Letters to MPs
Letters to MPs

 

Q and A

Letters to Tasmanian Members of Parliament in relation to the proposed Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2016 as well as the previous 2013 Bill

Letter from REALdignitytas
Euthanasia
RDT logo
No.1 A new pathway to Elder Abuse

Dear Member of Parliament

 

RE: Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2016

 

I am writing to you on behalf of Real Dignity Tasmania regarding the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2016.

Elder abuse is a serious issue.  The stark reality for thousands of elderly Tasmanians is that they endure physical, psychological, financial, material and even sexual abuse by the very people they depend upon for support, including their own family.

A 2016 research report to the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department states that "at the international level, the WHO (2015) recently reported that estimated prevalence rates of elder abuse in high- or middle-income countries ranged from 2% to 14%...and that the perpetrators are likely to be related to the victim…"

A recent inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) noted that 'early inheritance syndrome' is on the rise, with the most common form of abuse being financial abuse.

 

Geoff Row, Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia CEO put it this way "It's as if the current generation wants it now and somehow they justify that it's okay to take mum or dad's money right now,"

 

Tasmania has the most rapidly ageing population in Australia and as our aged population grows, so will the hidden epidemic of Elder Abuse.

Elder abuse is understood to be widely under-reported.  Tasmania's own elder abuse prevention response identifies that a key feature of Elder Abuse is that, it often takes the form of psychological or emotional abuse and it is very difficult to detect.

The characteristics of those subject to Elder Abuse and the circumstances in which it happens are analogous to those of persons most likely to seek "Assisted Dying". Research shows that it involves some of our oldest, most vulnerable members of community, the older person will often be dependent on the perpetrator for care and it is often perpetrated by family members and carers.

The most recent reports from Oregon show that around half of the people opted for assisted suicide, identifying as a concern 'being a burden on family, friends and caregivers' and 8 out of 10 people were 65 years and older.  Research in Belgium has also shown that the elderly (in particular those over 80) were most likely to be the victims of euthanasia without their consent.

The introduction of Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation opens a new pathway for unscrupulous relatives or carers to apply pressure to elderly Tasmanians to opt for an early death…the ultimate form of Elder Abuse.

As an elected member of Parliament and representatives of elderly Tasmanians, I encourage you carefully scrutinise the claims that such risks have not simply just been reduced but eliminated entirely.

As the attached short video with Dr Jeremy Prichard, a Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Law at UTAS, demonstrates safeguards will not adequately protect elderly Tasmanians against psychological abuse and from pressure being applied to them to opt for euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Our older citizens deserve your support and protection by rejecting the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2016 as another pathway to Elder Abuse.


Yours faithfully


Dr Nicholas Cooling
General Practitioner
REALdignitytas

Elder Abuse
Euthanasia
RDT logo
No.1 There are no safeguards

Dear Member of Parliament

 

RE: Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2013

 

I am writing to you on behalf of Real Dignity Tasmania regarding the proposal to legislate for euthanasia in Tasmania.

 

Recently, the proponents for the legalisation of euthanasia have advertised that they want "the comfort of knowing that legislation is there."

 

The problem is that international experience shows that

 

legalising euthanasia provides absolutely no comfort to those who are euthanised without their consent.

 

No matter what systems or protocols are put in place, there are no legislative safeguards that can fully protect the most vulnerable within our community.

 

I invite you to watch this brief video interview with Professor Nicholas Tonti-Filippini.

 

Professor Tonti-Filippini, who himself suffers from chronic illness, explains with authority that euthanasia legislation is inherently discriminatory against persons with chronic illnesses and that safeguards can never provide members of the community with the protection that is owed to them.


Yours faithfully

Dr Nicholas Cooling
General Practitioner
REALdignitytas


Safeguard Banner
Euthanasia
RDT logo
No.2 Oregon Model is Flawed

Dear Member of Parliament

 

RE: Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2013

 

I am writing to you on behalf of Real Dignity Tasmania regarding the proposal to legislate for euthanasia in Tasmania.

 

The Bill tabled by Premier Giddings ensures that persons who are not even dying will qualify to apply for a prescribed lethal medication to commit suicide or be euthanised.

Advocates can no longer pretend their concern is about providing a last resort relief from pain for dying patients. This Bill simply reflects what is available in Oregon – assisted suicide for persons with a “progressive medical condition” causing persistent suffering that is “intolerable for the person”.

The Oregon experience should give members of Parliament pause to consider the risks posed to Tasmanians.

 

The number of assisted suicides in Oregon has increased dramatically

Oregon Public Health Division (OPHD) reports that the number of persons opting for assisted-suicide has increased by 381% over the 15 years (an average growth of 25% per annum).

