KludgyMom has us writing a post from the Idea Bank. If you are suffering from Bloggers Block, you should check it out.
I have chosen to write about Voluntary Euthanasia.
While it is a heavy topic (perhaps too much for those of you reading this over your breakfast), it is one that I have thought a lot about.
I'm not here to be controversial. These are my thoughts and I am well aware they may differ from yours. I am not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking. I am just putting my thoughts down. You can choose to read them, or not, but I would love to hear yours if you want to leave me a comment.
I work in the Health care system in NSW. Most of my clinical work has been within the neurology and neurosurgery contexts.
I have worked with many people who have suffered terribly.
They have most commonly had strokes, car accidents, brain cancers, or progressive neurological diseases.
My heart broke for each and every one of my patients. Their lives were irrevocably changed.
Some of them recovered.
Some of them improved.
Others faced a life unable to speak or needing a ventilator to breathe or watching their bodies slowly deteriorate as their neurological disease got progressively worse.
All of my patients made me think. What would I want if this happened to me?
I used to come home from my job and say to the Geege, "If I'm ever helping someone change a tyre and get hit by a car and have a severe closed head injury, turn the machines off" or "If I ever suffer a frontal stroke and am unrecognisable as myself, you may leave me". I had a list as long as my arm of examples of medical situations that I decided weren't for me. Verbal Advanced Directives if you like.
The Geege would laugh at me and say, "Yeah. Sure love". But I think he got the picture. I don't want a life of suffering.
I have watched a lot of people whose families couldn't make these tough decisions put their loved one through months of pain and anguish.
I have watched elderly people openly wish that people had "just let me go. I've had a good life. I don't want to live in a nursing home" after suffering a massive stroke that rendered them bed bound, incontinent and confined to pureed food for life.
I have seen the likes of Motor Neurone Disease turn perfectly capable, ambitious, successful, young people into completely dependent, ventilated, anarthric*, aphagic** individuals in a matter of months.
I have also watched doctors make daily decisions about who is 'treatable' and who isn't. Not for resuscitation added to the medical record. Feeding withdrawn. Medications withdrawn. If they can do it, why can't a lucid, terminally ill person decide that they have had enough?
Why can't they decide that they want to take control of their death before their illness takes away their faculties?
Why can't they choose to be helped to die?
In May 1995, the Northern Territory became the first place in the world to pass right to die legislation. The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act lasted 9 months before being overturned by the Australian Federal government.
Today, Voluntary Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide are illegal everywhere in Australia.
But Voluntary Euthanasia is back on the political agenda. Western Australia is debating it in the Senate right now. They are having a 'conscience vote'. I would like to see some pretty tight definitions around who is 'eligible' and how the process would work, but in principle, if I were part of the vote I would vote to introduce this law.
I am sure many of you think I am a crazy extremist, but, respectfully, if you had seen what I have seen I think you might think differently.
Tell me, what are your views?
* Anarthric - no speech
** Aphagic - no swallow