Resumed from 21 November. The Deputy Chair of Committees (Hon Matthew Swinbourn) in the chair; Hon Stephen Dawson (Minister for Environment) in charge of the bill.

Clause 11: Voluntary assisted dying not suicide —

Progress was reported after the clause had been partly considered.

Hon ALISON XAMON: Yesterday, we were debating whether clause 11 should be removed. I rise to indicate that I will not support the removal of this provision and I would like to explain to members why. I recognise that there are some who wish to equate the voluntary assisted dying provisions with the horror of suicide. As someone whose life has been defined by the trauma and horror of suicide, I want to say how much I object to people trying to equate the two.

My grandfather, in his 90s, was dying of cancer and wanted to cut his life short by two weeks, in order to avoid inexpressible suffering and pain—which is what he died with, in his final weeks. My 35-year-old father, strong of body and healthy, but with a troubled mind that was fully capable of recovery, chose to take his life. The fact that people would attempt to equate these two is, for me, abhorrent.

I think it is wrong to try to belittle the trauma of genuine suicide. Suicide is what happens when people give up on life when they have their whole life ahead of them. There is a fundamental difference here. We are talking about people whose time has come, who are at the end of their life, and who are seeking to simply bring forward an inevitable death at the very end. Do not ever try to tell a parent who has buried a child because they have taken their life that the suffering they are going through, the lifelong trauma that they are going to experience, is the same as someone whose time has naturally come to an end and whose body is failing them.

I think it is really, really important that people be very careful when they try to loosely pull together those sorts of provisions, because I think it actually belittles the trauma and the horror of genuine suicide. I feel offended by that, and as someone who is a staunch suicide prevention advocate and will be until the day I die, I am very capable of distinguishing between the provisions in this bill and the horror of suicide.

However, I do have a small amendment that I wish to make. I think there has been an inadvertent error in the drafting, and I am sure the minister, as the former opposition spokesperson for mental health, would have some sympathy with my amendment and would understand why I seek to move it. I move —

Page 10, line 16 — To delete “commit” and substitute —

die by

I move this amendment because people no longer refer to “committing” suicide. It is recognised as being stigmatising language. If people are not aware of the language that we now use around suicide, I urge them to go to the Suicide Prevention Australia website and look at the language we now use when we talk about the trauma of suicide. People no longer “commit” suicide; that is a hangover from when suicide was in the Criminal Code. Fortunately, it no longer is. We now recognise that suicide is largely a mental health issue, but also an issue of other life circumstances that need to be addressed accordingly. I move that simple amendment because I believe it serves a better purpose within the bill. I also will not support the removal of clause 11 in its entirety.

Comments and speeches from various members

Amendment put and passed.

Comments and speeches from various members

Progress reported and leave granted to sit again, pursuant to standing orders.


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