his patients (Comment, 14/5). Statistics support his statement that ‘‘ I admit I have been asked to hasten death. But in my experience this is surprisingly rare.’’ In Oregon last year, where assisted dying is legal, only 0.2 per cent of those who died chose assistance. But 80 per cent in Australia want the choice. Dr Duke admits that ‘‘ too many suffer in their dying. One is too many.’’ This is what the choice is about: the dying want the best medical and palliative care. But if that fails, 80 per cent want the last choice, their last right over their own dying bodies. They don’t want to be the ‘‘ one too many’’ .

Janine Truter, The Basin

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