With a focus on aspects of voluntary assisted dying a large audience gathered at Westmead Hospital today to hear from a number of speakers including Palliative Care physicians and community representatives. Thanks to Sally Greenaway and her team in Western Sydney LHD for hosting the event.

“It’s not that doctors aren’t helping people to die, it’s happening quite a bit actually, it’s just that its happening in an unregulated environment”. Clinical A/Prof of Psychiatry Chris Ryan, University of Sydney

“In cases of terminal illness (decision making) becomes complex…the over-riding principle (for Muslims) is that no action can be taken to hasten death…at no time in this process can person be informed that they are terminally ill. They are to be encouraged by all…to encourage a hopefully optimistic outlook. So from the get-go (accessing voluntary assisted dying) is a no-go for Muslim patients”. Amal Etri, Health Consumer Representative and Advocate, Westmead, speaking from her Islamic perspective.

“We all know ‘the gap’, the gap in social inequity for Aboriginal people…but it’s also the gap in adjusted life expectancy…we saw many patients with advanced disease, not only were they not able to access palliative care, they were unable to access care…(One of the legacies of the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 is) a mistrust of clinicians amongst the Aboriginal community, even the fentanyl patches are considered ‘death patches’”. Anthoulla Mohamudally, Palliative Care Physician speaking about her experiences in the Northern Territory Health Care System.

“Unfortunately the bottom line is that there is a wild misconception that Palliative Care is euthanasia…I’m fearful that people won’t access Palliative Care when they need it because of the perception that Palliative Care is euthanasia by stealth”. Sally Greenaway, Director of Supportive and Palliative Medicine WSLHD.

“We are subject to the social belief that it is better to be dead that disabled…People with disabilities are (already) told that they are a burden, or being selfish, or that they cost too much…the choice of control, which is key to the National Disability Insurance Scheme is significantly lacking amongst the disability sector of our country…if this lack of choice flows through into (the proposed voluntary assisted dying Bill), then people with disability are at significant risk”. Graeme Innes AM, former Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

Pic: Anthoulla Mohamudally speaking at the Symposium (with A/Prof Chris Ryan at rear)