02 April 2009


Palliative care delays inevitable

March 27, 2009

A SIGNIFICANT proportion of deaths under palliative care are actually a form of extended euthanasia involving the escalating use of increasing levels of painkillers that are fatal above a certain dose. Doctors do this gradually to avoid prosecution. The dying patient then suffers an extended period of incapacity, needlessly delaying the inevitable. Alternatively, the patient is kept in a drugged state without sustenance while their body starves to death.

The real problem is the unholy alliance between religious fundamentalists and well-meaning do-gooders who wish to deny rational people the right to end their lives with dignity when faced with a debilitating death. The gutlessness of politicians in not giving people a choice is another obstacle. Rational individuals must be allowed a choice without resorting to subterfuge.

Greg Angelo, Balwyn North

Cruel way to find dignity

IT IS cruel to make brave people such as Angie Belecciu ("Angie's choice", 25/3) jump through such hoops to achieve a dignified death. A person is as much their spirit as their body and surely it is wrong to keep the body alive at such emotional and financial cost when the spirit longs for death. Are we not upsetting the rhythm and joy of life by trying to endlessly defer death?

The gift of being able to choose the time and manner of our death would be as much a gift to future generations as to ourselves.

Roz McNaught, Tonimbuk

Do I own my body?

THE Belecciu affair raises a fundamental philosophical question: if I do not own, have responsibility for and control of my body, who does? I would be interested in an answer to this question.

Geoff Sheldon, Watsonia

Path cannot be taken

KEITH McEwan and Evert de Graauw (Letters, 26/3) ignore the consistent experience in other countries and throughout history that diminishing the value of life with euthanasia (even when "voluntary") opens the door to abuse. It is impossible to make laws that prevent this because anyone who gets abused will not be around to complain. Painful death is certainly not good, but giving evil people the means to kill others — and get away with it — is much worse and would be unavoidable. A civilised society will not — indeed, cannot — take this road.

Mark Rabich, Heathmont

Risk worth taking

THE comment by Keith McEwan (Letters, 26/3) that the "penalty for importation of Nembutal without a permit is up to 25 years' imprisonment or $550,000 fine" is misleading. Angie drank one bottle of the drug (concentration: 100 millilitres, 60 milligrams/millilitres, 6 grams). The indictable amount for importing this drug is 10 grams. Exit International legal advisers tell us that the penalty, had she been prosecuted, would likely have been a fine of a few hundred dollars. Exit knows of more than 400 elderly Australians who have decided to take this risk.

Philip Nitschke, director, Exit International, Doncaster

Take look at law reform

PERHAPS the most notable aspect of Angie's choice was that she declined the other choice — palliative care — and she an experienced palliative care nurse. Her experience would have confirmed Professor Michael Ashby's observation that "bone pain and psychological pain" are particularly difficult to control. Angie's comments make it clear that her psychological pain was relieved by obtaining "the knowledge". It is such a pity that Angie was forced to die alone, and that her death had to be so public in her effort to bring Parliament to reality. The least it could do is refer this issue to the Law Reform Commission for an unbiased report on options for dying with dignity. Its report on abortion law reform was a model for responsible law reform.

Dr Rodney Syme, Toorak

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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm