Reports the Coalition Government will only allow Senators and MPs a conscience vote on permitting the ACT and Northern Territory to make laws on voluntary assisted dying in return for crossbench support to reestablish the Australian Building and Construction Commission are disappointing, the Australian College of Nursing said today.
“This is an issue Australians feel strongly about – one way or another,” Australian College of Nursing CEO Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN explained. “To treat it as a political football in this way diminishes the importance of providing people with choice at the end of their life.”
“Just as end-of-life decisions are personal to every Australian and their family, so should the choice to vote for or against assisted dying be for our politicians and there should not be strings attached to being allowed to vote with their conscience.
“This is a community concern and a community conversation, yet it has now been treated like nothing more than a trading card.”
Over the past two years, the nursing community has identified an urgent need for Australia to have a serious and comprehensive conversation about supporting individual patient choice when it comes to end-of-life decision making.
“Nurses see patients struggle with the lack of choice currently available to them when it comes to palliative care and end-of-life decision making,” Adjunct Professor Ward said. “While we believe there are still questions around implementation of voluntary assisted dying laws in this country, it is time to look at how we can provide choice to patients and respect their right to make these decisions.”
Nurses already receive requests for assisted dying and numerous studies have shown that over the past 20 years 1 per cent to 18 per cent of nurses provided or prescribed drugs to a patient knowing the patient intended to use them to hasten death or intentionally injected drugs to hasten a patient’s death.
“Just as we would like our end-of-life decisions to be made based on our own beliefs and circumstances, we should extend our politicians the same right. Let them vote with their conscience without demanding a favour in return,” Adjunct Professor Ward concluded.