 

People are not choosing assisted suicide because of physical pain
OPHD reports that 57% of persons who died in 2012 listed concern about ‘being a burden on family, friends and caregivers’ as a reason. This far exceeds ‘inadequate pain control or concern about it’ at 30%.

The other main concerns for accessing assisted suicide are a loss of autonomy, a diminishing ability to engage in activities that make life enjoyable and a loss of dignity. This data shows that people are accessing assisted suicide mainly because of a fear of what might happen to them in the future.

Psychiatric evaluation safeguards are being bypassed placing vulnerable persons at risk
OPHD reports that only 1.8% of persons who died were referred for psychiatric evaluation in the last 5 years compared with 27% in the first 5 years of the law's operation.

This is very unsettling, given the well-known link between suicide and depression. In 2008, researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University reported in the British Medical Journal that 1 in 4, or 25%, of those seeking assisted suicide in Oregon were depressed.

The research concluded that “the current practice of the Death with Dignity Act may fail to protect some patients whose choices are influenced by depression from receiving a prescription for a lethal drug.”

Better palliative care, improved communication between patients and doctors, and access to appropriate supports and compassion is the answer to those who live in fear of a horrible death, not euthanasia or assisted-suicide.

Please spend a few minutes to consider the words of Dr Kristi Giselsson, Honorary Research Associate, lecturer and tutor in the UTAS Program of Philosophy and Gender Studies and author of Grounds for Respect: Particularism, Universalism and Communal Accountability as she explains that legalising euthanasia or assisted suicide establishes a dangerous principle that some lives are not worth living and that some humans do not have the same worth as others.

Yours faithfully


Dr Nicholas Cooling
General Practitioner
REALdignitytas

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Euthanasia
RDT logo
No.3 A new pathway to Elder Abuse

Dear Member of Parliament

 

RE: Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2013

 

I am writing to you on behalf of Real Dignity Tasmania regarding the proposal to legislate for euthanasia and assisted-suicide in Tasmania.

Tasmania has the most rapidly ageing population in Australia. As our aged population grows, so does the hidden epidemic of Elder Abuse. The stark reality for thousands of elderly Tasmanians is that they are often subject to physical, psychological, financial, material and even sexual abuse by the very people they depend upon for support.

The quality of life of the victims of abuse is severely jeopardised, as they often experience worsened functional and financial status and progressive dependency, poor self-rated health, feelings of helplessness and loneliness and increased psychological distress.

For elderly Tasmanians, the introduction of Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation and the pressure that they may be subject to to opt for an early death, has the potential to become the ultimate form of Elder Abuse.

 

As elected members of Parliament you have an obligation to protect all members of the community that may be impacted by this legislation and not just those who are supposedly “safe” from the very real risks it poses.

 

It has been estimated that more than 6% of older people experience Elder Abuse and a quarter of older people are at risk of abuse. But the actual figures could be much higher. A recent Tasmanian study noted that estimates of elder abuse prevalence are probably underestimated as it often goes undetected.

The CEO of the Tasmanian Council of the Ageing put it this way:

"Older people tend to be more vulnerable because of their age. They feel more pressures, especially from a family member. They often feel guilt and sense of obligation which is then played on''

The characteristics of those subject to Elder Abuse and the circumstances in which it happens are analogous to those of persons most likely to seek “Assisted Dying”. Research shows that it involves some of our oldest, most vulnerable members of community, the older person will often be dependent on the perpetrator for care and it is often perpetrated by family members and carers.

In June 2013 Minister O'Connor reported worrying Tasmanian elder abuse statistics – that 70 per cent of the victims reported to the Tasmanian abuse line are women, almost 70 per cent cited psychological or emotional abuse, and about 40 per cent of cases were in relation to someone over the age of 80.

The most recent reports from Oregon show that over half of the people opted for assisted suicide, identifying as a concern ‘being a burden on family, friends and caregivers’. Research in Belgium has also shown that the elderly (in particular those over 80) were most likely to be the victims of euthanasia without their consent.

Tasmania’s own elder abuse prevention response identifies that a key feature of Elder Abuse is that, it often takes the form of psychological or emotional abuse and it is very difficult to detect.

I invite you to watch this short video of Dr Jeremy Prichard, a Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Law at UTAS. Dr Prichard discusses the hidden nature of elder abuse and explains that safeguards will not adequately protect elderly Tasmanians against psychological abuse and from pressure being applied to them to opt for euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Our older citizens deserve your support and protection from physical, emotional, psychological and financial abuse.

Yours faithfully


Dr Nicholas Cooling
General Practitioner
REALdignitytas

Elder Abuse
Viewpoints

Viewpoints on euthanasia and assisted suicide from eminent Tasmanians