Mark Owen

Taking charge of one's death

I find it hard to understand the mentality of those who do not wish to exercise some control over the final hours of their lives. So be it - I would not debate their right to think this way. But, in turn, I ask that they respect my choice.

When I've had enough of this life how wonderful it would be to reach for a pill bottle and to slip away from it all in relatively painless fashion.

Alas, things are not quite that easy. Sure, I could possibly find some way to die and many do, but it is not easy. I've never owned a gun nor would I know how to use one. Perhaps I could drive off a mountain road or jump from a bridge? Maybe, if I was sufficiently brave, but I'd probably baulk at the end. That was always my problem with tumbling and vaulting in the school PE classes. I was a baulker. I've thought of growing oleanders as they are said to be poisonous but one would have to study the ins and outs of using a drug distilled, perhaps, from this plant. And it may be a painful death. Who knows?

But a sensible regime could provide the means for people to pass on without fuss and a legal framework could be established to serve to protect the community from misuse of euthanasia.

Australia did, in fact, have just such a regime - established by the government of the Northern Territory in 1996, but unfortunately the Territory was not complete master of its own affairs and a conservative government gave one of its Catholic ministers the job of seeing the NT system shut down. The Minister was wholly successful, a success that he didn't seem to enjoy in some of his later actions (e.g. hounding an Islamic doctor).

It was a shameful day for the country when the democratic rights of the people of the NT were trampled underfoot.  But this is what happens when governments ignore the will of the people and, instead, obey the dictates of religion. No matter that survey after survey demonstrate that the majority of people support voluntary euthanasia; governments would rather jump to the dictates of the representatives of a minority whose views are coloured by religious superstition.

It is curious fact that religious people often seem scared of death. Clearly they don't really believe the 'pie in the sky' promises of their prophets and priests or else they would be happy to make haste and move on to their supposed 'eternal reward'.

There is, of course, an alternative view: that religious people believe suicide is a mortal sin.  Fair enough! If they believe this then they must be prepared to hang on until the very end, no matter what agonies they suffer in their final days. What a wholly miserable view of human life this is! And how happy I am that I do not embrace such a view. Superstition does not rule my life.

Well, believers are welcome to embrace their misery or to eke out their existence in the thrall of so-called palliative care. Good luck to them! But that is not for me, as it is not for millions of other thinking humans.  So why, please tell me, you martyrs to religious belief, do you think it is right that you impose your views on the rest of us? How dare you!

You who represent the people in our parliaments must reconsider your opposition to this much-needed reform. And while you dither people continue to suffer needless pain or else are locked away in nursing homes, effectively prisoners of the system, a system that, we all know, at times fails grievously to protect those it is supposed to care for.

The time has come for our society to act in a truly civilized and humane manner to assist those we once helped into this life to exit from it.

Mark Owen, 2010 -