Page 495 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 17 February 2016

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Whilst there was no unanimous agreement on enabling voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide to be options, all participants recognised the need to improve the experience of dying and have a range of options open to us as we approach the end of our lives. All agreed that a peaceful death in a place of one’s choosing while being surrounded by those important to us is highly desirable.

I believe that these recommendations and other comments and ideas discussed at my forums provided a firm basis for this government to continue to advocate for this territory’s sovereignty to allow this Assembly to legislate for voluntary euthanasia if the desire to do so at some future time by that Assembly is its choice. I am not advocating at this point of time that this place should legislate for voluntary euthanasia, obviously, but it may be, as I said, that at some future time the Assembly would desire to do so.

Madam Speaker, this is a conversation that needs to take place in the community as part of life, not as part of death. It is a difficult conversation. When I was in Belgium, an oncologist reminded me about the Woody Allen quote “I have questions to all your answers.” And as I was leaving my last interview with a leading retired cardiologist, he gripped my hand as I said goodbye and said, “Have courage.” And he repeated this: “Have courage.”

I believe we all need to have courage and face this debate fairly and squarely once and for all. Therefore I call on the government to continue to provide greater choice in relation to palliative care services; examine the existing legislation covering the power of attorney and advance care directives with a view to simplifying the process; investigate whether the current my health record could support a personal online-based advance care directive that could be accessed by health professionals who treat critically ill or terminally ill persons; offer support and education programs for the territory on how to complete an advance care directive as well as providing facts on their importance; and continue to advocate for the repeal of the commonwealth Euthanasia Laws Act 1997, which does not allow the ACT Assembly to legislate for voluntary euthanasia.

MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (12.14): Madam Speaker, the opposition would be able to support this motion less (2)(e), and at the end of my speech I will be moving an amendment that will reflect that view.

In essence, there are two elements to what Ms Porter is putting before the Assembly today. One is a debate about end-of-life issues, advance care planning, dealing with death in an open manner and having that conversation and making sure that we are addressing all of the issues relating to palliative care and support for people who are dying in our community. Ms Porter rightly points out that this is a matter that confronts us all eventually, but it confronts us all at various stages in our life as we deal with the death of loved ones. I support Ms Porter in bringing these issues before the Assembly and the ongoing conversation in our community that can look to ease the passing for everybody.

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