In the last two decades, surveys have consistently shown that a majority of Australians believe that terminally ill individuals should have a right to seek and obtain assistance to end their life with dignity. In 1962 it was nearly a majority (47%) and by 1978 it was up to 67%. In 2002, Roy Morgan Research found that this had become an overwhelming majority of 73% of Australians. Last month a Newspoll found this had increased even further to 80%.
“Current legislation lags significantly behind the will of the people” said the incoming president of Dying With Dignity Victoria (DWDV), Mr Neil Francis today. He added that polling by his organisation of the128 politicians in the current Victorian parliament revealed that similar support exists with politicians as in the population. Of politicians responding, 75% supported this same right for the terminally ill with only 25% opposed. Population surveys now show 80% are in support.
We are now poised for change in Victoria. The law on medically assisted suicide is controlled by State not Federal legislation. The federal parliament is unable to over-ride State legislation – only Territory legislation, (as it did with the Northern Territory).
The proposals for law reform put forward by DWDV in a Legislative Charter posted at http://www.dwdv.org.au/Docs/DWDVLegislativeCharter.pdf have already been endorsed by the Australian Nurses Federation (Victoria), the Doctor’s Reform Society of Australia, the Victorian AIDS Council, the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties and the Humanist Society of Victoria, as well as by a number of Victorian politicians.
Law Reform Inevitable
“Law reform on this is inevitable”, added Mr. Francis pointing out that in the ten years since the Northern Territory legislation was introduced, similar laws have come into operation in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and the State of Oregon in the USA. “Many USA States are moving towards it as well as Japan and a number of other countries. Victoria, along with the other States of Australia, will inevitably enact this law reform … because it is the will of the people” he said.
Mr Francis added that “this latest poll shows the will of the people is clearly for compassionate recognition of this right for the terminally ill and our legislators are now confronting an electorate that is more galvanised, and more informed on this issue than ever before”.