By Jim Malo. Edited for online by Bernard Thompson.
Euthanasia proponents are again pushing for legalising assisted suicide following a Victorian doctor’s admission that he helped a man to die.
Dr Rodney Syme last month confessed on ABC Radio to assisting a man to die.
His radio interview has reignited the euthanasia debate on whether or not assisted suicide should be legalised.
But euthanasia campaigners say any legislative changes are unlikely to occur any time soon.
Dr Syme says he helped Steve Guest, an oesophageal cancer patient, die nine years ago.
Dr Syme says he deliberately revealed his act in hope of inciting a public response.
He says even then he was torn by the decision to go public.
“Part of me says yes, because I think that could give a definitive decision,” Dr Syme said.
“Another part of me says no, I don’t want the stress.”
Voluntary euthanasia already happening
Dr Syme is not the only doctor to come out.
South Australian doctor Rosemary Jones says she assisted a female patient in Britain pass away.
“I can remember in England meeting this sad sack of bones in a bed, a woman who had ovarian cancer,” Dr Jones said.
“It was just sucking the life out of her and this sad individual was just lying in a bed.
“I just said increase the morphine every two hours and she died during the night.”
Dr Jones says doctors have quietly assisted in “voluntary euthanasia all the time”.
“Doctors are helping people over that hump all the time by one means or another,” she said.
Laws are ‘simply inhumane’
Euthanasia campaigner Dr Phillip Nitschke agrees and says euthanasia is a compassionate act.
“It would be very hard for a doctor to meet with Steve and not be compelled to assist in whatever way is possible,” Dr Nitschke said.
“Simply telling him that he couldn’t have an option of peaceful death because of the way the laws are currently structured is simply inhumane.”
(Video uploaded 3AW of interview with Dr Rodney Syme (Source: Youtube 3AW)
Current laws ‘protect vulnerable people’
However, the anti-euthanasia movement say there is no compassion in the act.
Paul Russell, the director of HOPE: Prevent Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, says legalising euthanasia is a start of a slippery slope.
Mr Russell says current laws are reasonable and protect vulnerable people.
“I think where the law stands at the moment is sane and sensible and it protects everyone equally,” Mr Russell said.
“Australians need protection from this kind of behaviour.
“The reason the law exists is precisely because of the risk of vulnerable people being either coerced or drawn towards attempting suicide in some manner.”
President of Choose Life Teresa Martin says the law should not be changed.
Ms Martin questions the value of a law that cannot be enforced.
“The law actually can’t prevent people taking their own life,” Ms Martin said.
“We have suicide sadly in Australia every single day.
“People can already by their choice, sadly and tragically, take their own life for whatever reason.”
Dr Nitschke says supporters of voluntary euthanasia are not hopeful for legal changes given the heavy opposition.
He says something needs to happen before it is too late for those in need.
“After watching so many failures, it is a little hard to be too hopeful,” Dr Nitschke said.
“One simply thinks that sooner or later, there will be the changes that are needed.”