My Life My Choice Report sparks state-wide debate

A parliamentary committee has recommended the WA state government vote to legalise voluntary euthanasia in its My Life My Choice Report after examining the potential for assisted dying.

The report has sparked emotive debate across the state after the Joint Select Committee on End of Life Choices spent 12 months hearing the views of stakeholders, organisations and residents in relation to euthanasia. 

It follows similar processes in other states, with the potential for legislation to be drafted to enable assisted dying in WA and will likely come down to a conscience vote for MPs.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said one of the outstanding concerns in the report was the significant gaps and deficiencies of palliative care in WA.

She said the further you got from central Perth the less equity there was in the availability of specialist palliative care, which was a great concern.

“I am aware of the outstanding local palliative care service provided thanks to the staff and dedicated volunteers at the Busselton Hospice, however not all communities are as fortunate,” she said. 

“I share the Australian Medical Association’s concerns about legislating to allow for assisted suicide, however I appreciate there are a range of views in the region.

“This is a conscience vote, and I have an open door approach to discussing this matter with anyone in the electorate who would like to discuss their views on this matter with me.”

Busselton Hospice Care Inc board member Helen Walker said they put a submission into the inquiry, and highlighted where the gaps were in palliative care.

Ms Walker said there was a need to have more community support in palliative care because people spent most of their time, at end of life, at home.

“They do not spend it in the hospice unit, that is only when they are really sick, but they do need support at home,” she said.

“While there are nursing staff which go in, the care which is available is quite limited and there is a real need to be able to do more.”

Ms Walker said Busselton was lucky because of the support it had from the hospice group and the services they provided to the hospital.

“I am really impressed with the longstanding community support for this, you do not necessarily get that support in other areas around WA,” she said.

Ms Walker said there was potential for other areas to give good or better care than what you might get in Perth, similar to what is provided in Busselton.

“It would be absolutely terrible if something like euthanasia was legalised without actually looking at what all the needs and gaps were,” she said.

“People need to have the choice of a good service and things available to them, because often we find that people just do not have the expertise or things available to give them access to better care.

“That is always a concern in some of the more rural areas, and we as an organisation want to do everything we can to highlight better care at end of life.”

St Augustine Uniting Church minister Greg Ross said it required an honest and genuine conversation between all community members. 

“My experience in working as a chaplain in aged care for five years and being with people as they go through the process of dying is that we really need to put a lot more money into palliative care but we also need to allow people the freedom to choose and to take away the fear of death,” he said. 

“The gift of life also comes with the gift of death and I don’t think making people fearful of death is helpful when it is as natural as being born.”