Powerful alliance forms to support voluntary assisted dying laws in NSW

A major alliance of organisations including unions, health and community groups have come together to support voluntary assisted dying law reform in NSW.

The NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Alliance includes 29 organisations including the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, Council on the Ageing (COTA) NSW, Older Women’s Network (OWN) NSW, the Australian Paramedics Association (NSW), Cancer Voices NSW, Doctors for Assisted Dying Choice and Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Assisted Dying.

Dying with Dignity NSW President Penny Hackett said “We have organisations representing thousands of nurses, doctors, paramedics, older people, terminally ill people and even parts of the legal and professional community – who all support this important law reform.

The statement released by the NSW VAD Alliance said We support the guiding principle of autonomy as the first pillar of medical ethics and the right of competent adults to make informed decisions about their own medical care.

“We note the widespread public support for choice at the end of life and we urge the NSW Parliament to pass the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021.” 

“This is a true show of force that so many groups representing such a cross-section of society have come together to back voluntary assisted dying laws in NSW,” said Ms Hackett.

A number of the organisations that make up the VAD Alliance have surveyed their members revealing overwhelming levels of support.

Research undertaken by Newgate Research on behalf of COTA NSW earlier this year found that 72% of people aged 50 and over in NSW supported this legislation. Further, more than half of older people in NSW would consider voluntary assisted dying for themselves.

COTA NSW, along with other VAD Alliance members, have written to NSW MPs in the lead up to the debate that is expected to commence this week, expressing their support for the Bill.

COTA NSW’s CEO, Meagan Lawson, said “It is our belief that older people in the last stages of a terminal or incurable illness have the right to make informed decisions on their end-of-life medical care, including the choice to receive medical assistance to end their life peacefully, at a time of their choosing.

The Older Women’s Network NSW voted unanimously at its Annual General Meeting on September 30, 2021 in support of Voluntary Assisted Dying.

We believe that those who are in the terminal stages of their illness and experiencing unrelievable suffering should be given the option to access the pathway to decide on the time and manner of their death in consultation with their medical practitioners, as well as loved ones,” said Beverly Baker, Chair of OWN NSW.

“The checks and balances contained in the bill will protect individuals from coercion to take this step, and will give the same rights to the people of NSW that are available to people in every other state in the nation.”

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association are the latest to survey their members. Brett Holmes, General Secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association says “Of the 3,946 members recently surveyed, 86% indicated support for voluntary assisted dying legislation in NSW. Of the 84% that have professional experience providing care to terminally ill patients, over half had been asked to help end a patients’ life.”

Our Association supports a compassionate law being introduced to enable choice for people with a terminal illness and prevent them from suffering needlessly. Our members have a duty of care to all patients and the majority agree that people with an incurable sickness should be afforded the right to die with dignity.

We encourage all parliamentarians to choose compassion over politics and support this important legislative reform,” said Mr Holmes.

Secretary of the Australian Paramedics Association NSW, Gary Wilson, says Every day, paramedics see patients who are suffering intolerable and untreatable pain through a terminal illness. The Australian Paramedics Association (NSW) believes these people deserve a choice.

“Voluntary Assisted Dying is not a replacement for palliative care, rather it is a safety net for those who wish to access it when palliative care can no longer meet their needs,” Mr Wilson said.

The NSW Convenor of Doctors for Assisted Dying Choice, Dr David Leaf says “Doctors want to be able to give patient-focused care. Now is the time for legislators to accept that some intolerably suffering, competent patients deserve the right to choose.”