Growing up in today’s society, the topic of suicide and mental health is at the forefront of the minds of governments and the public.
Almost everyone has known someone who has suffered from mental illness and/or wanted an end to their lives.
Each time I have spoken to people who desired to end their life because of terminal or mental illness, one thing always rings true: they never actually want to die.
What they really want is an end to their suffering. The great tragedy is that the only way they see an end to their suffering is through suicide.
An even greater tragedy is that we now have misguided groups within our community pushing the idea that suicide is a worthwhile option to end these vulnerable people’s lives.
Never before in the history of Australia has the suggestion that the best way for the elderly and the ill to end their suffering is to kill themselves been so widespread.
This is a direct inversion of what medicine seeks to achieve; the ending of disease and doing no harm.
How can we as a nation increase funding for suicide prevention and mental health groups and – in the same breath – encourage the ending of life for the terminally ill and vulnerable? Why is one okay but the other not?
Do human beings have some sort of ‘expiry date’ within us where before the date when we are young and healthy we should be encouraged to stay alive but after something happens or when we get “too old” we should be told it is okay to end our lives? This seems to be blatant hypocrisy.
With an ageing population, Australia has the real opportunity to be pioneers in palliative care and innovating new ways to ensure the terminally ill and vulnerable live comfortable lives till their natural end.
This is already practised to a high standard in some Australian institutions; more access to palliative care should be provided so all terminally ill people, and elderly have access to the best care possible.
I am sure that if you told someone who wanted an end to their life that they could live without their suffering, they would always choose to live rather than kill themselves.
The argument then needs to be made that instead of funding and legalising assisted suicide, governments should shift their policy focus towards ensuring world class palliative care is available to all who need it.
The value of human life can be either attached to our ability to produce for the economy and physical capabilities, or to the fact that we are human beings and our value is inherent and intrinsic regardless of output or health quality.
If it is the latter then all human life is inherent in dignity and should be protected until natural death.