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Voluntary assisted dying topic of next online Port Macquarie-Hastings library forum on December 2

Photo: Dying with Dignity, WA.
Photo: Dying with Dignity, WA.

AS states progress closer to voluntary assisted dying (VAD) bills, where does New South Wales stand on the issue?

This will be the topic of discussion in an online forum hosted by Port Macquarie-Hastings library on December 2.

The forum opens at 6pm and bookings can be made here or by phoning 6581 8755.

Victoria's VAD scheme has been operating successfully for over 12 months and Western Australia's law comes into effect in mid-2021.

The Tasmanian VAD Bill is progressing through Parliament and could become law before Christmas.

In Queensland, the re-elected Labor government will be introducing a VAD bill in February and in New Zealand a majority of Kiwis have voted yes to their End of Life Choices Act.

Voluntary assisted dyingis a quick and peaceful death brought about by a person taking or a doctor administering a prescribed lethal dose of medication. Access to VAD is only granted after the repeated and rational request of the person in order to relieve intolerable suffering. It is subject to eligibility criteria and safeguards for both person and doctor.

Where the person self-administers the medication this can be done either at a time of their choosing and without further assistance, or under the supervision of a doctor, depending on the law of the relevant jurisdiction.

Dying with Dignity is an advocacy organisation pursuing a change in the law that will enhance choice at the end of life. It seeks legislation that enables competent adults, experiencing unrelievable suffering from a terminal or incurable illness, to receive medical assistance to end their life peacefully, at a time of their choosing.

Camden Haven's Janet Cohen will be a guest speaker the online discussion. Photo: Dying with Dignity.

Camden Haven's Janet Cohen will be a guest speaker the online discussion. Photo: Dying with Dignity.

Shayne Higson, Dr Cam McLaren, and Janet Cohen will lead this topical discussion.

Camden Haven resident and former manager of Sea Acres Rainforest Centre, Janet Cohen was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013 just before her 60th birthday and since 2015 has lived with a terminal lung cancer diagnosis.

Fortunate to have had access to new life extending treatments, Janet is currently well.

Janet has also pre-registered with Life Circle in Switzerland for a voluntary assisted death, when her pain and suffering unacceptably damage her quality of life.

Janet has campaigned for the introduction of VAD into NSW since 2016 and is a passionate advocate for choice and dignity at the end of one's life.

Being able to access an assisted death has been one of the greatest comforts on this difficult journey, enabling me to stop worrying so much about the end of my life and to get on with living the rest of it well and with purpose.

Janet Cohen

"Now looking through the narrowing window of treatment options left, I know I don't want to die as just another victim of this disease," Janet told Dying with Dignity.

"I don't want people to say that I 'lost my battle' with cancer. I want an empowered, meaningful death and to 'live my death' as I live my life, with purpose and conviction.

"Being able to access an assisted death has been one of the greatest comforts on this difficult journey, enabling me to stop worrying so much about the end of my life and to get on with living the rest of it well and with purpose."

Shayne Higson is vice president of Dying With Dignity NSW, an advocacy organisation that has campaigned for voluntary assisted dying laws since 1983.

After witnessing the traumatic death of her mother from brain cancer in 2012, Shayne has devoted her life to this campaign in various roles.

She has had a long association with the Voluntary Euthanasia Party (VEP) having run as their lead candidate in five elections, at state and federal levels. She has worked with Go Gentle Australia, the not-for-profit organisation founded by Andrew Denton, and most recently she worked on the WA campaign, the latest state to pass an assisted dying law.

Dr Cam McLaren is a medical oncologist who has played a leading role in Victoria's voluntary assisted dying scheme.

He is one of the few specialist practitioners taking part in the scheme and has assisted over 100 patients access assisted dying, administering a lethal injection in nine of those cases.

Dr McLaren undertook the training to become a coordinating medical practitioner under the VAD scheme, which he said was a logical progression from his oncology practice.

"I didn't want a patient to come to me for a cancer journey but then at the end I wasn't prepared to, or able to, take them all the way to the finish line," he said.

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