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Glacial Investigation Keeps Death On Ice

Nearly 3 years after the death of Steve Guest , a journalist and former media adviser to the Cain Government in Victoria, the coroner still has not handed down a finding.

Steve Guest suffered intensely from cancer of the oesophagus and on the 774 ABC Jon Faine programme, publicly aired his intention to take his own life. He railed against those who would deny him the right to die his way and condemned those who preferred to see him die an agonisingly slow and painful death.

Police have investigated the death for nearly three years. They told Dr Rodney Syme, a medical doctor and prominent Melbourne campaigner for dying with dignity law reform, that he died of an overdose of barbiturates.

At a Melbourne rally last year (held to commemorate the second anniversary of Steve’s death), Dr. Syme told hundreds of supporters and the media how he had provided Steve Guest with advice and medication. He urged the Victorian Parliament to get on with enacting legislation to enable doctors like him, to respond to the requests of people like Steve Guest.

Dr Syme remains under investigation yet police have not re-interviewed him since that public statement. “I conclude the authorities hope that a glacial pace of investigation might effectively put the issue on ice” Dr Syme said. “But it won’t. No one can escape the fact that legislation significantly lags the will of the people. 82% of Victorians believe in the right of people like Steve to receive medical assistance if they choose to end their own life”.

The publicity surrounding Steve Guest’s death ultimately led to a Private Members Bill that is now being introduced into the Victorian Parliament. “It is similar to legislation that has been in operation for 11 years in Oregon without any abuse”, Dr Syme said. It allows, with very strict safeguards, a person suffering intolerably from a terminal illness, the right to request a prescription for medication (that they must ingest themselves) to end their own lives.

A 3rd-anniversary rally (themed “Lets Get on With It”) will be held on Wednesday 16th April (1-2 p.m.) on the Victorian Parliament steps. Speakers include:

  • Steve Guest’s brother, John.
  • Dr. Rodney Syme
  • Co-sponsors of the Private Members Bill, Ken Smith (Liberal) and Colleen Hartland (Greens).
  • Marshall Perron, (former Chief Minister of the Northern Territory) who introduced the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act into the NT in 1996.
  • Lisa Fitzpatrick, Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian State Secretary)
  • Prof. David Kelly, former Chairman, Victorian Law Reform Commission.
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