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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2289 ..


Debate resumed.

MS McRAE (3.17): Mr Speaker, I rise to support this Bill warmly and wholeheartedly. I do not accept the thin end of the wedge arguments, I do not accept the slippery slide arguments and, most of all, I do not accept all the scaremongering that has been going on about deliberate killing. This is a Bill that tackles the issue of people in a terminal phase of a terminal illness - purely and simply that - and people who wish to end their lives with some dignity. To that extent, I am willing to accept this Bill. I put forward today four points as to why I am willing to do this.

My first point is that this Bill represents a profound act of recognition of our common humanity, the diversity of our experiences and the rights of each individual to be exactly who they are. It gives people the profound knowledge that they can retain dignity and control in the final phases of an illness which has probably already ravaged them and reduced them to a level of incapacity that they neither foresaw nor wanted for themselves or anyone else. It says to them, "We will give you the dignity that you have been able to retain for your entire life. We will give you the opportunity to choose, to control and to say, `I am who I am. At this point I have done enough and I do not want to suffer any longer' ". In saying that, it is accepting that there are a myriad of different deaths and a myriad of different personalities, people, reactions and lives. I think it is a Bill that at its profoundest level accepts that and gives people their common humanity.

At the same time it is a recognition of the mutual trust in which we all live our lives. It gives to carers a compassion and a capacity to express compassion in the most profound way. For me, there would be nothing worse than knowing that I could alleviate someone's suffering and being held back purely and simply because of the fear of litigation. For me, there would be nothing worse than hearing someone say, "I am reconciled to the fact that I cannot deal with this any longer, so please help me" and only being able to say, "I hear you, but I will not help you". This Bill gives to carers and to terminally ill patients their humanity.

To be put in a position where you have to say to someone, "Please go on screaming, go on crying, go on being in pain, go on suffering; I will not help you because the legislators will not permit me to" is as inhumane as any of the arguments I have heard against this Bill. For both the carer and the cared-for this Bill comes out of a profound concern to alleviate suffering that is unnecessary and undignifying, suffering that anyone with a clear head and a clear choice would not want to go through. We do not know how we will react in that situation, as Ms Follett said this morning, until we are there. We have no right, in my opinion, to deny people in the terminal phases of a terminal illness the right to seek from two doctors, not just one, the termination of their lives.

I come to my second point. In my opinion, this legislation will very rarely be used. Surely, whenever a patient reaches that point, any carer, anyone involved with them, will say, "What is wrong? Can we not help you? What else can we give you? Why are you still suffering?". That would be the immediate and natural reaction to anyone confronted with that situation. In my opinion, there would be very few illnesses and very few circumstances that would reduce people to ask for death. I think we have to

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