20 years ago, four dying people were able to access the Northern Territory’s world-first law to help them die more mercifully, before the law itself was extinguished.
By the end of 2016, over 100 million people on three continents will be able to access such laws – the most recent places to adopt them being America’s most populous state, California, and Canada.
Since that Northern Territory law was overturned in 1997, nearly 30 attempts to create a new one here in Australia have failed. But as the tide of history turns in favour of assisted dying, how much longer can our politicians continue to ignore the call for change?
Bob Hawke, left, and Heather Bell — Photo credits: Bob Hawke by Eva Rinaldi (CC-BY-SA); Heather Bell, supplied
The old arguments that have held such sway – about the elderly and the vulnerable being unsafe under these laws – no longer hold. Over a decade of experience in Europe, and nearly two decades in America, have shown us that the safeguards do work: that good laws can be created to help the few, and protect the many.
In this final episode, drawing on what has worked best overseas, I’m going to tell you what I think that law for assisted dying in Australia should look like.
Plus, we’ll hear from two significant stakeholders who both support a change in our law. One, a former Prime Minister. The other, the one major medical body that does officially support assisted dying. Tellingly, they’re the ones who see the suffering of patients every day and up close – the nurses.
Former Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke
'I think it is absurd that euthanasia is not legal within this country. It doesn't meet any requirements of morality or good sense.'
Please note: this podcast is not about suicide. If you are interested in increasing your understanding of suicide and how to support someone experiencing suicidal ideation, visit the Conversations Matter or beyondblue websites.
If you (or someone you know) require immediate assistance, contact one of the following 24/7 crisis support services: Lifeline (13 11 14), Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467), MensLine (1300 78 99 78), beyondblue (1300 22 4636), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or eheadspace (1800 650 890).
In March 2016, Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale put forward a bill, co-sponsored by representatives from all the major parties, aimed at restoring the right of the Northern Territory, ACT and Norfolk Island to legislate for voluntary euthanasia. Here, he discusses the reasoning behind the bill – and the tactics required to create political change on this issue in Australia.
Our theme music was composed by Zig Zag Lane for Zapruder's Other Films, and edited by Jon Tjhia. Music used in this episode includes 'Hope There's Someone' (Antony and the Johnsons), 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' (Reverend Gary Davis), 'Further On (Up the Road)' (Johnny Cash), 'Into My Arms' (Nick Cave), 'Underneath the Stars' (Kate Rusby), 'The Parting Glass' (The Wailin' Jennys) and 'Forty-Eight Angels' (Paul Kelly).
If you're suffering, or someone you love has died badly – in a hospital, in palliative care, in a nursing home, or at home – add your voice and tell your story here.
Better Off Dead is produced by Thought Fox and the Wheeler Centre.
Executive producers Andrew Denton and Michael Williams. Producer and researcher Bronwen Reid. For Better Off Dead, the Wheeler Centre team includes Director Michael Williams, Head of Programming Emily Sexton, Head of Marketing and Communications Emily Harms, Projects Producer Amita Kirpalani and Digital Manager Jon Tjhia. Editing and mix on this episode is by Martin Peralta. Additional editing by Bec Fary and Jon Tjhia.
Thanks to Paul Kelly and Sony ATV for the use of his song ‘Forty Eight Angels’.
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