A rally on the steps of Parliament House today [Wed20June] drew hundreds of supporters demanding law form for dying with dignity in Victoria. The rally commemorated the second anniversary of the death of Steve Guest, a journalist and former media advisor to the Cain Labor Government.
Steve Guest ended his own life two years ago after courageously sharing his intense suffering — from inoperable cancer of the oesophagus — with listeners on the ABC 774 Jon Faine radio programme. On air, 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.
Speaking at the rally, Dr Rodney Syme, Vice President of Dying With Dignity Victoria (DWDV) said that he had provided Guest with medication and challenged the Victorian Parliament to get on with enacting legisation to enable doctors to respond to the requests of people like Guest.
“People, if they are terminally or incurably ill and suffering profoundly, should have the right to request medical assistance to help them end their own lives peacefully, if that is their choice,” he said.
Speakers at the rally included media identity Terry Lane as well as sitting members Maxine Morand (Labor, Mount Waverley), Ken Smith (Liberal, Bass) and Colleen Hartland (Greens, Western Metropolitan).
DWDV President, Neil Francis, also read out several statements of support, including from media identity Phillip Adams.
Francis also pointed out that this is a matter controlled by individual state legislation and that federal parliament cannot override State legislation; it can only override Territory legislation as it did with the Nothern Territory in 1997.
He noted that Young Labor and Young Liberals tabled a Dying With Dignity bill in Youth Parliament last year. Youth Parliament is held in the parliamentary Houses, and debate is conducted strictly according to House rules — great practice for up and coming parliamentarians. After due debate, the bill was passed. Had this been Victoria’s actual Parliament rather than Youth Parliamnet, the bill would now be law.
Debate by young Victorians demonstrates that dying with dignity is an issue of interest to the whole community and not just to elderly Australians.
Francis pointed out that public opinion for reform has been in the majority — shown by independent polls — for over 25 years, with 80% support shown in this February’s poll.
The rally called on the Victorian Parliament to demonstrate cross-party support for a private member’s bill to give people the right to choose.