Breaking news (20/5/2022) – The New South Wales Parliament has finally passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021! VAD is now legal in NSW, the culmination of 50 years of advocacy. A revolution in end-of-life-care, an evolution in compassion.
Go Gentle Australia is a Health Promotion Charity established in July 2016 by Andrew Denton (and others) to help relieve the distress, helplessness and suffering experienced by Australians with untreatable or terminal illnesses, their families and carers.
In the face of evidence released in various parliamentary inquiries into End of Life Choices, which document the suffering, trauma and harm being inflicted on the community by our existing laws at the end of life – evidence supported by hundreds of personal testimonies – our early focus is on bringing about change to these laws.
This is to:
- Palliate and empower those who are suffering with greater choices
- Reduce the suicide rate among elderly Australians faced with chronic and irreversible illnesses
- Provide options within palliative care when, despite their best efforts, it is no longer possible to relieve all suffering
- Remove the current legal uncertainty which has led to many documented cases of inadequate pain relief being delivered to patients as they suffer
- Create a law that protects – and gives clarity and guidance to – doctors and nurses faced with human suffering that is beyond meaningful medical treatment
- Relieve the suffering of families and carers forced to endure the traumatic and painful deaths of their loved ones.
Go Gentle Australia does not argue for a ‘right to die’.
We see death not as a right, but as a fact at the end of life.
What we do argue for is a right to have a choice about what happens to us at the end of our lives and not to be coerced, when we are at our most vulnerable, into cruel and avoidable suffering.
We argue for the right of all Australians not to have that choice dictated to them by of the ethics, morals, or religious beliefs of another.
We respect the beliefs of all those who find the idea of assisting a suffering person to die to be morally or ethically unacceptable. We also accept their right not to participate in, or support, voluntary assisted dying if it conflicts with those beliefs.
We ask, in return, that they accept the rights of other Australians, who may not share their beliefs, to seek a death that fully reflects the person they have been and the life they have lived – not just in their own eyes, but in the eyes of those who love and care for them.
Although we see voluntary assisted dying as being essential to our choices, Go Gentle Australia understands that it is just one end of life option among many of which Australians should be aware. These include:
1. Palliative Care
We strongly support the need for good palliative care within the Australian community, both in hospitals and at home. In providing dying individuals and their families with holistic support, good nursing, and pain control, palliative care provides an essential service for many Australians at the end of life.
We do not argue that voluntary assisted dying is a substitute for good palliative care. However, Palliative Care Australia acknowledges that they ‘cannot relieve all suffering at the end of life, even with optimal care’. This acknowledgement was supported by evidence presented to the Parliament of Victoria’s Inquiry into End of Life Choices. In light of this, we do argue that voluntary assisted dying should be available as a choice for those patients whose suffering they cannot relieve.
The aims of palliative care – to alleviate suffering and to make possible a ‘good death’, both for the dying and their families – are also the aims of Go Gentle Australia.
2. Advance Care Directives
Regardless of whether or not they may ultimately seek voluntary assisted dying, all Australians should be aware of what Advance Care Directives are and how they can work to support their wishes at the end of life. They are important, also, because in requiring the appointment of an enduring guardian or substitute decision maker, they begin a discussion within families about the often-avoided subject of dying.
3. Refusal and Withdrawal of Treatment
Even should they qualify under a law, not all Australians who are eligible will seek the option of voluntary assisted dying. It is important that people have a good understanding of their rights under the law, to either refuse, or request withdrawal of, medical treatment as a means of hastening their death. An important part of this is also understanding the obligations of medical professionals to respect and support them in their wishes.
Go Gentle Australia is about a better conversation in Australia around dying and death.
This includes among doctors and nurses as well as patients, their families and carers.
We are working with professionals across all sectors of our community – palliative care workers, nursing unions, individual doctors and their representative groups, cancer support organisations, representatives of the disability community, elderly support groups, Dying With Dignity organisations, political representatives from all parties, legal experts, as well as individuals who are suffering and their families – to shed more light on a subject that, even within the medical community, often remains taboo.
In encouraging all these groups to talk more, not just among themselves but also to each other, we aim to educate Australians about how to approach a ‘good death’ and, in so doing, reduce harm and suffering across our community.
Go Gentle Australia’s work in this area will be supported by information on – and links to – good palliative care, appropriate advance care directives, and supportive organisations and resources.
Every single one of us faces eventual death. We are all in this together. We can help each other to go gently.
Go Gentle Australia was created in 2016 to spark a national conversation about assisted dying laws.
It was established to help relieve the distress, helplessness and suffering experienced by Australians with incurable or terminal illnesses, their families and carers. We argue for the right of all Australians to have a choice about what happens to them at the end of their lives and not to be forced, when they are at their most vulnerable, into cruel and avoidable suffering.
The Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation officially supports a law for voluntary euthanasia and is a partner in this campaign. Australia’s nurses and midwives are on the frontline every day, working with patients and their families and providing treatment, care and emotional support. They witness more than anyone else the damage, harm and trauma that is taking place in the absence of this legislation.