Malcolm McCusker draws on experience as WA panel considers voluntary assisted dying

Malcolm McCusker with wife Tonya. Picture: Matt Jelonek d480544
Malcolm McCusker with wife Tonya. Picture: Matt Jelonek d480544

FORMER WA Governor and respected QC Malcolm McCusker will draw on his own experience of watching friends die when he heads up a panel tasked with drawing up voluntary assisted dying law for the WA Parliament.

“I know of very few people who haven’t either directly through a relative or a friend or indirectly because they’ve heard of someone else whose friend had a very slow and painful death,” he told ABC Radio after the State Government announced the panel this week.

“A couple of my close friends died years ago. One of them suffered from motor neurone disease and it lingered for a long time. The pain was just enormous.

“I think most people are compassionate at heart and compassion means you don’t want to cause unnecessary pain.”

TIME LIMIT CONSIDERED

How many months would a terminally ill patient have to live before they were eligible to seek help in dying under any proposed WA voluntary euthanasia legislation?

Would the threshold be less than six months or – as in Victoria, the first Australian state to legalise voluntary assisted dying – 12 months?

A time threshold will be one of the issues the Malcolm McCusker QC-led expert panel will ponder as it sets about making recommendations for legislation to go before the WA Parliament.

“We haven’t as yet got to the point of saying well, within what period should a person be shown to have a probability or even a certainty of death,” Mr McCusker said.

“In some countries and some places it’s been put at six months; that is, if a person is inevitably going to die or almost certainly according to the views of some two, three or four doctors within six months, then this may be a threshold requirement to meet.

“But these are the kind of considerations we need to look at very closely.”

WHAT THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORT SAID

The committee has recommended that those who are eligible for voluntary assisted dying must be experiencing grievous and irremediable suffering related to an advanced and progressive terminal, chronic or neurodegenerative condition that cannot be alleviated in a manner acceptable to that person.

WHAT YOU SAID

This would not be necessary if people had better access to palliative care for symptom control. Their quality of life would improve and they could live what was left of their life instead of having a miserable existence. -Cheryl Potter

No amount of palliative care can take away the suffering of a terminal illness. Drugs and care can only do so much. -Nat MJ

Nat MJ, I’m sorry I disagree. Palliative care done well does alleviate the suffering. Is more than just drugs and care.-Cheryl Potter

Hooray. About time. –Lynnette Hall

This is way overdue. –Kerry Connor

About bloody time! –Anita Shah

Can’t come sooner. –Susan Skillen

Really. So we have now become like animals where we are to be put to sleep when we are no more useful. I know my daughter of 36 years old was told she had few days to live due to her cancer taking over and she said to me I am not ready to go. I still want to live for my 11-year-old son and my husband. Same with my father who died so young and said to our Lord please don’t take me yet as I have to be there for my children. Stop committing suicide, it is wrong. –Geraldine Gomes Buck

Geraldine Gomes Buck, if I was in pain and was terminal, I would want to choose, no use prolonging the inevitable. It would also save a lot of money on medicines. That money could go to kids that need other treatments that may be able to heal or save them. I agree that people should have the right to choose. I’m sure it will be decided by a panel of doctors and psychologists and there will be strict criteria to meet before being granted permission to be euthanised. –Stephen Nolan

Finally. Unfortunately about 15 years too late for my nanna. Watching her suffer was the worst thing I have ever had to experience and it was just torture to keep her alive for years unnecessarily. Let our sick make humane decisions. Please vote yes to this Bill. Do the right thing. –Karina Bodsworth

About time, everyone has the right to die with dignity! Hope its law when my time comes! –Ken Whittle

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