Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2290 ..
MS McRAE (continuing):
acknowledge the fact that that will happen, but by the mere act of putting this Bill forward we are also saying that when people reach that point it will become a trigger for all concerned to say, "Something very serious is happening here. What has gone wrong? What can we do to help you through?".
The third point I want to make is that I think it is an honest Bill, and that is why I want to support it. I think it is a Bill that honestly faces the variety of deaths and the variety of circumstances that people face. It does not try to gloss over, to romanticise, to glorify, to in any way move away from the reality that confronts people in life in hospital, in life at home, in life at the end of a terminal illness. It says to people, "Yes, we hear you". It says to people, "Yes, we know that you understand your own limitations". It says to people, "We know that there are illnesses for which no amount of self-delusion can lead to comfort and dignity".
We have only talked about cancer. There is a small number of other diseases that people face with enormous bravery and dignity but that reduce them to a state that they would rather not be in. This Bill honestly confronts that and says that in those circumstances those people have the right to ask for assistance and to put their situation forward, not to one doctor but to two, to trigger all the support that is available. Why would they not be offered every bit of palliative care? At the end of that process the Bill honestly confronts the reality of people's lives and says, "In those circumstances compassion overrides all and compassion demands that we give you the choice to move away from these circumstances". That is at the end of a terminal illness when an adult who understands exactly what is before them can, with dignity and in a calm and supportive way, ask for assistance which they need to confront the situation that they are in.
Because this Bill is an honest one that deals with dignity, with compassion, with sympathy, with the reality of people's lives, it becomes a challenge for all of us together to ensure that we do everything we can to assist research to enable everyone to face their death with dignity and comfort. This is the fourth and final point that I want to make. In my opinion, this is a life-confirming Bill. It says that overall what we want to offer collectively is dignity and comfort to everyone with whom we come into contact - to our family, to our friends, to our contacts. We do not want to see them suffering. We do not want to see them begging for this sort of support. We do not want to put doctors and nurses in these situations, but the reality is that these things occur. This Bill, in my mind, challenges us, in whatever capacity, to offer money and support to those involved in research not just to manage pain but to manage a myriad of other symptoms which make life intolerable for a few people towards the very end of their life.
It seems to me that our society is overridden with the myth of a superman. The overriding myth that pervades our society is that if we set our goals high enough and we strive hard enough for them we will achieve them. It is that myth that underlies our approach to death. Instead of facing it honestly, instead of accepting the myriad of experiences, the myriad of illnesses, the myriad of reactions to it, we are perpetrating the myth that, with some level of superhuman effort, everyone can endure anything that comes before them. I do not accept that myth. I know that it is what it is, a myth.