A few days before Christmas the State Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich stated that he would be drafting a bill in 2021, calling for NSW to legalise euthanasia in our state.
However, after the first two sitting weeks of Parliament, we have heard nothing publically from Mr Greenwich and any backroom discussions need to be brought into the light of day to allow the NSW public to properly scrutinise and debate this critical issue.
Any law that would allow a medical professional or any other person to prematurely end the life of a patient must be stopped.
The NSW Government does not invest enough resources into palliative care, especially in Western Sydney and this must be our priority, not legalising state sanction suicide.
To illustrate the fact, presently there is no dedicated palliative care wards at Westmead, Auburn, Fairfield, Blacktown, Campbelltown or Nepean Hospitals.
These hospitals service a large population and to not have dedicated palliative care wards just puts more responsibility on families who are already going through an incredibly difficult time.
Over a number of years, I have spoken to many leaders across NSW; within our faith communities, as well as members of the medical profession, to canvass their opinions on this issue.
I have heard stories about the traumatic time for people as they care for loved ones approaching the end of life.
I have also continually heard a view, that I share – that human life in all of its forms, is a gift.
From my conversations, the overwhelming belief is that it is our responsibility, as caring members of a compassionate society, to guide our nearest and dearest gently into the next life, with love and care.
I have also spoken with many frontline health workers and heard their concerns about euthanasia.
It would take away a sacred bond between our doctors, nurses and patients.
It attacks the very fabric of what we strive to achieve with our health care system. To do no harm, to help the weak, sick and vulnerable.
The NSW Parliament needs to understand and be mindful of the consequences of any reforms we would be asking of our healthcare professionals, and families, when there are viable alternatives to euthanasia.
Let me be clear. No one wants to see our loved ones suffering, and in pain. Nor am I suggesting that we let members of our community needlessly suffer without appropriate pain management.
Sitting with a loved one during their final stages of life is an agonising journey for families. I know from personal experience, during the final stages with my father’s battle with cancer, the suffering this can cause.
But I firmly believe that the answer lies in significantly increased funding for health, aged and palliative care, as well as education across the sector to better support those who work with patients as they approach end-of-life.
Through this we would be ensuring that we protect our sick and elderly, rather than looking for other options, that fail to preserve the sanctity and preciousness of human life.
We have to consider the position we would we place ourselves, if we allow assisted suicide to become common practice in NSW.
No matter what attempted safeguards are introduced, there is always the risk vulnerable patients or the elderly would be taken advantage of, and treated poorly.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care, Quality and Safety found that a staggering 39.2% of elderly Australians living in residential aged care facilities, experienced elder abuse.
This is a blight and embarrassment on all of us.
It would be utter madness to pass a law to legalise assisted dying when we know what terrible abuse can and does occur to our elderly.
There needs to be trust in our health care system. Trust that all involved will care for those Australians in need, at all stages of life.
Euthanasia would remove that trust between the health care system, family members and our community.
All sides of politics must not be misguided into letting euthanasia be permitted in NSW.
I respectfully call on the Member for Sydney to be transparent and not do backroom deals. Declare his intentions about his proposed bill.
The NSW Parliament must defend the sanctity of human life. We must not fall into the trap of permitting state-sanctioned suicide.
Dr Hugh McDermott is the State Member for Prospect.