Voluntary Euthanasia Party bids for Senate seats

Voluntary Euthanasia Party bids for Senate seats

Voluntary euthanasia advocates are using the election to put the controversial debate back on the federal agenda.

Long-time campaigner Philip Nitschke is running for the Senate in the Australian Capital Territory as part of the newly-formed Voluntary Euthanasia Party.

 

It's also putting forward candidates in South Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

 

But critics say there are better ways to care for the terminally-ill.

 

Katrina Yu reports.

 

Paul Fletcher spends his days fighting for the right to take his own life.

 

"Why go through all the pain and everything I go through every day, waiting basically for death as I am now. I wake up every morning and think, 'Hell, I'm still here'."

 

The 45-year-old lost his legs to Charcot Marie Tooth Syndrome; a condition that will also claim his arms.

 

"Due to lack of exercise, Type 2 diabetes and being a smoker that didn't help. What will happen is eventually my system will go septic and I'll be running humungous temperatures of well over 40 and I won't know where I am, I'll be delirious. What an undignified death."

 

His cause is now getting an extra push with the launch of the Voluntary Euthanasia Party.

 

Terminally-ill candidates are running in South Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

 

Party founder Philip Nitschke will be running in the ACT.

 

"What we do at present is effectively force people to live on. We force people to battle, struggle against a disease even when they say I've had enough."

 

The move has outraged his critics, like the WA president of the Australian Medical Association, Richard Choong.

 

"Everyone has the right of choice, but that doesn't always make the choice right. We are opposed to euthanasia and think this sort of political gaming that's being undertaken is trying to promote his view of the world."

 

The lobby group, Palliative Care Australia, says less than half of Australians who would benefit from palliative care receive those services.

 

During this election they're asking politicians to make it a national priority.

 

That's a call supported by Dr Choong.

 

"These are the people that will actually help you transition from life to death.This is to allow you to have dignity in death. And we would like to see more services. We would like to see more funding. As the population ages, we are going to have more people that require these services."

 

Anti-euthanasia campaigners insist palliative care and euthanasia cannot co-exist.

 

They argue that legalising euthanasia would pressure the most vulnerable to end their lives.

 

President of the anti-euthanasia network Hope, Paul Russell, is especially alarmed at Dr Nitschke's declaration that euthanasia would save the government money.

 

"That kind of thing brings all sorts of pressures to people when they're at their most vulnerable. I think our Australian older people deserve much better than to be considered to be a burden on our society, but that' s what euthanasia legislation does, either inadvertently or by deliberate abuse, or the tendency to test any legislation, these things will extend. And that's precisely what we're seeing in the Netherlands and Belgium over the last 20 years."

 

Dr Nitschke says if voluntary euthanasia was legal, health funding could be better spent elsewhere.

 

"They are consuming a large amount of federal funds, usually federal and state funds in nursing homes. And many are saying they don't want to do this, they are saying I want to die. Now that money could be better directed to other areas of healthcare."

 

Paul Fletcher agrees.

 

"Come and live my life for a day and see how you like being in a wheelchair, being in pain. Just imagine what it's like to not want to go outside the house. It's an existence, not a quality of life."

 

Dr Choong from the Australian Medical Association says quality of life, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

 

"Quality of life is how the individual approaches their life and what sort of contribution they make and what they receive from it. It doesn't mean whether I have all my limbs or I don't."

 

Most of the Voluntary Euthanasia Party's preferences will go to the Greens.

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